#CapeWaterCrisis: What travellers need to know about visiting during the drought

2018-02-07 10:30 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town - ‘Day Zero’ being pushed to May is far from any cause for celebration as the Mother City’s residents, visitors and businesses continue to feel the consequences of the drought.

Many individuals are doing what they can to save water and stick to the restrictions. However for the tourism industry - a key economic driver in SA that also boosts entrepreneurship and empowerment – it is tricky to balance saving water and ensuring that tourists get the best possible experience.

From the hospitality and accommodation sector to restaurants, tourist attractions and tour operators, every tourism enterprise has to implement water saving techniques, which not only apply to staff, but also to guests.

ALSO SEE: #CapeWaterCrisis: Tourism businesses must prepare to be water shortage 'guinea pigs' for global responsible tourism

Recent discussions with authorities in the travel and tourism sector have shed some light on the situation. Traveller24 caught up with some of them to unpack the degree to which the water crisis is affecting tourism.

Five key facts for travellers:

  • There is enough water for your daily essentials, bottled water is plentiful and available for purchase.
  • Level 6b restrictions means no more than 50 litres per day, it applies to you whether you live at a hotel or a guest house
  • Showers should be kept to a maximum of 90 seconds - no more than twice a week
  • No bathing.  
  • Day Zero has been moved back to 11 May. Help us by saving as much as you can. 

How is Airbnb affected?

Velma Corcoran, Country Manager South Africa at Airbnb told Traveller24, “Airbnb is committed to promoting local and sustainable travel, and we are asking our community to act responsibly during this drought and conserve water whenever possible,” says Corcoran.

SEE: Cape Water Crisis: 'Wealthy tourists' are saving like locals

Last year, Airbnb partnered with Wesgro to distribute free water-saving shower heads to hosts in Cape Town, so that guests can conserve water in their listings. This is expected to save at least 70 million litres of water a year.

“We have held a series of water saving meet-ups with our hosts and the City of Cape Town and Cape Town Tourism to discuss conservation, in addition to regular emails to hosts and guests booking in Cape Town advising them of the water crisis and how to act responsibly and conserve water,” says Corcoran.

Judy Lain, Wesgro’s Chief Marketing Officer for Tourism, told Traveller24 that all hosts are urged to help save water by sticking to the 50 litres per person per day requirement.

“We can push back Day Zero if we all work together,” she says, adding that Level 6b restrictions apply to all households – whether Airbnb or if visitors stay over with family and friends.

What about hotels and restaurants outside the business protection zones?

According to Peter Flower, the Director of Water and Sanitation in Cape Town, the intention is to try to keep water flowing not only to Cape Town’s CBD, but “all commercial centres in Cape Town”.

However, the areas that will continue to have water after ‘Day Zero’ are still unknown and Flower says authorities “will make that information known in due course”.

As for those establishments that fall outside of these zones, Lain says that a majority “have put in place measures to ensure their water usage is reduced and have developed plans for alternative water supplies”. She says that restaurants are also required to adhere to the water restrictions.

ALSO SEE: #CapeWaterCrisis: Water to 'stay on for commercial centres', exact locations yet to be released

“GreenCape, the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape Government, and the JAMMS team of the Western Cape, including Fedhasa, SATSA, SAACI and Cape Town Tourism, have been working with the industry to ensure that they reduce consumption. Business continuity planning will be essential in the event of Day Zero taking place, and this grouping will be providing communication to hospitality establishments to assist them with this planning,” she adds.

Laine says that GreenCape has a drought business support team, which has numerous interactions with companies in the tourism industry.

Which tourist attractions will be affected?

According to Laine, tourists will still be able to access tourist attractions across the province – however, each attraction will implement water restrictions, such as taps turned off in bathrooms.

“Top attractions such Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens have not been reliant on municipal water for many years,” says Laine.

“Gardens are irrigated with non-potable water from a 110 megalitre dam situated on the mountain slopes to the south of the Garden and their drinking water is extracted from boreholes on the Estate,” she says.

However, she adds that “specific river-based experiences may be impacted” by the drought.

MUST-SEE: #CapeWaterCrisis: How will I flush my toilet after 'Day Zero'? 

What about township tourism and industry entrepreneurs?

“Current indications from the City of Cape Town is that informal settlements and economic areas important to maintain jobs will continue to receive water through normal channels. Monitoring and enforcement will be put in place to ensure that water usage at these points is significantly reduced,” Laine tells Traveller24.

What should tour operators and travel agents tell clients?

Laine advises that travel agents and tour operators tell clients and tourists who want to visit Cape Town “That there is currently adequate water for tourists’ essential daily needs such as washing, using the toilet, and daily hygiene”.

“Tourists should come and enjoy Cape Town and the Western Cape, but please be mindful of the drought and abide by water restrictions,” she says, adding that it is in coming to Cape Town and the Western Cape, they're supporting the 300 000 jobs created by tourism in the province.

SEE: #CapeWaterCrisis: Cancellations for Cape Town 'affects tourism across SA'

“Even at its peak, international tourists only add 1% to the population, and with most hotels taking major steps to reduce water, the effect of tourism is overwhelmingly positive.

“There are many establishments that have made alternative water measures available and there are regions outside of Cape Town, including the Cape Overberg and the Garden Route, where the drought is less severe and water restrictions are limited,” says Laine about extending holidays across the province.

SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona warns that the industry needs to recognise that Day Zero is not only Cape Town’s problem.

He admits that cancellations due to the water crisis would have far reaching effects for tourism throughout the country. “A visitor who books a 20-day package for SA, five of those days are in the Western Cape. When that person now cancels, they cancel the entire package, they cancel on Limpopo Mpumalanga and KZN, they cancel on the rest of the country.

“This is not just a Western Cape or Cape Town crisis. This is going to become a national crisis as the issues of Cape Town will impact the entire tourism sector in South Africa,” he says, encouraging the industry to tell visitors to tour as much of the rest of South Africa.

What to read next on Traveller24:

#CapeWaterCrisis: Tourism businesses must prepare to be water shortage 'guinea pigs' for global responsible tourism

#CapeWaterCrisis: Cancellations for Cape Town 'affects tourism across SA'

#CapeWaterCrisis: Water to 'stay on for commercial centres', exact locations yet to be released