South African Tourism is charting its way through the impacts of the pandemic, using Tourism Sentiment Index to measure and fuel progress. The country’s Tourism Sentiment Score® is its primary brand performance indicator and rallying point for the country to take action.

South Africa has long been known as a destination with distinct and notable appeal, including its wildlife, culture, geography, cuisine, and significance in human history. That appeal came into sharp focus as the country’s tourism reputation defied the pressure of the pandemic, pressure that South African Tourism (SAT) describes as a challenging period for its tourism sector.

The country’s tourism economy relies on a significant volume of overseas visitors. In 2019, 26% of visitors came from outside the African continent, according to SAT’s international tourist arrivals report. Like many places around the world, South Africa temporarily imposed its own restrictions on flights in 2020 as the pandemic began. In 2021, following the emergence of Omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2, many source markets for South Africa restricted travel to and from the country.

Despite the disruptions to the tourism sector, in January 2022, five South African destinations placed in the 100 most loved destinations around the world, according to consumer sentiment calculated by Tourism Sentiment Index (TSI) for 2021:

  • #19 Knysna,
  • #23 Stellenbosch,
  • #41 Hermanus,
  • #54 Cape Town,
  • #73 Pretoria.


These rankings were happy news that South African Tourism could share with stakeholders and the public. Issuing press releases and responding to media inquiries, tourism stakeholders took the moment to celebrate, especially the Western Cape region, which has four of the five ranking destinations.

“The last two years will go down in history as the most challenging years thus far for the global tourism sector, and the rankings demonstrate that Cape Town and the Western Cape is a world-class destination and a firm favourite on the global travel bucket list,” David Maynier, Western Cape Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC, told The Citizen.

This year, like many other markets, African economies are facing inflationary pressures that are poised to constrain travel. South Africa’s potential for domestic tourism is challenged by inflation that has climbed to a five-year high of 6.5%. South Africa Tourism looked to TSI for signs of continued resilience and indicators for where to focus, and they found it.

From January to March 2022, South Africa’s performance continued to improve as the country’s Tourism Sentiment Score® increased over 2021 levels, and the dominant emotion of the online content and conversations about the destination remained joy.

Monitoring and reporting its Tourism Sentiment Score® has become an important activity for SAT. The country’s score is its primary brand performance indicator. SAT shares the score and other insights drawn from TSI with the government agency that provides its funding.

“TSI is the exclusive brand measurement tool used by South African Tourism to measure the destination brand performance and to measure visitor perceptions,” said Kaizer M. Dhliwayo, Regional Insights, South African Tourism. “We will be sharing TSI results with the National Department of Tourism to help provide valuable insights on a regular basis and collaborate on the same dataset to have a unified approach to destination brand management and monitoring.”

In April, SAT launched a country-wide program to further boost the country’s Tourism Sentiment Score® by enlisting its stakeholders to support an always-on campaign and to actively share and promote content about its most positive experiences in channels most aligned to visitors and potential visitors.

SAT reviewed the data in TSI to identify the tourism experiences that were earning the most positive sentiment. For the focus of the always-on campaign, SAT found: Profiling wedding and nightlife venues, events, breweries and pubs will likely increase engagement and the number of tourists intending to visit South Africa and the specific establishments/personalities profiled.

What are people across the globe saying about South Africa as a tourism destination online. Among the top drivers we see mostly positive sentiment with high sentiment in: Destination Services – Weddings; Amenities + Entertainment – Nightlife; Food and Culinary – Brewery + Pubs

South Africa Tourism extracted its most positive experiences from Tourism Sentiment Index to guide the content for its always-on campaign. Source: SAT’s “Opportunities to increase positive sentiment for South Africa”.

“The pandemic has done nothing to dampen our enthusiasm in welcoming holiday-makers and business tourists to a country known for its warm hospitality and giving value for money.” said ​​Themba Khumalo, acting CEO of South African Tourism.

Next in the Tourism Sentiment Index Spotlight: Melbourne, Australia

Sentiment analysis can help your destination, too

Tourism Sentiment Index provides sentiment analysis through an array of products: on-demand data through TSI Live, quarterly rankings, monthly reports and more. To learn how your destination can access and apply sentiment analysis, contact the team at Tourism Sentiment Index.


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