Pretoria has been named as one of the top 100 destinations in the world by the Tourism Sentiment Index. Despite 2021 being one of the toughest years faced by the tourism industry, the City was ranked 73, ahead of other world-class cities such as Istanbul in Turkey, Leeds in England and Oklahoma City in the US.

The Tourism Sentiment Index said that in order to calculate the score, it collected all the conversations and content around a destination and, through a natural language processing filter, those that were driven by a destination’s tourism experiences or products. The remaining data was then classified as positive, neutral or negative, as artificial intelligence deciphered sentiment from human expression. “Every day, the Tourism Sentiment Index gathers more than 2 million pieces of content posted publicly online about global destinations of every level: countries, states, provinces, islands, cities, towns, regions and major parks. Our proprietary analysis produces a destination’s Tourism Sentiment Score.” The Tourism Sentiment Score is a measure of a destination’s ability to generate positive word of mouth about its tourism offering. It is an aggregate score that focuses solely on online conversations and content that reference or affect a potential traveller’s perceptions of a destination’s tourism offering.

The City of Tshwane said it was pleased with the ranking as this proved that Pretoria was indeed a world-class tourism destination. “It is very fitting for South Africa’s capital city to be named among the world’s top travel destinations, being the third-largest city in the world after New York and Tokyo, as well as our diplomatic hub status (Pretoria is home to 134 foreign embassies and missions, giving it the second largest concentration of diplomatic and foreign missions in the world after Washington DC in the US).

“This listing certainly helps to enhance our tourism recovery efforts, and shows that our investment in digital marketing programmes has helped to increase general destination awareness among consumers,” said City spokesperson Lindela Mashigo. He said that with the Covid-19 pandemic they had seen a general surge in outdoor and nature-based activities such as hiking in the City’s many nature reserves and parks.

Thousands of people visit the City every year to experience its many landmarks, heritage sites, as well as other places of important historical, cultural, architectural and natural significance. Mashigo said some of the most visited attractions were the Union Buildings, Voortrekker Monument, Rietvlei Nature Reserve, Dinokeng Game Reserve, Groenkloof Nature Reserve, Cullinan and the Pretoria Botanical Gardens.

According to a tourism report released by Statistics South Africa last month, foreign arrivals dropped by 71% from just over 15.8 million in 2019 to fewer than 5 million in 2020 because of the pandemic. This resulted in the closure of accommodation, activities, restaurants and tourist attractions, which led to a number of establishments shutting down. Some had not yet recovered from the impact of the pandemic. Mashigo said the City had been increasing its focus on the domestic tourism market as part of its road to recovery.

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