Cape Town tourism bounces back for World Cup

2010-01-26 13:11

South Africa’s top holiday destination, Cape Town, weathered a

post-recession summer with fewer tourists, but is gearing up to bounce back at

the World Cup.

The global economic crisis saw international arrivals to the city

drop by up to 12% last year, while domestic arrivals fell by 8% as South Africa

braced its first post-apartheid recession.

But industry experts say the country fared better than most, with

the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) listing Africa as the only continent to

buck negative trends last year with a robust 5% growth.

“The world recession really hit us very late,” said Calvyn

Gilfellan, chief executive of the regional tourism body Cape Town Routes


“We are fortunate that our industry hasn’t been as negatively

affected, but there’s nothing to be complacent about. We still need to work hard

to ensure that we are on a road to recovery.”

Tourism is part of the top five industries in the Western Cape

which boasts some of South Africa’s premier attractions: Cape Town, the Cape

winelands, the popular Garden Route and the whale-watching hub of


Foreign spending in the region topped R20 billion for the first

time last year, even though a stronger rand has made South Africa more expensive

for foreigners.

Domestic tourists brought in a further R4.5 billion.

“Anything that is happening in the industry is of huge concern for

the authorities,” said Gilfellan. “It is indeed for us the goose that lays the

golden egg.”

But even the Cape Town summer – when long sunny days draw crowds to

the city’s beaches, mountains and cafes – did not go unscathed.

With summer winding down, foreign arrivals are down 6% and locals

3% during the peak season that runs December 12 to January 13.

Part of the visitor drop could be because holidaymakers plan to

visit later during 2010, said Kamilla Swart of the Centre for Tourism Research

in Africa.

“It appears as if some visitors have changed their holiday plans to

visit in June/July 2010 instead,” she said.

Nick Seewer of the Orient-Express group which owns Cape Town’s

luxury Mount Nelson Hotel said: “What we will have is another ‘high’ season, as

June and July are generally quieter tourism months in Cape Town.”

Predictions for the World Cup are “excellent”.

The group, which draws between 70% and 80% of business from outside

South Africa, reported a healthy summer after knocks during the year. This is

despite an overall dip of at least 10% among top-end bookings in the


“We hope that with a successful World Cup and revitalised world

economies ... both corporate and leisure travel to South and southern Africa

will greatly improve,” Seewer said.

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