April 2003
Bonanza Summer Season draws to a disappointing close

Tourism businesses in Cape Town and the Western Cape have experienced one of their best summer seasons ever, with dramatic increases in occupancy levels and turnovers, despite a relatively disappointing April and Easter weekend. South Africa currently has one of the highest tourism growth rates in the world, only rivalled by Argentina.

A number of factors contributed to South Africa's success as a tourist destination in the past seven months.

The value for money experienced by tourists, especially in respect of restaurants, has been one of the major attractions of the country, despite the Rand strengthening considerably, and currently at a 24-month high of under R 7,50 to the US $.

There is no doubt that South Africa has become a trendy destination to visit, with British tourists in particular "marketing" the country spontaneously by means of word of mouth to their friends and family. Weddings celebrated in South Africa remain an important means of attracting large groups of new tourists to the Cape Town and Winelands areas in particular.

South Africa has also been regarded as a relatively safe destination in the face of expected anti-British and anti-USA retaliation due to the Iraqi war. Few, if any, bookings were cancelled as a result of the outbreak of the war.

A further factor adding to this perception of safety is that no cases of the respiratory virus SARS have been reported in South Africa.

Major sporting events such as the Cricket World Cup and Argus Cycle Tour also attracted large numbers of visitors to Cape Town, with resultant benefit to the Winelands and Garden Route areas.

An interesting trend was the sharp drop-off in German tourists in the past season, with a far greater proportion of visitors from the United Kingdom - for many accommodation establishments tourists from the United Kingdom accounted for up to 80 % of their client base.

While the summer season traditionally comes to an end after the Easter weekend, the two South African public holidays on 28 April and 1 May are a welcome final boost to the tourism industry, encouraging South Africans in particular to take a break during the week in which both these dates fall.

All indications are that May, June and July will be relatively quiet in Cape Town and in the Western Cape, despite excellent value for money offers from tourism players during the "secret season". Lufthansa has announced that its seasonal flights between Munich and Johannesburg will fall away from 7 May, instead of at the end of June, as originally planned.

Cape Town 4th most popular USA destination

CBS MarketWatch has reported that Cape Town is one of the "hottest" international destinations for Americans travelling abroad.

Vancouver, Montreal and Dublin are ahead of Cape Town in popularity. Other cities on the list of American travellers' favourites are Sydney, Cancun in Mexico, San Juan in Puerto Rico, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, and Rome, Paris and London in joint 10th position.

Americans are seeking destinations closer to home, and cities in Mexico, Puerto Rico and Canada have taken over from European cities as the most popular vacation destinations for Americans who were fearful of travelling long distances as a result of the war in Iraq, terror alerts and economic uncertainty. American destinations, particularly Alaska and Hawaii, are expected to be popular in the forthcoming American summer.

Cape Town was described as follows: "....there you can have the safari experience as well as having the city experience in one trip. The city offers beaches, game parks and affordability. There are very friendly people, fabulous beaches, the east African game park experience, and things are incredibly inexpensive. You can have a four-course culinary extravaganza with wonderful wine for $ 30.

"Airfares for long haul travel are at an all-time low as airlines and tour operators try to attract American tourists to foreign shores. American visitors to South Africa can fly for as little as $ 990 until the end of May.

The quicker than expected end to the war in Iraq and lack of terror attacks in retaliation may bode well for greater international travel confidence amongst Americans.

Cape Town tops

Cape Town has won the City of the Year in the Engen Town of the Year competition for the second time, while Knysna won the Town of the Year award for the second year running. Montagu was voted Village of the Year.

South African residents and tourists were invited by Engen to vote for their favourite South African city, town and village. All three winners are from the Western Cape province.

Shortly after the awards ceremony, Montagu was flooded in a freak downpour in March, which led to the Kingna River bursting its banks and flooding the whole town, destroying bridges and roads, and cutting the town off from the rest of the country. In less than a month the town's facilities have been rebuilt to allow it to welcome back tourists.

Film City "reeling" with success

The Western Cape provincial government is committed to positioning Cape Town as an international Film City, and is working with the film industry to set up a film studio in the city. The province has promised funding for the project.

Sites earmarked for the film studio include the Good Hope Centre, Culemborg, Wingfield army base and Conradie Hospital.

A new post-production facility, called Condor Cape Town, has been established in the city, and offers high-end, superior quality telecine, compositing, visual effects and other related services for the production of local and international TV commercials. The company has invested R 30 million in developing the facility.

