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Cape Town’s tourism and hospitality sector is expecting one of its most successful festive seasons to date.
This is in line with global trends, with the UN World Tourism Organisation predicting that the number of international tourists will surpass the one-billion mark for the first time, despite the challenging economic conditions. This amounts to a growth of three or four percent for the year.
Yet not all visitors to the Mother City have a positive experience.
A browse of user comments/reviews on virtualtourist.com, an international travel advice website, has exposed some of the myths, hints and experiences that foreign tourists associate with Cape Town.
l Not making eye contact with anyone if you inadvertently ended up on the M22 in Nyanga on your way to the beach. “Literally thousands and thousands of people on the sidewalks... My 24-year-old was almost crying because she was so scared,” wrote GraceTrips.
l “While living in Mowbray I had machine gun fire hit my house twice within a couple of weeks, [there had been] some sort of car chase, helicopters flying and shooting with a machine gun. If you are shot at with a machine gun, drop to the floor and roll behind some sort of a sturdy object. Cover your head first,” wrote Audris.
l More advice from Audris included checking thoroughly behind bushes [from the safety of your car] when you returned home. “If you live in Bishopscourt or Constantia you are constantly being watched by hidden eyes,” they wrote.
l Warnings of the popularity of torture, “laser guns” that follow cars, car stonings and of not attracting attention to yourself by “acting rich” also abounded.
l Users advised tourists to fight back if confronted by an attacker.
“If attacked by a knife, roll over on the ground, don’t run. Find a stone or a brick and aim between the eyes. Try to break the assailant’s fingers or poke their eyes out. Throw sand in their face if you can. All of the above have saved my life in difficult situations. It will save yours too hopefully,” wrote one user.
But, stakeholders in the industry say that positive publicity associated with the city far outweighs negative perceptions.
Speaking to the Cape Argus yesterday, Susanne Faussner, a board member at the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa), said that accommodation occupancy projections in Cape Town for December were up by 10 percent compared to last year. These figures sit at 73.3 percent. She expected the “season” to last until the end of March.
“A good indicator of the success of the season is usually occupancy. We also look at what percentage hired cars are booked for the peak season. Our information tells us that hired cars in Cape Town are ‘sold out’ between December 24 and January 6. This is the first time that this has happened since the economic downturn in 2008.
Flights over Christmas are all full and the business class on the Lufthansa service from Munich is booked until March. This is an indicator of an influx in high-value customers. The mood in the industry is optimistic and understandably so,” said Faussner.
Faussner said that an icy European winter and a favourable exchange rate made South Africa an attractive and affordable destination for tourists from the traditional hubs of the UK and Germany. A good representation from the US was expected as per normal.
“Unfortunately, we do not have exact statistics on tourist arrivals to Cape Town for the summer holidays; however, we have seen increased seasonal flights from international airlines,” said Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, the chief executive of Cape Town Tourism.
“Traditional key source markets... are still dominating the visitor scene in Cape Town, but we’ve seen a nice influx of tourists from European countries such as France and Italy this season, and we’re seeing more interest from India, South America, Asia (particularly China and South Korea) and the Middle East.”
Domestic tourism also contributed significantly to the influx, Du Toit-Helmbold said. “December and January are our busiest months of the year and we expect 100 000 visitors per month over those two months... after the New 7 Wonders [of Nature] announcement we had a record December and January [but this year] we hope to beat that. Most of our visitors at that time of year are domestic – and many of them make use of our Sunset Special,” said Sabine Lehmann, managing director of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway.
The Provincial Economic Review and Outlook has estimated that tourism contributes around 10 percent to the Western Cape’s gross domestic profit.
Travellers sing the praises of the Mother City
The stream of accolades that Cape Town has received since the 2010 World Cup has played a huge role in keeping destination Cape Town top of mind with travellers. In 2012 alone Cape Town was named:
l Favourite City World Wide, Telegraph Travel Awards 2012.
l Number Two City in the World, Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Awards 2012.
l Top City in Africa, Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Awards 2012.
l Eight beaches and two marinas got Blue Flag Status 2012.
l Best Beach Destination in Africa, World Travel Awards 2012.
l The World’s Top City in Africa and the Middle East, Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2012.
l Fourth Top City in the World, Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2012.
l Muizenberg was voted One of National Geographic’s World’s 20 Best Surf Towns.
l 8th Top 10 Truly Unique Beaches in the World, Tripadvisor 2012.
l One of the World’s Ten Most Loved Cities 2012, CNNgo.
l 23rd: Top 25 Destinations in the World, Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards 2012.
l 8th: Top 10 Beach Destinations in Africa, Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards 2012.
At the end of 2011 Table Mountain was announced as one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature, and the nomination has just been made official, and Cape Town was announced as World Design Capital 2014. - Cape Argus