No aid, just innovate!

As the drought takes its toll, the industry is urged to get innovative.

THERE will be no financial aid from the Western Cape government for tourism businesses crippled by the current water crisis in the province, says Western Cape Economic Opportunities MEC, Alan Winde.

Addressing a Day Zero crisis meeting in Cape Town in February attended by 600 members of JAMMS (a strategic partnership between Cape Town Tourism, Fedhasa Cape, Saaci Western Cape and Satsa Western Cape), Winde said the province had only once subsidised agriculture in drought times. The tourism sector could not expect similar support, but instead should innovate and put contingency plans in place. He said the province had templates of business continuity plans available to help.

This comes as the drought is increasingly taking its toll, with forward bookings between April and September down 30%-50% at 18 top hotels in Cape Town and amongst top inbound tour operators servicing the market, according to a Wesgro survey. The same group of hotels and tour operators reported a 10%-15% loss of revenue year-on-year in January and February, equating to a loss of R90m (€6.1m), predominantly from South Africa, the UK, Germany and the US.

Bookings of tourist guides have also taken a serious downturn as tour operators are booking fewer tours, says Johan van Biljon, chairman of the Institute of Professional Tourist Guides SA.

Satsa CEO, David Frost, says the losses being recorded are definitely concerning, but not just drought related. “They are a combination of South Africa’s strong exchange rate and pricing on the back of strong demand that doesn’t necessarily make us the best value for money; concerns around water, listeriosis and land reform; plus the VAT increase – which no one has an issue with – but it does have implications for forward bookings. We’re turning into a destination that is becoming difficult to do business with and the danger is that our overseas suppliers will shift their focus somewhere else.”

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