Will The 2023 Number of Tourists to Cape Town Break All Previous Records?

By Raine St. Claire

The recent release of the 2023 Report on Tourism for the Western Cape & Cape Town by Wesgro sheds light on exciting trends in tourist numbers, raising the question of whether the 2023 figures will surpass all previous records. The report reveals several encouraging trends that indicate promising growth in the number of tourists visiting the city and province. International tourist numbers have seen a significant 90% year-to-date increase compared to 2022 figures. However, domestic tourist numbers have experienced a slight decline of 3% year-to-date compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, international tourist numbers are on track to surpass pre-pandemic levels, while domestic tourist numbers are currently at 80% of the levels recorded in 2019.

April trends and data

Statistics for April 2023 showcase the overall tourism performance during that month. International two-way passengers through CTIA (Cape Town International Airport) reached 218,325, representing a remarkable 39% year-on-year growth and a full recovery compared to April 2019. Domestic two-way passengers passing through CTIA totaled 574,528, reflecting a 7% increase from April 2022 and an 80% recovery compared to April 2019. During April 2023, Cape Town recorded a total of 67,747 tourist arrivals via air, with 87% originating from overseas markets and 13% from the African continent.

The report highlights the UK as the leading source market to Cape Town, followed closely by Germany, the USA, the Netherlands, and France. These European markets play a significant role in contributing to tourist arrivals in Cape Town, with seven out of the top ten source markets originating from the continent. The report outlines the remarkable recovery of several markets, with the UK, Germany, USA, Netherlands, Canada, and Zimbabwe already achieving full recovery compared to pre-pandemic levels between January and April 2023. Belgium and Italy are also rapidly nearing full recovery. Additionally, 24 participating attractions across the Western Cape recorded a 50% growth in the number of visitors in April 2023 compared to the previous year, reaching 91% of the visitor volume observed in April 2019.

Mobile Location Data Insights

The Report on Tourism for the Western Cape & Cape Town utilises mobile location data to gain deeper insights into visitor behaviour and movement throughout the Western Cape. It emphasises that this data, collected from a sample of 57,045 domestic and 2,090 international tourists in April 2023, offers a more granular lens on visitor trends. However, it is important to note that the data is anonymised and does not include personally identifiable information.

Mobile Insights: Domestic and International Visitor Trends

The mobile insights reveal that the Winelands and Cape Town received the highest number of domestic tourists, with the Garden Route & Klein Karoo and Cape Town attracting the most overnight stays. Conversely, the Cape Karoo region saw the least volume of domestic tourists. On average, domestic tourists spent the longest time in the Garden Route & Klein Karoo and Cape Town, staying for approximately 2.8 days, while the Cape Karoo had the shortest average stay of 1.5 days. Cape Town (48,5%) saw the most international repeat visitors in January 2023. Nearly 65% of the sampled international tourists visited Cape Town, followed by 13% who visited the Winelands.

Points of Interest (POIS) Visited: Domestic Tourists

Shopping and markets emerged as the most popular type of attraction for local tourists, who spent an average dwell time of 2.5 hours indulging in retail therapy. Natural attractions, including Table Mountain, Cape Point, and Knysna Waterfront also garnered significant interest among domestic tourists. Of these, Cape Point and Knysna Waterfront recorded the longest average dwell time, with visitors spending approximately 2.9 hours at each location. Bars and pubs ranked as the third most popular point of interest, with domestic tourists spending an average of 3.5 hours enjoying these establishments. Additionally, spending time in scenic areas such as Cederberg Wilderness, Stanford Valley, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, and Van Dyk’s Bay was highly favoured by domestic tourists, who spent an average of 3.3 hours exploring these regions.


Points of Interest (POIS) Visited: International Tourists

For international tourists, shopping and markets emerged as the most popular type of attraction, with an average dwell time of 2.8 hours. Natural attractions such as Table Mountain, Cape Point, and Knysna Waterfront also ranked highly among international tourists. Bars & Pubs were the third most popular point of interest, with an average dwell time of 3.0 hours.Additionally, international tourists spent the longest time at zoos, aquariums, and wildlife parks, with an average of 4.1 hours spent at these attractions. 

Among the wine farms on the route, Spier received the highest number of visits, followed by Skilpadvlei and Zevenwacht Wine Estates. Notably, Lovane Boutique Wine Estate stood out with the longest average dwell time of 4.1 hours in January 2023.


3rd Quarter Outlook

On the back of solid growth during the first quarter and the 2nd Quarter entry month of 2023, the forecast remains favourable as the province enters its winter season. Bookings recorded so far through major airlines for the months of May, June, July, August and September, the promise of tourists pouring into Cape Town and the Western Cape is looking extremely promising.


The 2023 Report on Tourism for the Western Cape & Cape Town paints an optimistic picture of the tourism industry in the region. With impressive growth in international tourist numbers and a steady recovery in domestic tourism, there are promising signs of surpassing pre-pandemic levels. The report highlights the significant contributions of overseas markets, particularly the UK, Germany, and the USA, and emphasises the importance of key attractions in driving visitor numbers. By leveraging mobile location data insights, a more comprehensive understanding of visitor behaviour and trends can be achieved, facilitating effective tourism strategies and planning for Western Cape.