The recent Sunday Times story headlined ‘Tourism boom lights up SA’ is irresponsible, and downright misleading to South Africans, as is the information provided about the country’s tourism performance in the past six months by SA Tourism.
The newspaper report stated that tourism had generated R35 billion in the first six months of this year, of which R20 billion came from locals, making up 76% of tourism volume. The main foundation for the ‘boom’ claim is that the 4,4 million arrivals in the January – June 2012 period were 10,5% higher than in 2011, not difficult to achieve, given the very poor tourism performance last year. Unbelievable too is that international tourists mainly arrived from the USA and the UK, tourists from the latter having all but dried up in the past two years. Tourists from the UK were described as having ‘the healthiest appetite for all things South African’, at 215500 tourists, or 5% of all arrivals. The USA made up 155000 of the arrivals, Germany was in third place, with 119000, China in fourth place at 60000, and France is in fifth place. A recent letter by tour operator Colin Bell to Southern African Tourism Update highlighted that the SA Tourism figures include Transit passenger figures, not qualifying to be counted as tourists, as they do not set foot in our country other than the transit lounge at OR Thambo airport. The Chinese arrival figures include a large percentage of transit passengers. SA Tourism and the Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk have not reacted to Bell’s criticism.
The lack of marketing in the Western Cape, by both Wesgro (its predecessor Cape Town Routes Unlimited was closed down at the end of March, and was winding down its activities before that. Wesgro has shown no signs of Marketing the Western Cape since taking over provincial marketing on 1 April this year) and Cape Town Tourism, clearly has made itself felt, with our province not making the Top 3 provinces visited by local tourists in the first half of this year. Instead, they holidayed in Limpopo (22%), Gauteng (19%), and KwaZulu-Natal (18%). Yet Western Cape attractions were the four most visited by tourists, the V&A Waterfront being the top visitor attraction in the country despite its visitorship dropping by 5%, with 950000 visitors, relative to the same period as last year, followed by the Cape Town city centre, Cape Point, and the Winelands making up the top four national visitor attractions. Surprisingly, the New7Wonders of Nature Table Mountain and Robben Island did not make it to the top ten tourism list! Sandton City was in fifth place, with 370000 visitors, and Kruger Park in 6th place, with 240000 guests.
The Western Cape desperately needs local tourists, as the continuing recession is impacting on international tourist numbers. Wesgro and Cape Town Tourism are not marketing Cape Town and Western Cape to South Africans, which should be their number one priority. The City of Cape Town’s new Marketing Division, led by Marketing Director Rory Viljoen, has not shown any sign of action. We will soon be half way through the summer season, and can see that this will not be a boom summer, despite the two week period from 21 December – 5 January being close to fully booked, highlighting that not only does the Cape suffer Seasonality in winter, but also in summer, only two of the four weeks of each summer month having reasonable levels of occupancy and activity.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage