Cape Town’s 2011/12 summer season forecast

The global tourism industry has been faced with a sobering economic environment over the past two years with arrival figures for the first half of 2011 failing to meet expectations for many destinations. Despite this, many businesses in Cape Town are guardedly optimistic about the ensuing summer season.

A Cape Town Tourism member survey polled last week looked at how the Cape Town tourism sector is faring in this tough economic climate. Similar member surveys, conducted in 2010, gave valuable insight into the summer season and this year there will be three online surveys over a six month period:

  • Survey one: Report on October and November 2011 and forecast for remaining summer months
  • Survey two: Report on December 2011 and January 2012, and forecast for February and March 2012
  • Survey three: Report on February and March 2012 with an overview of summer comparing actual results to expectations and forecasts

In context

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has forecast an encouraging growth rate in international tourism of 4% in 2011, with growth in arrivals higher in advanced economies than in emerging ones. CEO of Cape Town Tourism, Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold comments, “UNWTO takes a broad look at tourism figures the world over [and] whilst Cape Town does not expect to see the same growth rate, we do expect to see positive activity over the 2011/12 summer season period.”

Air travel

There are 18 international air carriers offering flights to Cape Town International Airport, which averages 12 international flights per day. Despite the disappointing cancellation of flights to Cape Town by the United Arab Emirates’ Etihad Airways, increased summer flight schedules have been rolled out by British Airways and Germany’s Lufthansa. Plus there are new flights scheduled to Cape Town by the Swiss Edelweiss Air and Air France. 

Arrivals figures across domestic, regional and international flights have been better for October and November 2011 than for a number of previous years. Deon Cloete, general manager of Cape Town International Airport says, “The above-average growth for October and November is heartening. We look forward to a busy summer season particularly with [business from] airlines such as Air France and Edelweiss.”


While airline arrivals are up, accommodation numbers are not on par with these numbers, which suggests that many travellers are staying with friends and family during their visit to Cape Town. This is likely to be a continue trend – especially with domestic tourism.

Of Cape Town Tourism’s participating accommodation membership, 75% of these establishments reported that their occupancy levels for October and November were over 20%. Of those members who noted a year-on-year increase in their occupancy levels, 33% saw a year-on-year increase of more than 15%.

A three-way split was observed in source markets for accommodation with 34.3% of accommodation providers citing the local market as the main source of business for October to November 2011, 34.3% cited both markets and 31.4% cited the international market. The biggest contributors to domestic tourism were from Gauteng and within the Western Cape. The biggest contributors to international arrivals to Cape Town were from the United Kingdom, Germany, the USA, Netherlands, Australia and France, while 57.20% of participating members expect to have a better or much better remainder of the summer season compared to 2010.


Most restaurants have not noted a drastic increase in bookings for this summer season. Business started picking up in November and the majority of participants expect to do better over the coming summer months.

Tour operators

The majority of tour operators observed a year-on-year increase in their bookings for October and November 2011 – 54.0% and 54.5% respectively – with the majority of tour operators reporting that bookings for this period were predominantly made by international visitors. Key source markets like the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States were the biggest contributors. The tours and attractions most commonly booked over this period were Table Mountain, Cape Point, Cape Winelands, township tours, the V&A Waterfront, Robben Island and safaris.

Some 45.5% of tour operator respondents expected to have a better remainder of the summer season 2011/12 compared to 2010, while18.2% expected the same results and 27.3% expected to have a worse year based on forecast occupancy.


With a slow start to summer for many places that are weather-dependent, attractions are now seeing bookings and visitor numbers increasing. As usual, attractions are welcoming many international visitors. Many feel that this summer season will be the same or better than the 2010/11 summer season.

In closing

From the CEO of Cape Town Tourism, Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold:

“The on-going impact of the global financial crisis was anticipated by most of the accommodation sector, with only 18.9% of our survey participants saying that it was more than they expected. We have to be prepared and we have to work harder at marketing this destination. The outlook for this summer season is positive, although comparing figures to 2010 is not conclusive, as 2010 was not a normal year in business for most. It seems that budget travel is becoming the order of the day as the global recession lingers on and people generally become more careful with their pennies. This trend provides real evidence that in times like these, we need to price according to our target markets and offer value-added services that will make the visitor feel that the product is worthy. In this day and age, with the power of online travel research, booking and customer review facilities, influencing consumer opinion is a tough job.

“We have not yet seen the rise of emerging economies reflected in Cape Town’s arrival figures and traditional key source markets are still dominating, although this will take place over time with awareness, focused marketing and special packages to Cape Town from these destinations.”

From Councillor Grant Pascoe, mayoral committee member for Tourism Events and Marketing:

“The City of Cape Town believes that steadfast investment in its appointed destination marketing agencies throughout turbulent times eventually pays off for tourism businesses and the local economy. The positive results of the poll validate this conviction. Cape Town’s new destination marketing campaign was launched late this year both locally and internationally to an overwhelmingly positive response. We look forward to this campaign converting the world’s fascination with Cape Town into a tangible reality that brings a much-needed boost to the tourism sector and Cape Town’s economy in 2012.”

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