Cape Town is likely to be fully booked in February, with many guest house in popular areas such as Camps Bay already reporting that they have close to 100 % occupancy for the month ahead.
The poor northern hemisphere summer and early start to winter, the many weddings to be held during February, and locals taking a Valentine's Day "long weekend", have all contributed to the great month ahead.
January was a good month as well, with the England-South Africa test cricket matches in different parts of the country bringing many UK supporters, including the Barmy Army, to the country.
It would appear as if the stronger Rand compared to the last two years has had little negative impact on tourism numbers, possibly because many accommodation establishments and other tourism operators did not increase their prices this season, or kept the price increases very low.
Feedback received from international guests is that prices still appear to be very reasonable in South Africa, with restaurant prices in particular being highlighted as good value for money. The good and friendly service provided by South African tourism establishments also has led to a greater value for money perception about the country generally.
A World Travel and Tourism Council 2004 Competitiveness Monitor ranked South Africa seventh on the most Price Competitive Country survey, with Brazil and India leading the list, reports The Argus.
While the tsunami catastrophe in the Asian countries was a devastating blow for world tourism, it has benefited local tourism, with many guests booked for that region having changed their bookings to South Africa instead.
Continuous international media coverage for South African tourist destinations, in the Western Cape in particular, has also added to the good tourist season. South Africa is increasingly highlighted as a "hot" destination.
Tourism from the United Kingdom continues at the highest level, and is the major source of incoming tourists. Close to 500 000 British visitors are expected to have visited South Africa last year, almost double those coming from Germany, the second largest source country. Close to two-thirds of British tourists visit the Western Cape, making it the most popular province in the country.
The Knysna Tourism newsletter reports on a recent South African Tourism update. It mentions a number of reasons for British visitors coming to South Africa, including that the country is not affected by terrorism, that it is sunny, that English is spoken, that there is no jetlag, that it combines adventure and pampering, that the wildlife and safari experiences are memorable, and that it offers good shopping and nightlife.
A key trend highlighted by the South African Tourism survey is that "the beach holiday, while still the British traveller's preferred holiday type, is losing share in favour of holidays in the countryside, mountains and other more adventurous types of holidays."
Residents of the greater Cape Town area have begun to express their concern about the effect that the tourism success that the area is experiencing will have on its water resources. The greater Cape Town, Winelands, West Coast and Northern Cape areas are experiencing the worst drought in 100 years, and its dams are only 42 % full. Stringent water restrictions are in place, with only half an hour of watering the garden allowed per week. The accommodation industry has requested its guests to assist it in saving water during their stay in the Western Cape.
By contrast, many parts of the Southern Cape and Garden Route area have been flooded in the past month, including Knysna and Robertson, which had the highest daily rainfall on a day in December since records were first kept more than 120 years ago. The heavy rainfall has been largely the result of exceptionally strong and long-lasting South-Easter winds in the Cape Town area.
Tourism to South Africa does not seem to have been affected by the demise of the new Civair airline, which was to have begun operating between Cape Town and Stansted in the United Kingdom from December, but had to cancel its operation due to a business partner not providing the funding. Many distraught tourists complained about losing their monies, or receiving it back so late, and not being able to come to South Africa for their Christmas holidays with family and friends.
The harsh treatment meted out to tourists who arrive in South Africa with passports which do not meet the immigration regulations has not deterred tourism to date. According to an international regulation, passports must have at least two blank pages in them when one enters a country, and it should also not have less than 6 months to go before expiry. South African immigration officials put travellers with incorrect passports onto the same plane back to their airport of origin.