Cape Town – Tourism revenue in the province could have plunged by R1 billion according to a report commissioned to measure the impact of the water shortage and stringent visa regulations.

While the report by accounting firm Grant Thornton is underway the industry is set on mitigating the loss, rejuvenating itself and growing its share of the international and local travellers.

The Western Cape is optimistic about this festive season’s tourism numbers and is preparing for a bumper season. However, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry warns that load shedding could dampen hopes of turning tourism around after Eskom announced blackouts across the country.

The province’s tourism and trade promotion agency, Wesgro, has launched a number of initiatives to woo tourists back to the province.

The agency believes the easing of water restrictions on Saturday will send out the message that Cape Town is “open for business”.

UK travel advisories have updated Cape Town’s standing on the drought, but still warn travellers to note of the ongoing restrictions.

Wesgro’s chief marketing officer for tourism Judy Lain said there was a number of factors that influence travel, such as affordability and visa regulations.

“We cannot at this point predict what the figures are going to be. However, we are working on a comprehensive report on the impact of the drought on the tourism industry with Grant Thornton. Results will be shared in the first few months of next year,” she said.

“Through a perception study we conducted with the industry in June, it was estimated that the industry could suffer a R1bn loss due to decline in arrivals and spending.”

Lain said that although some areas in the Karoo continued to experience severe water shortages, travel trends still showed that traffic remained relatively constant as the area was en route to other destinations along the Garden Route, some of which had been protected from the harshest impact of the drought.

“Bookings are currently lower than usual; however, thanks to the good rains experienced during winter we hope to see the situation alleviate into the New Year,” she said.

“The agency, together with public and private sector partners, has been working to change the negative perceptions caused by the drought.”

Several campaigns have been launched to put Cape Town and the Western Cape back on travellers’ lists, and to build investor confidence in the region and country.

“At the beginning of September, the #ItsAllStillHere tourism campaign launched, consisting of three short, shareable videos – profiling the Cape’s top surfing talent, natural beauty and world-class surf conditions. The campaign acknowledges that although our region has suffered its worst drought in history, we’ve got through the crisis and our extraordinary destination is all still here.”

Economic Opportunities MEC Beverley Schäfer confirmed that the drought had had an impact on tourism which led to a decline in international arrivals in 2018 compared to 2017.

“Many international visitors tend to book their trips about a year in advance and so the drought messaging earlier this year did impact the bookings for the current peak season,” said Schäfer.

Tourism in the province employs more than 300 000 people and is regarded as a key economic contributor.

The tourism industry has launched a recovery plan – a collaborative effort by all levels of government, tourism industry and Airbnb, which saw the launch of a global campaign to turn the tide.

“The campaign’s message is that we are open for business,” said Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa Cape Town chairperson Jeff Rosenberg.

Weekend Argus