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January 08, 2009

Cape Town’s tourism sector remains stable amidst tough economic times

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According to the latest dipstick research conducted by Cape Town Tourism in the first week of January 2009, accommodation figures across Cape Town reflect a levelling out of visitors over the peak season.

The decreased petrol price as well as a weak rand in comparison to overseas currency led to many South Africans enjoying a national holiday instead of going abroad. Cape Town remains a favourite domestic leisure destination with many South Africans visiting the Mother City over the festive season. Feedback from the industry and major attractions indicate that domestic arrivals are on par with those of last year.

“It is essential for the tourism industry to balance domestic arrivals with foreign arrivals, making sure that our year-round occupancy levels are healthy by offering domestic travellers value for money and welcoming experiences,” says Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism.

Despite fears of a drop in international arrivals and mixed reports from the industry, the weak rand is expected to keep international arrivals steady for 2009. Cape Town continues to remain an authentic, value-for-money destination and was recently selected as one of Fodor’s Top Ten destinations to visit in 2009. This was based on the excellent value for money it offers.

Similarly, British Airways has predicted Cape Town as its top long-haul destination for 2009, ahead of cities such as Dubai, San Francisco and New York. The weakness of the rand against the pound, the increased awareness of the destination due to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the forthcoming Lions Tour and consistent positive media coverage of the Mother City are reported to be key contributors.

Lastminute.com also cited South Africa as a preferred value-for-money destination. The travel retailer also outlined a significant trend towards shorter all-inclusive holidays, with seven-day packages being the most likely to sell.

Added benefactors to a healthy year-round visitor economy are the many events and conferences happening in and around the City. “Cape Town’s reputation as a top host city for major events, large conferences and business meetings helps to establish a more sustainable year-round tourism industry. Balancing our strength as a leisure tourism destination with our unique business tourism and events offering will become increasingly important,” says Du Toit-Helmbold.

Some of the key trends picked up in the latest Cape Town Tourism dipstick indicate:

  • A healthy return rate from traditional foreign markets
  • Numbers have mainly remained consistent with last year’s, with slight increases reported, especially in the Central City and Atlantic Seaboard areas
  • Major attractions like Kirstenbosch and the V&A Waterfront report significant increases in visitor numbers
  • Most establishments interviewed report good occupancy levels for the next two months
  • Wedding and function venues interviewed report a positive increase in bookings for the new year
  • A number of establishments report better forward bookings for the next few months than last year
  • Most establishments indicate a slower-than-usual start to the peak season
  • Many establishments reported a high number of last-minute and walk-in reservations
  • Shorter stays and a more conservative spend than last year were reported

Du Toit-Helmbold concludes: “In general there might have been a slow start to our peak tourism season, with mixed reports from the tourism industry received, but we are confident that Cape Town’s tourism industry will be resilient. Times are tough, international competition stronger than ever before and many factors continue to impact on the tourism industry, but Cape Town remains in a very strong position as a top global travel destination. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels; we have to work harder than ever before to capitalise on the many opportunities that come with hosting the World Cup, other major events and being recognised as one of the most desirable and best-value long-haul city destinations on earth.”

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