South Africa has for the first time broken through the 2.5 million mark, recording over 2.7 million tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2006.
"We have seen a 16 percent increase in arrivals across all territories compared to the same period last year, which translates into almost 377,000 more visitors," said Marthinus van Schalkwyk, minister of environmental affairs and tourism, in Mpumalanga Province on Wednesday.
He said the largest component of this growth came from Africa and the Middle East, which was 21.9 percent higher, followed by a 7.1 percent growth registered from Asia and Australia.
The UK, Germany and the USA remain the country's most important long-haul markets.
He said: "Thus far this year, we have seen continued growth in all months from the USA and a 3.6 percent increase from Europe as a whole."
Predicting that 2006 would be another bumper year for tourism, he noted, "Our first quarter figures indicate that we are well on target to surpass last year's record tourism arrival figure of 7.3 million."
(Xinhua News Agency September 28, 2006)