No tight belts for Easter

2013-03-31 10:00

The country may be experiencing hard economic times, but thousands of holiday makers who packed coastal hotels and B&Bs this Easter weekend clearly didn’t get that memo.

Tourism authorities in Durban and Cape Town reported that accommodation establishments in both cities were almost fully booked by the close of business on Thursday.

Head of Durban Tourism Phillip Sithole said: “Major hotels were already reporting 90% bookings on Wednesday and we expect this number to increase as more holiday makers who did not book in time descend on our city.”

Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, said she could not provide statistics detailing the number of travellers expected in the city over the Easter holidays, or how much they were expected to spend there over this period.

But she said: “Cape Town Tourism’s accommodation members were reporting full bookings.”

Durban, however, has already calculated the economic boost it expected over the long weekend.

Holiday makers were expected to spend at least R330 million in the city over Easter – far higher than the estimated R250 million they spent last year over the same period.

Sithole said this year’s spend had been bolstered by the two-day Brics Summit, which ended on Wednesday and was attended by more than 2 000 delegates.

“Many people who came to the summit extended their stay for the Easter holidays and this boosted our figures,” he said.

Southern African Tourism Services Association CEO Mike Tatalias said Durban had a good plan.

“Durban seems to have capitalised on the slotting in of the Brics summit neatly between the two long weekends,” he said.

“This also follows on a well-planned string of events and conferences in Durban, designed to dovetail neatly with the school holidays and public holidays, from late November 2012 all the way through to the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in early February 2013.”

While the delegates may have boosted the Durban Easter tourism spend, Sithole said it was the ordinary tourists who would be bringing in big chunks of that money.

“Tourism has been on an upward trend in the past few years in Durban,” he said.

“When you look at the past few years, you can see that our high season spend – Easter and the festive season – has doubled. We moved from R2 billion in 2009 to R4 billion in 2012.”

SA Tourism will only release 2012’s Christmas holiday statistics by the end of next month, but statistics so far indicate that domestic tourism was on the increase – having contributed R3 billion and 72% of the total tourism volume in 2011.

Cape Town’s tourism is also looking up, said Du Toit-Helmbold.

“In a recent survey we conducted with industry consultants Horwath HTL and our accommodation members, the 2012/13 summer season seems to have been the best overall season since 2008, with an 8% increase in bookings,” she said.

Cape Town Tourism and the Horwath HTL survey also found that 51% of visitors to the Cape Town Visitor Tourism Centres were locals, particularly from the Western Cape, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape – in that order.

She said that Cape Town and Durban were not competing with each other for the greater part of the tourist buck.

“Durban has its own attractions and vibrancy that set it apart from Cape Town, in this way minimising competition for Easter travellers,” she said.

Sithole agreed, saying: “Cape Town could never be our competition because they are our partners.”

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