Camps Bay, Cape Town. Picture: ISTOCK
Camps Bay, Cape Town. Picture: ISTOCK

The drought in the Western Cape is unlikely to put a damper on Cape Town’s tourism sector in the festive season, professional services firm Grant Thornton says.

The province is in the grip of its worst drought in decades and there are fears taps could run dry by the middle of 2018.

Some believe the water crisis will worsen over the summer holidays as usage could spike when tourists descend on Cape Town during the festive season.

However, the water crisis is not at the point yet to warrant foreign visitors changing their travel plans, says Martin Jansen van Vuuren, the director of tourism, hospitality and leisure at Grant Thornton.

"For most foreign tourists, visiting SA is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and they would have planned and paid for the trip well in advance. They may thus not be in a position to change their plans.

"Even if they could change their plans, I believe that there is generally an awareness among tourists about any resource scarcity which may exist in the regions they visit, and this does not act as a deterrent to travel," said Jansen van Vuuren.

Tourism is vital for the Western Cape economy, contributing roughly 10% to GDP.

Business tourism over the summer was also unlikely to be affected by the drought, said Jansen van Vuuren,

"The majority of business tourists stay for one to two days, and spend their time in hospitality establishments where many steps have been taken to reduce water wastage.

"Business tourists tend to stop travelling during the school holiday periods when the holiday tourists arrive. Conferences are often organised months in advance and these are not likely to change on short notice."

Cape Town hosted about 1.5-million foreign tourists a year, he said. About 10% of these — around 150,000 — visited the city in December.

"For a city with a population of around 4-million, a 4% increase due to foreign tourists is not ... a significant increase."

Foreign tourists stayed for between five and 14 days, and arrivals were not only concentrated around Christmas and New Year but were reasonably spaced over the entire month.

Domestic tourism had buoyed the sector over the past few years and there was a greater number of local visitors to the Western Cape over the festive season.

"During December ... [about] 250,000 domestic tourists travel to Cape Town, but our data shows that around 290,000 Capetonians leave the city – often to go elsewhere in the Western Cape.

"This means that the impact of domestic tourists on the city is not as big as we may believe."

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