Winter won’t freeze out tourists

2017-06-20 06:01

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A new golf tournament is just one of the ways the tourism industry is bringing visitors to the Mother City during winter.

Cape Town buzzes with thousands of tourists from November to April. But, when it gets to the Cape’s winter months, things are a lot quieter. This seasonality has been a thorn in the side of tourism businesses for many years, explains Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy. Beyond the obvious impact on income – which creates a sustainability risk for many businesses – the effect is seen in other ways: gauging how many staff one can keep on during the slow period, the brunt on incomes for families if jobs are cut, the turnover of staff resulting from more experienced people finding permanent work elsewhere. Tourism organisations are looking to ideas to address seasonality. These include a golf festival, promoting winter events, conferences, campaigns to encourage increased domestic travel and positioning Cape Town as a halaal-friendly destination.

Mayor Patricia de Lille says Capetonians have to work hard and be innovative to address the negative impact of seasonality.

“This is why the City of Cape Town has established a partnership that brings together a number of organisations with a focus on promoting tourism in the city. Fedhasa, Wesgro, Cape Town Tourism and Accelerate Cape Town are working together to find ways, such as putting together unique travel packages and events to attract visitors during the quieter winter months.”

Measures to address seasonality by these industry bodies have already had a positive impact, especially in terms of prolonging the high season, says Wesgro’s chief marketing officer, Judy Lain. The high season now extends over a longer period than previously, she says. “Traditionally, December and January were the peak season months, but we are now experiencing significant visitor numbers from about October until April, and this certainly benefits service providers in the tourism industry.”

The inaugural Cape Town Golf Festival will take place during August. This year 120 golfers will have six days to play and experience the Cape countryside.

According to Duminy, the view that the winter months are undesirable for a visit to Cape Town is misguided. “Firstly, if one looks at the average number of days of rain during the winter months, it’s clear we do not have constant rain and gloomy days during the cooler months of June, July and August. In fact, statistics show that the average number of days of rain is about nine per month, which means that a visitor could well enjoy a week’s stay in the city without feeling a drop.”

The city’s events calendar also serves to bring more visitors here, with a range of wine festivals, whale-sighting opportunities and the annual bloom of wild flowers.

There is also an opportunity to look beyond leisure tourism only, explains Ryan Ravens, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town.

“Business tourism is generally very profitable, so we need to tap into this even more. With so many top-notch conference facilities available, attracting conferences during the winter months is a priority.”

With South Africa ranked as the fourth destination globally to attract Muslim visitors and the Western Cape being the preferred province for leisure tourism, Wesgro, in partnership with dNata Global, launched a Ramadan campaign at the end of May targeting Dubai, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Also with the Muslim traveller in mind, Cape Town Tourism has partnered with CrescentRating, a rating and accreditation service for halaal-friendly travel services.

“Initiatives such as these are crucial in limiting the negative impact of seasonality. Creative thinking, coupled with the will to make an impact, is core to turning the tide on seasonality,” says Duminy.

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