Air connectivity boosts W Cape tourism numbers

Cape Town - There has been a 60% increase in so-called origin and destination (O&D) passengers coming to Cape Town via Qatar between November 2015 and March 2016.

An analysis on air arrivals into Cape Town, conducted by Wesgro, illustrated the importance of air access. The Western Cape achieved growth in international arrivals and departures from several markets.

This increase from 34 951 to 55 772 passengers can be attributed to a partnership between Qatar Airways and the Western Cape provincial government through which the province has actively been promoted, Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities, said on Tuesday.

There has, furthermore, been an increase of 53% in O&D passengers from Turkey - from 36 348 to 55 714. This growth is linked to a direct flight to Cape Town by Turkish Airlines.

Kenya Airways also announced that from July it will fly a Nairobi – Livingstone – Cape Town route three times per week.

“This is great news for air access to our destination, and it will no doubt contribute to growing tourism to our region. Our Air Access team, based at Wesgro, has worked over the past few years to develop the business case for a route to Kenya. This hard work has paid off," said Winde.

He added that the Western Cape’s tourism sector experienced one of its best seasons yet as international and domestic arrivals continued to rise.

“Our tourism sector has experienced another phenomenal year. Figures for most of our biggest attractions are up from last year," said Winde.
Between November last year and March 2016, the V&A Waterfront welcomed 11.8 million visitors. This is up 5.8% from the same period in the previous year. Kirstenbosch also reported a 1.3% increase over the period under review, logging 466 646 visitors.

There has also been a reversal in the downward trend in visitor numbers at Robben Island. Between November and March there was a 24% gain in visitor numbers compared with the previous year. Just under 200 000 people visited the island - a World Heritage Site - during that period.

The European markets continue to make up a significant portion of tourist arrivals into Cape Town, accounting for about 45% of arrivals. There have been increases from Germany, the Netherlands and France during the period from November 2015 to March 2016.

Deon Cloete, general manager at Cape Town International Airport, said overall passenger numbers continued to show robust growth - just over 10% for the financial year. On the international front arriving passengers grew by 7%, while the domestic arrivals grew by 10% for the same period. Regional growth also showed solid growth of 20%.  

“On an average day the airport processes close to 26 000 passengers, handles approximately 11 000 bags and uplifts nearly 1.2 million litres of aviation fuel," said Cloete.

Looking ahead to the period from April to August 2016, Winde said the industry anticipates certain key trends. US passenger bookings are up 23%, from 10 844 to 13 301 passengers. The length of stay of US passengers coming to Cape Town is up 16% over the same period (measured for stays of at least 22 days). The number of 4-person per booking numbers are up 25% over the same period, from 1 004 to 1 252 persons.

In Europe, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, passenger numbers on bookings are up 18%, 19% and 44% respectively over the period to come. In China, passenger numbers on bookings are up 52%.

Winde said these trends are excellent news for the Western Cape, which is working with industry to counter seasonality.

“These figures are great news for jobs and growth in the province. Tourism is our fastest-growing sector, employing 204 000 residents in formal jobs. Through Project Khulisa, we are seeking to add up a further 100 000 jobs to the tourism sector,” said Winde.

Beverley Schäfer, DA Western Cape spokesperson on economic opportunities, tourism and agriculture, is pleased that the job-creating tourism sector has succeeded in fighting back against what she calls "the onerous visa regulations", which caused tourism numbers to drop in 2014 and 2015.

"The Western Cape provincial parliament has continued to call for a scrapping of the onerous visa regulations, particularly the unabridged birth certificates. National Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom has also taken a firm stance against the implementation of the unabridged certificates," said Schäfer.

She pointed out that the Standing Committee on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture tabled a report in 2014 which indicated that most child trafficking occurs inside the country and across land borders. Hanekom has reported the same.

"This means that child trafficking cannot be curbed by visa regulations. The report calls for the scrapping of the regulations until such time as a full regulatory impact assessment of the legislation on the economy is completed," she added.

"It stands to reason that, if this had been conducted prior to the regulations being promulgated, we would not have had such a negative impact on the tourism sector to begin with."

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