Minister of Tourism of South Africa, Patricia de Lille, disclosed that tourism in the country is on the rise by 152 percent compared to the previous year.

"It is encouraging that arrivals from other African countries continue to be our most substantial source of arrivals, with just over four million arrivals during this period," the tourism minister said during the opening session of World Travel Market (WTM) Africa held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, SANews reported.

WTM Africa, which is being held in Cape Town from April 3 to 5, is a global event that helps to bring travel industry professionals together under one roof.

During the speech, the minister shared that the tourism sector plays a major role in South Africa's Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan to ensure the country's growth.

"Tourism has for many years made a great contribution to the livelihoods, economies and vibrancy of our cities and countries," she said.

De Lille explained that after the country's economy was hit badly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism department worked on a recovery plan, which was later approved by the Cabinet in March 2021.

The tourism minister further explained that the recovery plan includes not only boosting the economy to bring back the pre-pandemic level but also going beyond. She also noted that air travel is one of the key areas that help to improve the economy.

"Encouragingly, airlift to and from South Africa has seen continuous recovery," she said. "These flights undoubtedly contribute to boosting our attractiveness and will contribute to seeing us return to pre-COVID-19 performance levels and beyond."

De Lille revealed that the Department of Tourism funded 30 small to medium enterprises (SMEs) so that they can attend this event and display their travel-related services and products. Out of these 30 SMEs, 25 businesses are owned by Black people out of which 16 of them are owned by women.

Out of 30 SMEs, half of them are tour operators while others provide accommodation services.

De Lille acknowledged all the business owners including all the emerging SMEs, noting that they are "the lifeblood of this sector" and encouraged them to "keep pushing and keep being part of offering visitors a truly South African experience."

"Let us move ahead full steam to broaden our horizons, increase travel, trade, investment, and jobs and increase the economic contribution of tourism to all our economies," she concluded.

Director of Reed Exhibition Africa, Carol Weaving noted that the WTM event had a 35 percent increase in exhibitors compared to last year.

"This year we have 577 exhibitors which is a 35 percent growth and what's really exciting is that we are the only inbound show on the African continent and it goes to show that a lot of intra Africa trade that is happening," Weaving said, AfricaNews reported. "Internationally you can see also that the Indian Ocean here, Seychelles, Reunion, Madagascar."

Seychelles Tourism Regional Director for Africa, David Germain, who also attended the event, said they are keener on introducing people to their cultural activities including music and food.

A general view of the submerged tourism businesses at the Pink Lake