Airport officials predict that if this growth continues throughout the summer months of January through to March the airport will surpass the 9.5 million passenger mark. Picture: Courtney Africa

Cape Town - A combined effort is needed to boost business and leisure tourism to stem the number of airlines cutting flights to the Mother City, said Cape Town Tourism chief executive Mariette du Toit-Helmbold.

“The only way we can secure more direct flights to Cape Town is by stimulating both business and leisure tourism demand for Cape Town. Perception does not shift overnight – and it needs proof.

“The industry must stand together to tackle our tourism weaknesses and grow a more complex offering of product to multiple markets,” she said.

Three airlines stopped flying to the city last year – Air Malaysia, Etihad and SAA on the London route. SAA ceased flights between London and Cape Town in August, citing a 24 percent drop in demand over the past three years.

“Decreased business travel, as a result of troubled economies, continues to plague key source markets. The business traveller is a major contributor to covering flight expenses, which points to a need to work hard on forging stronger business ties in addition to the leisure market,” she said.

Du Toit-Helmbold said Cape Town received 1.3 million international visitors annually and the tourism industry accounted for 10 percent of the provincial economy.

Although passenger numbers to and from Cape Town had not decreased over the past three years overall, traffic was increasing at a much slower rate, said Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) spokeswoman at Cape Town International, Deidre Davids.

Passenger traffic saw only a slight increase of 0.82 percent between 2011 and 2012 compared to a 4.05 percent increase the previous year.

Davids said of the withdrawal of airlines: “The impact is eased (by) diverse revenue streams such as retail sales, leasing of advertising space and property rentals. (Most) travellers rebook on (other airlines), therefore there is not a total loss of revenue.” - Cape Times