Cape Town’s 2010/2011 summer season report

In a world that is faced with the effects of natural disaster, increasing market and governmental change, and lingering economic uncertainty, Cape Town Tourism reveals the results of its 2010/ 2011 Summer Tourism Survey: A window into the season thus far.

Based on polls of member organisations, attractions, services and visitors between December 2010 and February 2011, these seasonal surveys are undertaken as a barometer of tourism traffic and trends in Cape Town. The surveys are not conducted by an independent statistical surveyor and are meant only to act as a barometer for the industry, to better understand trends, tourism behaviour and traffic.

Initially, industry leaders at the 2010 World Travel Market in London revealed ongoing concern about the impact of the international economy on tourism; however, they also conveyed that there was cause for optimism as South Africa’s traditional markets began showing signs of recovery, with new markets increasingly becoming interested in our destination. This sense of cautious optimism was mirrored in the results of Cape Town Tourism’s first and second summer season surveys that covered the period from October to the end of November 2010. 

Cape Town Tourism’s recent survey (covering December 2010 to the end of February 2011) reveals more about the 2011 summer period:

Accommodation sector

Accommodation establishment respondents displayed mixed feelings about performance during the 2010/2011 Cape Town summer season. Some 40.7% of respondents felt that the season was average, 45.8% stated that it met their expectations, while 44.1% stated that the actual occupancy levels failed to meet their expectations.

The majority of these respondents operated at between 51% and 80% occupancy for the month of December 2010, with 17.60% of respondents citing occupancy levels of 81% to 100%.

During January 2011, these figures were slightly lower: 48.3% of respondents operated at between 51% and 80% occupancy, and 12% at 81% to 100%. 

February 2011 was the busiest month for respondents. Some 55.20% operated between 51% and 80% occupancy and the number of establishments reporting 81% to 100% occupancy increased to 20.70%.

Some 51.7% of respondents noticed an increase in their occupancy levels for the December 2010 to February 2011 summer period, compared to the same period in the previous year. Of those respondents, 23.3% indicated an increase of 15%, or more with the remainder under this benchmark. 

The most common length of stay was between two to seven nights, and bookings were received from both local and international markets. Couples made up 69% of these bookings, and 22.4% were made by small groups of between three and seven people.

The majority of local bookings were received from Gauteng (75.6%), followed by the Western Cape (46.3%) and KwaZulu-Natal (26.8%). Internationally, the traditional source markets of the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, the Netherlands and the United States of America (USA) performed well.

Interestingly, the most common booking window was three months (34.5%), followed by bookings made in the month prior to arrival. The majority of bookings were made online, with direct traffic to websites and direct mails from returning guests following close behind.

The use of internet and email as the predominant booking tools proves once more that new technology and social media are having a significant effect on traditional booking platforms and the booking behaviour of travellers.

Looking towards the future, 54.2% of accommodation establishments were optimistic about their company’s predicted performance compared to 2010, while a mere 11.9% were negative about their predicted performance in the year ahead.

Restaurants and attractions

Restaurants and attractions across the Cape Peninsula fared well during the 2010/2011 summer period, with February 2011 being reported as the busiest of the summer months.

Most bookings in December 2010 and January 2011 were reported to have been made by domestic visitors from Gauteng and the Western Cape. For the period January to February 2011, there was a good mix of national and international visitors, with international bookings largely coming from key source markets Germany, the UK and the Netherlands.

Unfortunately, December 2010’s windy weather conditions played havoc with weather-dependent attractions; however, business seems to have picked up since then with great sunny days and an increase in visitors over the past two months.

Most visitors were cited as being overwhelmingly positive about Cape Town and expressed a desire to return to the city; respondents also indicated a trend of increasing bookings by return visitors.

Over all, restaurant and attraction respondents felt that the 2010/2011 summer season was an average one and remain optimistic about the year ahead. Respondents in the Constantia area are particularly optimistic about the year ahead, as performance thus far has been good.

It is believed that the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ attracted many visitors who will become repeat visitors to Cape Town, although the tournament most likely had a negative effect on December 2010 spend.

Tour operator sector

The tour operator member base of respondents noted a general increase in bookings for the period of December 2010 to February 2011 when compared to the previous year, with the international market being the source of the majority of their visitors. Traditional markets from the UK, USA, Germany and the Netherlands led the pack.

The average size of tour booking parties ranged from couples to small groups of between three and seven people. Cape Town and its immediate surroundings were most often included in itineraries with visits to Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, the Winelands and Cape Point being the most popular tours.

As with accommodation, the majority of bookings were made three months in advance, followed by one month in advance. The most popular booking methods were, in order, direct emails from returning guests, telephonic bookings, and bookings through travel agents.

Overall, the 2010/2011 Cape Town summer season was “average” for 50% of responding tour operators, and “below average” for 44.4% of respondents. In line with this, 44.4% of respondents reported that the summer season met their expectations, and 55.6% felt that the booking level for the 2010/2011 summer season failed to meet their expectations. 

