Theewaterskloof Dam File photo: Denzil Maregele/ANA Pictures

Cape Town - The Western Cape’s diminishing water reserves are not expected to come under pressure from hundreds of thousands of tourists over the end of year holiday period, authorities say.

Last year, between October and December, about 450 000 tourists visited the province. This number is expected to increase this year, said Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde.

“Tourism numbers have been increasing steadily, and all indications are we will have another great tourism season.”

There had been a 27% increase in international arrivals by air over the past year “driven by new and expanded air routes”, he said.

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“We’re seeing the positive impact this is having. Tourism has added more than 20 000 jobs to the economy since 2014, meaning more people are able to improve their lives and support their families through this sector.”

No limits have been put on the number of tourists that can come into the city. Tourists only make a “small impact” on the water consumption during the peak season and the industry “understands the seriousness of the drought” and is partnering with the authorities to reduce water consumption, he added.

“During peak season, at any time, foreign tourists make up less than 1% of the Western Cape’s total population.

“Visitor arrivals are spread across the three months and on average stay 10 days and all tourists are not in the region at the same time.

“This equates to about 50 000 international visitors in the Western Cape at any given time.”

Cape Town Tourism’s Enver Duminy said they anticipated a busy festive season.

“The city has had engagements with the tourism and hospitality industry to drive awareness among visitors about the serious drought crisis and to communicate about the Save Like a Local campaign.

“The tourism industry is committed to conserving water and educating tourists on water shortages. Cape Town Tourism has been using its various platforms, including communication with our members, to reinforce water saving. We need the help of all the visitors to conserve this precious resource.”

He said foreign and local tourists make up 3.4% of the provincial population on “the busiest days”.

Based on this, he said there is “no need for tourists to change their plans” or consider other destinations.

“As stated by the City of Cape Town, our experience shows that the local outflow of people over the festive season and the closure of some businesses and industry, such as the construction industry, mostly balances the inflow of local and foreign tourists.”

In terms of economic impact of tourism versus the current water crisis, Duminy said: “Water is our most precious resource and it is critical that we do everything we can to conserve water.

“The contribution to the economy from direct and indirect tourism is an essential one that sustains thousands of locals through employment.

“It is not possible to separate the tourism economy or the water shortages from all aspects of city life. That’s why ongoing water conservation efforts and initiatives must continue alongside ensuring that visitors are playing their part in saving water.”

Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Janine Myburgh said that although the “drought is not a positive attribute that encourages tourism, there is a lot that Cape Town has to offer that still makes it an attractive destination”.

Although the province and the city are facing a severe drought, tourism is still playing a major role.

“You can’t separate them, they are inextricably linked. The Western Cape has not been blessed with mineral wealth and we are reliant on sectors like financial services, agriculture and tourism,” said Myburgh.

James-Brent Styan, spokesperson for Environmental Affairs MEC Anton Bredell, said: “We call on all travellers, tourists, visitors and families coming to the Western Cape over the coming festive period and the summer months to please take cognisance of the severe drought.

“Please adhere to the water restrictions in your area.”

Weekend Argus