Should you go to Cape Town Now?
According to the Tourism Division the answer is a resounding “yes.”
Editor’s Note (March 2018) : The Cape Town water crisis has been all but averted at this point. The experience has seemed to have a real effect on locals and travellers alike. For a great read on the update see: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/cape-town-residents-become-guinea-pigs-for-the-world-with-water-conservationcampaign/article38257004/
In October, I spent time in one of my favourite places: South Africa. If you’ve been, you know why. The people, the art, the food and the animals combine in a tourism offering that is unique. I’ve visited three times now and still crave an opportunity to return. It is a vibrant country with an incredible history and sits at the top of many bucket lists.
And though my trip focused on spots like Johannesburg and the Eastern Cape, I went out of my way to spend some time in Cape Town. From the iconic Table mountain to the bustling waterfront, Cape Town is always a fun (and educational) stop with or without the kids.
But in the months since I’ve been back, a whisper has turned into a crisis: Cape Town is about to run out of water.
The reasons why are complicated and have as much to do with politics as geography, but the end result is the same. It is estimated that the extremely popular tourist destination will be without water by late-April.
While my first thought when learning of this Cape Town situation was of the people there, particularly those in the townships who may not have the resources to get out of the city or purchase bottled water, my next thoughts have been about what our responsibility is as tourists.
Is it wrong to encourage tourists to visit Cape Town now? Wouldn’t adding tourists to the population only make the situation worse for locals? I’ve gone back and forth on it, talking with colleagues, friends and those from/living in South Africa. It’s not an easy decision.
A recent email from an airline that flies to South Africa offering discounted trips to Cape Town felt crass and made me angry. But, perhaps, travelers would be just as upset that I hadn’t included Capetown highlights in recent TV appearances about South Africa?
What’s the right thing to do?
Surprisingly (to me at least) the right answer might actually be to visit.
In their latest release Wesgro (The Tourism, Trade and Development arm responsible for Capetown) don’t mince words: “ We need tourism now more than ever…”
They point out that tourism – though adding a small percentage to the population (1%) adds a lot more to the local economy. The press release continues:
“One of the key concerns noted by potential tourists who are considering Cape Town, and which is also echoed by some citizens, is that they would make the situation water worse if they visited our region. We believe that this is not only incorrect, but that the opposite is true. Not visiting Cape Town and the Western Cape now would only make this challenging situation worse.
This is why:
- During peak season, international tourists only add 1% to the population of the entire Western Cape province on average. These tourists on average only spend a few days in Cape Town, and then travel to other parts of the province, and then up north to attractions such as the Kruger National Park. Many hotel establishments are taking the lead in drastically reducing water consumption.
- The tourism industry has led the way in reducing the consumption of water by tourists, ensuring that each tourist “saves like a local”. Tsogo Sun, the largest hotel group in the Cape, has cut their consumption of water by 40%.
- Despite this extremely small addition to the population size, tourism supported 206 000 direct jobs, 55 763 indirect jobs and 56 243 induced jobs. Therefore in total, tourism supports over 300 000 jobs across the Western Cape – an inspiring place to do business
- As a result of these visitors, R38 billion was added to our economy in 2017. If one calculates foreign direct spend by visitors, visitors spent R9.9 billion in the Western Cape in the first half of 2017 alone. This was an 8.8% growth. Tourism is a major sector of our provincial economy, and it is growing faster than any other sector in the country – even during periods of recession.
- The drought has had a devastating impact on the agricultural sector since last year. Thousands of jobs have already been lost. Tourism can assist in shouldering this impact especially in the smaller towns. If we encourage tourism during this time, and highlight the many attractions that exist across our beautiful province, we can continue to stimulate growth in the Cape.
- Events, which attract visitors to Cape Town and many places across the Western Cape, add this to this economic benefit. The Cape Town Cycle Tour, for example, contributes half a billion rands to the Cape economy. If events like these become water neutral, as the Cycle Tour has, they can continue to provide a positive benefit. In the past financial year (2016/2017), Wesgro supported over 30 regional events outside of Cape Town. This resulted in 150 000 additional visitors to these regions, and the creation of 1600 temporary jobs. During this same year, the 33 bids won by the Cape Town and Western Cape Convention Bureau for conferences, meetings, incentives and exhibitions will have an economic benefit of nearly R500 million.
- The knock-on effect would be felt across South Africa. Cape Town, and its surrounding areas, is the “crown jewel” in the overall South African tourism offer, and if it falls off the travel list, South Africa may fall off the consideration list too. “
It’s a compelling argument. What do you think? Are you considering a visit to Cape Town in the short term? Should you?
For more information on travel to South Africa visit www.southafrica.net
For more information on Cape Town visit http://www.discoverctwc.co.za/
And for insight into how locals feel about tourists coming read this in The SouthAfrican.com