Cape Town - An informal survey by Wesgro among 18 hotels in Cape Town reflects the impact the water challenge in the city already has on the hospitality sector.
Wesgro is the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape and the results of the survey were mentioned during a presentation at an event the agency hosted recently.
The hotels surveyed indicated that they did between 10% and 15% worse in terms of bookings in January and February compared to the same period last year. These hotels also indicated that the situation for the upcoming period from April to September looks worse with bookings down a lot.
What is even more concerning to Wesgro is that the survey indicated that hotel reservation books for 2019 are basically "empty" so far compared to 2017.
Wesgro regards this as one of the unintended consequences of the water crisis on hotel bookings for 2019 due to the uncertainty in the international tourism market about the issue.
There have also been questions from overseas tour operators about issues like the listeriosis outbreak and land reform and its (potential) impact on tourists who might decide to visit the country.
It also seems a lot of potential international visitors to the Cape are now worried that they will take water from the locals and, therefore, consider not coming.
The message Wesgro is sending out, however, is about the resilience of the city and its residents in the face of the water challenge. There could even be an option for tourists to offset their water footprint during their visit to the city by making a donation to a relevant NGO.
Wesgro's message to the international tourism market is that Cape Town has now become the global benchmark for water sustainability.
Wesgro CEO Tim Harris said Cape Town and the Western Cape must be marketed as a drought resistant destination. He emphasised the importance of preserving the R40bn tourism economy of the province.
He wants to see tourism being an important part of what he called the "Ramaphoria" process, leading the way in the economy, not only of the Western Cape, but of SA.
Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde said at the event that the possibility of Day Zero due to Cape Town's water crisis has hurt the province financially and from a tourism point of view.
It also hit the province from an investment point of view, from a tourism forward bookings point of view and has caused local businesses to re-evaluate further investments.
"We had to tell the world that Day Zero means we still need your business. We had to say that the responsible thing to do is come to visit the Cape as it does not help us to take away any of our existing economy," said Winde.
"We will have to see how much rain we get and how much we could use per person afterwards. The drought will end and we will have massive opportunities again."
As for concerns about tourism safety raised during question time at the event, Winde said partnerships are being built, for instance regarding safety on Table Mountain trails, and ATM fraud targeting tourists in the CBD has also been reduced.
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