Cape Town – Holidaymakers in the Western Cape took a shorter break, spent less, and sought value for money over the summer holidays, according to tourism experts.
However the summer period was, more or less, as busy as previous years nothwithstanding the recession, says Calvyn Gilfellan, CEO of Cape Town Routes Unlimited.
Along the Garden Route, consumer spending was initially a little quieter, probably owing to the water shortage in the region, Gilfellan says. Yet from just before Christmas to New Year, holidaymakers suddenly woke up and began to arrive.
In the Overberg and the Cape Town city centre, it was quieter than in the previous season, while in the Boland conditions were as in previous years. On the West Coast, however, where value for money is more discernible, and in the Karoo national parks, it was surprisingly brisker.
Belinda van Niekerk, managing executive for finance and corporate affairs at Cape Town Tourism, says five-star accommodation in the city struggled because holidaymakers – including foreigners – increasingly focused on self-catering units.
Fortunately, supporters of the English cricket team gave the industry a welcome boost.
Up to December 28, hotel occupancies in the higher segments were 10% to 20% down on the previous year, but three-and four-star hotels did better, says Phillip Couvaras, chairperson of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa in the Western and Northern Cape.
A more positive sentiment is gradually taking hold in the hospitality industry in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup tournament. Many businesses are already seeing better-than-average bookings for the next few months.
Shaun Mason, manager of City Sightseeing Cape Town, says that before the recession Cape Town was largely a festive-season destination for Gauteng residents, but this year many decided to stay home. Even visitors to the Table Mountain cableway were mostly locals.
But he points out that foreign visitors traditionally descend on the mother city only from mid-January onwards.