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South Africa reports record tourism

/ Source: The Associated Press

Record numbers of tourists flocked to South Africa last year and visitor numbers are expected to reach 10 million in 2010 when the country hosts the soccer World Cup.

Tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said Tuesday that there were just over 9 million foreign visitors last year, an 8 percent increase on 2006.

Arrivals from the United States rose by 8.7 percent, from China by 13 percent and India by 17 percent and from Europe by 2.3, he said.

"I am very pleased to announce that Destination South Africa is well on its way to reaching 10 million arrivals by 2010," he told parliament.

After decades of isolation due to apartheid, South Africa is trying to position itself as a leading international destination.

The country boasts Africa's best transport and hotel infrastructure, famed wildlife, pristine beaches and cultural diversity.

The weakness of the local currency, the rand — even against the dollar — makes South Africa a cheap destination for most foreign visitors. But the nation's high rate of violent crime is a deterrent for some.