Tourism industry focuses on festive-season trade

A Cape Town tourism survey, to be released on Friday, indicates that hotels are reporting similar or slightly less trade than last year.

Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold says there has been a drop in bookings, but that five-star hotels are reporting a decrease of between 3% and 5% from 2009.

But this week the Times reported that Cape Town luxury hotels were experiencing a 10% to 20% decrease in occupancy rates, according to a lodging survey conducted by Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU)—reasons for which include competition with 12 new luxury hotels in the city.

“The hotel industry in Cape Town, especially five-star hotels, saw a remarkable increase in capacity over the last two years,” says Du Toit-Helmbold, “[but] there has been a significant surge in last-minute bookings during the last week.”

Nicki Linde, PR and marketing manager at the lavish Cape Grace, says there is always a lull in bookings in the first two weeks of December but that bookings pick up over Christmas and New Year. “We expect to be full, and in fact are full, over that period,” she said

But elsewhere on the South African coastline business is already booming.

‘Absolutely full’
Dianna Martin, CEO of Plettenberg Bay Tourism, said the town last year ran at over 100% occupancy, and “this coming period we are absolutely full”. Martin said there were only a few cancellations due to the heavy snow in Europe.

Asked why Plettenberg Bay is fuller than other destinations like Cape Town, Martin said: “We offer value for money. Not that we are cheaper or that we are more expensive,” but that Plett offers as good accommodation as any other place, including Cape Town, which, she says, “normally does” have a lower occupancy rate than other popular coastal holiday destinations.

Lihle Dlamini, PR and communications manager at KwaZulu-Natal Tourism, told the Mail & Guardian that reports received from the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa thus far only provided information for Durban and Umhlanga beachfront hotels, but reported stronger bookings than last year and that hotels are now almost at capacity.

Shaun van Eck, CEO of Knysna Tourism, says occupancy is “slightly up on last year” as it is now 95% full. “Only a few of the really upmarket establishments have availability and we struggle to place people,” he says. “Knysna has always run full over high season.”

Knysna, he says, runs, in terms of occupancy, on par or even higher than some other garden route destinations. The exception, he says, is Mossel Bay, which has a longer high season as it caters more to local markets with plenty of camping spots and caravan parks. Those budget holidays tend to last longer.

The Hotel Price Index (HPI), which released its latest survey in September, featured both Johannesburg and Cape Town in its findings. The HPI—a regular survey of hotel prices in major city destinations across the world—listed Johannesburg as the fifth most expensive city in the world for the second quarter of 2010, with an average price for a room per night at £138. And Cape Town hotel accommodation saw the average price per room increasing by 54% (year on year for the second quarter) to £127—which the report said is “a reflection of the demand for World Cup rooms that helped drive prices up”.

Du Toit-Helmbold says there are concerns that a below average summer season in Cape Town may be caused by international travellers having exhausted leave and disposable funds during the World Cup; other factors could be the strengthening of the rand and the ongoing recession.

“The snow and freezing temperatures in Europe and the United Kingdom have affected numerous holiday plans to Cape Town,” she says.

But some hotels are “more positive, expecting that regular, domestic mid-year travellers who postponed their holidays during the June/July period will visit Cape Town this summer”.

But attractions in Cape Town, such as Table Mountain and Robben Island, are reporting an increase in visitors.

“One of the most significant trends in tourism globally is the yearning for ‘barefoot or real authenticity’. People want to get off the bus, immerse themselves into the hearts and homes of local communities—understand and feel what it is like to walk the streets of the cities they visit.”

Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn is a business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She holds a master's degree in journalism and media studies from Wits University. Her areas of interest range from energy and mining to financial services and telecommunication. When she is not poring over annual reports, Lisa can usually be found pottering about the kitchen. Read more from Lisa Steyn

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