Cooling off at the South Beach is Shane Swart and his sister Shannon Swart.Picture Zanele Zulu.03/01/2012
Cooling off at the South Beach is Shane Swart and his sister Shannon Swart.Picture Zanele Zulu.03/01/2012
Cooling off at the South Beach is a 3yr old Siyamthanda Mbatha from Gauteng.Picture Zanele Zulu.03/01/2012
Cooling off at the South Beach is a 3yr old Siyamthanda Mbatha from Gauteng.Picture Zanele Zulu.03/01/2012

Johannesburg - The trek back to Gauteng begins in earnest this weekend – and the coastal regions are counting their blessings after a busy holiday season.

With many figures still to be collated, the Western Cape tourism industry is cautiously optimistic that it fared well during the busy December season.

A survey conducted by Cape Town Tourism, in conjunction with Horwath HTL before the busy period, indicated an expected growth of four percent for the season.

Jeff Rosenberg, chairman of the hotels segment of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa, estimated growth of between five and 10 percent on 2011 revenue, with some areas such as the Waterfront, City Bowl and Sea Point faring better.

“It’s been a generally good season.

“There has been a good mix, with overseas visitors from the traditional markets of the United Kingdom and Germany. Brazil, too, has continued to grow since the World Cup,” he added.

What was also particularly pleasing was that the domestic market had performed well.

The Cableway on Table Mountain has had a record December, with nearly 120 000 people taking a ride to the top of the world-famous landmark.

Cableway chief executive officer Sabine Lehmann said they usually expected about 100 000 people in December, but with good weather on their side, they managed to ferry 119 000 people to the top of the mountain last month.

At this time of year, she added, the majority of visitors were South Africans making use of the special sunset prices. Boxing Day was one of their busiest, with 7 500 people visiting the Cableway.

Cape Town Tourism spokeswoman Skye Grove said: “Cape Town Tourism predicted a similar to slightly better summer season than last year, with an increase of about four percent on arrivals. Feedback from tourism companies and Cape Town Tourism members indicate that December 2012 was similar in terms of international tourism activity to December 2011.”

They did, however, see an increase in domestic tourists at their visitor information centres, and at Cape Town attractions. But final figures would only be confirmed once they received the Airports Company of South Africa’s arrival figures and completed their formal accommodation and attraction survey later this month.

Wesgro chief executive Nils Flaatten said it appeared, anecdotally, to have been a good season.

Flaatten said that 2011 figures indicated that about 60 percent of tourists in the Western Cape were from the province.

He hoped the 2012 figures would show a “dilution”, indicating more people visiting from provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Free State.

International visitors were from the top three markets, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, but Hermanus had indicated increased numbers of visitors from India.

And in KwaZulu-Natal while many up-country visitors will be heading out of the province this weekend, Durban is still expected to be buzzing throughout January.

The Volvo Golf Champion, which starts at Durban Country Club on Thursday, will have some of the world’s top golfers jetting into the city while the start of the Africa Cup of Nations in two weeks’ time is expected to have thousands descending on the city for an exciting line-up of matches.

According to the city’s Christo Swart, hotels are still at a 90 percent occupancy rate and the number is expected to increase with the arrival of international stars from both the world of soccer and golf.

Also scheduled for the coming week is the prestigious World Final of the Volvo World Golf Challenge at Zimbali Golf Resort which holds qualifying events in more than 25 countries and will have 75 golfers competing in a two-day final, with the leading finishers getting a chance to play with the pros from the Champions tour.

MEC for Economic Development and Tourism Mike Mabuyakhulu said the knock-on effect for the region is sure to be significant and that the tournament is important in the strategy to grow the province’s tourism offering.

Municipal spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng said soccer fans are expected to fill the 56 000-seater Moses Mabhida Stadium for Afcon games. - Saturday Star