The latest tourism figures, released this week by provincial government, will be a big boost for the local economy, experts believe.
According to the latest statistics, in 2016, 1.5 million international tourists travelled to the province, a year-on-year increase of 18.5%.
Foreign tourist spend also grew by 21.6%, increasing to R18.1 billion; domestic tourist arrivals reached 2.1 million, up 16.9% year-on-year; while domestic tourists spent R2.5 billion, a 24.3% increase from the previous year.
Commenting on the stats, Economic Opportunities and Tourism MEC, Alan Winde, said: “2016 was a phenomenal year for Western Cape tourism, with substantial increases recorded across the board.
“This is a result of, among others, the decision we made to put tourism front and centre through our Project Khulisa growth strategy.
“When we put Project Khulisa together, we believed that tourism held huge potential to unlock accelerated growth and job creation in our province. We put dedicated teams, and a dedicated programme of action in place to realise this potential.”
The figures were from South African Tourism (SAT) and Judy Lain, the chief marketing officer for Wesgro, said the latest South African Tourism data underlined the strength of the tourism sector as an economic driver for the province.
“Looking forward, Wesgro will continue driving their leisure and convention bureau plans to keep the momentum going.
“Tourism can help create jobs during tough economic times, so we must all double-down on our efforts to grow these numbers even further.”
Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Cape Town was a very popular tourist destination.
“This week Cape Town was rated the eighth best city in the world. In addition the City has been very well promoted and Wesgro has done excellent work in this regard. They have secured additional direct flights to Cape Town from some of our best tourism markets.”
She said tourism also gave small local businesses a boost.
“It brings money and jobs to a wide variety of businesses from small B&Bs and restaurants to luxury hotels, shopping malls and tour operators.
“It brings new money into the country and a very wide range of people benefit.”
Ms Myburgh added that the number one goal should be to extend the tourism season and give Cape Town and the Western Cape year-round appeal.
“We already have some very successful ways of doing this, such as the international conference centre which not only operates 12 months of the year, but brings some of the most important people in industry, commerce, science and education to the city.
“Many of them return to holiday here with their families, and some will invest in the local economy. Staging great events like the Cape Argus Pick * Pay Cycle Tour, the Cape Epic and the Cape Town International Jazz Festival helps to extend the season. We need even more events.”
Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, said that the city had experienced the growth for a number of reasons. One of them is the international awards the city had received recently, among them being named “Best City in Africa and the Middle East” by Travel and Leisure.
Another reason, said Mr Duminy, was that tourism businesses locally were constantly evolving what they had on offer to add value for visitors.
“For Cape Town, tourism is an essential driver of our economy, one that leaves room for growth.
“The tourism sector should not be viewed in isolation, almost every other sector is impacted by tourism, including food production, agriculture, construction, education – all are influenced by the needs created by visitors and by international and domestic tourism.
“The growth we’ve experienced is promising, so we are cautiously optimistic that it will continue. This is further backed up by investor confidence in the city who have invested in large-scale developments such as new hotels, for example,” said Mr Duminy.
He added that partnerships and collaborations went a long way to making tourism beneficial for everyone.
“We must always be looking for ways to work together to extend our marketing messages. We’re already seeing that this kind of collaboration can have tangible benefits. Tourism isn’t limited to the big attractions, its effects can be seen in every neighbourhood, so our collaboration must reach across the whole city for the benefit of all.”
He said that some of the biggest attractions in the city included the Table Mountain Cableway, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, the V&A Waterfront, Robben Island Museum, the City Walk, Groot Constantia and Cape Point.