The article about Seasonality in Southern African Tourism Update on Thursday, quoting outgoing Chairman of Cape Town Tourism Ian Bartes, was surprising in its honesty in admitting that ‘Cape Town needs an orchestrated and cohesive effort by the public and private sector to change its seasonality problem, which has not improved over the past decade despite numerous winter tourism campaigns‘! Surprising too is that he states that attempts to contain Seasonality have been unsuccessful, which means that he is pointing a finger at Cape Town Tourism, which has been tasked with addressing Seasonality.
Mr Bartes expanded by saying that Seasonality is the reason why most international airlines (and SAA too, one can assume) do not service the Cape Town route all year round, and ‘why prices are hiked over the season to make up for winter losses‘!
In the past 10 years Cape Town has been 200 000 passengers short in each of the winter months relative to the good summer months, to justify a year-round airline service, and Mr Bartes admitted that ‘We haven’t changed the situation in 10 years’! This admission is ironic, as Mr Bartes has been the Chairman of Cape Town Tourism for the past eight years, and should have known better than any other Board director how the airlines work, and how dire the winter situation is for them. Interestingly, Mr Bartes offers the solution to Seasonality, and one wonders why he did not practice what he preaches in his capacity as Chairman of Cape Town Tourism: ‘Unless we address the seasonal drop we will not get the air access we want. We need to stimulate supply by talking to the airlines and we need to stimulate demand by investing in more events in the winter months’.
The tourism industry has called on Cape Town Tourism to schedule more events in winter, and it has been promised year on year by its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold that this would happen. Yet no new events have been added to the Cape Town events calendar in the winter months of May – August.
Of greater concern is the future projection by Mr Bartes, stating that ‘demand in general is dwindling due to the economic crisis in key source markets and soaring fuel prices pushing up airfares. He explained that the seasonal airline service reflects the decline in the number of tourists from Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and France, whereas arrivals from Africa, Asia, North America, and the Middle East are increasing. In the twelve month period from April 2011 to March this year passenger numbers of 8,6 million at Cape Town International only grew by 4,6%, while Mr Bartes projects zero growth in arrivals in the next two years. Just more than 80% of passengers (7,1 million) arriving at Cape Town International are domestic passengers, and the arrivals are expected to grow in the next two years, while the 1,5 million international arrivals are expected to decline over the same period.
The article did not state what the occasion of the interview with Mr Bartes was, and has not been issued by Cape Town Tourism as a media statement. It is unlikely that the interview was conducted in Mr Bartes’ capacity of Service Standards Manager at Cape Town International, as Mr Bartes is not the airport spokesperson.
Seasonality is a harsh reality for the tourism industry in the Western Cape, and bites deep into the pockets of all its operators in our industry. Monies made in the six good summer months is cancelled out in paying operational costs and fixed expenses in the winter months, meaning that many break even or make a loss, as has been the case since 2010 in particular. Cape Town Tourism’s pathetic attempts at hosting events such as the Travel ‘Bloggers’ Tweet Up in August, and the ‘100 Women 100 Wine’ event it ran last year and is repeating next month, its ad campaign with Thompson Tours in the Sunday Times, and its constant Tweeting at the expense of all other marketing communication, have made no impact in bringing more visitors to Cape Town in winter! By contrast, Franschhoek Wine Valley has worked for years in hosting events in winter, its Bastille Festival filling the town on the weekend closest to Bastille Day, no matter how bad the weather is. The tourism body has grown its portfolio of events to one a month, which means that many tourism businesses are close to full on one weekend a month at least. One hopes that new City of Cape Town Place Marketing Director Rory Viljoen will make Seasonality his priority in developing the Strategic Plan for marketing Cape Town!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: WhaleCottage