Tourism operators in the Western Cape have reported a generally strong December season, with many local tourism offices and attractions seeing increased numbers, despite the drought’s impact, as Wesgro conducted an informal survey of tourist offices across the province this week.
Minister of Economic Opportunities, Beverley Schäfer said: “Tourism is a key sector in the Western Cape, responsible for creating over 300 000 direct and indirect jobs. 2018 was a difficult year as a result of the drought, and the tight economic situation South African consumers found themselves in. Our focus is now on reminding tourists of everything this province offers in order for us to get this sector growing and thriving again.”
While Schäfer was pleased to see that additional resources had been allocated at passport control over the festive period, the lack of clarity regarding visa regulations needed to be urgently addressed.
“There is mass confusion at the moment because a travel advisory issued by the Department of Home Affairs contradicts the relaxed visa regulations regarding travelling with minor children, which were issued last year. Tourism is a major cornerstone of the South African economy and we cannot afford for this kind of confusion to happen. Home Affairs must act immediately to ensure that the visa regulations which were gazetted are enacted, and that all staff on the ground and airlines receive clear communication thereof,” stated Schäfer, adding: “We’ve seen the negative impact that visa regulations have had on tourism in the past and we cannot allow the South African tourism brand to be further damaged by ongoing uncertainty.”
Feedback from tourism offices and attractions for the December period include:
- Franschhoek reported a slower start to the season but said activity picked up significantly from December 25 to January 6. Accommodation establishments were 90% full. Staff reported that while the season was shorter than in 2017, the town was busier.
- In Stellenbosch, guest houses reported being fully booked.
- Vredenburg’s tourism office received more visitors than in December 2018, with international visitors mostly coming from Germany, the UK and The Netherlands.
- Lambert’s Bay reported an increase of around 10% in visitor numbers, with about 25% being international visitors, while Doringbaai saw an increase of 7% in visitor numbers.
- Gaansbaai reported busy Christmas and New Year weekends. Sporting events like the Lomond Triathlon and Danger Point half marathon were also well supported. 5 700 people went shark cage diving and 1260 went whale watching at Kleinbaai. The African Penguin and Seabird sanctuary also recorded 2900 visitors.
- In Knysna, walk-in statistics at the tourism office were down, however, accommodation was fully booked over the peak period, and many of the popular tourism activities were also fully booked. The Knysna Quays waterfront was packed with holiday makers. Tourism staff report that the town was much busier in December 2018, when compared with the previous year, which they attribute to the Knysna fires in June 2017.
- The Karoo, which is still experiencing extreme drought conditions, reported that numbers of visitors at accommodation establishments and restaurants had declined. Langebaan also reported that visitor numbers were down, however, attractions like Club Mykonos and the West Coast National Park were well supported.
- In Cape Town, Table Mountain reported a 5% increase in visitor numbers compared with 2017 while almost 25 000 people visited the Zeitz MOCCA.
- The V&A Waterfront recorded a slight decline in overall visitor numbers of between 1% and 2%, which they attribute to fewer international visitors coming to Cape Town as a result of the water crisis. New Year’s Eve was the Waterfront’s single biggest day of the festive season, attracting 157 000 visitors to the property, an increase from the previous year.
Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris added: “It is clear that we still have a lot more to do to recover from the drought. The ‘Nowhere Does It Better’ campaign, which is a collaboration between the private and public sectors, will help place Cape Town and the Western Cape back on to travellers’ consideration list, by showcasing the diversity and depth of experiences on offer. The reality is that there is nowhere else in the world that can make this offer, and we are going to make that clear in our key source markets.”
“As the research conducted is largely anecdotal - as there are still outstanding figures from the regions and key attractions - we cannot as of yet make a final statement on the overall performance of the province. We will continue to conduct research in the coming weeks to get a better picture,” concluded Harris.