Despite one of the toughest economic and political years in history, the Cape Whale Coast is set for a bumper summer sea-son with thousands of tourists expected to descend on our towns in the next few weeks.

“We are expecting a good season with most accommodation establishments reporting a good number of reservations from 14 December onwards. The hospitality industry is used to the initial dip at the start of December and takes this op-portunity to prepare for the spike in activity that follows,” says Tourism Manager Frieda Lloyd. “This year the public holiday on Monday 17 December is also encouraging people to take a long weekend and we expect an influx.”

According to her many foreign tourists visited our towns over the last few weeks, with especially Germans tourists, topping the list.
“With more direct flights between Europe and Cape Town we have seen an increase in the number of Europeans coming to the Western Cape. These visitors are adventurous and eager to travel off the beaten track. It is encouraging to note that many arrivals at Cape Town International Airport head to Hermanus before exploring the rest of the Western Cape. We are fortunate that this year was one of the best ever whale seasons and that it ended very late this year. There are actually still a few whales along our coast,” says Frieda.
She says however, that it is mainly local visitors that will be filling our beaches during December and early January.

“What is interesting is that holidaymakers in Hermanus are once again staying for longer periods. With the petrol price decreasing it is encouragement enough to take a well-
deserved break after a tough year. It certainly helps that there are new tourism products on offer and more experiences to be enjoyed. There is a noticeable interest in nature with the demand for hiking routes being high on the list of enquiries at the tourism offices. The events calendar for this year is jampacked and sure to meet the tastes of everyone.”

Frieda says visitors are drawn to places that offer them interesting and exciting things to do and see. “With our wine routes, nature reserves, Blue Flag beaches and an almost endless number of adventure activities, visitors do not need to travel around anymore.”

According to Gansbaai Tourism Manager Glenda Kitley, some accommodation establishments, especially guesthouses and B&Bs are reporting a slight drop in bookings. Self-catering units, however, are almost fully booked and the three caravan parks are full, from 15 December.

“Looking at the numbers, we are expecting a good season. The duration of stays this year varies with some establishments reporting more bookings for shorter periods of time.

“It seems that the average length holidaymakers will stay this season is at least one week. South African visitors booked mainly into self-catering establishments, while international tourists have opted for guesthouses,” says Glenda.

According to her, most bookings were done earlier this year instead of visitors waiting until the last minute to do their booking as in previous years.

Glenda says bookings for events and activities are brisk. “The Danger Point Half Marathon that will take place on 29 De-cember has already received several entries.”

Hangklip/Kleinmond Tourism Officer, Anecia Abrahams, says most accommodation bookings this year are either for the week over Christmas, or the week over New Year – rather than the usual enquiries stretching over both big holidays for the usual period of about 10 days.

“Accommodation establishments reported that bookings are good, with a few openings here and there. With the public holidays falling on weekdays, a good and long peak season can be expected.

“The annual Christmas Market in Kleinmond, as well as the Disakloof Gift Market in Betty’s Bay promise to be well worth a visit. The Hot Summer of Touch Rugby tournament will again take place on Kleinmond Main beach on 18 December and Onrus beach on 20 December. Many other smaller events are taking place over the entire Hangklip-Kleinmond area, with Pringle Bay offering various live music events,” says Anecia.

“Traditional visitor statistics over the Christmas holidays are no different
to previous years, with the majority
of visitors being locals. Restaurants
and retailers are making sure that back-up generators and alternative power supplies are in place to get them through the load-shedding periods.”

With most businesses reporting heavy financial losses for the year to date due to the unrest and fewer visitors than in pre-vious years, many business owners are banking on a bumper season. Some business owners said that the losses incurred during the year has led to a situation where a this season will be make or break for them.

The increase in trade will be used to restore cashflow and cover expenses, but for most businesses any prospect of growth or profit has been put on the back burner.

Dean Meijer of Chas Everitt Whale Coast, says the real estate sector is bracing itself for a tough season.

“Sellers are still expecting the same prices as they have for the last five years, while buyers are set on paying less for prop-erty due to both the national economic climate as well as the social problems we face.

“We are seeing a widening gap between what sellers are expecting
and what buyers are prepared to pay. It is for this reason that we are expecting a slowdown in sales this
year.

“But we must remember that the Whale Coast, despite its challenges, still offers the best quality of lifestyle anywhere in the country. Apart from the natural beauty and the relaxed atmosphere, Hermanus offers everything that one can expect from a city. This includes schools, hospitals and a wide array of businesses,” he says.

Jana Smith of Harcourts Hermanus says they are positive about the season. “Potential buyers still see Hermanus and the rest of the Overstrand as a good investment, especially in a buyers’ market like we are experiencing at the moment.”

This year the discharging of any fireworks, Chinese lanterns and flares are again prohibited in all areas. There will be no specially demarcated areas where fireworks may be discharged.

Due to the high fire risk and implementation of water restrictions the stakes for allowing fireworks are simply too high. The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) also asks people not to use sky lanterns as they float out to sea and are often reported as emergency flares which in turn cause them hours of fruitless searching.

Frieda concludes by saying this year there is an added emphasis on safety and security. “Our unspoiled beaches are a ma-jor attraction for visitors and we caution sun seekers to swim within demarcated areas. Lifeguards are already on duty at the official swimming beaches.

“We are preparing material to ensure that visitors are assisted appropriately should emergencies occur. With so much hap-pening this festive season we look forward to welcoming those who have chosen to holiday in our beautiful region.”

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