However, 31.3% of tour operator respondents reported feeling optimistic about their company’s predicted performance for 2011 when compared with 2010, while only 6.3% of respondents felt negative.


According to Stats SA Tourism and Migration December 2010 findings, overseas tourists in this month came mainly from Europe (64.7%), followed by North America (13.6%), Asia (10%), Australia (6.3%), Central and South America (3.9%) and the Middle East (1.4%).

The eight leading source countries were the UK, Germany, USA, the Netherlands, Australia, France, India and Sweden.

Spokesperson for the Airports Company of South Africa at Cape Town International Airport Deidre Hendricks said of the 2010/2011 summer season’s air travel performance: “On the arriving passenger front, traffic into the region remains strong. Total arrivals (domestic and international) for the month of February [2011] grew by 8% compared with the same period last year, with just under 350 000 arriving passengers. This marks a 2% increase compared to January 2011.

“In February 2011, domestic arrivals grew by 10.05% compared to February 2010, and January 2011 saw a similar trend, with domestic arrivals having grown by 8% compared to the same period last year. February 2011 has seen no growth in international and regional passenger arrivals, with approximately 72 000 arrivals for the month, slightly less than January 2011. Total passenger numbers (arriving and departing) grew by 7.16%.

“We are seeing strong growth come through on the arrivals front. In particular, we are seeing a steady growth pattern on the domestic arrivals front. The traditional summer season wraps up toward the end of March, and for the most part by April the winter flight schedule resumes.” 

While international arrivals were down for the entire summer period, domestic arrivals make up the lion’s share of the positive percentage increase in total arrivals for peak months January and February, with an increase in domestic arrivals across the board; however, these figures do not account for self-drive travellers to Cape Town who visit friends and relatives.

Reports by the South African National Roads Agency indicate spikes in N2, N1 and N7 highway traffic during the months of December, January and March. The Huguenot Tunnel in the Western Cape usually records higher traffic volumes over the summer and Easter periods, which also seems to be increasing year on year.

A visitor poll undertaken by Cape Town Tourism between December 23, 2010 and January 7, 2011 suggests that 59.2% of respondents arrived by air and 38.5% by road. 

Feedback from Cape Town visitors

Cape Town Tourism conducted a visitor survey at Cape Town International Airport between January 1 and 6, 2011, surveying 67 respondents. We are conducting ongoing visitor surveys through our network of Visitor Information Centres to compile data about the profile of visitors to Cape Town and their behaviour at the destination. 

In terms of travelling behaviour, small groups of three to seven people, couples and individuals were the most common travel parties. The majority of respondents were South African (52.2%) and of these Gauteng was by far the biggest contributor (54.3%).

International visitor respondents tallied 37.3%. The UK, USA, and Germany were the main source countries, with emerging markets Brazil and Australia enjoying a greater presence.

One third of the respondents had visited Cape Town two to three times, while 24.6% made up first-time visitors and an extremely positive 20% of respondents had visited Cape Town 10 times or more.

Overwhelmingly, 83.3% of respondents stated that they plan on returning to Cape Town with the remaining respondents indicating that they would like to visit again.

In other news

Although volatile stock markets, volcanic ash clouds, natural disasters, extreme weather, new governments, a global recession and continued spending cuts around the world have affected travel over the course of the last two years, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s World Tourism Barometer for February 2011 indicates that world tourism recovered more strongly than expected in 2010 and that, while all regions posted positive growth in arrivals, emerging economies were undoubtedly the drivers of this growth. Growth is expected to continue at a rate of 4 to 5% in 2011.

Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold concludes: “We have experienced a fair summer season for 2010/2011. It has been a season dominated by many unpredictable factors and perhaps inflated expectations after the successful 2010 FIFA World Cup™.

“Cape Town Tourism has already identified four key areas in which we are working to increase sustainable and diverse tourism to Cape Town:
• We are forging our way into emerging markets such as India, Central America and the Middle East, as these markets have been identified as the source of potential travellers to Africa and are reported to be recovering from the global recession much faster than our key international source markets.
• At the same time we are working on a consultative process to create a brand that will define Cape Town and place her in a good market position on the global map.
• We are working on building Cape Town as a year-round, event-filled leisure and business destination as part of the above strategy, as well as on changing the seasonal perception of Cape Town as a purely summer destination.
• We have identified online and social media as the next advertising and booking platforms and we will now be taking this back to members and working with them to get them on the bandwagon.

“It is vitally important that we evolve with the times. All destinations are now in a globally competitive market. We believe that Cape Town as a city brand has a very strong chance of maintaining and growing an international reputation that is meaningful on a heart level as well as a head level. We have so much to offer. It is time to expand the picture that we are selling but also to refine ourselves as a brand into an immediately accessible, globally recognisable travel brand.”


For further information, please contact Cape Town Tourism’s PR and Communications Manager Skye Grove at, +27 (0)21 487 6800, or see

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Rabbit in a Hat Communications
Tammy White
+27 (0)21 447 3197
+27 (0)83 414 0552

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