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Economy, Services and Tourism

Drakensberg, national parks, airlines, fares, foreign exchange

In total, service industries contributed 66 percent of GDP in 2000. The largest categories are wholesale and retail trade, real estate and business services, catering and accommodation, government, finance, and insurance. Transport, utilities, construction, and community and personal services make up most of the remainder. The financial sector is highly developed and on par with industrialized nations.

Tourism is widely viewed as a rich, potential source of jobs and foreign exchange, and as an eventual alternative to the gold industry, which is in long-term decline. Attractions include the scenic beauty of the Cape wine region, the Drakensberg and the mountains of Mpumalanga, national parks and game reserves, beaches, and the climate. During the apartheid years this potential could not be realized because of the country’s negative international image and perceived political instability. Since 1994 the industry has expanded dramatically, with the number of overseas visitors increased by 52 percent in 1995 alone. In 2000, 6 million tourists visited South Africa, and the possibility for further expansion exists. Major international hotel groups have entered the market, and growing competition among airlines has reduced fares. The fall in the value of the rand, South Africa’s currency, in 1996 also made South Africa increasingly attractive as a tourist destination. The United Kingdom remains South Africa’s biggest source of overseas tourists with about one-quarter of the total, followed by Germany and the United States.

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