Visitor numbers to Western Cape on the rise

2Bold tourists go off the beaten track

International and domestic arrivals to the Western Cape are at a three-year high and establishments across the province have welcomed a record number of visitors, as the destination’s tourism sector reports one of its best seasons yet.

This morning, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, and Councillor Roxanne Hoorn, the chair of the City of Cape Town’s Tourism, Events and Economic Development Portfolio Committee, tabled the latest visitor numbers for the region.

Minister Winde said international arrivals this December at Cape Town Airport went up by 3.2% compared with the previous year. January 2015 saw even more impressive figures, with arrivals up 8.2% year-on-year.

Presenting a snapshot of the numbers for the past three years, Minister Winde said tourism was trending upwards, with visitor numbers increasing steadily between 2012 and 2015.

“We’re seeing an increase in international and domestic tourists, and we are seeing greater movement of tourists to regions across the province. Attractions in the Cape Overberg, such as the Agulhas National Park, which experienced a 130% increase in visitors and De Hoop, which recorded a 30% increase year on year, demonstrate this increasing appetite for adventure on behalf of our visitors. The Garden Route and Klein Karoo saw equally impressive growth, with both the Tsitsikamma National Park and the Wilderness National Park achieving over 20% growth in visitors year on year.”

Minister Winde said events were key drivers in the coastal towns, where thousands of visitors attended festivals and markets.

“The Snoek Derby in Yzerfrontein attracted 10 000 visitors. In Vredendal, the Matzikama Somerfees drew 3 000 visitors. These numbers, which bring huge economic benefit to small towns, illustrate the importance of the events economy,” said Minister Winde.

Minister Winde said that in addition to growth in the regions, our iconic attractions in and around the metro remained our performance leaders. Table Mountain National Park and the V&A Waterfront once again scooped the top prizes for visitor numbers, experiencing a 6.7% and 2.9% year on year increase in visitors respectively.

“Attractions which continue to reinvest and reinvent themselves are drawing higher visitor numbers year on year. In addition to the V&A Waterfront, which attracted 23.8 million visitors in 2014, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens achieved an annual increase in visitor numbers of 29%, with almost 900 000 people passing through its gates. These attractions are seeing an excellent return on their investments,” said Minister Winde.

Accessibility also emerged as a critical factor in increasing visitor numbers.

“We noted an increase in the number of arrivals at George Airport just a few months after FlySafair started operating its Cape Town-George route. Over 40 000 passengers travelled to George Airport in December last year, which is up from 37 768 in 2013 and 32 698 in 2012,” said Minister Winde.

Minister Winde said following a deep-dive investigation of the provincial economy to determine where our greatest opportunities for growth and jobs lie, called ‘Project Khulisa’, tourism was identified as one of the Western Cape’s most promising sectors.

“Through Project Khulisa, we have identified tourism as a priority sector for the next five years. It is currently worth R17 billion and employs over 200 000 people on a formal basis and hundreds of thousands more on an informal basis. In a high-growth scenario, benchmarked against the successes of other regions which have focused their efforts and energy on growing this sector, we have found that it has the potential to create a further 324 000 formal jobs and R28 billion more for our economy by 2019. We can only achieve this, however, if the national government joins our efforts to increase accessibility to the destination.

“I’ve heard today that Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has once again reinforced that children are to travel with unabridged, translated versions of their birth certificates come 1 June 2015. This poses a huge cost and inconvenience to potential travellers, with the result of them being deterred from choosing our destination. In a media comment issued yesterday, Gigaba’s office stated that their previous claims that the translations will not be required are ‘neither here nor there’. On the contrary, tourists are either here or there, and as a result of this move, they might choose to not come ‘here’. This back-tracking also flies in the face of President Zuma’s announcement during the State of the Nation Address that a review of the legislation will be taking place.

“Together with all stakeholders, we are currently working on a set of action plans to ramp up economic growth in this sector, which will be presented for Cabinet approval in August 2015. Our major goal will be to ensure the Western Cape becomes an all-year destination. Our summer season already experiences great occupancy and we will therefore focus on growing numbers in our traditional off-peak,” said Minister Winde.

Councillor Hoorn briefed the media on the findings of the latest study on the sector, conducted by Grant Thornton.

“One of the key trends emerging for tourism in general is that the sector is regarded as an important avenue for local economies and its job creation potential.  Employment numbers are up in the industry with just over 37 500 permanent staff and 15 100 temporary staff in Cape Town, based on an economic impact survey conducted during 2014 by City partner, Grant Thornton.  The tourism sector is regarded as a key driver of economic expansion and employment creation and thus is an integral part of South African Economic Development strategies,” said Councillor Hoorn.

Tourism highlights for 2014/15:

Restaurants in the Overstrand reported 80% occupancy.

L’Agulhas and Struisbaai recorded 10,500 tourists to their visitor centres, double the local population. Shops in the area reported sell-outs of stock.

The Bontebok National Park, in the Cape Overberg, welcomed 16 429 visitors for the year, up 17.9% from 2013.

Mossel Bay reported a 30% increase in international tourists between November 2014 and January 2015, compared to the same months a year ago.

Hessaqua welcomed 40 000 visitors over the summer season, reporting an increase in domestic tourists.

Also along the Cape Garden Route, the Tsitsikamma National Park attracted 34 890 visitors last month, up from 31 960 In December last year and 20 561 in December 2012.

The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway recorded 948,756 visitors in 2014, representing a 14.8% increase from 2013.

In the Cape West Coast, establishments reported being fully booked or close to capacity. Several events were major attractions, with festivals and markets attracting between up to 3000 visitors.

The Karoo National Park drew 37 742 visitors in 2014, up 6% from the previous year.

The Wilderness National Park recorded 43 073 in December 2014 and January 2015 combined, increasing from 36 813 in December 2013 and January 2014.

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