It’s been a bad May, and appears to be the worst month of the year for the Cape hospitality and tourism industry, and it has sunk to its lowest low in the six years in which we have been tracking occupancy. Sadly, the soccer tournament is not benefiting the industry. Cape Town and the Western Cape may be slipping back into a tourism crisis, as we experienced in 2011!
From occupancy for Whale Cottage Camps Bay at 68% in May 2008, and about 42% in May 2007 and 2009, occupancy dropped sharply from May 2010 onwards, to 19%, rose slightly to 23 % in May last year, and down to a shocking 10% this month, the lowest in the six year period. The May occupancy at our Whale Cottage in Hermanus is 8%, on a par with May figures for the past three years, crashing down in 2010 from about 24% per each of the May months in 2007 – 2009. In Franschhoek the same pattern is evident, with occupancy also at 10% over the past three May months, dropping sharply from 27% in 2009 (and even 58% in May 2008). Any tourism ‘politician’ that claims that Seasonality is under control and that the winter period is shrinking is deceiving the tourism industry!
The shocking tourism performance this month is a surprise, in that even business tourists from Johannesburg have not been seen to any great extent in Cape Town, often the mainstay of the industry in winter, perhaps a sign that the South African economy is not yet out of recession. The winter campaign in a downscaled marketing program, which Cape Town Tourism has launched appears to have had no impact on tourism at all, and neither has the Eight Nations Under 20 soccer tournament. The Cape Times reported earlier this week that the attendance support of the soccer event is so poor that Cape Town faces losing the event for 2014, no loss if viewed from a tourism perspective. The tournament was signed up and announced to the industry a week before its start, hardly an event timing that could be taken seriously. The newspaper also reported that the City of Cape Town is giving away a free ticket for a match for every Semi-Final and Final match ticket bought. Surprisingly, the City’s tourism body, Cape Town Tourism, is not marketing the event at all, proving that it too sees no tourism benefit of the soccer tournament! No other events have been held in Cape Town this month, and this is making itself felt. In Franschhoek the Literary Festival earlier this month led to a full house, proving that events do attract visitors to a town or village. Next month its ‘Cook Franschhoek’ is attracting good bookings, and in July the Bastille Festival and an Art of Living retreat are almost sold out already. Sadly, no events are planned for Cape Town nor Hermanus in the next few months.
Of even greater concern is that forward bookings from international tourists, which looked promising in April for early 2013, have all but dried up, demonstrating that the uncertainty of the Eurozone membership of Greece may be unsettling German travellers, who were planning their holidays far ahead. Increasingly one hears that travel to Greece is being curtailed, as tourists do not know if the Euro will be discontinued while they are travelling in that country, which could be an opportunity for Cape Town, if any marketing could be considered by Wesgro, Cape Town Tourism, or SA Tourism! Bookings from the UK market remain depressed and rare. At the time of international events, local tourism always suffers, and in the UK the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee next month, and the Olympic Games take place in London from July to August. Perhaps some Londoners may leave their city during this time, but we are not seeing bookings from this market. On 8 June the three week long UEFA European Football Championship takes place, shared between Poland and the Ukraine as host countries, which will capture the interest of many European travellers, preventing them from coming to South Africa.
Once again, we call on our tourism authorities to help the Cape Tourism industry in attracting events to the region in winter, and to generate any marketing activities that can attract domestic tourists to our area.
POSTSCRIPT 31/5: We would like to add that Wesgro has not issued any media statements nor shown any industry leadership since taking over Cape Town Routes Unlimited two months ago! We have written to Nils Flaaten, to ask him what is planned for the marketing of the Western Cape.
POSTSCRIPT 1/6: Good news is the potential of a soccer match between Ajax Cape Town and Manchester United on 21 July, a real soccer event, to be played in the Cape Town Stadium, as reported by the Cape Argus yesterday!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage