Zip line: a cable stretched between two points of different heights down which a person slides to cross a gorge. Were this definition to be used as an analogy for the financial slump South Africa finds itself in, the gorge would most likely be the fallout caused by Covid-19 with the tourism industry the cable to get the country across it.
Although the City of Cape Town’s decision to kick off Tourism Month at Cape Town Ziplines in Hout Bay on Thursday 1 September may not have been for any poetic reasons, the location did bring home that South Africa was in for quite an exciting ride as it moves towards recovery.
Speaking at the launch event, James Vos, the City’s Mayco member for economic growth, said Cape Town, having navigated the pitfalls of the pandemic, was now tourism ready.
Vos said the attractions, the accommodation, and the aviation sectors in the Cape were all recording an 80% recovery.
“In aviation, we are now recording an 86% recovery compared to 2019. We have about 30 000 plus people coming through our Cape Town International Airport on a daily basis of which 4 000 are international travellers.”
And, according to the City, these numbers are set to rise as the efforts of the Cape Town Air Access project continue to pay dividends.
The air-route development project, housed within Wesgro, is responsible for establishing direct flights that connect Cape Town and the Western Cape with the rest of the world.
Vos said airlines from the United States of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK) and Europe were scheduled to increase flights into Cape Town over the coming weeks.
“The new Washington route from United Airlines alone is expected to generate up to R523 million in direct tourism spend for the Western Cape in its first year.”
Another prospect is the 104 cruise ships with 195 000 visitors expected to dock over the 2022/23 cruise season (from October to March).
“We also provide funding to the Cape Cruise Initiative. Through this initiative, we have made sure that we can get some of those cruise liners here for much longer so that the passengers have more time to spend their money in the Cape, to experience the full diversity of our destination,” said Vos.
According to Vos, business travel was another high income generator that Cape Town needed to make the most of.
“We are also providing funding through the Convention Bureau because conventions is a big thing for Cape Town. The Cape Town International Convention Centre is fully booked until 2022 (the end of the year). If you can put the word ‘international’ in front of a conference, we are going to go for it. From the International Lung Conference to the International Tree Conference, they are coming to Cape Town,” said Vos.
By implementing the theme of this year’s tourism month, “Rethinking Tourism”, Vos said they were aiming to attract travellers from across the country, continent and globe. One of the focus areas is the Halal travel sector. South Africa is already one of the top five destinations for international Muslim travellers with Cape Town being the preferred city to visit in the country.
“I am very proud of the team at Cape Town Tourism for recognising this important segment of the tourism landscape and investing in it through various initiatives. They’ve partnered with CrescentRating (a leading authority on Muslim travel and tourism) to make sure that we take the industry with us – the customs, the food preparation, the traditions.
“We are working very closely with the hospitality industry in Cape Town to adapt to the practices.”
Cape Town Tourism is the City’s official regional tourism organisation responsible for tourism marketing, visitor and industry services.
Taking over the mic from Vos, Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, said when you market a city as a travel destination, you have to first find those things that make your city different from every other city around the world. He said in all their surveys, they found that the thing that people loved about Cape Town the most was our people.
“As much as they come for the attractions, for those experiences, our people is our most unique asset.”
He said of late they had noted an anti-tourism movement in some communities.
“And we have seen that with over-tourism, with mass tourism, and also Covid where people didn’t want tourists to come into their communities because they only looked at the negative impact of tourism.”
He said it was important to remember that the destination needed to be accessible and inclusive first before inviting tourists into someone’s home.
“As destination marketers, we want everybody to come, and the more people we have on planes, the better because we look at the economic impact that it has, but we forget that tourists leave, and when they leave, they should actually have a better impact on an area and its people when they do so.”
Duminy said Cape Town Tourism was focussed on working closely with communities.
“Because you are inviting a stranger into your neighbourhood and into your home, and if you want to be a guest in somebody’s home, you need to respect that. And that’s why also education awareness around cultures, cultural differences, language differences are critically important.”
With South Africa’s tourism sector forecasted to create over 800 000 jobs over the next 10 years, Duminy said tourism held the potential to change the lives of all Capetonians.
“No matter where you are, whether you are here in Hout Bay or Constantia, or in Khayelitsha or in Mitchell’s Plain, it doesn’t matter because tourism barriers to entry are far lower than any other sector.
“If you got a vantjie and you were a taxi operator you can become a tour operator tomorrow, by going through a simple process, getting your vehicle permitted and licenced.
“If you have got a home that is empty, and you want to share your story, you can start a B&B. That is the power that tourism has – that it is accessible to everybody,” Duminy said.