When Table Mountain was in the running for New7Wonders of Nature, the City of Cape Town ran an advertising campaign, spending more than R1 million to encourage South Africans to vote for Cape Town’s icon.  Voting for Table Mountain was motivated as the tourism revenue benefit of R1,4 billion per annum and for its resultant job creation.  Now a report has shown that the estimates were based on 2007 tourism information!

The Cape Times journalist Zara Nicholson has taken a lot of flack for her report on the New7Wonders competition, in having questioned the credibility of its organisers, and the monies that were generated via vote SMS’s.   Last week Ms Nicholson wrote another article about the tourism benefit, and has questioned the accuracy of the projections made by tourism consultancy Grant Thornton, having found that their projections about the tourism benefits of having been named New7Wonders of Nature were based on outdated 2007 tourism arrival statistics. 2007 was the last good year our tourism industry experienced, and our experience is that tourism has reduced steadily every year since 2008, and halved in the past five years.

The Grant Thornton study was commissioned by the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company, and projected that the Table Mountain Cableway would attract 155000 more visitors, a 20 % increase, which they translated into a R1,4 billion tourism revenue increase per year, for the next five years. In their short report, Grant Thornton had estimated that 70 % of the new arrivals to Cape Town would be international visitors (109000 in total, and 9000 per month), 31000 domestic visitors, and 15500 Capetonians, based on the experience of the winners of the 2007 New7Wonders competition.  However, the world was not in recession in 2007, and the tourism industry was projected at that time to grow by leaps and bounds.

Grant Thornton gained notoriety during the soccer World Cup last year, in having vastly overestimated the visitor numbers and the resultant financial benefit that the event would have. We have seen that all the wonderful international accolades that have been awarded to Cape Town during the course of this year have made little impact on tourism.

It has gone very quiet around Table Mountain and its New7Wonder status, given the proviso of the announcement of the seven New7Wonders that results are only provisional, and that the count is subject to verification and audit in the next two months, a bizarre conclusion to this highly publicised competition. Cape Town Tourism and the City of Cape Town did not qualify Table Mountain’s win status, whereas the cities linked to the other six New7Wonders were very specific about talking about their ‘provisional’ win.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage