The tourism industry is hard at work to ensure that Tourism Month, celebrated every year during September, lives up to its name.

According to Western Cape Premier, Alan Winde, tourism is a key job creation sector in the Western Cape, responsible for thousands of jobs, and the impact of the lockdown regulations on this sector and the people it employs, has been severe.

“To promote domestic tourism in the province, the Western Cape Government and Wesgro launched the ‘We are Open’ campaign. This campaign highlights the best that the Western Cape has to offer, and showcases how the province can easily match experiences on offer elsewhere in the world,” he said.

Frieda Lloyd, Whale Coast Tourism Manager, said the ‘We are Open’ campaigns for Gansbaai, Kleinmond and Stanford are underway, after the Hermanus campaign was launched some three weeks ago.

“Although we are seeing fewer tourists than shortly after the lockdown regulations were relaxed, we are still in a good position to offer tourists the best possible experience. We are aware that people are looking for places where social distancing is easy, while at the same time offering activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Of those the Whale Coast has an abundance, ranging from hiking to mountain biking, whale watching, and world-class restaurants and wineries.

“To assist in luring the local travel market to our shores, we have launched a ‘Discount for Locals’ campaign that makes family outings affordable for all,” said Lloyd.

Slightly further afield, Tuesday saw the reopening of the iconic Table Mountain Cableway and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Last week, a number of the museums affiliated to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport received the go ahead to re-open their doors, among them, the Caledon Museum, the Huguenot Memorial in Franschhoek, and the Shipwreck Museum in Bredasdorp.

“These are all signs that the Western Cape is open for local travel and we look forward to welcoming visitors from across South Africa to our province. Thousands of jobs have been lost in the tourism sector and your support can help to save jobs now. If you can afford to, we call on you to visit a local tourism attraction, book a tour to experience a neighbourhood you’ve never visited, or enjoy a weekend away in our province,” said Winde. “You can also help to promote a local business by taking a photo at your favourite attraction, restaurant, or tourism establishment and share it on social media with the hashtag #WeAreOpen.”

At the launch of the ‘We are Open’ campaign, Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier announced that the province was ready to open safely. “We are ready to start doing business again, and we are ready to start rebuilding our economy. The ‘We Are Open’ campaign builds on our efforts to support the tourism industry during the Covid-19 crisis, and importantly, is also one of the first of our immediate action steps towards economic recovery in the Western Cape.”

The ‘We Are Open’ campaign follows the ‘One Day’ campaign, a collaboration between Wesgro, the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town, which was launched during lockdown to support the tourism industry in the Western Cape and to also remind people that one day Cape Town and the Western Cape would again be open for them to explore and experience.

International tourism next on the cards

“For those living in South Africa, that day is now here, and our most beautiful regions in the Western Cape – the Cape West Coast, Cape Overberg, Cape Town, Cape Winelands, Garden Route, Klein Karoo and Cape Karoo – are open to explore safely,” said Maynier.

Maynier earlier said while the province was focused on the reopening of domestic travel, they would table a submission to national government concerning the opening of borders this week.

He said that the resumption of international travel was imperative to the province’s economy as a large proportion of tourists are foreigners. “International tourists typically stay longer and spend more. We are in the process of compiling a submission, after which we will engage with them to open borders to provide for international travel. We do not have any certainty about a proposed (opening) date at this stage, but will be engaging with national government on this issue.”

It has been widely speculated that South Africa will only reopen its borders in 2021.

Outlining the detailed campaign plan, Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris, said that “many people’s international holidays were cancelled due to the lockdown. But the Western Cape is full of experiences that match some of the world’s favourite destinations and we want to show people just how diverse and world-class it truly is. And so this digital campaign will highlight the world-class locations of Cape Town and the Western Cape where you will feel like you could be anywhere in the world.”

The campaign also includes a Kids Stay Free initiative to encourage families to take advantage of the offers for children to stay free at participating travel and accommodation partners across the Western Cape.

At a national level, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Monday said with the domestic tourism sector allowed to resume operations under South Africa’s Level 2, the government’s next step would be to work towards the reopening of international travel, reported businesstech.co.za.

“With the risk of the virus spread on a downward trend, we are hopeful that the opening of our borders will happen sooner than we are expecting,” Kubayi-Ngubane said in a media briefing. “Again, I need to emphasise that the level of risk, as assessed by the experts, will be the determinant of when this will happen.”

She added that the government remains focused on domestic tourism at present and that this will be the ‘first pillar’ upon which the country’s tourism recovery will be based. “We believe that domestic tourism, South Africans travelling and getting to know their own country, can drive market demand to unprecedented levels.

“During this Tourism Month, we will be driving our domestic tourism campaign, aimed at getting South Africans to travel and explore the splendour of their country responsibly, under the guidance of the health and safety protocols.”

Kubayi-Ngubane said research shows that South Africans have clear preferences when it comes to travelling during lockdown:

  • All travellers want attractions and tourism activities with strict adherence to the health and safety protocols;
  • They are yearning to travel to escape the lockdown and discover previously undiscovered local attractions with renewed appreciation of local culture, history and nature;
  • South Africans have been cooped up in their houses for too long and they are yearning for large open spaces and adventure;
  • Domestic travellers are also looking for affordable travel packages that will allow them and their families and friends to have memorable experiences.

It is expected that Maynier and other tourism officials will visit Hermanus on Heritage Day, celebrated on 24 September.

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