While the cool spring weather persists in the Overberg, our towns are readying themselves for a busy summer season, starting on 4 December when the school year officially ends.

“With the school holidays two weeks longer than last year, we are expecting a busier season this year, with occupancy levels at accommodation establishments in the order of 80% at the moment,” says Whale Coast Tourism Manager, Frieda Lloyd.

“In addition to the normal influx of South African visitors, the international arrivals forecast for the period October to December shows a 7.8% increase in bookings for the Overstrand. The increase in the Brazilian market is the most promising with an increase of 37.1%, with the United Kingdom second at 22%, then Germany at 6% and the Netherlands at 0.4%. 

“Tourism offices and visitor information centres are also reporting an increase in walk-ins for the second consecutive month in over a year. In addition, the Whale Crier reports that he has most interaction with tourists from India, China, The Netherlands, France and Germany,” says Lloyd.

The recent announcement by UNESCO that the Overstrand has been designated the first African Creative City of Gastronomy will also add to the list of activities that make the Overstrand an attractive option for tourists. According to a study conducted by Wesgro in partnership with Explore Sideways, it was found that food and wine bookings in the Western Cape are up by 60% from last year. The Cape Winelands was recently named by the publication Lonely Planet as a Best Value Holiday Destination for 2020.

“With Hermanus being the fourth most sought-after wine region in South Africa and 63% of tourists giving wine and food tourism as a primary focus during their visit, it is important to note that the average spend per visit of gastro-tourists has increased to R60 000 in 2018, compared to between R40 000 and R50 000 in 2017 and R40 000 in 2016. This shows the importance of wine and food tourism and its economic benefits to the Overstrand,” says Lloyd.

Although the tourism industry in the Overstrand is still healthy, recently released tourism figures from StatsSA show a drop of 2% in overseas tourist arrivals from January to August this year. This is a further fall from the 1.3% drop between January and August 2018. 

In August 2019, the breakdown of international tourists to South Africa was as follows: Europe: 118 657 (55.7%); North America: 39 448 (18.5%); Asia: 26 265 (12.3%); Australasia: 11 368 (5.3%); Central and South America: 9 806 (4.6%); and the Middle East: 7 530 (3.5%).

Tough times for tourism

Director of the Tourism Specialist Unit at professional services firm BDO, Christelle Grohmann, says the tourism industry is in for some tough times ahead.

According to Grohmann, the figures show that the biggest drop in visitor numbers relates to traditional markets such as Germany (-7,8%); France (-8,7%) and Australia. This is despite the fact that global tourism is showing a growth spurt.

Some African markets are also in decline: Nigeria by as much as -16%, and African air arrivals are down by 2.3%. “These are the higher-spending African tourists and an incredibly important market for South Africa,” says Grohmann.

Only visitors from Italy, the US and India increased to SA in this last quarter. Italy showed a spike of 12.1% in the market (from 12 060 tourists in August 2018 to 13 517 tourists in August 2019). 

Experts say tourists in search of the African climate and bang for their buck are now predominantly choosing to travel to Kenya and Egypt instead. These countries are seen as safer destinations and easily accessible to Europeans by air. With the rise of ‘flight shame’ a long-haul destination like SA is becoming less and less favourable for those focused on minimising travel with high carbon emissions.

Lloyd says these figures show that destination marketing with an emphasis on activities like food, wine and outdoor activities such as mountain biking is becoming more important than ever. “The Overstrand has the advantage that apart from our world-famous sharks, whales and penguins, we have a host of activities that other national and international destinations are not able to match.”

She says the implementation of fast fibre internet connections will help boost Hermanus’s tourism. “The majority of tourists already do their bookings via the internet and they expect the destinations they visit to have fast and reliable connection. Fibre will also allow local businesses to further extend their online presence and that will assist in drawing more visitors to town.”

“In addition, we hope that the waiver signed last week by Home Affairs Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, which allows foreign children to enter the country without carrying additional supporting documents such as birth certificates and consent letters, will add the boost to international travel we so desperately need,” Lloyd says.

South African children are still required to provide supporting documents, in line with the requirements of the Children’s Act. The same applies to unaccompanied foreign children.

Grohmann says that one of the most pointed statements at the recent 2019 African Tourism Leadership Forum was that we can no longer expect the private sector to entrepreneur itself out of poor policy decisions. “The country as a whole – every citizen – needs to embrace tourism and make foreign visitors feel welcome. While the visa improvements will certainly help tourists to get into the country, it won’t help them make the decision to come to the country.” Every government decision, every act of xenophobia impacts the tourism and hospitality industry. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa set the SONA 2019 goal of achieving 21 million tourists by 2030. This is double the number of tourists we had at the beginning of the year and equates to a 6% compound growth. This latest decline in figures highlights the fact that SA is far from on-board in achieving this.

Local wines shine in 2020 Platter’s Guide

The Platter’s by Diners Club South African Wine Guide 2020 was launched at Cape Town’s Table Bay Hotel on Friday evening. The following Overberg wines were named Wines of the Year, which means that these wines were the highest scoring 5-star wines in their category:

Pinot Noir: Storm Ignis 2017
Chardonnay: Restless River Ava Marie 2017
Sauvignon Blanc: Trizanne Sondagskloof Blanc Fumé 2018

Overberg 5-star wines that scored 95 points and higher:

Pinot Noir: Storm Ignis 2018, Storm Ignis 2017, Crystallum Mabalel 2018
Syrah: Gabriëlskloof Syrah on Shale 2017
Chardonnay: Hamilton Russell 2018, Oak Valley Groenlandberg 2018, Restless River Ava Marie 2017
Chenin Blanc: Alheit Magnetic North 2018, Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2018, Gabriëlskloof Elodie 2018
Sauvignon Blanc: Trizanne Signature Sondagskloof Blanc Fumé 2018

Since its inception in 1980, Platter’s has offered information on most of the wineries and individual wines produced in South Africa, as well as useful information for learning about wine and travelling in the winelands. This makes it a book that appeals to wine experts as much as anyone wanting to uncover more about our country’s great wines, wine cellars and regions. In the 2020 edition, a total of 125 wines and one brandy achieved the coveted 5-star (95+ point) rating.

Jean-Pierre Rossouw, publisher of Platter’s by Diners Club, says: “Our warm congratulations to all! These represent the pinnacle of South Africa’s wines, as all were highly rated in the initial sighted review and then went into a second round of tasting where they were assessed against their peers. Since this second round was conducted blind (without sight of the label), the stringency of this model means that our 5-star wines truly proved themselves as being best-of-best.”

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