Drought-proofing The President

One Cape Town hotel has created a blueprint for dry times.

As the low-lying autumn fog rolls in over Table Mountain, bringing with it the hope of winter rainfall, tourism high season has drawn to a quiet close in the Mother City of Cape Town.

Despite early forecasts of another lucrative season for the tourism industry, September 2017 to March 2018 constituted an anxious few months for one of the region’s most important sectors. Level 6B water restrictions, enforced on February 1 amid fears of a full-on, drought-induced water outage in the city, sparked panic among locals and tourists alike. Dubbed “Day Zero” by the city’s administration, that enforced water outage was initially expected mid-April, before being put on hold indefinitely.

Despite the positive forecast, the number of visitors to Cape Town from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands -- traditionally two of South Africa’s most ardent enthusiasts -- dropped by nearly 14% this season, with the number of French visitors falling by 11%, according to Cape Town Tourism. The water shortage was chief among their reasons cited for staying away.

“The President Hotel is ahead of the curve and believes it’s played a role in defeating Day Zero.”

For the hotel industry, these numbers are troubling; and hamper the steady growth expected for the sector over the next few years.

In its 7th Edition Hotels Outlook, auditing firm Price Waterhouse Coopers projected an occupancy rate for hotels across South Africa of as high as 62% by 2019, up from 59% in 2014. Five-star hotels were expected to achieve a high of 80%. With Cape Town in the midst of the drought, it’s unclear how those numbers will look by the time PwC’s next report is released.

With the future of water security in Cape Town more uncertain than ever, hotels will need to have a sustainable plan for conserving this precious resource, without turning off their guests. One hotel in Cape Town has developed a successful blueprint for responsible water usage that can easily be emulated across the industry.

Situated in the heart of one of Cape Town’s most popular tourist zones -- the Atlantic Seaboard -- the President Hotel has closed out high season on a high of its own. It’s managed to cut down its water usage by 40%, an achievement General Manager Jeremy Clayton is rightly proud of.

“The President Hotel is ahead of the curve and believes it’s played a role in defeating Day Zero,” said Clayton. “However, the fight to save water will continue and we will remain vigilant with water saving methods; encouraging guests to keep their consumption to a minimum during their stay,” he said.

Scroll across the image below to see what water saving interventions The President Hotel has put into place:

Tap on the pins below to see what water saving interventions The President Hotel has put into place:

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With a long-term plan to become fully self-sustainable and off-grid, management says it’s prepared to invest the capital necessary to install a borehole and groundwater testing and purification system for use across its establishment. The initial exploration phase to find a viable site for drilling is already underway.

In the meantime, the hotel has implemented several water-saving interventions and educational initiatives to ensure guests are adhering to level 6B restrictions, including plumbing infrastructure and “water warriors.”

“We have found that it takes time for guests to adapt to new habits,” said Clayton. “We have introduced creative reminders in all our toilets, showers and public restrooms to help reduce consumption.”

“I think there is a silver lining in having to deal with each of these challenges...”

The President Hotel is also spreading the love: It’s partnering with neighbouring apartment blocks in Bantry Bay to implement these broader measures and help residents in the area reduce their water usage, too.

“It is vital to reduce current water usage so that we can avoid Day Zero altogether, and we feel that all businesses need to explore new water sources and educate staff and guests about the importance of saving this vital life source,” said Clayton.

“I think there is a silver lining in having to deal with each of these challenges and the ultimate benefit of this drought will be that Capetonians have and will become even more water savvy.”

President Hotel