Increased optimism over Cape Town’s tourism recovery
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Muslim friendly tours are a big hit
Cape Town summers have long been a big-money spinner, especially for the tourism sector. And those tasked with promoting the city as a preferred holiday destination, are hopeful their recovery efforts will deliver more visitors to these shores, as well as more money to the local economy, which took a pounding during lockdown.
Now that restrictions have been relaxed, tour operators are gearing up for what they expect will be a busy festive season. Also hopeful of a boost, is the halal tourism sector. Operators say they are keen to showcase Cape Town in a Muslim-friendly way.
One operator, with easily the best ring to her name in this particular industry, Fayrouz Holliday-October started her business Halaal Hopper in 2018. And while the coronavirus pandemic threw a spanner in the works last year, she said she was ready to get back on track, and pay it forward.
"We have different experiences. The highlight of Cape Town in terms of culture, would be a visit to Bo-Kaap. But many of our people have been (forcibly) moved from Bo-Kaap and District Six to the Cape Flats. But the Cape Flats doesn't get the revenue, these people are not on the map. So we've curated routes in Athlone itself. We work with the community and they are getting revenue into their system as well. At the end of the day it is a win-win situation for everybody, and it is a learning experience and also life-changing for the person visiting, and for the person who lives there. There's something wow about it."
Holliday-October added: "The most important thing is that we are inclusive, we engaged the community and the community benefits. People from Malaysia for example, never ever heard of ’blik hoender’ (chicken grilled in a tin), but they eat it with us." Holliday-October also said her Koesister en Porring (potato pudding) safari rates highly among visitors.
Azlinah Sheikh Khalid from Malaysia still talks fondly about her Muslim-friendly tour around Cape Town in December 2019. And while lockdown spoiled her plans for a return last year, she has promised she'll be back to enjoy the city's delights soon.
"I loved it. We went to all the tourist spots, I even went on a safari," she told Weekend Argus from Kuala Lumpur. "We could indulge in local cuisine without worrying if it was Halaal. And our tours were arranged around prayer times. And we could observe all our obligations while enjoying the trip. I have been recommending Cape Town to my Malaysian friends. Halaal tourism is a good way to promote South Africa and Cape Town especially as a destination that many people may not otherwise think of."
Chief executive of Cape Town Tourism Enver Duminy has been giving Weekend Argus an insight into plans to attract more visitors to this unique sector.
"Cape Town has a rich Muslim history and heritage, with the Cape Malay Muslims making up around a quarter of the local population. We are therefore in an excellent position to attract more Muslim travellers to our shores and offer packages that cater to this all-important market," he said.
"As a destination, we work closely with CrescentRating, the world’s leading authority on halaal travel to accredit and train the industry first-hand. As part of marketing efforts, it’s essential to audit your destination and prepare the tourism industry to cater for the international Muslim traveller. Being a destination that is a top choice for Muslim travellers has always been on our radar. Pre-pandemic, we saw year-on-year growth in Muslim visitor arrivals, while also noting that more than a quarter of the world’s population is Muslim.
“Clearly, this market is an important one and we, as the City’s official destination marketing organisation will continue to ensure more diverse, inclusive and specific packages that cater to these travellers. The sheer size of the growing Muslim travel market makes it common sense to ensure that we’re ready to welcome visitors from this market. Whether those visitors come from the Middle East, North Africa, Asia or even from our traditional source markets such as Germany or the UK, we must provide top-notch travel experiences to the Muslim market,” he said.
The City of Cape Town's mayoral committee member for tourism and economic opportunities James Vos, is also part of the team leading the tourism recovery mission.
"Next week I will be launching our international campaigns in key source markets to make Cape Town a destination of choice. And overseas marketing to bring back the millions of travellers around the world who are itching to visit our shores. At Cape Town Tourism, this will take shape under their new ‘Find Your Freedom’ campaign where potential travellers will be able to choose their own Cape Town adventure in an interactive video.
“We are also busy engaging with international partners and destinations to put branding in airports and billboards in those cities, as well as partnerships with specific international airlines to make sure potential travellers in key source markets convert to actual travellers.,"Vos said.
And now that South Africa and the UK have kissed and made up after the "red list" debacle, Vos said an influx of British visitors was expected in the Cape.
"Even before the UK had officially announced it was removing South Africa from the red list, Virgin Atlantic (which has just announced a re-launch of its direct route service between London and Cape Town) reported a surge in flight enquiries to our shores. British Airways will also resume direct flights to Cape Town with daily flights by December. UK tour operators have also seen a spike in enquiries about travelling to South Africa in the coming months and some estimates say we can expect about 300 000 British visitors this coming visitor season."