Recession or no recession, in many ways, tourism remains the primary fuel that powers the economy of Cape Town and the Western Cape. As one of the world’s most desirable and sought after destinations, Cape Town continues to attract a flood of visitors every year, regardless of the economic situation around the world.
The fact is that people have an inbuilt desire to explore their world and they will always find a way of doing so – even on a budget. In fact, one could argue that the financial crisis could be something of a blessing in disguise for Cape Town, and South Africa as a whole, since this country remains one of the most cost effective destinations for international visitors. This means it will remain high on the list of viable destinations for travel hungry individuals who, despite having to tighten their belts, are still determined to visit far off and untouched places.
That said, it is certainly not an option for Cape Town to rest on its enviable tourism laurels. With the 2010 FIFA World Cup coming up, all eyes are on South Africa, and, if estimates prove correct and 7 out of 8 visitors to the country visit Cape Town during or after the tournament, the time is right to capitalise on our city’s desirability and break out of the lingering seasonal destination perception that still limits Cape Town from realising its full tourism potential.
Much as New York has become known as the city that never sleeps, a key area of future growth for the Cape Town tourism industry is undoubtedly the city’s ability to become known as a year-round tourism destination. And despite the perceived winter weather predicament, it is my opinion that achieving 24/7/365 attractiveness is not that difficult to do for a city like Cape Town. It is, however, going to require a concerted, and coordinated effort.
And the Cape Town International Convention Centre is committed to positioning itself at the very centre of this target. I say that because I have seen the immense potential that exists for first time visitors to events, exhibitions and conferences to return to the city as repeat visitors. In fact, this commitment is evidenced in CTICC’s revised vision, which is to become one of the world’s most sought after long-haul conference destinations. This vision is based on the understanding that the key to successful round-the-clock tourism lies in attracting people to the city, even during traditionally slow tourism periods, and then offering them the kind of experience that brings them back, again and again, and effectively turns them into Cape Town tourism advocates.
To achieve this, it may be necessary for all stakeholders to avoid compartmentalising or separating business and leisure tourism. We all need to realise that tourists are tourists, regardless of why they are in the country. And if the CTICC can attract these tourists to our city in their business capacity, and the city’s legendary natural beauty and hospitality can keep on attracting them back, in no time at all, Cape Town will have shaken off its seasonal reputation and tourism will truly become the economic powerhouse it can be.
Rashid Toefy is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), the leading convention centre in Africa. He has worked extensively in the travel and tourism industry, both in South Africa and abroad. He spent three years based in Amsterdam, developing business and marketing strategies for travel companies and tourism businesses in over 30 countries, working extensively in Central Europe and Latin America.