The City of Cape Town is covering all bases ahead of the holiday season. Photo: Michael Walker

Cape Town - European holidaymakers are increasingly choosing short-haul holiday options, with many still cash-strapped due to the world economic downturn.

Danny Bryer, sales marketing and revenue director for the Protea Hotel Hospitality Group, said the European economic downturn meant that it was cheaper for tourists to take shorter holiday breaks, despite the euro-rand exchange rate being their favour.

“Stress levels have been up and people need a break.

“It’s cheaper than last year for foreigners from Europe to holiday in South Africa due to the exchange rate.”

Bryer said Europeans’ major expense in travelling to South Africa was paying for airline tickets.

“Eating at restaurants is also cheaper than it was last year because of the exchange rate.”

Hotel occupancies were up by 10 percentage points from this time last year.

“During the December holiday period it is leisure-specific and a lot of people are cash-strapped.

“For the past 15 to 20 years, (from) December 24 to January 6 the city (has been) at optimum capacity.”

Bryer added that February was the busiest time for travellers.

“There are a lot of things happening over that period, like the opening of Parliament and Chinese holidays.”

According to Cape Town Tourism, the expected occupancy across the Cape Town metropole for December and January is just over 70 percent on average, with most international visitors being from the United Kingdom, United States, Germany and Netherlands.

A report by Cape Town Tourism and Horwath HTL, which forecast slight growth in occupancy and average room rates for November, December and January, says Cape Town was expecting an average occupancy of 70.76 percent, and an average room rate of R1 136.

Accommodation establishments in the City Bowl, Atlantic seaboard and Blouberg are expecting occupancy rates of more than 85 percent.

Hotels on the Atlantic seaboard are fully booked for this month, but establishments in the southern and northern suburbs are reporting much lower occupancies.

An increase of up to four percent in arrivals and bookings has also been expected for the three months. - Cape Argus