Cape Town Tourism - Table Mountain

The Vibe from Abroad – Britain’s reduced bang for its buck

Mary Tebje, UK Trade and Press Representative for Cape Town Tourism, gives us an international perspective.

Global competitors must be heaving a huge sigh of relief as news broke that national tourism body VisitBritain was dealt a 34% cut in funding. How are we, those in the UK, that is, and on the reduced dime, to successfully promote a visit here during the 2012 Olympic Games? How are we to bring economic benefit to all the businesses currently investing in the idea that there will be enough visitors to go round? The UK has slipped down the Top 10 rankings produced by the World Tourism Organisation, so understandably the industry is nervous following yesterday’s Comprehensive Spending Review announced by the government. This is what the review entails:

  • Households on £48 700+ (around R540 000 and above) to lose 5.2% of income
  • Around 490 000 public sector jobs expected to go
  • State retirement age will be raised to 66
  • Structural deficit to be eliminated by 2015
  • Benefit payments to households to be capped
  • Warning of further spending cuts or tax rises
  • VAT to increase to 20% in January 2011
  • Train fares to increase by 30%
  • Air passenger duty increases are on the cards, but details still need to be worked out

At stake is a double-dip recession as consumers reduce their spending in the face of cuts this country has not seen since the Second World War. You can read any number of travel-related surveys, however, that will state how essential travel has become to UK consumers. It is no longer seen as a luxury apparently, but to be a beneficiary of that must surely depend on whether your hotel is in Cornwall or Camps Bay.

South Africa is in a curious place following the World Cup. The UK media were won over by the warmth of the welcome, the beautiful surroundings and unique atmosphere, but this must be balanced out in light of budget cuts.

There are market sectors still buying travel to South Africa, empty-nesters or retired who are without a housing bond or dependants, and can spend their savings on travel, but the family sector has been hard-hit, and going local is now de rigueur.

Cape Town has an advantage as it has one of the highest profiles of any world city, and when compared to the paucity of information from the rest of South Africa, will continue to be seen as a desirable destination. I would suggest giving lesser-known products in the region a higher profile when communicating with the UK, however, giving new and compelling reasons to visit throughout the year. (I think those poor penguins need some time off from the tourists!)

Messages to the UK market sectors must also be about affordability and value for money (which is not the same as budget), and compare the cost of travelling to other long-haul destinations such as Australia, Brazil, USA, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Caribbean.

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