Cape Town - The Mother City attracted a whopping 29.8% more tourists during the month of December alone, when compared to the same time in 2015.
The upsurge in tourism means a massive financial injection to Cape Town's economy and tourism industry, and in addition to that, the tourism industry also currently provides 3.2 million formal jobs in the Western Cape.
This is according to Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities in the Western Cape, speaking at the provincial summer tourism results media briefing in Cape Town.
Winde says the tourism officials and stakeholders will by no means rest on their laurels in the coming year, as they look at various ways to open tourism even more in the province and the rest of the country.
This is what the overall growth in tourism in Cape Town looked like:
Here are four ways province aims to capitalise on the growth spurt:
1. Infrastructure upgrades
For the coming year, logistics will be upgraded to ensure that tourist attractions aren’t hampered by congestion.
“If queues are too long and guests do not have a good visitor experience - we lose them,” Winde says.
He says going forward in 2017, Wesgro and various tourism stakeholders will do as much as possible to ensure the infrastructure can match the capacity of tourists coming into the country.
Upgrades and refurbishments in the coming year include the proposed completion of the N1 road coming into Cape Town, the R832 million expansion currently underway at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), the building of the new Zeiss Museum of Contemporary Arts Africa (MOCAA) at the V&A Waterfront, as well as the expansion and refurbishments of various new hotels in the city.
The Cape Town International Airport, which has been growing every year for the last two years, is also due for extensive upgrades in the next three years.
2. Cycle craze
The City of Cape Town and the rest of the Western Cape is very much on par with the global cycle craze, and in December, just short of a million rand was spent on bicycles alone.
It gives an indication of the massive market the cycling craze offers to SA, Winde says.
On track with this craze, is the exciting new cycling route traversing the most scenic parts of the Western Cape from Plettenberg Bay to Cape Town, aimed at becoming yet another tourism draw card for the province.
The track will be completed in March this year, and Winde says the route hopes to be an enabler to facility more growth within the province, as well as the rest of the country.
"It's the government's job to create an enabling environment – to create opportunity – and then small towns and private entrepreneurs will tap into the market themselves.
Over next couple of years, the cycling initiative hopes to be expanded to other areas like the West Coast, as well as other parts of the country.
The idea is not only to create an alternative - and healthy - tourism experience, but to try alleviate some of the congestion from Cape Town's roads, and also to reduce the city's carbon footprint.
Cape Town is one of the world’s top cities when it comes to urban cycling paths, according to South African Tourism. And recently, in a bold move by the City of Cape Town’s Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA), it was announced that the Cape's mostly vehicle-centred city will be gradually transformed to a more people-centred hub.
The idea is to tap into the global cycle trend that goes beyond just recreational cycling, to turn Cape Town into super city when it comes to being cycling-friendly commuting.
3. Expanding the Madiba legacy
Another way to expand the heritage of tourism within the province will be to incorporate the Nelson Mandela legacy into the South African tourism experience even more.
Winde says the New Year will see a more integrated and better packaged Madiba legacy attraction - aimed at connecting the key established attractions like Robben Island into a whole, connected experience.
A museum exhibition route will be launched to play as a connector in the city, and route signage for the route is expected in the City soon, Wesgro confirms.
“Every visitor that comes to SA needs to leave with a concrete and authentic Madiba legacy experience,” Winde says.
He says talks are currently underway to establish a replica statue of Madiba delivering his world-famous inauguration speech at the Cape Town city hall. This statue will not only play a visual role where tourists will be able to take photographs, but also a place of reflection.
Using audio technology, tourists will be able to listen to the speech on the spot and take away some of SA’s pivotal and world-renowned democratic history.
The new attraction will be aimed at giving visitors a complete, multi-dimensional insight into the life and work of Madiba.
4. Entrepreneurship and initiative will be encouraged
Using Airbnb and the controversy the platform has caused globally as an example, Winde says the Western Cape is always looking at ways to continue the growth of tourism, without excluding other, more traditional tourism authorities.
In countries like Germany and France, the Airbnb accommodation platform has been fined and banned, following arguments between official hotel accommodation facilities who pay guest house levies, and Airbnb operators who run the platform from homes and apartments.
With the launch of the new Airbnb Experiences platform, more controversy has come from official, accredited tour guides who are now having to compete with members of the public offering a niche activity to tourists.
In the Western Cape, both Airbnb and Airbnb Experiences have taken off swimmingly, and Cape Town currently has the largest number of listings in Africa.
Unlike in Germany and France, Winde says, the platform will not be crippled in Cape Town.
“I do not believe in banning disruption, I believe we need to grow the opportunities for everyone in a sustainable way,” Winde says. He said that if conflict arises, there will be a consultative process wherein all parties will help to ensure that entrepreneurship and initiative is done practices a sustainable manner.
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