What looked like a promising five months as far as cruise liners visiting Cape Town is concerned has led to a disaster for the V&A Waterfront, its retailers, and the Cape Town tourism industry, in having permission to allow cruise liners to dock at the Waterfront quays just having been withdrawn, due to security concerns.
Just a few days ago Cape Town Routes Unlimited CEO Calvyn Gilfellan was interviewed on Kfm 94,5 about the boost to tourism from eleven cruise liners arriving in Cape Town over the next five months, including The World (returning today from a visit over New Year), The Silver Wind (arriving on 14 and then again on 24 January, and on 3 and 13 February), the Queen Mary 2 (24 – 26 January), The Seaborne (3 – 5 February), the Silver Whisperer (4 – 5 February), the Silver Spirit (14 February), the Explorer (24 – 29 February), the National Geographic Explorer (24 – 26 March), the Athena (1-3 May), the Asuka (3 May), and the Ocean Princess (5 – 7 May). Almost all the cruise liners were booked to dock in the V&A Waterfront.
The shock decision to refuse permission for cruise liners to dock in the V&A Waterfront with immediate effect will seriously affect business for the V&A traders in particular, who would have experienced a boom period, given the cruise tourists’ ability to spend money on their dock visits. The permission has been withdrawn, on the basis of security, passenger liners only permitted from now onwards to ‘dock in the secured Duncan Dock area without free public access’, wrote Tariq Mellet, ‘Director Immigration WC (Maritime and Aviation)’ to Piet Grobler, the Provincial Co-ordinator: Border Control Operational Co-ordinating Committee.
In reaction to this directive, which affects the arrival of The World today, V&A Waterfront CEO David Green has directed an urgent appeal to provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde to assist in overturning this decision: “We have indirectly received the notification attached from the Director of Immigration Western Cape. It indicates that passenger ships cannot berth in the V & A and receive Immigration services for “security reasons,” as “the berth is open to the public.” The apparent decision is based upon information which is factually incorrect. It is and has been routine practise ( for many years ) that the Jetty is sealed off when passenger liners ( and indeed Warships) berth. Today we have been advised that “ The World “ a passenger ship, which berthed with us over New Year and was due to return tomorrow, on receiving this notification, has taken the decision to berth in the main Port. The World is effectively a top end floating apartment building where the wealthy owners of the apartments “vote” where “in the world” they would like the ship to berth – they chose to bring in the New Year in Cape Town berthed in front of the Table Bay Hotel. This decision will have a direct impact on the revenue to the V & A Waterfront and to our retailers. I do not need to explain to you the grossly inferior passenger experience offered in the port and aside from the immediate loss of revenue I am sure this treatment will undoubtedly discourage further visits. I would be grateful of your assistance to overturn this ill thought out and highly detrimental decision”.
The assistance of national Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, may also be sought to overturn the decision. For years the inadequate facilities for cruise liner arrivals in Cape Town have been a deterrent to a valuable tourism source, yet nothing has been done by the City of Cape Town or the Western Cape government to address this deficiency. Given the number and calibre of the cruise liners scheduled to arrive in Cape Town, the time has come to urgently address this issue.
POSTSCRIPT 12/1: It appears that our esteemed City of Cape Town Councillor for Tourism, Events and Marketing, Grant Pascoe, is polishing his image, now making media comments. Today he issued a media statement about the banning of the cruise liners in the V&A Waterfront, which we wrote about yesterday already! One would have thought that Councillor Pascoe would have spent the time to meet with the port authorities, to resolve the issue on behalf of tourism in Cape Town! This is his statement in the Cape Times: “The City of Cape Town notes with concern the potential negative impact that the Department of Home Affairs’ recent ruling barring cruise liners from the V&A Waterfront will have on tourism. The Department’s Director of Immigration for the Western Cape ruled that passenger liners will no longer be allowed to dock in the V&A Waterfront. With immediate effect, all passenger liners are to dock in the secured Duncan Dock. At least 13 cruise ships (including the Silver Wind, National Geographic Explorer and Queen Mary) are scheduled to visit Cape Town between January and May 2012. Most of these ships would have docked in the V&A Waterfront. In 2011, 19 visiting cruise ships accounted for approximately 18 000 visitors to the V&A Waterfront. “We are obviously uneasy about the possible impact of this ruling on Cape Town’s status and reputation as a cruise tourism destination as well as on tourism revenues to the city. The City notes concerns about security risks underlying the decision. However, we will discuss the ruling with the relevant authorities to find a way to best serve Cape Town’s tourism interests, without compromising the status of the port as a secured area,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, Councillor Grant Pascoe.”
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage