The Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index showed that Johannesburg welcomed 4,57 million international overnight visitors in 2016, a 24% increase on the previous year’s 3,69 million visitors.

Cape Town rose from third place in 2015 to become the second most popular African destination city in 2016, with 1,52 million visitors.

Nigeria’s Lagos (1,04 million visitors), Morocco’s Casablanca (961 694) and Egypt’s Cairo (820 959) rounded out the top five African cities, while Durban remained in sixth place, attracting 758 057 international overnight visitors.

According to the index, Johannesburg also topped the rankings in Africa in terms of international visitor expenditure, with travellers spending $2,56 billion (R35,1 billion) in 2016. Shopping accounted for the largest percentage of visitor spend, followed by accommodation and dining out.

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Cape Town and Durban are ranked second and eighth in terms of expenditure in Africa, with international visitors spending $1,2 billion (R16.4 billion) and $314 million (R4,3 billion) respectively.

Anton van der Merwe, Head of Market Development at Mastercard South Africa, said in a statement that Johannesburg had shown remarkable growth.

“The City of Gold has shown the highest year-on-year growth in visitor numbers of all the African cities ranked in the 2016 index, illustrating that its mix of shopping, iconic attractions and tourism offerings is clearly hitting the mark with international travellers,” Van der Merwe said.

“Significantly, Joburg also reported a 4% increase in international expenditure from 2015 – much greater than South Africa’s GDP growth of 0,3% in 2016.

This indicates that Johannesburg is well positioned to be an engine of broad economic growth for the country.”

The Mastercard Index of Global Destination Cities ranks the world’s top 132 destination cities in terms of visitor volume and spend for the 2016 calendar year. It also provides insight on the fastest-growing destination cities, and a deeper understanding of why people travel and how they spend around the world.

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The 13 African cities ranked in the Index are Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lagos, Casablanca, Cairo, Durban, Accra, Dakar, Entebbe, Tunis, Nairobi, Maputo and Beira.

Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba said that the index rating affirmed the city’s position as the major economic and cultural hub in Africa.

“Travel and tourism are increasingly important pillars of Johannesburg’s economy, with growth in this sector creating jobs and prosperity for our residents,” Mashaba said.

“Johannesburg’s malls, restaurants, trade conferences and expos, and sporting and cultural events add up to a compelling tourism package that continues to attract international visitors – both from neighbouring African countries and abroad.”

– African News Agency