Durban eyes tourist beach bonanza from Cape's drought fallout

23 December 2017 - 00:00 By SUTHENTIRA GOVENDER

As South Africans flock to the coast, Cape Town's water crisis may be Durban's gain.
The city has predicted that the water shortage in the Western Cape will result in more domestic tourists choosing Durban over the Mother City.
With an anticipated 95% to 100% hotel occupancy rate, the city has "supersized" its festive season plans to accommodate as many visitors as possible.
"Our tourism department is indicating that we're likely to have about 1.5million people over this festive period. If one considers the water crisis in Cape Town, the inland visitors will prefer to come to Durban," said Malcolm Canham, acting head of the festive season management committee.
But Cape Town officials don't necessarily agree.
"We have not had any reports of any serious impact on tourist numbers due to the drought crisis," said Richard Bosman, executive director for safety and security at the City of Cape Town.HUGE NUMBERS
The city is expecting about 25,0000 people to head to Cape Town's beaches on the "big days" of December 26 and New Year's Day.
Western Cape economic opportunities MEC Alan Winde said online airline bookings showed that tourism arrivals for December and January could be up 5% on the same period last year.
Similar figures are predicted for Durban, especially if the 20,0000 people who visited Durban's central beaches on December 16 are anything to go by. This figure is for the main Durban "golden mile" beachfront only, and excludes popular northern beaches like Umhlanga and Tongaat, and the Bluff and Umkomaas in the south of the metro."Between Christmas and New Year we are expecting huge numbers," said Canham. "If we're talking the eThekwini stretch between Umkomaas on the South Coast up to Tongaat on the North Coast, we're expecting about a million people to visit our beaches."
He said the city was ready for these big days. Law enforcement was in place, as were extra cleaning shifts, to ensure that everything ran smoothly. A park-and-ride system has been introduced to ensure that there is minimal traffic congestion.
"The idea is to keep people and petrol separate; we don't want too many vehicles to crowd the beachfront because we want people to walk freely," said Canham.
Bosman said Cape Town was ready too.
"We are as ready as we can be, along with all other role-players. We have a festive season plan which we activate annually and this has grown over the years.
"We have employed more lifeguards for our beaches. We have also developed our relationship with the National Sea Rescue Institute and provincial lifesaving clubs and improved communication channels," he said.
The Western Cape's tourism and investment arm, Wesgro, said it didn't expect the drought to affect visitor numbers - but that it was a factor that those visitors needed to consider.
CEO Tim Harris said: "Cape Town and the Western Cape now faces a 'new normal', and water scarcity is going to be a long-term problem."Tourism is essential to the Western Cape economy. According to our calculations, international tourists only add 1% to the Western Cape population of the summer peak season, but contributed over R38-billion to the Cape economy in 2016, supporting 319,227 jobs. Tourism is an important contributor to economic growth and job creation, at a time when the drought may hurt key sectors. Wesgro is saying to tourists: come to our beautiful province, but please save water."
Mandlakazi Skefile, CEO of Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism, said Port Elizabeth expected its beaches to be busy, but stats would only be available next month.
Most important, she said, was that safety measures had been beefed up.
"Our safety and security teams are on standby to deal with any emergencies. There will also be increased police visibility from [the police] and metro police to ensure that everyone is safe. There will be lifeguards on our beaches, and alcohol has been banned to ensure that people do not drink and swim, which has led to people drowning in the past," she said...

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