Cape Town - Tourism is what makes the Mother City go around, and locals are being encouraged to join in and explore what it is that keeps international visitors coming back time and again.
September sees the focus shift not only to heritage, but also domestic tourism.
“Tourism is viewed as someone travelling out of their neighbourhood, and so it is vital for Capetonians to explore their city to remind themselves what all the fuss is about,” says Cape Town Tourism marketing executive Velma Corcoran.
She says Cape Town attracts visitors from diverse source markets, but without the locals it would not have the enormous endorsement and goodwill of public sentiment. Corcoran describes a visit to the city as a “life-changing experience” for many. “We as local citizens can share in this experience by getting out and doing something we don’t ordinarily do.”
The theme for this year is how tourism can build communities.
“Travel and new experiences are an experience of people and places – these two things have a powerful effect on us and can really change the way we relate to one another,” says Corcoran.
More than the social impact, domestic tourism has contributed substantially to the economy. The Cape Town tourism industry employs about 50 000 full- and part-time staff.
The estimated value of tourism in Cape Town was R14.- billion last year.
The research, conducted by Grant Thornton, showed that direct spend by domestic overnight tourists increased by 13.6 percent a year between 2009 and last year, to reach about R1.9bn last year.
However, the prevailing perception has been that tourism in Cape Town is only for the rich, and that locals can’t afford to explore their own cities.
Garreth Bloor, the mayoral committee member for tourism, marketing and events, says this perception could be driven by the fact that Cape Town’s traditional source markets have been international visitors, and they are undeniably high yield.
But he adds that the city has a very diverse offering across the spectrum ranging from top-end five star plus hotels, to back-packers.
“That has always been Cape Town’s strength: the discovery that there is not just the Mount Nelson and the V&A Waterfront, but one can go on the Coffee Bean route and visit communities, or stay in an affordable guest house that becomes your home away from home because you bond with your host and their family and come back on repeat visits,” says Bloor.
According to the Accommodation Performance Review, the accommodation sector reported 59.1 percent occupancy last September. Of this figure, 60 percent were domestic tourists.
In 2012, South African Tourism reported that 71 percent of domestic visitors to the Western Cape were from other parts of the province.
“It is important to make tourism accessible to local people so that they can appreciate the value of pristine environments and be custodians for future generations,” says Bloor.
Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport says the figures show that the MyCiTi bus service is still having an impact on tourism within the city.
He says an analysis of passenger journeys has indicated a consistent and high demand for the service on weekends on several routes. These include the airport to the civic centre; civic centre and Camps Bay; Sea Point, Waterfront and the civic centre; Saxonsea and Atlantis; Sherwood and Atlantis.
An average of 487 passengers travelled the airport route daily during the 2013/2014 financial year, an increase of 53 percent on the previous year. More than 65 000 passengers used the service to and from events at the Cape Town Stadium during that year.
The Table Mountain route was introduced in July to improve public access to the attraction. “This service is not aimed at tourists only; it will also make it easier for our local residents – especially those who are living on the periphery of the city – to visit Cape Town’s main tourist attraction, whether to see the views from Tafelberg Road, to hike on the mountain, or to take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain,” says Herron.
Speaking at the launch of tourism month last week, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom explained the important link between heritage and the role it played in developing the tourism sector.
Hanekom urged all South Africans to get out and explore the country.
“This tourism month, the first without our beloved Tata Madiba in our presence, we call on all South Africans to take the time to visit the sites and attractions around the country associated with his life, as we look to celebrate and honour his legacy,” says Hanekom.
Tourism attractions and related businesses across the city will also be encouraging locals to explore their back yards with specials and events such as:
l Uthando Benefit Concert:
Enjoy an evening of music, dance and choir performed by local community artists, at the City Hall on Saturday. The event celebrates many of the finest community projects in South Africa.
l SA National Parks Week:
The ninth annual SA National Parks Week runs from September 8 to 12. The week grants free access to most SANParks around the country. (http://www.sanparks.co.za/about/events/parks_week/default.php).
l Creative Week Cape Town:
Creative Week Cape Town is an annual celebration of creativity, innovation and culture linked to the Loeries, with events taking place across the city from September 13 to 21. (http://www.creativeweekct.co.za/).
l Blaauwberg Trail Run:
Get some dust on your running shoes by participating in an 8km and 15km trail run through the beautiful Blaauwberg Nature Reserve with a view over the heritage site where the Battle of Blaauwberg took place in 1806. The run takes place on September 14.
