Please come back to Cape Town: new figures show how much the drought has impacted hotel occupancy

 ·20 Jun 2018

While Cape Town’s water woes have put the brakes on tourism to the Mother City, hoteliers are urging tourists to reconsider.

Tourism remains one of the life-bloods of the Western Cape economy, said Sharmila Ragunanan, group marketing manager Dream Hotels and Resorts, which owns 21 properties. “We recognise that travellers may be reticent to visit the Cape while we grapple with the drought, but would urge them to reconsider.

“Their visit contributes to the Cape’s economy and as tourism businesses, we have put in place measures that will help them be water-wise and environmentally conscious, without hindering their positive experience of the city and surrounds.”

Citing the STR South African Hotel Review, Dream Hotels and Resorts noted that Cape Town’s occupancy levels YTD have fallen from almost 76% to 67% with the average daily room rate reducing from R1,937 in 2017 to R1,918 in 2018.

In May, the picture remained bleak. Occupancy in Cape Town specifically was down 14.7%; the average daily room rate contracted by 4.2% and revenue was down by 18.3%, compared to May 2017.

“It’s important to note that, in addition to the drop in tourist numbers, inflation and the price of water have also increased considerably, so the loss in revenue is really hitting Cape Town hard,” said Ragunanan.

“We need to spread the word that the Cape is open for business, and that Day Zero has been pushed back, while not becoming complacent in our water-saving efforts.

“For our part, we’re going to stay right on track by informing travellers that water-wise systems are still in place, with limited impact to their comfort and experience of Cape Town as a world-class tourist destination,” she said.

According to Judy Lain, Wesgro chief marketing officer, the silver lining to the Cape clouds has been a change in relationship with water and how people are learning to respect it.

Wesgro is the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town. An informal survey by Wesgro among 18 hotels in Cape Town in March showed that they did between 10% and 15% worse in terms of bookings in January and February compared to the same period in 2017.

“These hotels also indicated that the situation for the upcoming period from April to September looks worse with bookings down a lot,” News24 reported.

Bloomberg, meanwhile, reported that Cape Town’s city council scrapped plans to hire a desalination barge to supplement the city’s water supply after good winter rains helped ease the worst drought on record.

South Africa’s second-biggest city will continue implementing other projects to ensure taps don’t run dry, including curtailing usage by reducing the water pressure and tapping underground aquifers, said Xanthea Limberg, the mayoral committee member for water and waste services.

“Although dam levels have improved, we need to be sure that we can safely navigate the summer of 2019 and this will only be possible once we know where we stand at the end of this winter rainfall season,” she said in an emailed response to questions.

The six main dams supplying Cape Town are at 39.1% of capacity, compared with 23% a year ago, the city said on its website on Tuesday. At this stage in 2014, the dams were more than 90% full.

While the authorities warned earlier this year that they may be forced to switch off the taps and residents would have to collect a daily ration from distribution points, that risk has abated.

The city has commissioned three temporary small-scale desalination plants, which are nearing completion, to augment the water supply and is weighing whether to build permanent desalination and recycling facilities that will have have much bigger output.

“Much experience has been gained over the past year through the development of the various projects,” Limberg said.

“Temporary desalination and re-use should not be pursued further as emergency solutions, as this is not affordable and rarely provides the promised volumes of water.

“For future resilience, permanent desalination and water re-use are recommended as alternative sources of water to add to ground and surface water supply sources.”

Read: Sewage and icebergs being considered for Cape Town water supply

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