This story has been updated since it was published to correct Enver Mally's position as Chairperson of Cape Town Tourism and Lead Chairperson for JAMMS, not the CEO of Cape Town Tourism. 


Following last week’s JAMMS meeting, Satsa has announced an open meeting to address the Gauteng tourism industry in Johannesburg this week about the Cape drought.

Meeting details: 

Date: Wednesday, February 7
Time: 13h00-15h00
Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Ballroom 2 
RSVP: Email 

See meeting discussion information at the bottom of this article.

Cape Town Tourism is feeling the pinch as bookings drop amidst one of the worst droughts ever in the region.

While no official data was available to quantify the impact of the severe water restrictions in the city, industry was being affected, said Enver Mally, Chairperson of Cape Town Tourism and Lead Chairperson for JAMMS. “We need to come up with solutions to this crisis that is affecting this industry at grass roots level.”

With experts predicting that Cape Town will run out of water in mid-April, establishments across the region are reporting a drop in bookings, despite ongoing messages that the city is open for business.

Concerns have also been expressed about keeping to the Level 6b restrictions of only 50 litres of water per person per day. “Speak to any guest house or hotelier and they will tell you it is near impossible to enforce or stick to 50 litres per bed night,” an audience member told City of Cape Town Executive Deputy Mayor, Ian Neilson, during a JAMMS session in the city last week.

There was general agreement that, despite a massive effort by the industry at large to curb water usage in the tourism sector, the current water usage per bed night was closer to 100 litres per person.

Initiatives to curb water usage have included removing bath plugs, fitting showers with water-limiting devices and buckets, encouraging shorter showers and washing linen and towels far less frequently.

The smaller establishments, especially, have real fears regarding the impact of the crisis on their businesses as many say they will simply have to shut their doors should Day Zero come. With many of these businesses in residential areas, water supply will not be guaranteed as is the case in Cape Town’s central business district.

At the same time, the price of water has significantly increased, with some accommodation owners saying they were looking at increased costs of around 450%.

Most agreed it was not affordable and the impact on the tourism sector, a key economic contributor in the Western Cape, would be severe.

At least ten million tourists visited Cape Town last year. It is arguable whether the city will see the same number this year.

One guesthouse owner said it was fast becoming apparent that many tourists were sympathetic with Cape Town but as concerns over water increased more and more people were opting not to come to the city to avoid adding to demand.

“There is, of course, also the real fact that the water restrictions do hamper service delivery,” said another.

South African Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona, said this did not have to be the case at all. “Cape Town is not alone in dealing with drought. Los Angeles and São Paulo are all dealing with this. How we come out of this crisis is going to be the benchmark on that side,” he said. “We do not have to drop our service delivery; we are going to be setting the new standard and the new norm.”

But tourism businesses remain concerned. “At what point do we stop taking bookings,” said one. “Without water we simply cannot operate.”

Neilson said, while the industry’s predicament was fully understandable there was no final answer. He said the best advice to accommodation establishments and restaurants was to start looking at supplementing their water supply to get alternatives up and running.

Alan Winde, MEC for Tourism in the province, said all efforts would be made to find solutions for the tourism industry. “GDP of R40 billion (€2.66bn) is at risk. We have to find solutions to ensure we don’t lose our tourism market.” At any given time only 1% of the city’s population were international tourists, he said, but they packed a massive punch. “We cannot afford to lose even one booking.”

Meeting details:

South African Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona will focus on how to manage and control communication sent out to the international community. “This is a plea to everyone inside and outside of South Africa to work together and be part of the solution. For our industry specifically, we are taking charge and showcasing how we can meet the future now and create the New Normal in how we do tourism; something we have focused on for years,” says Ntshona. 

Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris will give a brief synopsis on the water crisis and a tourism message that Wesgro is refining as it deals with industry questions. Satsa commends Wesgro on its commitment to working on a tourism-related strategy with regard to the Cape Town water crisis, based on industry FAQs. 

The aim of the meeting is to address operational questions such as how to deal with queries from the international market, and what role tourism players based outside Cape Town can play. Although Satsa is hosting the meeting, anyone who is interested in attending the meeting to gain valuable information is welcome to RSVP. Satsa will also be engaging other media stakeholders ahead of the meeting to aid in the positive dissemination of updates on tourism’s impact on the Cape Town water crisis.