An analysis of Stats SA data shows that more than 10million foreign tourists arrived last year, up from 8.9million in 2015.
The 12% increase coincided with the implementation of a number of changes to the immigration regulations introduced in 2014, following recommendations by the inter-ministerial committee on immigration regulation.
Changes include the scrapping of the requirement that would-be visitors apply f or visas in person at South African embassies and have their biometrics recorded.
Now foreigners can apply for visas remotely but are still required to produce an unabridged birth certificate for a minor entering the country with them.
Home Affairs spokesman Thabo Mokgola said 19 amendments to the regulations had been recommended by the inter-ministerial committee, with 16 already being implement while the remaining three were being “managed against set timelines”.
Mokgola said improved tourism numbers could be attributed to the “expansion of front-line operations for ease of visa and permit applications within key travel hubs such as China, India, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates”.
The data showed that the relaxed regulations led to an increase in tourist arrivals. Considerable growth was recorded from the UK, the US and Nigeria. The number of Chinese visitors almost doubled.
The Southern African Development Community provided the bulk of tourists at 7.3million.
Speaking at the tourism Indaba in Durban last week, President Jacob Zuma said tourism contributed 3.1% to GDP at R375-billion in 2015.
Stats SA reported that tourism employed more than 700000 people .