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Monday Jan 07, 2013

Great tourist season for Cape Town

With many figures still to be collated, the Western Cape tourism industry is cautiously optimistic that it fared well over the busy December season.

A survey conducted by Cape Town Tourism, in conjunction with Horwath HTL before the busy period, indicated an expected growth of 4 percent for the season.

Jeff Rosenberg, chairman of the hotels segment of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa) Cape, said he estimated growth of between five and 10 percent on 2011 revenue, with some areas such as the Waterfront, City Bowl and Sea Point faring better.

"It's been a generally good season. There has been a good mix, with overseas visitors from the traditional markets of the United Kingdom and Germany. Brazil, too, has continued to grow since the World Cup," he added.

What was also particularly pleasing was that the domestic market had performed well.

Table Mountain Cableway has had a record December, with nearly 120 000 people taking a ride to the top of the world-famous mountain.

Cableway chief executive officer Sabine Lehmann said they usually expected about 100 000 people in December, but with good weather on their side, they managed to ferry 119 000 people to the top of the mountain last month.

At this time of year, she added, the majority of visitors were South Africans making use of the special sunset prices. Boxing Day was one of their busiest, with 7 500 people visiting.

Cape Town Tourism spokeswoman Skye Grove said: "Cape Town Tourism predicted a similar to slightly better summer season than last year, with an increase of about 4 percent on arrivals. Feedback from tourism companies and Cape Town Tourism members indicate that December 2012 was similar in terms of international tourism activity to December 2011."

They did, however, see an increase in domestic tourists at their Visitor Information Centres, and at Cape Town attractions. But final figures would only be confirmed once they received the Airports Company of South Africa's arrival figures and completed their formal accommodation and attraction survey later this month.

Grove said the City Bowl and Atlantic Seaboard had been "exceptionally busy this December", with a "good dispersal of visitors in the metropole, along the Peninsula, to the Winelands and to towns outside Cape Town's borders".

"Rental vehicles were fully booked for the last two weeks of December, and the good weather has encouraged visitors to get out and about to explore Cape Town."

Wesgro chief executive Nils Flaatten said it appeared, anecdotally, to have been a good season.

"We spoke to some of the hotel groups in mid-December who indicated pretty high occupancy going into the first and second weeks of January, and bed and breakfasts looked good too, with occupancy of about 80 percent."

He said site visits to tourist centres in Gansbaai, Stanford, Hermanus and Kleinmond on December 19 and 20 had shown increased visitor numbers too.

"What they told us is that they were being inundated with requests for accommodation for the Christmas and New Year period at that late stage," he said.

Flaatten said that 2011 figures indicated that about 60 percent of tourists in the province were from the Western Cape.

He hoped the 2012 figures would show a "dilution", indicating more people visiting from provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Free State.

International visitors were from the top three markets, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, but Hermanus had indicated increased numbers of visitors from India.

"There has been a growing number of visitors from India in the Knysna and Plettenberg Bay areas, and with them coming to Hermanus, it shows that they are really working the Garden Route area," he said.

Grove said February was the traditional international tourism peak.

"We are expecting an increase in arrivals from key source markets of the UK, US, Germany and the Netherlands for February.

"A forward-looking survey that Cape Town Tourism (in conjunction with Horwath HTL) conducted with our members for February indicates an average expected occupancy rate of over 80 percent for accommodation establishments across the metropole."

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)


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