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Western Cape celebrates as foreign tourists return in numbers

PJ Powers performs at the Table Bay Hotel's 25th birthday party on May 30 2022.
PJ Powers performs at the Table Bay Hotel's 25th birthday party on May 30 2022.
Image: Esa Alexander

For the first time since Covid-19 wrecked tourism, one of SA’s flagship hotels is welcoming more foreign visitors than domestic guests.

Since March, almost 60% of clients at the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town have been foreign after it mainly hosted domestic guests in 2020/21, said Sun International Hospitality COO Graham Wood. Historically, the hotel’s clientele is 80% foreign.

The V&A Waterfront hotel’s experience is mirrored across the Western Cape, according to Easter tourism figures.

Economic opportunities MEC Mireille Wenger said the April tourism report from Wesgro, the provincial trade and tourism promotion agency, showed “significant recovery rates at key attractions”.

Passengers who used the international and domestic terminals at Cape Town International Airport reached 70% of pre-pandemic levels, and hotel occupancy grew from 38% in April 2021 to 52%.

Wesgro CEO Wrenelle Stander said 21 aviation routes had been restored “and we have also seen a significant interest in establishing routes between Cape Town and new markets such as the US and Belgium”.

Speaking at a function on Monday to mark the hotel’s 25th anniversary, Wood said the company expected to see tourism figures return to pre-Covid levels towards the end of next year.

“International arrivals into Cape Town are sitting at about 75% of pre-Covid levels,” Wood told TimesLIVE.

“I think this year we will go close to pre-Covid levels and it will be a catalyst for further rebound. I think we will start to see growth (beyond pre-Covid levels) at the back end of 2023.”

The group was also encouraged by the rapid recovery of conferencing, with Sun City predicted to beat its 2019 conference revenue this year.

However, the tourism sector needed government help to remove blockages such as onerous visa requirements which remain a deterrent for long-haul travellers, said Wood.

“The industry is quite frustrated with the lack of urgency, particularly when it comes to the visa regimen,” Wood said.

“We need to remove the barriers for people coming in.”

Visa-free status for some long-haul travellers, or visas-upon-arrival, were options to make SA more attractive, Wood said.

Removing blockages could see a massive growth in long-haul visitors, from the current 2.5-million mark to about 10-million, he said.

“It is all there for us because we are such a beautiful destination.”

Sun International Hospitality chief operating officer Graham Wood.
Sun International Hospitality chief operating officer Graham Wood.
Image: Esa Alexander

Monday’s anniversary event featured several celebrities, among them singer PJ Powers and former Springbok rugby captain Corne Krige. 

In a statement to mark the occasion, V&A Waterfront CEO David Green said: “It took vision and foresight of the founders to create the hotel in the first place and to develop it into one of the iconic hotels of Cape Town and SA, winning awards and hosting dignitaries and international superstar guests with excellence.”

Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for economic growth  James Vos congratulated the hotel.

“The hospitality industry has faced a great many challenges over the years, from the 2008 global financial crisis to the drought in the Mother City a few years ago and, of course Covid-19, but brands such as the Table Bay Hotel weather the storms through hard work and team spirit,” he said.

Notable guests since the hotel opened in 1997 include Michael Jackson, Michael Schumacher, Sir Tom Jones, Morgan Freeman, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert de Niro, Steve Tyler, Snoop Dog, Vanilla Ice and Robbie Williams.

Royal guests include Harold and Queen Sonja of Norway, Mohammed VI King of Morocco and Prince Albert of Monaco.



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