Although the recent fires in Cape Town have caused access restrictions to some touristic areas, the temporary closure of certain attractions, and alterations to the Cape Town Cycle tour route; early indications are that it won’t have any major impact on tourism numbers.
The Impact on Tourism Businesses
Cape Town Tourism has received feedback from tour operators in the affected areas, including Chapman’s Peak, who have all indicated that they have not seen a spike in cancellations and have seen a slight or no decrease in new bookings received. They have also indicated that their customers have been very understanding about the alterations made to their tour itineraries.
Cape Town Tourism Marketing Executive, Velma Corcoran, has assured visitors that tourism business is as usual. “Although the landscape is scorched where the fire hit, there are still numerous beautiful sites to see in and around Cape Town and the tourism industry is ready as always to welcome visitors and make sure they experience an unforgettable time. A destination is not just about its sights but about its people and this week the people of Cape Town really showed why Cape Town is such a beautiful destination. ”
Some hotels and attractions closer to the fire have however been affected by the blaze, including Tintswalo Atlantic which burnt down and will only be opening again in December 2015. Other attractions that were affected include Groot Constantia and Cape Point, who had to close their gates for the day on Wednesday 4 March 2015. The City Sightseeing bus had to avoid the Constantia wine route on Wednesday.
“Groot Constantia was closed to the public on Wednesday while firefighters battled a blaze on the farm. As a precaution, Iziko museums took the decision to evacuate the Manor House of its historic content.Thankfully the farm was unharmed and business resumed as per normal the following day, although the Manor House will be closed until its contents have been returned,” said Grant Newton, Sales and Marketing Manager at Groot Constantia and Cape Town Tourism Board Member.
The shortened Cape Town Cycle Tour Route
The drastic shortening of the Cape Town Cycle Tour for 2015 because of the fires has caused some personal disappointment amongst visitors and residents, but most people are very understanding.
Tourism has always been a beneficiary of the annual cycle race due to the influx of visitors the internationally recognised race brings. Despite the last-minute announcement, it seems this year will be no different with approximately 35 000 participants confirmed this year – 17 200 of which come from outside the Western Cape, with 3 500 of those from the rest of African and abroad.
David Bellairs, a director of the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust, said: “We sincerely hope that competitors embrace the spirit and intention of this solidarity ride and continue to participate. Initial indications are that the majority of entrants will still be participating on Sunday.”
Says Corcoran; “Cape Town Tourism is on hand to assist any visitors who need to gain a better understanding of the altered route for this year’s Cape Town Cycle Tour. The silver lining of this shortened, less challenging route is that participants from outside of Cape Town will have more time to enjoy the city’s leisure offering.”
John van Rooyen, Operations Director of Tsogo Sun and Vice Chairperson of the Cape Town Tourism board said; “Tsogo Sun has not received any cancellations because of the changes to the route and the feedback that we are getting from our visitors speaks of sportsmanship and comradery in recognition of the extraordinary situation that Cape Town faces.”
Says Cllr Garreth Bloor, Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events and Economic Development; “The City of Cape Town cannot speculate on the financial impact at this stage as firefighters from the City and other agencies continue to monitor hotspots for flare-ups in the South Peninsula. Although the number of crews has been scaled down, costs will be incurred until all agencies are able to stand-down, only when the fires have been totally doused and there are no further threats of flare-ups.
As assessment of the impact on the tourism industry will be done in conjunction with our tourism partners. The City cannot speculate on the number of cancellations for the Cape Town Cycle Tour, the Cape Cycle Trust will be in a better position to advise.”