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2012-12-30 10:00

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Durban and Port Elizabeth win the battle of the beaches

Durban and Port Elizabeth are emerging as winners in the battle for the tourist buck this festive season.

With hotel occupancy rates of 90%, tourism authorities in the two coastal cities have been doing all they can to lure local and foreign visitors to their shores.

eThekwini spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng last week boasted of the 50 000 visitors expected there last weekend, lured he said by laid-on entertainment, including helicopter flips, go-karts, and a slew of music concerts and festivals.

“Numbers prove that Durban is the preferred holiday destination this time of year among South Africans,” he said.

Durban’s head of tourism, Phillip Sithole, said the industry generated R2.5 billion for the local economy between December 10 and January 7 last year.

Central Beach, which is Durban’s busiest, registered foot traffic of about 93 000 people on one weekend day this month.

Meanwhile, in Port Elizabeth, business is booming for most accommodation establishments this festive season, said Nelson Mandela Bay Metro tourism CEO Mandlakazi Skifile.

“Most of our establishments are operating between 90% and 100% capacity at the moment … Self-catering is the most popular in all categories,” she said.

This, she said, came as a welcome surprise because, in rough economic times, they hadn’t expected such a good year.

“In spite of all the challenges, people still put aside some money to entertain themselves,” she said, adding that the city’s new attractions – including a new hotel and convention centre at the Boardwalk casino complex – certainly helped.

The city’s success was also aided by its hosting of the Sevens World Series rugby tournament, as well as other sports tournaments that drew international and local visitors.

In the Mother City, Cape Town tourism public relations manager Skye Grove said in a statement that the local industry wasn’t doing too badly either, showing a “slight growth trend”.

A joint report by Cape Town Tourism and consultancy Horwath HTL on a survey conducted last month revealed that accommodation providers were expecting an average occupancy rate of just more than 70%.

Domestic tourists will make up 55% of total visitors to the city, and its international tourists hail mainly from the UK, US, Germany and the Netherlands, with strong growth from Scandinavia and “a notable increase in Asian travellers”.

“All in all, we are expecting a similar to slightly better season than last year. Increase of up to 4% on arrivals and bookings is expected for the period between December and February,” said the statement.

Cape Town Tourism CEO, Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold said that even though they were “optimistic about the tourism outlook for this peak season and there is a tangible presence of visitors ... we are not expecting a record season of arrivals and bookings”.

The most popular areas were the city bowl, V&A Waterfront and along the Atlantic Seaboard where hotels and guesthouses are all fully booked.

“Feedback from establishments is that visitors are booking shorter stays, predominantly between the third week of December and early January, and negotiating hard on price,” said Grove.

But tourism players in one coastal city are not so happy.

Les Holbrook, executive director of East London’s Border-Kei Chamber of Business, said their hotels were only between 30% and 40% full, in stark contrast with resort towns around the city, which boasted occupancy rates of 90%.

“You consider yourself lucky if you get 50% occupancy rates if you have an establishment in the city,” he said.

“The tourism association was closed down two years ago. We have not had one since then, which has proved very detrimental in as far as promoting this place as a holiday destination is concerned,” Holbrook said.

SA builds on 2010 tourism

SA Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima says the country as a whole has managed to sustain the interest of international visitors by building on the gains of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

He says domestic tourism contributed 76% of the total tourist volumes, generating R20.3?billion for the economy. Black travellers are the “mainstays” of the sector, he says.

Between January and September, almost 6.8?million international tourists arrived in the country, a growth of 10.7% on last year’s numbers.

Wildlife, safaris and well-known landmarks are still proving a hit with tourists from the UK, South Africa’s leading tourist market, from which 310 000 visitors arrived between January and September.

This represented a 4.4% increase on the previous year.

“We have seen excellent growth this year from most of our tourist markets, with a 9.8% increase from our European markets, 14.8% increase from North America, 43.4% increase from Central and South America, a 17.3% increase from Australasia and a 36.9% increase from Asia, 18.4% increase from the Middle East and a 8.7% increase from regional Africa,” Nzima said.

Tourists from the rest of Africa made up 73% of total international tourist numbers, contributing R50 billion to the economy, he said.

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