Cape Town’s extended summer has translated into the city’s best-ever holiday season, with tourism experts declaring that predictions for a much-improved season have been right on the money.
Recent numbers released by the Cape Chamber of Commerce showed a 14 percent increase in the number of overseas arrivals at Cape Town International Airport, up to 245 029 this year from 214 607 for the 2010/11 season.
Overall, arrivals have risen by 10 percent, with most visitors hailing from the US and Germany internationally, and locally, from KwaZulu-Natal, according to Skye Grove, communications manager for Cape Town Tourism.
Cape Town’s attractions have also seen a significant increase in tourist numbers.
Finance, economic development and tourism MEC Alan Winde said: “The main attractions are performing very well, with Table Mountain National Park seeing a 20 percent increase. We are also very pleased to see Robben Island recorded a 10 percent increase in visitor numbers over the full period, after a much better performance in January.”
Cape Chamber of Commerce president Michael Bagraim confirmed that the recent tourism figures were the best he had seen yet for the city.
“This past summer has certainly been the best, and we hope the upcoming summer will be even better. At the current rate I think Cape Town could easily become the best tourist destination in the world,” he predicted.
Bagraim and Winde agreed that Cape Town hasd benefited significantly from the strategies implemented by the city’s major tourism players, with Bagraim adding that the successful hosting of the World Cup in 2010 had also played a major role.
“I believe we are now experiencing the rewards from the World Cup, the reason being that so many tourists currently in the city were here during that period, and are now returning.
“In addition, these people went back to their countries and told their friends and families about the fantastic time they had here. These factors are also complemented by the international media coverage the city received during that time, as well as the media attention garnered by the Seven Wonders of Nature and Design Capital awards,” Bagraim said.
All these factors, he predicted, would help ensure Cape Town’s tourist enterprise would continue to thrive.
Calvyn Gilfellan, chief executive of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, agreed, saying that after the international attention Table Mountain had received in the past couple of years, it had understandably become a “must-see” attraction.
Visitor statistics for November last year to January this, show a 25 percent increase, with 294 077 visitors, compared to 234 973 for the same period the previous year.
These figures, he said, were a clear indication of the impact an international accolade has on the popularity of an attraction.
Other attractions in Cape Town that also saw notable increases in tourist numbers were the Waterfront and Kirstenbosch Gardens, which recorded 3.4 and 5.5 percent increases respectively.
Bagraim said tourism provided a major and unique boost to the city’s economy.
“The one thing to remember about tourism is that it is foreign money which comes into the city, meaning it is new money that gets recycled throughout the economy. Tourism is certainly the biggest money-spinner for the city, and it will continue to be so for many years to come,” he said.
Meanwhile, Grove said the increased use of technology, which prompted more online bookings, should spur tour guides to up their game.
“Today’s successful tour guides are the ones who unlock experiences that would otherwise take much energy or research to access. Tour guides are the cultural storytellers, and those who tell the unexpected and fascinating human, historic and even tragic stories of Cape Town are in high demand.”
Grove added that tour guides would need to maintain high standards of quality and content to keep up both with the challenge of technology, but also with the high tourist numbers.
Grant Pascoe, the city’s Western Cape mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing, said the boost in the number of visitors to the city was a trend that was expected to continue into 2012.
“We are looking forward to March and April, with two busy event months when Cape Town hosts internationally-recognised events such as the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Design Indaba and the Two Oceans Marathon, as well as national and international conferences and summits,” he said.
Pascoe added that in order to reap the full benefits of the excellent tourism season, operators had to offer quality services and great value.