Seeing a media statement from Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde, as well as an article in Business Day about the V&A Waterfront’s ‘sharp increase in retail trade‘, make one wonder what the V&A Waterfront’s visitor numbers, said to have been measured at just over 3 million in December 2012, really represent!
When Maureen Thomson headed up marketing at the inception of the V&A Waterfront, she explained that a rubber car counter on the road near the current location of the Aston Martin showroom provided information about the number of cars entering the V&A Waterfront. She would multiply this car count by a factor, to allow for an average number of adults and children in a vehicle, thereby calculating the visitor numbers. The car counters are no longer to be seen, and therefore one wonders how the V&A management generates the numbers. To be accurate, the company would have to have many more car counters, including at the BOE/Nedbank building side, near the Two Oceans Aquarium, and One&Only Cape Town, near the shopping mall, and even at the Grand on the Beach, which is deemed to be part of the V&A Waterfront too. The 3 million visitors to the V&A Waterfront increased by 10%, from 2,7 million in December 2011.
V&A Waterfront CEO David Green added that retail trading in December 2012 had increased by 8% relative to the same month a year prior, far above the average national retail industry growth rate. He referred to the recent opening of Lush, Superdry, Emporio Armani, and the V&A Market on the Wharf, which had attracted a greater number of visitors. The Business Day article highlighted what we all know – that the V&A is the ‘most popular tourist destination in South Africa’, with a mix of retail outlets, accommodation, and residential homes. If the V&A is using hidden car counters, how can it measure how much of its ‘footfall’ is Capetonian, and how much is that of tourists.
Tourists only arrived in Cape Town in any great numbers after Christmas, which means that less than one week of December’s trade will have been tourist related, and therefore the bulk of the visitor numbers would be Capetonians shopping in the V&A Waterfront, going to see a movie, buying some food, eating at a restaurant, seeing Body Worlds, watching the Red Bull Flugtag (which caused a traffic jam in the area surrounding the V&A, and is said to have attracted 200000 Cape Town visitors on the day alone, but not mentioned by Mr Green!), checking out the newly opened Shimmi Beach Club, and doing Christmas shopping.
This could mean that the V&A Waterfront’s claim to be our country’s leading tourist attraction may be false and misleading, as it appears to attract mainly Cape Town residents, and a small number of tourists going to Robben Island, or walking through one of the V&A malls.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage