Residents fill containers with water at a source for natural spring water in Cape Town. Picture: Halden Krog/AP

Cape Town - As news of Cape Town’s water crisis reaches across the world, prospecting tourists are increasingly cancelling visits to the city, putting the R38 billion tourism industry at risk.

“One of the key concerns noted by potential tourists who are considering Cape Town, is that they would make the water situation worse if they visited our region. We believe that this is incorrect. During peak season, international tourists only add 1% to the population,” said Wesgro spokesperson Russel Brueton.

International coverage of Day Zero has spooked tourists from planning trips to the Western Cape, but Wesgro insists that Cape Town keeps its doors open for tourists to ensure the industry is not crippled as a result of the drought.

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Brueton said the situation was critical as international coverage of the drought has caused anxiety among travellers who added R38bn to the economy last year.

“Tourism supports over 300000 jobs across the Western Cape. If one calculates foreign direct spend by visitors, visitors spent R9.9bn in the Western Cape in the first half of 2017 alone. We have received concerned calls from the tourism trade, as travellers question whether they should visit Cape Town now.

Cape Town Tourism chief executive Enver Duminy echoed Brueton and said the company had been receiving feedback from members who dealt with accommodation, tour operators and attractions about multiple requests being received from visitors wanting to know the extent of the drought and whether they needed to cancel or postpone their trips.

“We are seeing an increase in cancellations which concerns us tremendously as the effects of this drought on tourism are yet to be seen fully. We need to continue to save as much as possible and ensure that our visitors are aware of our challenges and act mindfully when they visit,” said Duminy.

Brueton said that if Cape Town fell off travellers’ bucket lists, the knock-on effect would be felt across South Africa as the drought had already had a devastating impact on the agricultural sector with thousands of jobs lost already.

Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson said: “We can’t single out the tourism industry where effects of the drought are concerned as all industries use water and will be effected should Day Zero be reached.

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“We had a meeting with Wesgro on Friday and the key issues were highlighted, we want every industry to continue. If we all work to save water, Day Zero can be avoided.

“The tourism industry is putting effort into reducing consumption. Tourism is an important part of the economy, we don’t want the water crisis to cause a further economic crisis.”

Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde said the Western Cape had worked hard to develop the Cape Town tourism industry into the award-winning sector it is.

He urged visitors to not cancel their trips, but to join Capetonians by using water responsibly while they were visiting.

“Saving water in Cape Town means saving jobs in Cape Town,” said Winde.

Meanwhile, sports codes are also being affected by the new level 6b water restrictions, which kicked in last Thursday, restricting the use of boreholes on fields and limiting the fields available for use to clubs.

As part of raising awareness about the increased impact of the drought, two Athlone-based Mosques organised an event which thousands of people attended on Sunday to pray for rain. The pray event was hosted on a sports field in Gatesville in Athlone. 

Cape Argus