Was this really a ‘bumper’ Festive Season in Cape Town?

imageEvery year the tourism authorities in Cape Town claim that the ‘holiday season‘ has been the busiest ever, without having any concrete figures as to the number of local and international tourists visiting our city. The media and industry is then presented information that largely does not reflect the so-called Festive Season!

Tourists arrive in Cape Town at two time points in the main: just after 15 December, when businesses close for the Christmas break (mostly locals); and on 26 December, just after the Christmas celebrations back home (mostly foreigners). The absolute Tourism peak in Cape Town therefore was 26 December to 3 January this year, as many business persons had to return to work on 4 January.

Cape Town Tourism announced that it ‘appears as though the city has enjoyed one of the busiest ever holiday periods so far’, using December figures of the main tourist attractions in the city. The error in using these figures of course is that Capetonians could be visitors to the attractions too, being on holiday themselves in this period. No specialist measurement is in place to identify the place of origin of each attraction’s visitors, let alone those to Cape Town. Duplicate visitorship is not excluded from the figures either! Comparing apples and pears does not help either.  The attractions referred to belong to the Big 7 Attractions marketing group in Cape Town, but not all are quoted, excluding Groot Constantia, Cape Point, and the City Walk. Interestingly no Cape Town International arrival statistics are quoted in the media statement!

Unusual events such as the Sevens Rugby (locals) and the South Africa vs England cricket test (foreigners) brought an additional number of visitors to the city in December.

Cape Town Tourism reflects the following visitorship figures:

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway claims a ‘record December’, it having 28% more visitors than in the same month a year ago. The excellent growth is admitted as being due to the favorable weather in December, the Cableway not having to close one day during all of December, compared to 10 days or more on average in summer months. Due to climate change and El Niño, Cape Town was spared the feisty South-Easter wind for most of summer, until it started blowing earlier this week. One can easily ask why the growth was not even greater, given a perfect weather month, possibly the first one ever! The growth figure is therefore no reflection of any greater numbers of tourists visiting Cape Town this year!

Robben Island Museum claims it recorded the largest increase (43%) in number of visitors in December, with ticket sales of close to 47000, relative to the same month in 2014. The number of tickets sold surpassed those sold during the World Cup in 2010, but the event was held in winter, and ran over part of June and July, so the comparison is not credible. The excellent weather influenced ticket sales and, compared to other seasons, no Robben Island ferries were out of action due to mechanical problems last month.

The V&A Waterfront is included in the Cape Town Tourism media release, but no December figures are provided, only stating that visitor figures to the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre showed ‘an increase‘! It claims that 180000 persons were in the V &A on New Year’s Eve, a large part of which would have been locals. One wonders how they measured the figure! The media statement also reflects that annual visitorship to the V & A in 2015 is expected to be equal to that of 2014, at 24 million. Clearly the visitorship is predominantly Capetonian!

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens received 115 000 visitors in December, exclusive of the Summer Sunset concert audiences.  Comparative figures for December 2014 are not provided. The Tree Canopy Walkway (‘Boomslang’), has been a very popular attraction inside Kirstenbosch.

Cape Town Tourism admits that these are preliminary evaluations of the tourism season, given that the summer season is six months long. It also hopes that the one day extra, due to it being a leap year, will make a difference.

An off-the-mark quote by City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events, and Economic Development Garreth Bloor is not substantiated in the media statement at all: ‘As a city we are pleased to note the increase in visitor number that show the Cape Town continues to be a destination of choice for both local and international holiday makers. The economic impacts in particular are encouraging as they benefit the people of Cape Town and inspire job creation. Cape Town has certainly become a place to work, play and stay and as a City we continue to support this by creating the enabling environment’!

Given the increasingly weak Rand, one would have liked to see an even better performance for Cape Town. One remembers the year when the Rand first dropped to R20 to the pound sterling, and Britons arrived in large numbers and feasted on crayfish every day. We certainly have not seen this in the past month! Perhaps this will reflect in the next three months, when the Tourism season for Cape Town closes down after Easter.

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog  Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage  Facebook:  click here


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