Cruise tourism could boost SA economy

Johannesburg - South Africa's economy may have hit turbulent waters, but its booming cruise tourism industry is poised to help turn the tide.

With cruise season in full swing - international leisure liners sailing into popular ports like Cape Town and Durban since late October - are bringing with them wealthy tourists, keen to splurge on cultural, tourism and gastronomic experiences unique to these coastal cities.

On a global scale, the luxury cruise ship market has burgeoned over the past 17 years from around five million passengers to more than 25 million.

The demand for cruising, according to the latest Cruise Lines International Association report increased by 62% from 2005 to 2015 and the bulk of passengers - with cash to splash - come from Europe, Canada and Brazil.

The South African government has recognised the value of foreign tourist spend, prompting the National Development Plan to earmark tourism as one of the main sustainable job-creating sectors in the economy.

With more than 20 luxury cruise ships - operated by 17 international liners - calling at South Africa's main harbours, Transnet National Ports Authority has kicked off plans to turn Durban and Cape Town terminals into world class facilities, in a bid to rival global counterparts like Hong Kong and Naples, Italy and bolster the economy.

Its chief executive Shulami Qalinge said the entity had positioned Durban and Cape Town as stimulus cruise home ports, while Richards Bay, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth and East London continue to receive their share of cruise ships.

"We are making progress in our efforts to introduce new and modern cruise terminals with safe, reliable and efficient marine services that will provide an ideal gateway to a unique South African experience.

"World-class cruise facilities in our ports will continue to attract global operators, which has economic spin-offs for tour operators, hotels, game reserves, lodges and tourist attracts in our port cities," she said.

As part of its efforts to strategically position the home ports of Cape Town and Durban to generate economic spin-offs, Transnet has recognised that both cities have a great deal to offer foreigners including good climate, amazing beaches, wildlife and mountain experiences as well as proximity - in the case of Durban -  two World Heritage Sites, Isimangaliso Wetland Park and the Drakensberg.

Enver Duminy, head of Cape Town Tourism says the projected value of the cruise tourism industry between now and 2027 is estimated to be in the region of R220bn.

Figures for Cape Town, according to the V&A Waterfront, show that the industry has grown from 6050 passengers in 2012 to 14 754 passengers in 2013, climbing to 29 269 in 2016.

2017 is set to represent further growth as passenger figures currently stand at 28 845, excluding those for November and December, traditionally  regarded as good for cruise arrivals.
Duminy said that a 2011 City of Cape Town report found that cruise ships carrying around 2000 passengers result in spending to the value of R2.2-million per day.

DA Shadow Minister for Tourism, James Vos said the cruise industry had the potential to provide economic benefits not only to the port cities, but the entire country.

“These economic benefits arise from a number of sources: the spending by cruise passengers and crew; the shoreside staffing by cruise liners for tour operations; the spending by cruise lines for goods and services necessary for cruise operations; and the spending for port services and maintenance,” Vos said.

Karen Kohler, a research manager at Tourism KZN, said apart from tourist spend, the reprovisioning of ships brought in substantial income for Durban.

“They need to restock, not just on fuel, but food, fresh produce, drinks, water, shop items and the like.”

According to Kohler, passengers spend in excess of US$100 per day while on shore.
“The total passenger spend is extremely difficult to calculate. However, it is likely to be in the region of over R20m, while the value of reprovisioning is likely to be in the region of R80m,” she said.

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