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Mother of a recovery – Cape Town wows the world as tourism numbers surge past pre-pandemic levels

Mother of a recovery – Cape Town wows the world as tourism numbers surge past pre-pandemic levels
Tourists take pictures at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town on 2 August 2023. (Photo: Ziyanda Duba)

Hospitality and scenery – and netball – are a magnet as the Western Cape tourism sector continues to shine.

Tourism numbers in the Western Cape have increased to pre-pandemic levels. But it’s not only there that tourism is up: the Tourism Ministry puts international visitors at four million in the first six months of the year – almost double the number of the previous year.

Commenting last week, Western Cape finance MEC Mireille Wenger said the tourism sector continued to shine, with arrivals at Cape Town International Airport “exceeding pre-pandemic levels in the first six months of the year”. Cape Town is a magnet because “people are warm and its scenery is fantastic”.

Between January and June 2023 two-way international routes transported 1.4 million people. This reflected 76% growth year on year. Wenger added that 3.2 million domestic passengers passed through the airport between January and June – 9% growth year on year.

Cape Town tourism

The Cape Town Wheel at Breakwater Boulevard in the V&A Waterfront on 2 August 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

George Airport, on the Garden Route, saw the two-way passenger numbers reach 374,463 between January and June, a 3% increase on January-June 2022, said Wenger.

The figures were reported in a monthly tourism report by Wesgro, the provincial government’s official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency.

“Despite suffering greatly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we continue to see we have moved beyond recovery and into growth,” Wenger said.

It’s not just about the netball

Although there have been international events such as the recently concluded Netball World Cup, international visitors told Daily Maverick they had wanted to come to the country – and to Cape Town – for a long time.

Jamaican Carol Royce said: “I have been saving for ages and dreaming about South Africa since Mandela’s time. When the netball tournament came up, I knew this was my opportunity. South Africa speaks to my spirit. If I can, I will most definitely come back and encourage more friends from home to visit,” she told Daily Maverick.

Last Thursday at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, Daily Maverick spotted Royce and a group of tourists from the Caribbean who were sightseeing between World Cup games.

I hope I can save some of the weather to take home with me.

A member of the group, Fitzroy Pendergast, a journalist from Jamaica, said he first visited South Africa during the 2003 Cricket World Cup and was back to cover the netball tournament.

“In Cape Town we have had a great reception. The Jamaican delegation has been warmly received. I have made some really good friends who have helped us to know the area,” he said.

The group enthused about the hospitality they have received so far. Tamia McDonald Tomlinson said the 15-hour flight was worth it because “people have been fantastic, warm and helpful. Cape Town is beautiful. The scenery is fantastic and I love the weather because it is really hot at home. I had no idea it was going to be that cold but I’m soaking up all of it because I hope I can save some of the weather to take home with me.”

Another tourist, Trisha, from the Cayman Islands, said: “We are enjoying South Africa, we are loving Cape Town. If the Lord permits, we will be back. It is beautiful.”

Cape Town’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage make the city stand out, said David Frost, CEO of the South African Tourism Services Association. “It truly is an iconic and world-class destination, deserving of its most recent accolades and acknowledgements,” he said.

Also setting the city and province apart from the rest of the country was its “astute” marketing efforts and the collaborative work between the private and public sectors, in the likes of Cape Town Tourism and Wesgro.

“These key partnerships are a shining example of how collective efforts can drive a shared vision and common goal, with an aligned marketing message. This elevates the tourism experience for visitors to the city and province, showcasing the best South Africa has to offer the world,” he said.

Speaking at the launch of Tourism Month on 1 August 2023, Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille said tourism figures showed a “strong recovery”, with four million international tourist arrivals in the first half of the year. This compared with 2.3 million arrivals between January and June 2022.

Dancers from Isibane Se Afrika perform at the V&A Waterfront on 3 August 2023. The choir was founded in Khayelitsha and gets local youngsters off the streets and part of something positive and uplifting. (Photo: Ziyanda Duba)

The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa)  national chairperson Rosemary Anderson told Daily Maverick the greatest challenge to the industry was the energy crisis, compounded by a high unemployment rate.

The dreaded blackouts

She said many hospitality businesses had implemented alternative energy solutions such as solar, generators or inverters to maintain operations and keep the lights on.

“However, we must recognise the smaller businesses that may not have the financial means to invest in these solutions, putting them at significant risk,” she added.

In Cape Town, residents on City-supplied power often have power blackouts at stages lower than residents directly supplied by Eskom, owing to the Steenbras Dam, a hydro pump station that generates electricity in peak hours.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Recovering tourism from the economic storms of the past two years demands careful planning

Cape Town Tourism has an advisory on its website suggesting tourists call their accommodation venues ahead of time to enquire about blackout schedules, reminders for them of medicine requirements, meal preparation and charged phones.

Fedhasa Cape chairperson Lee-Anne Singer said the Western Cape had a “focused energy drive” to create a trading environment with a dependable and cost-effective energy supply.

Singer said this environment would allow businesses to operate in the hospitality sector seamlessly for extended periods, minimising disruptions and fostering growth, investment, skills and talent retention. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, in the edition of 5-11 August, 2023, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Fantastic news – great results inspite of ANC covert activities to try to discredit the Western Cape!

  • Steve Davidson says:

    While I realise this was published at about the same time the taxi strike started, maybe now’s not a good time to be republishing it? The damage to tourism and the whole Western Cape economy created by the braindead taxi owners’ stupidity is what really needs urgent discussion so that they might just understand how despicable their actions were. Mind you, maybe they couldn’t give a damn as they actually want to destroy the place so they and their ANC chommies can take it over or stop the comparisons with the way they’ve ruined the rest of the country?

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