A tale of two?cities: Cape Town

American songbird Madison Elle Beer was one of thousands of visitors who descended on Cape Town at Christmas, despite concerns by local tourism authorities that the fear of Ebola would keep foreign holiday-makers away.

Beer, who came to world attention after pop star Justin Bieber tweeted a link to a video of her singing, took a helicopter flip over the Mother City on Tuesday.

“Will miss Cape Town and all the lovely girls I met,” the 15-year-old wrote on Twitter.

This week, the city’s tourism bosses said it was too soon to tell if the fear of Ebola in west Africa would erode the number of international visitors to the city.

On Boxing Day, the Table Mountain cableway buzzed as people waited for at least two hours to get into a cable car to the top of the mountain.

The V&A Waterfront, considered Cape Town’s most popular local attraction, was also packed.

Meanwhile, in the city centre, Greenmarket Square and the Company Gardens were quiet compared with previous years.

However, Nicole Biondi of Cape Town Tourism said arrivals at Cape Town International Airport’s domestic terminal grew by 4% in November and international arrivals by 3% compared with last year.

She said visitor figures for December and January would be processed “in due course”, so it was impossible to measure the effects of Ebola just yet.

It seems Asian travellers have been the ones who have been particularly panicked about heading to African countries.

Last month, Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy told City Press its Asian trade contacts and tour promoters had noted “significant cancellations” of up to 90% due to fears around the disease.

Meanwhile, city officials issued warnings and worked around the clock to clear the city’s beaches after 8m waves lashed the coastline in the early hours of Boxing Day.

Early on Friday, lifeguards rescued three bathers who were washed out to sea by towering waves that swept the popular Kalk Bay Harbour.

Coastal roads between Hout Bay, Kalk Bay and Muizenberg, and along the False Bay coastline, were flooded.

The SA Weather Service issued a high seas warning of waves of up to 9m high between Cape Columbine and Plettenberg Bay on Friday.

Cape Town’s disaster management spokesperson, Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, said: “A general caution is issued urging sightseers and bathers to stay away from harbours, sea walls and rocks, and exercise caution at tidal pools due to massive swells and rough sea conditions.”

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