South Africa is expecting a bumper year for UK visitors in 2019 after last year’s drought in Cape Town hit arrival figures.

The number of UK visitors dropped this year by 4.4% to 448,000 – but it follows a 9.9% increase in visitors the previous year.

Tolene van Der Merwe, South African Tourism hub head for the UK, put the fall down to the Cape Town drought, when a ‘day zero’ message saying the city was expected to run out of water was used.

The UK is the biggest international source market for South Africa, and a three-times-weekly direct British Airways flight from Heathrow to Durban launched last month.

South Africa is also set to relax its restrictions on travelling with minors, which will affect visitors from all countries, including the UK, van Der Merwe added.

Rules, introduced in 2015 to combat human trafficking, which insist visitors travelling with minors had to carry unabridged birth certificates will be formally relaxed in “the next few weeks”.

“I think we will see an increase [in visitor numbers from the UK] in 2019 and 2020,” van Der Merwe told Travel Weekly. “I’m very confident of that.”

“It was affected by the drought. We didn’t see cancellations at the time, but what we hadn’t noticed until later was the lack of bookings coming through. People were trying to be responsible travellers and not coming to a city which was short on water.

But dams are now 76% full and we’re one of the world’s leading destinations on water management.”

On the new Heathrow-Durban route, she added: “Now all three of our major cities are served in under 12 hours from the UK. BA has 38 flights across Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. When airlines invest in your country then it shows that there is a demand for travel and gives me confidence.”

She also added that the South African rand offered better value for UK travellers than the Euro.

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