Mixed reactions as Cape Town tourism misses targets for festive season

Tourists sit on top of a red sightseeing bus in front of the Winchester Hotel. Picture: Armand Hough / Independent Newspapers

Tourists sit on top of a red sightseeing bus in front of the Winchester Hotel. Picture: Armand Hough / Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 10, 2024


Cape Town - Although the City of Cape Town said it has seen remarkable growth in the tourism sector during the past couple of months, the private sector shared mixed reactions as they believe this festive season didn’t meet expectations.

Preliminary survey results among the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa) members had some showing that turnover increased over the December holiday period when compared with the same period in 2022, but others indicated that numbers were softer.

Restaurants in particular were split between a profit increase and decrease, further demonstrating that margins remain under pressure. They also reported that there was a slower-than-usual start to the season.

Fedhasa national chairperson Rosemary Anderson said some accommodation providers noted growth in occupancy rates when compared with December 2022, although not to the levels of 2019.

“Preliminary feedback is that the Christmas-to-New Year period was the best-performing in terms of occupancy. Some members also noted that the average length of stay increased, which was encouraging to see,” said Anderson.

She said the 2023–2024 high season forecasting by Cape Town Tourism noted that respondents indicated a barrier to travelling during the high season was financial burdens in the form of the cost of accommodation or rising fuel costs.

“However, there was strong intent to travel; specifically, 94% of respondents indicated they would be travelling domestically. This may provide some insight into the preliminary mixed response we have had so far regarding occupancy rates for the season.”

The City said Cape Town’s status as a repeat tourism destination was welcomed, embraced and celebrated.

Over the past few months, Cape Town’s tourism sector has experienced remarkable growth, making it a hub for business revenue and creating diverse job opportunities.

“Seeing visitors return to a destination shows their interest in a place, its practices, and its people. Return trips not only enrich visitors’ experiences but also contribute significantly to the economic vibrancy of our communities.

“Visitors – and especially returning visitors – don’t merely come to relax on our beaches and explore our mountains. They come to engage with our businesses and our communities and immerse themselves in the city’s rich history and cultures,” said Mayco member for economic growth James Vos.

The City said that in the 2022/2023 season, aviation brought in R24 billion and 10 600-plus jobs into the Cape, and for the 2023/2024 festive season, about 215 international flights have landed every week since the start of summer, with approximately 31 000 passengers a day passing through the airport.

“Cruise Travel welcomed almost 190 000 passengers and crew between October 2022 and May 2023, injecting billions of rand into the economy. For this cruise season, 50 cruise ships are confirmed, promising substantial economic benefits for Cape Town.”

Derryn Brigg, deputy president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said it was still too soon to quantify this year’s holiday season, but all indications are that the tourism sector experienced mixed fortunes over the prime tourist season.

“For some, there was a welcome rebound following years of Covid doldrums, while for others, the numbers were softer compared with the same period in 2022.

“The peak summer season is still in play, and it is important to review all data to receive a holistic and complete picture of how tourism and hospitality fared this past December holiday season. It is also important to compare year-over-year data as well as pre-Covid data to ensure accurate insight into tourism recovery and to identify opportunities in the industry.”

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