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Easter travel brings a mixed bag to Cape Town

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Easter is traditionally a busy time for Cape Town, especially in terms of domestic and local tourism.

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Easter is traditionally a busy time for Cape Town, especially in terms of domestic and local tourism. This year saw the largest number of entries in the history of the Two Oceans Marathon, with a record field of close to 23,000 runners participating. Many of the marathon runners extended their stay in Cape Town by a number of days, making full use of the unusual culmination of public holidays.

Cape Town’s tourism establishments and attractions have reported varying results for the Easter Weekend and subsequent public holiday bonanza.

“The Two Oceans Marathon did contribute to a significant influx of visitors to the Mother City over the Easter weekend, but judging from feedback from the industry, we have not experienced the expected boom in inbound or domestic tourism over the last ten days,” said Cape Town Tourism CEO, Mariette du Toit-Helmbold. She alluded to Cape Town’s relative distance from key domestic tourism markets like Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal, rising costs of living, and the slow economic recovery as contributing factors. “Competition is tough, and it’s important to view the 2011 Easter period in the context of a slow recovery in the first quarter of 2011. Rising input costs such as fuel, electricity, and toll-fees have contributed to a slow growth in domestic tourism.”

While attractions were positive about the number of visitors and trading over the Easter period, some accommodation establishments seemed disappointed by the lower than expected occupancy levels. “We expect that a large number of domestic visitors were staying with friends or relatives, or opted for self-catering,” said du Toit-Helmbold.

The results of the second Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) FNB Tourism Business Index showed that the level of tourism business activity in the country was significantly lower than expected in the first quarter of this year. “Essentially, the Tourism Index is telling us that challenging trading conditions in the tourism sector remain in place,” said TBCSA CEO, Mmatsatsi Marobe. “We expect conditions to remain tough for some time,” Marobe concluded.

Cape Town Tourism is hopeful that economic conditions will improve and will focus on highlighting Cape Town’s value offerings for domestic visitors as part of its Winter Campaign, as well as improving Cape Town’s reputation as a welcoming and value for money destination over the next few months.

“Cape Town Tourism’s strategy for the year ahead is to invest significantly in domestic tourism marketing and to position Cape Town as a unique, inspiring, and great value destination for local travelers all year-round, especially in off-peak periods, of which Easter traditionally marks the start. The Easter period is relatively untapped and offers great potential to market Cape Town to audiences closer to home,” said du Toit- Helmbold. “Over the same period, there are always plenty of Capetonians leaving the city for a break in other parts of the province and visa versa. Inter-provincial travel is very important as it strengthens the brands of cities and towns and does well for the economic development of the region as a whole.”

Deidre Hendriks, Communications Manager at the Airports Company of South Africa, Cape Town International Airport, said: “Leading up to the Easter weekend, and due to all of the added public holidays, the airport has been particularly busy over the past number of days. Air arrivals into the city peaked Thursday, April 21 and Good Friday when there were large numbers of passengers flying in with peak departure days being Sunday, May 1 and Monday, May 2 as visitors returned home. This time of year the increased passenger movement is largely on the domestic front.”

“The Table Mountain Cableway experienced a good April and Easter period resulting in an increase in overall visitor numbers,” remarked Sabine Lehmann, CEO of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. “This was influenced by the weather, which gave us favorable operating conditions. As always, the majority of visitors at this time of the year were South Africans making use of the school holidays in early April and the public holidays at the end of April,” Lehmann continued.

CEO of the Robben Island Museum, Sibongiseni Mkhize, commented: “Robben Island was a hive of activity during the last ten days. Due to an overwhelming demand management decided to do extra tours over the Easter Weekend. Even though the weather is beginning to get chilly, this has not discouraged tourists who still flock to the museum’s ticket sales in large numbers. We wish to express our appreciation for the support we receive from visitors, both local and international, as well as tour operators.”

Annemie Liebenberg, Tourism Communication and Customer Services Manager of the V&A Waterfront said: “We saw an increase in footfall over the Easter period at the V&A Waterfront. We believe the combination of beautiful weather and the variety of exciting activities on offer throughout the festive period contributed to Good Friday being the busiest day at the V&A in terms of visitors. We’ve also had very positive feedback from our restaurants on the uptake of their special dining offers and the ever so popular Wheel of Excellence saw over 200,000 rides since the beginning of the Easter weekend. The Two Oceans Aquarium also reported very good trading days on both Saturday (April 23) and during the public holiday on Wednesday the 27th.”

Theo Cromhout, Sales and Marketing Director of The Taj Cape Town, said: “It’s clear that economic recovery is going to be gradual and the hospitality sector is no exception. There’ll be no sudden turnaround, and we need to accept that. This is as true for Cape Town as it is anywhere else in the world.

Consequently, over Easter, which is traditionally not Cape Town’s peak tourist season, we didn’t expect huge out-of-town or overseas demand, but countered this by offering specials and promotions for Capetonians, such as our Easter lunch and chocolate tea.”

Iain Harris, Owner of Coffeebeans Routes said, “This Easter was very quiet to the tour operators and tour guides. Coming off a really busy January to March, it was a big come down. As soon as Easter ended, we started getting bookings again. We are only three years old now, so it’s also about how deeply, or not, we are in the traveling consciousness. But this April and Easter weekend specifically is down on last no doubt.”

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.