According to Cape Film Commissioner Martin Cuff, Cape Town is the fifth largest location in the world, as measured by the number of permits issued. The city appears to be highly regarded for TV commercial and stills shoots, but has not yet managed to attract the feature film industry to any significant extent. More than half of all commercials filmed in South Africa are shot in Cape Town, while the city accounts for a quarter of the total national film industry.

However, a top film, based on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission which followed the political transformation of South Africa almost 10 years ago, and which stars Juliette Binoche and Samuel L. Jackson, is currently being shot in Cape Town. The film is to be called "Country of my Skull", and is based on an award-winning book by renowned South African author Antjie Krog. It has a budget of $ 15 million for the 10 week shoot in and around Cape Town.

Olive Schreiner's "Story of an African Farm" is also soon to become a film, which will be shot in Matjiesfontein, in the Karoo.

Table Mountain set to become top icon

So dominant is the image of Table Mountain and so symbolic is it of not only Cape Town but also of South Africa, that the Minister of the Environment and Tourism is considering utilising Table Mountain as the national icon for South Africa in its marketing of the country.

A number of icons have been short-listed by the Department for consideration as the national icon. Research has demonstrated that Table Mountain is the most recognised icon of all those tested.

South Africa top German destination

South Africa is the top German travel destination, according to Bunte magazine. The widely read German magazine ranks South Africa ahead of Australia, Germany, Croatia, Austria, Bulgaria, Thailand, Turkey, India and Italy as the top "In" travel destinations for the new summer season.

The destinations which are no longer trendy are Tunisia, Bali, Egypt, the Dominican Republic, Morocco, the United Kingdom, Greece, Spain and Dubai.

The article featured a photograph of Camps Bay and its beach in the article. The top ranking is justified on the basis of South Africa's scenic beauty and the value for money it offers.

Cycle Tour spins it for Cape Town

The Argus Cycle tour, held in Cape Town on 16 March, was described as one of the best ever, with ideal weather conditions for the more than 35 000 participants cycling a 109 km route, in what has become the largest timed cycle race in the world.

The Argus Cycle Tour has become such a major event that a number of side events were organised in the week running up to the main cycle race, including a Tricycle Tour, Junior Cycle Tour, Mountain Bike Challenge and the Giro del Capo. The economic benefit to the city has been calculated at more than R 200 million.

An extensive Life Cycle Expo is also held in Cape Town over the four days ahead of the race, and features everything a bike lover and fitness enthusiast could wish to buy. It has become the largest cycling, health and fitness exhibition in the country, and close to 300 exhibitors had stands to attract this lucrative market. Research conducted two years ago confirmed that more than 76 000 visitors attended the Life Cycle Expo, spending R 18 million, in 2000.

More than 200 000 spectators encouraged and supported the cyclists over the gruelling course. The foreign cyclist numbers are increasing, with more than 1000 participants from 40 countries this year. Two thirds of the South African cyclists participating live outside the Western Cape.

Whale Cottage Bakoven on the box !

The unique beauty of Bakoven in Camps Bay, one of Cape Town's best kept secrets when it comes to an almost private beach for its residents, high profile bungalow owners seeking a little more privacy, visits from whales and dolphins, and the famous Bakoven rock (shaped like a oven) which gave this suburb of Camps Bay its name many years ago, was the focus of a recent Pasella and Top Billing programme on SABC2.

Filmed in February during a week in which a whale mother and her calf were seen in Camps Bay and Bakoven and became the major stars of the feature, the programme on Bakoven covered the only Bakoven restaurant Pappadums, its three guest houses Whale Cottage Bakoven, Blue Waters and Bakoven Sunsets, and the NSRI sea rescue station.

One of Bakoven's celebrity residents is Anneline Kriel-Bacon, a former Miss World.

Sweet & Sour Service

The WhaleTales Sweet Award goes to the staff of all tourism bureaus in South Africa, who served so many tourists with such dedication, passion, and friendliness in the past summer season.

The WhaleTales Sour Award goes to the Orchards farm stall in Grabouw, who refused to serve a customer strawberry jam with her scone, despite the farm stall stocking it in its shop. She was invited to purchase her own strawberry jam whilst having her scone in the farm stall's restaurant!

WhaleTales is a newsletter issued by the Whale Cottage Guest House Portfolio and is edited by Chris von Ulmenstein.
Christiane von Ulmenstein
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