Cape Town, which is still the country’s main destination for foreign tourists, started the annual tourism season earlier than usual this year with record numbers arriving from the UK, continental Europe and the US.
International, domestic and regional arrival figures at Cape Town International Airport reached pre-recession levels as more than 780 000 passengers arrived last month, 6.7 percent of them from overseas, while domestic passengers rose by 2.3 percent compared with December 2012.
Announcing these statistics Alan Winde, the Western Cape MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, said the benefits were spreading across the province, resulting in job opportunities for rural as well as city residents, with rising demand for accommodation in the Cape winelands, along the Garden Route and the West Coast.
He said the tourism industry contributed more than R18 billion a year to the regional economy and employed 150 000 people. It was a crucial sector of the Western Cape economy and the arrival figures in the current season had already exceeded expectations.
Groot Constantia wine estate just outside the city, where the industry started, was among the most popular attractions, with 63 000 visitors including many from other countries in Africa, as well as from Italy, Spain and Portugal.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront attracted almost 24 million visitors with 175 000 on New Year’s Eve alone.
The Table Mountain cableway, a major attraction for overseas visitors since the mountain has been listed among the Seven Wonders of the World, carried a record number of 120 318 passengers during December – 2 percent more than in the same month a year before.
An exception to the success story was Robben Island where a ferry breakdown resulted in a fall in visitor numbers to 70 731 from 75 487 the previous December. – Audrey D’Angelo