Cape Town - Tourism in South Africa - and in Cape Town specifically - has been faced with many challenges but the economic opportunities remain far from exhausted. This is according to trends shared during Wesgro's annual Global Economic Opportunities for the Cape 2018/19 event, held on Tuesday, 20 March ahead of the start of the new financial year in April.
Also in attendance, was newly re-appointed Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom who delivered the keynote address. Key issues raised related to visas and ease of access for key source markets, diseases such as listeriosis that might not directly affect the industry but negatively impact perceptions of health and safety standards as well as the ongoing drought in the Western Cape.
The current government focus on its land redistribution policy has also impacted on investor as well as visitor confidence to the country.
Emerging economies leading growth
Wesgro Senior Economist, Janine Botha presented research on the trends, risks and opportunities for the year ahead, with Wesgro setting out its plans for tourism, trade, investment and film promotion for the year ahead.
Trends show the dominance of emerging markets when it comes to global growth, with six of the 10 fastest growing economies being in Africa. Wesgro's Outward Foreign Investment plans aim to tap into this, says Botha.
Growth trends mirror the movements across the travel and tourism sector - with international tourism in Africa expected to grow robustly, as some 62 million international travellers visited the region in 2016, however with a nominal 2% growth to South Africa.
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There has been an estimated increase of 20% in international visitors to the Western Cape, bucking the initial concern about the drought crisis impact according Wesgro.
The forward picture however was not as rosy, with some 18 businesses surveyed indicating a R90m loss in revenue due to the perceptions of Day Zero.
Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris says, “We will look to take advantage of the global opportunities to benefit local companies with the objective of growing the Cape's economy and creating jobs.
"Cape Town has positioned itself as a pioneer in addressing water scarcity and we must continue to build a climate change resilient destination that the rest of the world can aspire to emulate. We are open for business and our team is ready to assist you in investing in the Cape."
In his address Hanekom revealed that preliminary figures for January 2017 show the United Kingdom, one of SA's top five source markets remained stagnant compared to January, with China - one of the world's fastest growing tourism markets - seeing a 50% drop in numbers to South Africa for the same period.
UPDATE: Cape Town Air Access celebrates 13 new routes and 14 expansions since 2015
For the year ahead Wesgro plans to focus on Halaal exports and tourism, doubling down on the successful direct route access initiative which has secured in excess of 800k seat capacity for the city since it started in 2015. Cape Town Air Access is not only attributed for driving tourism but also exports, says Wesgro with an estimated 30% growth in cargo at Cape Town Internal.
Top of the agenda is the need to ensure tourist-centric experiences are tailored for core growth markets - with particular concern for China as noted by Hanekom.
Key tourism opportunities for Western Cape outlined for the year ahead include prioritizing Asia by providing incentive travel for these key markets; growing its strategy for wine exports into Asia and Angola as well as niche tourism experiences - these include the creation of a specific routes and experiences in relation to cycling, cultural, food & wine.
Hanekom remains adamant that key to turning the picture around is collaborative messaging across the sector, focusing on South Africa's unique tourism offering which is people-focused, as well as making it easy to travel here.
Overall, he says the "industry must ensure the benefits accrue to as many people as possible, ” referencing President Cyril Ramaphosa's SONA18 update, which aims to have the industry double the estimated 700k jobs created by the industry.
Hanekom says a meeting is set with Department of Home Affairs, to specifically look at the ease of travel issues facing the industry and how this can be addressed.
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In response to Minister Hanekom’s focus on making it easier for tourists to access South Africa , Minister Winde says, “We welcome the opportunity to have a frank discussion with Minister Hanekom about ways to grow our important industry. I am pleased that he has said that he will be engaging with the Department of Home Affairs around the visa issues that have plagued tourism in recent years.
"I am also pleased that he shares our concerns for tourist safety on our mountain trails and hope that our departments can work together to put a solution on the table that helps ease the minds of our visitors and mountain users so that they feel safe while enjoying our exceptional natural surroundings.”