The revision of the amended South African visa regulations in October 2015 – which required visitors to apply for visas in person and children under 18 to produce unabridged birth certificates – has resulted in the tourism industry adopting a positive outlook for 2016.
This is according to Bruce Deneys, Director of Sales & Marketing at Pepperclub Hotel & Spa – a five star hotel based in Cape Town – who says that while Cape Town enjoyed a good festive season, the sector is hopeful that the revised regulations will aid in driving tourism numbers and revenues further over the next 12 months.
Reflecting on the 2015 / 2016 festive season, Deneys says: “Many hotels reported high occupancy levels over December and January, and knock-on effects were felt by other establishments operating in the industry, such as retailers and restaurants.”
He adds that popular tourism attractions, such as Table Mountains’ Aerial Cableway and the V&A Waterfront, reported a record season, with Robben Island experiencing a 43% increase in visitors during December 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. “The favourable exchange rate for many overseas travellers was definitely a pull factor and increased tourists’ spending power over the period.”
Deneys says that the Cape Town film industry experienced buoyant growth in 2015, which aided the tourism industry throughout the year. “We are seeing a definite increase in the number of production companies choosing Cape Town as a shooting location. Not only do they contribute to the tourism sector, but also towards revenue for the city and job creation.
In terms of the various markets visiting the hotel over festive season, Deneys says that they noticed a shift in visitors in comparison to previous years. “In the past we have predominately hosted the Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US) markets, but over the last few months we have noticed a decrease in the Chinese and Indian markets, and an increase in visitors from Europe and the UK. We also saw an increase in local travellers, which is a direct result of the current weak rand and limited spending power for South Africans traveling abroad. They are instead opting to travel locally.”
Looking ahead at 2016, Deneys says that the revised visa regulations will encourage markets who were previously impacted by the amendments to reconsider South Africa. Despite the favourable exchange rate for tourists in 2015, the challenges that accompanied obtaining a visa resulted in certain markets opting to visit alternative holiday destinations. Markets such as the UK and US – for example – place high importance on family travel, therefore with the revision to the visa requirements, we expect these markets to relook at the country in 2016.”
Apart from the film industry, Deneys expects the eventing industry to boost tourism further in 2016. “The number of events taking place locally – both business and leisure – are increasing, and is extremely positive for the sector. Not only will this generate extra revenue for tourism as delegates travel across borders to attend expos and conferences, but it will also have a knock-on effect for associated businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, as well as aid in further job creation.”
He concludes: “Based on the 2015 / 2016 festive season and continued favourable exchange rates for tourists, we expect the tourism industry to pick up again in 2016, and the increased demand for accommodation in the country to continue into the year.”