THE Western Cape’s official destination marketing, investment and trade agency Wesgro has secured a “round table” discussion with South African Airways (SAA) to discuss its decision to cancel direct flights between Cape Town and London following an outcry from tourism bodies.
Wesgro chief executive officer Nils Flaaten said their research indicated that the London-Cape Town route still holds “strong economic value for the Western Cape and neighbouring Eastern Cape”.
He said international airlines identified this and were increasing their capacity during peak season.
“We will have a round table with SAA on why they pulled out and also to discuss marketing on the route with other regional tourism organisations. This will have a very negative impact on arrivals from Europe,” said Flaaten.
He also said many business and leisure travellers from the US use London as a connecting flight into Cape Town and the city is at risk of losing these visitors, “as travelling time has been extended even further”.
Grant Pascoe, mayco member for tourism, events and marketing, wrote an open letter to SAA board chairwoman Cheryl Carolus and chief executive Siza Mzimela.
“On behalf of the City of Cape Town, the tourism industry, business conference industry, foreign direct investors, exporters and importers, and in fact our economy in general, I would like to express our concern and disappointment regarding SAA’s decision to withdraw their direct flight services between London and Cape Town as of August 15.
“Our very real concern is that this decision will have a negative impact on the tourism industry in Cape Town,” said Pascoe.
He said the industry added R14.6 billion annually to Cape Town’s GDP, adding “it is estimated that 300 000 people are employed in the city’s tourism industry”.
MEC of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism Alan Winde said while there may be negative impacts from the cancellation, “other airliners travelling the same route will pick up the slack”.
“Airliners such as BA, Virgin Atlantic and others regularly fly this route.
Cape Town Tourism and Wesgro say they will continue to seek joint marketing opportunities with SAA to further augment the 14 percent increase in international tourist arrivals recorded at Cape Town International last year,” said Winde.
Mossel Bay Tourism also reacted with concern to SAA’s announcement.
“The province seems to be under-supplied with direct flights as it is and the fastest way to increase foreign tourism arrivals will be if we can land larger numbers at Cape Town International,” said Mossel Bay Tourism chairman, René Bongers.
Mossel Bay Tourism’s COO, Marcia Holm, said the Western Cape hinterland has been struggling to attract significant numbers of foreign visitors since the 2010 World Cup.
“Obviously this has to do with the state of the global economy, but we believe the rural areas have been affected by the massive increase in the number of rooms in the city, and that the price pressure that that created provides an incentive for visitors to stay in Cape Town and go on day trips rather than take longer trips into the rest of the province,” said Holm.