Cape Town’s summer tourism season gets back into action

In December 2011, Cape Town Tourism revealed that member surveys were showing increased optimism and better early results in the 2011/2012 summer tourism season. Following the release of results from its second member survey, it appears that predictions for a much-improved season were right on the money.

106 accommodation establishment industry members responded to Cape Town Tourism’s second summer survey, which examined tourism numbers for December 2011 and January 2012. The survey found that, in December 2011, 60.4% of respondents reported occupancy levels of more than 60%. In a slight levelling out, 54.7% of industry members had occupancy levels in excess of 60%, but a total of 66% of respondents noticed an increase in occupancy levels when compared with the same period last year.

Travellers were reported to be a mix of both domestic and international tourists. The highest number of domestic tourists hailed from Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and then the Western Cape; the highest number of international visitors hailed from Germany, followed by the UK, The Netherlands and then the USA. Only 11.4% of accommodation respondents answered negatively when asked how they expected their establishment to perform in the coming summer months when comparing occupancy levels with the same period last year.

In the tour operator sector, 52.2% of respondents reported an increase in bookings for December 2011. For January 2012, 58.3% of respondents saw an increase. While tour operators reported bookings from both local and international markets, 70.8% of respondents reported the highest number of bookings from the UK, followed by the USA and then Germany. The main attractions booked during this period were Cape Point, the Cape Winelands, Table Mountain and the V&A Waterfront. Only 12.5% of respondents expected their establishments to do worse in February and March, when comparing booking levels to the same period last year.

The top tourism attractions also reported excellent trade, with 78.9% of respondents noting an upswing in December 2011 and January 2012. Significantly, 63.2% reported an increase in revenue to match the increase in bookings. Visitors were received from both the local and international market, with all attractions surveying high numbers from the Western Cape, then Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal. International visitors were predominantly from Germany, the UK, and the USA and China equally. Only 15.8% of respondents expect to do worse during the remaining summer months than in the same period last year.

Table Mountain Cableway reported a record 116 000 visitors for December 2011, and another record month for January 2012 with 103 000 visitors. Excellent weather during these months, the current annual sunset special, as well as exposure garnered from the New7Wonders of Nature campaign, are thought to be the reason for this significant increase. Visitors in December were predominantly local and domestic, while international visitor figures started picking up in January.

Cape Point saw 87 119 visitors through the park gate. A total of 31 696 visitors used the Funicular in December 2011, while January 2012 saw 79 973 visitors enter the park and 41 580 patrons use the Funicular. Thus far, February is reported as an excellent month.

At the V&A Waterfront, the foot count for December 2011 was estimated to be 2-million, which put 2011 on par with the predicted 22.5-million visitors annually. Both December 2011 and January 2012 have shown positive year on year growth, with a good combination of local and international visitors. International visitors from core markets, as well as events and an increase in business tourism are reported to have played a role in the increased visitor numbers for February. Waterfront hotels have also forecast positive figures for February and March 2012. 

The City Sightseeing bus reported a busy peak season, with the bulk of patrons being domestic visitors over this period. The recently launched canal cruise is also becoming popular thanks to City Sightseeing’s captive audience, as well as the packages offered on City Sightseeing tickets.

Restaurants in Cape Town reported an increase in bookings for the December 2011 - January 2012 period. It was reported that there was a good combination of both domestic and international visitors, with a surprising upswing from locals, but still more bookings from European travellers. The majority of restaurant respondents are positive about the coming summer months, when looking at their forward bookings.

For the calendar year of 2011, overall passenger numbers at Cape Town International Airport grew by 4.05%. With just under 8.5-million passengers processed in 2011, it can be hailed the year of regained growth. Deidre Davids, Communications Manager, Airports Company South Africa, Cape Town International Airport, comments, “In essence this means that, while passenger numbers had started to slowly but steadily grow, we had not yet recorded as much growth as in 2007. Now we have finally surpassed that and, if the trend continues, we are on track to regain the growth of the past four years.”

For the month of December total passenger movement showed an increase of 7% compared to the same period last year. December 2011 saw more than 330 000 domestic arriving passengers, and an impressive increase of 17% for international arriving passenger numbers compared to the same period last year.

The month of January has seen passenger numbers at Cape Town International Airport continue to climb, in line with the trend of the past three months. January saw international arriving passenger numbers grow by a remarkable 15% compared to January 2011. Domestic arriving passengers grew by 4% for January compared to January last year. Total passenger numbers for January 2012 marked a healthy 8% growth compared to January last year. Davids adds, “The international passenger numbers are extremely impressive and confirm that November marks the beginning of the peak season, with the months that follow all showing good growth.”

Cape Town Tourism’s Visitor Information Centres reported engaging with 13 477 walk-in visitors during December 2011, and 14 762 in January 2012. For December these figures indicated an equal split of domestic and international visitors; however, January saw an upswing in foreign visitors with a further increase expected for February as per previous years’ trends. The increase in walk-in visitors for December, and a decrease in email enquiries, shows that more visitors were in destination, making use of the VIC network and not making use of email as in the preceding months while planning their trips.

Enver Duminy, Acting CEO of Cape Town Tourism, comments, “The responses we’ve seen from this second survey, as well as the conversations we have had with the tourism industry, are encouraging. We are seeing increased booking levels and, for the most part, spirits in the industry are positive. Added value is high on the agenda, with visitors from our domestic as well as international key source markets. As a destination, Cape Town offers tremendous value in terms of visitor experience.  Travellers from all markets are spoiled for choice by competitor destinations and it is vital that we continue to diversify our offering across the range of tourism products and experiences. We will continue to market Cape Town on traditional and new media platforms, engage with our trade contacts and forge new relationships in emerging markets. Original, authentic products or services that are great value for money will keep them coming back for more.”

Ravi Nadasen, General Manager of Southern Sun The Cullinan, says, “Even though we are seeing an increase in occupancy, the accommodation sector has not experienced the same levels of activity and bookings as attractions across the city. The increased capacity of the accommodation inventory in Cape Town has played a significant role in this trend, as well as the growing tendency of visitors to stay with family and friends. The accommodation sector in Cape Town will gain from sustained destination marketing initiatives that focus on leisure and business tourism.”

Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing at the City of Cape Town, concludes, “Visitor figures thus far for the 2012 summer season have demonstrated that awareness generated for Cape Town during the 2010 Fifa World Cup™, and accolades like World Design Capital, Table Mountain’s New7Wonders status and TripAdvisor’s top destination awards are paying off. We are looking forward to March and April – two busy event months when Cape Town hosts internationally recognised events like the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Design Indaba and the Two Oceans Marathon, as well as various national and international conferences and summits. The biggest challenge for the sustained growth of Cape Town’s tourism industry remains seasonality. We are only able to ensure a consistent economic growth through tourism if we are able to counter seasonality with attractive offers and excellent value. Domestic and international marketing of Cape Town needs to continue to ensure tourism arrivals from key source and new markets.”


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

Released for Cape Town Tourism by Rabbit in a Hat Communications, Tammy White, +27 (0)21 448 9705, +27 (0)73 202 5041,

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