CEO of Cape Town Tourism Mariette du Toit-Helmbold. Picture: Greg Maxwell

Cape Town Tourism expects to see an increase in the number of international tourists next month, following the 10 percent decline in passengers through the city airport in December.

This follows a statement by the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry this week saying the decrease in December compared to the same period in 2011 came as a result of the South African Airways’ decision to halt direct flights from London to the city.

Despite the boom in the number of visitors during the festive season, mainly because of a surge in domestic tourism, the chamber believed visitor numbers would have been even higher if there had been a “normal” airline service.

Cape Town Tourism chief executive Mariette du Toit-Helmbold said while the cancellation of the SAA flights did affect arrivals, other airlines such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways had helped those who usually flew SAA.

“Nearly 87 000 international visitors were recorded in December 2011. This was the highest number of international tourists since 2000.

“December is traditionally not the busiest international tourism month for Cape Town. Our accommodation survey with Howarth HTL shows an expected increase in bookings for February, which is traditionally our busiest international tourism month,” she said.

Du Toit-Helmbold said the total number of national and international visitors into the city showed an increase, with a total of 4 236 822 in 2012 compared to 4 210 572 during 2011 and 4 042 592 in 2010.

When asked about the chamber’s comment on the decline, Airports Company SA spokeswoman Deidre Davids said while the number was “concerning”, it needed to be considered in context.

“The airport has consistently seen exceptional growth. December 2012 total arriving passenger grew by 7 percent and international arrivals alone grew by 17 percent… We celebrated record passenger numbers last year,” she said. - Cape Times