l Sanlam Cape Town Marathon 2014:
The marathon takes place on September 21, with the route not only designed to take in Cape Town’s spectacular natural beauty, but also to enables runners to traverse the city’s rich historical sites.
l Heritage Week:
Iziko Museums (excluding The Planetarium and the Castle of Good Hope) is offering free entry from September 19 to 25. See things differently and gain fresh perspective on our diverse cultural heritage with the national Heritage Week theme: “Celebrating Heroes and Heroines of the Liberation Struggle in South Africa”. Read more at www.iziko.org.za
l Oceana Hout Bay Seafood Festival:
From September 24 to 28, visitors can look forward to seafood culinary delights, sports events, arts productions and music concerts, all celebrating the cultural diversity of Hout Bay.
l Cape Town Fringe:
Running from October 25, the inaugural Cape Town Fringe Festival is a joint project of the City of Cape Town and the Grahamstown Arts Festival. It brings edgy, independent theatre to Cape Town at a variety of venues around the CBD and in Langa. www.capetownfringe.com
l The 2014 Loerie Awards:
Every year the Loeries turns Cape Town into a buzzing hub of creativity and a celebration of the talents of media, creativity and design onSeptember 20 and 21 . Visit the programme for public events and on www.loeries.com
l The City of Cape Town has organised two matches to be played at Cape Town Stadium for Tourism Month:
Nigeria versus Bafana Bafana on September 10 at Cape Town Stadium, as part of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and the Springboks taking on the Wallabies on September 27 at Newlands Stadium.
l In 2012, domestic day-trippers spent R8.4 billion in the Western Cape. Of that, an estimated R4.1bn was spent in Cape Town. This resulted from 32.9 million day trips in the province.
l Last year, 1.47 million international visitors came to Cape Town, and an estimated 996 025 domestic overnight trips were made into the province.
l Cape Town topped the New York Times list of 52 destinations to visit this year.
l The Guardian UK’s first choice amongst their “Holiday Hotspots: Where to Go in 2014”.
l Cape Town was also named the second friendliest city in the world for “Helpful Locals” in the 2014 TripAdvisor User Survey.
Popular day trips
Cape West Coast
The Cape West Coast lays claim to a variety of interesting attractions, but its annual wild flower display in and around Namaqualand takes top honours. Between mid-August and mid-September the entire region transforms into a kaleidoscope of colour as the flowers carpeting the landscape bloom.
Don’t miss: Blaauwberg, Melkbosstrand, Darling and Yzerfontein.
The Cape Winelands classic Cape-Dutch homesteads, mountainous surrounds, grand heritage, legendary Cape wines and restaurants have made the Cape Winelands what it is today.
Don’t miss: Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Robertson.
The Cape Overberg – also known as the Whale Coast – forms part of the tiny Cape Floral Kingdom, a Unesco World Heritage Site, and offers much to the visitor, from sharks and whales, to flowers, museums, wine, nature and history.
Don’t miss: Cape Agulhas, Hermanus, Genadendal, Elgin, Greyton, Villiersdorp, Caledon and Swellendam.
Off the beaten track
Capetonians are often creatures of habit, and tend to visit the same places, even though they’re surrounded by a gold mine of attractions. These are a few of the city’s lesser-known attractions:
l Visit the SA Astronomical Society in Observatory every second Saturday of the month at 8pm for a tour of the observatory, sometimes a talk, and a chance to view the stars if the sky is clear.
l Stroll around the Montebello Craft and Design Centre in Newlands and see the works of local arts and crafters. Stop for a hot chocolate at The Gardener’s Cottage restaurant and coffee shop, and relax under the massive oak tree.
l Stop for arts and culture at the Guga S’Thebe Arts & Culture Centre in Langa.
l Visit the Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum for a look back at the lives of migrant workers during the years of apartheid.
l At Cape Town’s many museums in the city centre, a small entry fee or donation unlocks a world of marvels.
The museums include the Iziko Museums – the SA National Museum, the Slave Lodge and the Bo-Kaap Museum – the District Six Museum and the Cape Town Holocaust Centre.
l Take a picnic to the Green Point Urban Park and explore the many play parks and the Biodiversity Garden.
l Visit Durbanville Nature Reserve with a picnic basket for some relaxation time. Walk along the gentle paths and engage in a spot of bird-watching.
l Braai (in the designated areas only), surf, windsurf or merely watch the action at Gordon’s Bay beaches.