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Tourist arrivals in South Africa rose 10 percent to a record 9.19 million last year, as the government boosted efforts to promote the country as a holiday destination and attracted more visitors from Asia.

“A few years ago we took the decision to begin actively marketing South Africa in emerging markets, which has yielded extremely positive results,” President Jacob Zuma told reporters in Cape Town today. “This phenomenal tourism growth is evidence that we are successfully setting ourselves apart in a competitive marketplace.”

South Africa is targeting income of 500 billion rand ($55 billion) a year from tourism by 2020 and 225,000 new jobs as it seeks to cut a 25 percent unemployment rate. In 1993, the year before apartheid ended, 3.2 million foreigners visited the country.

The U.K. retained its position as South Africa’s biggest source of tourists, with 438,023 of its nationals visiting last year. The U.S. followed with 326,643 travelers and Germany with 266,333, Zuma said.

Arrivals from China surged 56 percent to 132,334 after the introduction of direct flights between Johannesburg and Beijing, while those from Brazil jumped 45 percent to 78,376.

Foreign tourists spent 76.4 billion rand in South Africa last year, up 7.6 percent from 2011, Zuma said.

Editors: Gordon Bell, Emily Bowers. To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Cohen in Cape Town at To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at

Photo Credit: Camp's Bay Beach in Cape Town. Nick Gray