The expected decline in tourism is noticeable

Decline in SA tourism
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The decline in tourism at tourist hotspots is noticeable. This is not a surprise, we all expected this, and unfortunately, it seems like this is a trend that is set to continue for quite some time to come. In fact, it might be safe to say that if your company is operating in the tourism (or any hospitality) industry and you are unable to adjust and find the opportunities in the current environment your business may not survive.

According to early figures, the tourism industry has taken a significant blow, with tourist numbers at an all-time low.

Over the past few months, tourist attractions such as the Robben Island Museum and Table Mountain reported a substantial drop in visitors during the high season.

Although there was a rise in flights to the country after the borders were reopened, global travel restrictions and South Africa’s own lockdown regulations had a significant impact on tourism.

“There has been a steady month-on-month increase in flights since we reopened the country’s borders and opened travel, but it’s still down from 2019. The forecast for international arrivals is currently at down 80% year on year from December 2020 to November 2021,”

~Cape Town Tourism CEO, Enver Duminy

Compared to the same time in 2019 (Sep-Dec), the World Heritage Site, the Robben Island Museum, reported a 97 percent drop in visitor numbers.

A total of 184,532 individuals visited the island in 2019, where former President Nelson Mandela and other political activists were held during apartheid. However, in 2020, only 10,947 visitors were registered.

Robben Island Museum spokesperson Morongoa Ramaboa said projections for tourism were positive and optimistic until the impact of Covid-19.

“The effects of Covid-19 have been negative in most sectors, with tourism being one of the hardest hit sectors due to impact on gatherings and movement of both locals and foreigners. The economic impact negatively impacted the local consumer with discretionary spend being first items to be cut,”

~ Ramaboa.

Giselle Esau, the spokesperson for the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company, said there was a decrease in the number of tourists who used the cable car during December.

“The effects of the pandemic and the resultant closure of international borders along with other related regulations and restrictions is mainly the cause for this drop in numbers,”

~ Esau

“Anecdotal” reports showed that during the time, all visitor categories (international and domestic) fell.

“A lot of people decided not to travel to the seaside and coastal destinations over the festive season, and we saw this in our visitor numbers too. We are happy however to see that locals are still keen on visiting our African Wonder on the days that we were open,”


Industry players agreed that a change in approach and strategy was necessary due to the impact of Covid-19

“The domestic market and locals, including the SADEC regional markets have the benefit of being able to visit multiple times in a year.The lockdowns have also highlighted the need to develop appropriate off-site products that would allow visitors to have meaningful and enriching experiences,”

~ Ramaboa

Duminy said Cape Town would rely on domestic arrivals for the foreseeable future.

“We will need significantly more arrivals to keep the industry ticking over, so part of our plan is to position Cape Town as a favourable holiday destination for South Africans. Where we would usually put a lot of focus on our key international markets, we will place that focus on the domestic market and work with the industry to create enticing staycation packages throughout the year”

~ Duminy

However, with vaccinations being rolled out across the globe, Duminy said they were hopeful that international travelers would once again return in droves.

“Lockdown and Covid-19 has shown us that we need to be adaptable and we need to think on our feet. We continue to find that we need to adjust our plans and strategies as regulations change and travel restrictions either lift or are implemented in other parts of the world.

“We have seen that, even though so many things have changed, people still want to travel – and more and more want to do so in and around South Africa right now. We need to show South Africans that visiting Cape Town is safe and that we have something for everyone, but most importantly, it won’t cost an arm and a leg,”



Do not wait for things to change, no matter how close the change you are waiting for seems to be! Seek out the opportunities that are available now and target them.

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