“Cape Town had a lekker December 2021 when it came to tourism – it kept some jobs and it kept the economy running. However, it’s a long road to recovery.”
These were the words of Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy at a tourism performance update meeting, held at the Radisson Red hotel at the Waterfront last Wednesday, January 19.
The meeting was held in partnership with the City of Cape Town.
Speaking at the meeting, Mayoral committee member for economic opportunities, assets management and tourism, James Vos, said although the Covid-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down, the past month has been more positive for the local industry.
Mr Vos said Cape Town saw an increase in visitors with Cape Town International Airport reporting recovery of 66% for domestic arrivals and 29% for international when compared to December 2019.
All of Cape Town’s famed attractions also reported positive recovery when compared to 2019 figures – Cape Point at 33%, Chapman’s Peak Drive at 77%, Groot Constantia at 60%, Kirstenbosch at 49%, Robben Island at 46%, Table Mountain at 57% and Two Oceans Aquarium at 76%.
The V&A Waterfront reported a year-on-year increase of 31% and attributed it to increased footfall and eased restrictions. They also reported a strong influx of domestic travellers that helped drive the improved figures.
The V&A Waterfront CEO David Green said while this translated into improved performance around the same time in 2020, it was far behind the last normal pre-Covid in 2019.
In December, footfall numbers reached just over 2.2 million visitors, a 30% improvement on 2020 figures but 34% percent down on 2019. Daily visitor numbers peaked with average daily footfall of 79 000 people a day over the Christmas and New Year’s Day period.
New Year’s Eve saw people returning to the Waterfront because of the relaxation in curfew times and as a result they saw almost 100 000 people in a single day, however the change in the curfew times was made literally days before New Year’s Eve, making it impossible to plan or organise significant people-attracting events.
Annual footfall numbers for the V&A property as a whole reached just nearly 15.6 million visitors, a 9% increase from the same period in 2020, but 41% down from 2019.
At the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre, December footfall was 47.8% better than November as it benefits from the school holidays and traditional festive shopping. Restaurants were also able to take advantage of the good weather.
Mr Vos said the City and Cape Town Tourism pulled out all stops to get business back to Cape Town.
He said last year, the City had launched a number of international campaigns in London and New York to advertise Cape Town on billboards and bus stops around these cities.
Cape Town Tourism has also launched its new visitor experience centre at the City Hall, and will use smart applications and technology to enhance search engine optimisation.
Tshepo Matlou, head of marketing and communications at Jurni, a localised online travel and tourism platform, said technology will play a bigger role in tourism this year, especially in terms of travel marketing. “The pandemic fast-tracked our lives digitally, changing the way people search, shop, work, and play. Technology will become even more important in the way travel is marketed, because young people rely on technology to find, book and pay for their stays. Travel businesses that want to succeed will therefore have to adapt or be left behind.”
Mr Vos said they will also be working on unlocking opportunities in the “blue” economies – cruises and aviation.
He said forward bookings for cruise ships are on the rise, and the cruise terminal, managed by the Waterfront, has bookings until the end of March. He said the City was working with Wesgro to strategise on how to get ships to dock and spend money in Cape Town.
For the aviation industry, the City and Wesgro is working on increasing the budget for air access to increase direct routes and routes to Cape Town.
Mr Duminy said while Cape Town did relatively well, we are not out of the wood yet. “As much as we have the confidence, we have two years of damage control to do.
“We have 55 percent less jobs – we had so much more before the pandemic, but we need to remain optimistic. We need to be mindful that it’s a long road to recovery. We ask everyone – locals alike – to support the industry.”
He said local tourism kept the economy alive during the time that the world struggled with the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Mr Matlou said despite international travel restrictions easing, travelling within South Africa’s borders will continue to be popular. People wanting to embrace the freedom of travel will still remain wary of the health risks and limitations that travelling to another country could pose.
He said an interesting new travel trend is developing alongside a sentiment held by the public for the past two years – supporting local tourism businesses, and restaurants.
“Aware of how tough the pandemic has been for small businesses, people have rallied to show their support – a move that’s set to translate to the way South Africans will travel in 2022, doing their best to book stays at locally owned guest houses and B&B’s.”
Shaun Lamont, managing director of First Group Hotels and Resorts, said 95% of their properties were fully booked for the December holidays. “As we approached the festive break, bookings were still lagging. Many families waited until the eleventh hour before confirming their holiday travel plans, fearing that inter-provincial travel bans may be re-implemented with the Omicron surge in late November.
He said guest expectations and priorities have really shifted as a result of Covid. “Where previously, a perfectly plumped pillow and access to super-fast wi-fi would top the list, we have found that guests are now more interested in the safety protocols at each resort.”
He said those measures included the use of electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant, no-contact thermometers, disinfection spray tunnels, hand sanitation stations, and the use of ultraviolet light technology for the further sanitisation of all rooms and public areas.