Countering seasonality: The influence of air traffic on business and leisure tourism

Welcome news for leisure and business tourism to the Mother City: From February, Turkish Airlines increased the number of flights to Cape Town. Unfortunately, this coincides with an announcement by airberlin that it will run its last northbound Cape Town-Munich flight of the European winter season 2010/2011 on April 29, 2011. Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariëtte du Toit Helmbold comments.

In order to sustain tourism in Cape Town, we need to counter seasonality with year-round inbound tourism. It is vital that flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg remain consistent throughout the year. The cancellation of flights to Cape Town during our winter season is a real threat to the industry as we establish Cape Town as a 365-day destination.

In an ever-changing world, time has become our most precious commodity. The availability of direct flights to Cape Town will influence travellers’ behaviour and buying patterns, and is critically important for the long-term sustainability of our business and leisure tourism industries.

Cape Town Tourism has already embarked on a campaign to change seasonal perception, leveraging visitor and media perception during the winter 2010 FIFA World Cup™ to broaden our tourism appeal. Events play a significant role in positioning Cape Town as a year-round destination of choice, and the pressing need for a comprehensive and proactive events strategy for the city in the aftermath of hosting a successful FIFA World Cup™ is becoming more apparent. Events are important platforms for destination marketing and branding, and are catalysts for countering seasonality. We need to look at a more strategic relationship with existing signature events, and to look at establishing or attracting key events during our off-peak season.

Airlines must take decisions that make economic sense. Decreased business travel, as a result of economies in trouble, continues to plague key source markets. The business traveller is a major contributor to covering flight expenses, pointing to a need to forge stronger business ties in tourism, in addition to the leisure market. 

In the wake of the cancellation of airberlin flights to Cape Town came the announcement by Turkish Airlines that they are looking at extending their flights to Cape Town. Turkish Airlines have extensive routes from both our traditional source markets in Europe and new markets in the Middle East, and increased flights will add much-welcomed seat capacity to the Mother City.

On the ground, Cape Town Tourism is taking action to counter seasonality with a forthcoming product development series. In partnership with the City of Cape Town, Cape Town Routes Unlimited, South Africa Tourism and the Training Enterprises Partnership, a series of product development workshops have been designed to raise awareness and stimulate action around the issues of tourism product development.

These workshops will be free to tourism professionals and will include insight into how to match the product to the market, while highlighting the important role that cultural and heritage tourism plays in our country, as well as the need for sustainable, responsible tourism: both in practice and as a packaged product.

Perception does not shift overnight – it requires evidence – and the industry must stand together to tackle our tourism weaknesses and grow a more complex product offering to multiple markets. Visitors need to see that Cape Town is a 365-day destination for a thousand good and varied reasons.

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