Cape tourism bucks up for grabs

2017-12-03 06:00
Depleted though popular, tourists may give Cape Town a miss.

Depleted though popular, tourists may give Cape Town a miss.

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Capetonians, bless them, have been a little smelly recently. The water-deprived residents have been walking about with unwashed hair as they’re restricted to two-minute showers – and that’s on a good day – and their town doesn’t smell so good either, City Press noted on a trip last week.

Despite the water crisis that has seen residents of the country’s oldest city limited to using 81 litres a day each, the Western Cape provincial government is going into overdrive to save its tourism industry, which is also suffering in the drought.

Fearing that the crisis will put tourists off, the province’s tourism, trade and investment agency, Wesgro, has gone into partnership with CapeNature and Airbnb to distribute 2 300 low-flow shower heads to guesthouses and Airbnb hosts to save water (by 70%) and electricity (by 30%). This, it is hoped, will help save 70 million litres of water a year, and “forms part of our campaign to help tourists and small accommodation establishments make a measurable difference in the midst of the worst drought in recorded history”, said the provincial government.

But MEC Alan Winde is stepping this up a notch in a truly Capetonian way.

“We’ll be distributing around 20 000 hand sanitisers, branded with water-saving tips. We will be welcoming tourists into our province and making sure they are aware of the water crisis,” he said.

Cape Town is not the only water-scare tourism destination in the country. Reports this week that water levels in Durban’s largest dam have dropped to their lowest in 20 years have also sparked concern ahead of the holiday rush. Despite recent heavy rains along the coast, the Albert Falls Dam is 20% full and the entire Umgeni system is only a little over 50% full.

A spokesperson for Sihle Zikalala, KwaZulu-Natal’s economic development, tourism and environmental affairs MEC, said he couldn’t speak about the province’s tourism plans ahead of the holiday season because a formal announcement was due next week.

“All I can tell you at this stage is that KwaZulu-Natal is optimistic that the number of visitors will grow exponentially this festive season.”

The spokesperson added that the province had launched its “spend wisely” and “responsible drinking” campaigns, which were intended to “empower visitors”.

Tempting attractions

In the midst of the crisis, which has the country’s tourist meccas in its clutches, other provinces are lining up to tempt tourists to their attractions instead.

North West Tourism MEC Desbo Mohono said her province would see an increase in the number of visitors this holiday season.

With the “shapa round” (come around) festive campaign in place, Mohono believes their tourism industry will do well.

“People are already starting to flock into North West,” she said.

Some of her province’s tourism offerings are the Mahika Mahikeng Cultural Music Festival and the annual DJ Nation bash, as well as the Sun City and Hartbeespoort Dam destinations.

In Limpopo, tourism spokesperson Mike Tauatsoala said they had a good number of tourists who travelled up from the Western Cape, and they expected these numbers to rise.

When asked if Limpopo was taking advantage of the drought in the Western Cape, Tauatsoala was diplomatic: “We are not pleased by the water crisis in the Western Cape, and it should be emphasised that we are not in competition with any of the provinces in the country, as we complement one another.”

His province offers culture, heritage and “megaconservation” at the Kruger, Mapungubwe and Marakele national parks.

Limpopo is also hoping to attract a few sports tourists to watch the Premier Soccer League match a few weeks before Christmas, between SuperSport United and Baroka FC.

“We are also pleased by the fact that our province is doing well on the sporting front, and we believe this will boost our sport tourism profile,” said Tauatsoala.

In addition, there is the Mapungubwe Arts Festival, which kicked off with a street carnival on Thursday and ends with a jazz concert next Saturday.

“The festival brings a lot of revellers and tourists from many parts of the country and beyond to our province, and this grows tourism, which creates direct jobs and grows the economy of the province.”

"Visitors want value for money"

Gauteng, meanwhile, believes it has an ace up its sleeve ahead of the holiday season with its “spring into summer” campaign, which includes Soweto’s Makhelwane Festival between 16 and 17 December, and the Afropunk festival on 30 and 31 December at Constitution Hill.

Provincial tourism spokesperson Barba Gaoganediwe said: “The Afropunk Musical Festival is the biggest draw card for the province, with thousands of tickets already sold for the New Year’s Eve event. We are expecting visitors from all over the continent, including Mozambique and Angola.”

Although it appears that Cape Town locals also want to get out of town this festive season – they have bought the most tickets to Afropunk so far – Gaoganediwe said the drought wasn’t chasing them away.

“People want to avoid crowded areas and they no longer want to see the ocean and mountains,” he said.

“Visitors want value for money, especially in these tough economic times.”

The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency has recently launched its festive season campaign to encourage financially savvy domestic tourists.

Xolani Mthethwa, the body’s head of tourism, said: “With the 29% decline in domestic trips to Mpumalanga from 2.2 million trips in 2015 to 1.7 million trips last year, the campaign aims to showcase the affordability of travelling to the province.

“The decline in domestic trips has not only affected Mpumalanga, but the country as a whole, although Mpumalanga was hit the most and this is mainly due to the economic conditions,” he said.

The agency’s spokesperson, Kholofelo Nkambule, said: “The intention is really to advise travellers that it is not that expensive to travel to Mpumalanga, as there are packages available to suit any pocket.

Mpumalanga’s unique offerings include diverse wildlife, scenic beauty, outdoor adventure, culture and heritage.

“We are in close proximity to Mozambique and Swaziland. With such different offerings, anyone who intends to visit us has a lot to experience,” she said.

Read more on:    cape town  |  tourism  |  water

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