Cape Town Tourism CEO: City on trend to offer travellers more personalised experiences

2016-02-10 11:00 - Enver Duminy
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Each year I am asked to predict trends for the coming months in tourism.

This year was no different. What we have learned, however, is that while trends can be forecast, there may be unforeseen circumstances that change the game plan. Last year has taught us a lesson in moving forward, despite challenges, by embracing innovation and forming partnerships.

The visa and immigration legislation, among other challenges, had an impact on source markets. We had 28.3% fewer visitors from China in June 2015 (compared with June 2015). This was partially in response to the visa regulations but also as a result of fears over Ebola. Those fears were unfounded (and that outbreak had definitely not been forecast as a trend influencer) but these challenges exist.

In the same way, the city enjoyed a surge in tourism in November and December as the Barmy Army descended on us to enjoy cricket in the Mother City. Events are terrific as short-term boosts to the tourism economy, but they need to be leveraged to maximize the opportunity presented.

So what’s ahead for us in Cape Town this year?

We cannot rely on a fluctuating currency for long-term benefits. While the exchange rate is very favourable for international travellers now, the benefits of this are largely short-term for them, in that imports will become more expensive for local businesses and prices will likely be adjusted to accommodate this. We’ll obviously welcome international visitors with great zeal as we always do, and the other probable outcome is that fewer South Africans will travel abroad, choosing instead to holiday locally.

'Events are terrific as short-term boosts to the tourism economy'

The next three months are extremely important in terms of events, with the Design Indaba, Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour, the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon and the biggest event on Cape Town’s calendar in terms of tourism: The International Jazz Festival all taking place. The annual economic impact of the Jazz Festival alone amounts to an astonishing R700-million.

Events such as these have a spinoff effect, as visitors will come for those and then spread the tourism rand across the city in restaurants, tourism experiences, attractions and in the retail sector.

'Adding Value through partnerships and innovation'

We have been encouraging the messages of partnership and innovation as a means of survival and growth: if tour companies can build on their products (especially if they include other businesses in those plans) and if places of accommodation can add value, the whole industry will benefit.

Take Ozzies Golf Guide as an example, he has managed to develop his niche tourism product of providing a golf experience to visitors but he’s been building on that initial idea by offering more, chasing down opportunities and employing more staff. His kind of niche tourism represents the space where entrepreneurs can flourish.

Hotels and restaurants can do more to source food locally, too – sustainability will be a focus for 2016, with neither electricity nor water being guarantees, businesses must think out of the box when overcoming those challenges.

'Travellers want more personalised experiences'

It’s time for tourism tech to flourish. From social media to apps we’ve encountered this, but even more so, data-driven tourism will become more focused, with analytics allowing travel businesses to recommend more personalised experiences.

We’ve said before that the “travel like a local” trend would be big, and it is one that has made it from 2015 into this year. Visitors will want those intimate experiences with the hidden gems of the city, from shops to music. We have the next in our series of “Love Cape Town Neighbourhoods” videos coming out soon, and I am certain that they’ll be met with even more interest than our previous ones. 

It’s going to be an exciting year, and we’re looking forward to every event, visitor and opportunity that it holds.

Why not explore the city yourself?