Thu 16 Aug 2012
Winchester Mansions General Manager and Cape Town Tourism Director Nils Heckscher has told Southern African Tourism Update that ‘2011 was the worst year for many in the industry‘, and that tourism performance is a long way away from the good performance levels last seen five years ago.
Given Mr Heckscher’s roles as FEDHASA Cape Chairman until 2010, and as a Director of Cape Town Tourism currently, as well as his position in running a 4-star hotel in Sea Point, he should have been able to make a difference to the fortunes of the tourism industry in encouraging the management of Cape Town Tourism in particular to come up with more creative marketing campaigns to address the downward slide in tourist performance in the Cape. Sadly, this has not been seen to date.
The tourism newsletter’s survey about the state of the tourism nation reflected that 57% of tourism players said that they are experiencing a ‘quiet winter’, 29% said it was ‘average’, and only 14% said they were ‘busy’, leading the writer of the article to conclude that ‘recovery is still a long way off‘.
Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk’s regular positive spin on tourism numbers is regularly questioned by the tourism industry, in not reflecting its day-to-day experience. Heckscher calls for better interrogation of tourism statistics, and cautions against putting all one’s eggs into the Europe basket, recommending diversification into the African continent. Seeing an increase in bookings relative to 2011, not difficult due to it having been a tough tourism year, he is uncertain whether the trend will continue: “Nobody knows and the landscape has changed for the long term. Nothing is like it was and forecasting has become increasingly difficult.”
Large tour operator Tourvest has seen an improvement in tourism from ‘Germanic Europe’, but describes tourism from the UK, the Netherlands, and the southern Mediterranean countries as continuing to be ‘under pressure’. The poor summer in Europe and the UK makes the company optimistic about the prospect of better bookings for the summer lying ahead.
Cape Town and its environs have suffered a very wet winter, which has not encouraged Gautengers to come to Cape Town with forecasts of snow and wild storms, nor have Capetonians left their warm homes to stay in towns and villages outside of Cape Town, many cancelling their bookings because of the weather. The usual Italian tourism influx is barely visible, with few Italians travelling in their holiday month this year.
With no visible marketing of the Western Cape by Wesgro since it took over Cape Town Routes Unlimited, questionable marketing by Cape Town Tourism of Cape Town, high airline ticket prices, and no end to the Eurozone crisis and the recession in the UK, the prospects for the tourism summer ahead look bleak. The tourism industry will be largely reliant on local tourists coming to Cape Town, yet there is little sign of domestic marketing by both Cape Town Tourism and Wesgro.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage