February 2003
World Cup Cricket bats for South Africa

Cape Town and South Africa were the centre of attraction last weekend, as the World Cup Cricket Opening Ceremony, performed at the Newlands Cricket Grounds in Cape Town to a crowd of 24 000, was televised to 1,4 billion viewers in 14 countries.

The Ceremony was the biggest sporting event ever organised and the largest live show ever produced in South Africa. A two hour show encapsulated the diversity of the country, ranging from its wealth of wildlife and ocean life, its technological innovation, its township life, and colourful Cape Minstrels. The Opening Ceremony concluded with a march past by the cricket teams of Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, England, Holland, India, Kenya, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe.

Celebrities attending the Ceremony were Nelson Mandela and the Prince of Wales. Eric Clapton, Sir Elton John and Mike Jagger were also rumoured to have been in Cape Town.

The Opening Ceremony was locally produced at a cost of R 30 million, and utilised a cast of 5200 volunteers, mainly from the previously disadvantaged areas of Cape Town, dressed in 12 000 costumes manufactured in Cape Town's townships. South African musicians, and members of the Cape Town City Ballet and African Footprint show also performed. CNN presenter and ex-South African TV star Tumi Makgabo was the Master of Ceremonies. The television crew numbered more than 1200.

A special mat, carrying 28 tons of stage and lighting equipment, protected the pitch which was used the following day for the opening match between South Africa and the West Indies.

While the World Cup Cricket 2003 offers the biggest tourism marketing opportunity ever afforded the country, it does not appear to have boosted the local tourism industry to the extent it was hoped. Cricket lovers attending the matches appear to have bought packages, which would have benefitted hotels more than guest houses. February traditionally is a very busy month, with U.K. tourists pouring into the city, and accommodation would have been heavily booked anyway. In fact, many tourists from countries such as Germany, unaware before their arrival of the event, steered clear of Cape Town, and went inland to find accommodation there instead.

More than R 500 million was spent by the United Cricket Board of South Africa to organise the 44-day event spread over 15 venues in South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe. More than 2 000 journalists were accredited for the event, and more than 25 000 foreign visitors and close to a million local spectators are expected to watch the matches in South Africa.

Sensational summer season for Cape Town

Cape Town is experiencing its best ever summer season, surpassing the record season of a year ago. Most accommodation establishments have been fully booked since October, with heavy bookings extending until middle March, when the Argus Cycle Tour takes place.

Tourists are estimated to have spent R 4 billion in Cape Town and the Western Cape province during November and December, and the summer season could see a total expenditure of R 10 billion, reports the Cape Times. The major source of foreign tourists is the United Kingdom, followed by the Unted States and Germany.

Tourism is on the up, despite the Rand strengthening against all major currencies in the past few months. The city's restaurants, acommodation establishments and shops are, however, still seen to offer excellent value of money, despite price increases.

The latest Big Mac currency index, prepared by The Economist, also shows that South Africa no longer is the cheapest currency in the world. The Big Mac index indicates that the Rand is undervalued by 45 % against the dollar, up from 68 % in 2001. In South Africa a Big Mac costs $ 1,59, in the USA it costs $ 2,65, in the United Kingdom $ 3,19, and at the bottom of the scale, in Argentina it costs $ 1,20.

Tourism from Germany has dropped back significantly this season, as Germans have become more savings orientated since the introduction of the Euro, new taxes, and general cost of living increases. Tourists from Germany have also become noticeably budget-conscious. Traditionally this market predominantly visits South Africa in October and November, but in these two months last year they were replaced by a marked increase in visitors from the United Kingdom, who traditionally visit in February and March.

A fiery blaze, fanned by a gale force south easter, which threatened houses and accommodation establishments in Camps Bay over two days early in January, did not deter tourists from visiting this most popular accommodation destination in South Africa.

The tourism season traditionally runs until Easter, but may be shorter this year as booking enquiries have slowed down in the last two weeks as the threat of a war in Iraq becomes a greater certainty. Once again, South Africa may be perceived to be a safe haven during such a war, but any potential threat to passengers flying out of Heathrow could severly damage tourism to South Africa.

The opening of the new Cape Town International Convention Centre in June could be a boost for the slower winter months, as they are a popular convention period. Despite relatively poor Convention facilities available in Cape Town to date, Cape Town already is number 30 on the list of popular convention destinations in the world. The city aims to enhance its ranking to the top 10 by 2010.

One downside of the city's popularity is that tourists are taking away bits of rock from Table Mountain and from the limestone quarry on Robben Island as a souvenir of their visit to the most beautiful city in the world.

Tourism Targets for the States

South African Tourism New York Manager Solly Moeng is working hard to attract more American tourists to South Africa.

Utilising research to better target this vast and lucrative market, South African Tourism is targeting two key segments - the ''NSSA's" (next stop South Africa), who travel frequently, but have not previously been to South Africa, and the "Wanderlusters", who have money to spend and like to experience new things. African-Americans, who wish to visit Africa to connect with their roots, are a secondary target market.

Sailing sells Cape Town

The Cape to Rio yacht race, which commenced from Cape Town in January, is estimated to have generated R 5 million for Cape Town, reports the Cape Argus. More than 200 international supporters of the yachts participating in the race spent more than a month in the city.

Extensive media coverage for the yacht race was achieved on CNN, and national TV stations in Italy, Brazil, Sweden, The Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom. More than 50 million households in 20 countries are expected to have been exposed to the Cape to Rio yacht race TV and web coverage.

Northern Right whales steer clear of ships

Whilst the Southern Right whales visiting South African waters are growing in number, their northern counterparts are facing a severe threat to their population size, estimated at only 350.

According to a report in the Cape Argus, Canada has received permission to alter its North Atlantic shipping lanes between New Brunswick and New Scotland, to help protect migrating whales on their way to the Bay of Fundy area. The move is expected to reduce the probability of a whale being hit by a ship by up to 80 %.

Hermanus Harbour high

The New Harbour in Hermanus is to be upgraded at a cost of more than R 16,3 million, reports the Hermanus Times.

The planned upgrade of the harbour, which is one of only 12 fishing harbours in South Africa and a popular tourist spot in Hermanus with a popular restaurant, includes the reconstruction of the roads inside the harbour, the strengthening of the breakwater, the improvement of the main quay, and improved public facilities.

Company Gardens to bloom again

The Cape Town Partnership has been awarded a contract to manage and maintain the Company's Garden at the top end of Adderley Street in Cape Town, to return it to its glory of a garden for all Capetonians to enjoy.

The planned upgrade of the Gardens includes more visible security, improving the botanical garden, the hosting of children's activities and art and jazz events, and the addition of a 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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