With the holiday season fast approaching, and the dams levels in Cape Town slowly declining, the question on most locals’ minds is how the influx of holiday-makers is going to affect the water crisis?

Martin Jansen van Vuuren, Director of Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure at Grant Thornton, has acknowledged the severity of the water shortage, but believes that context is crucial.

He explained that while Cape Town received approximately 1.5 million foreign tourists per year. About 10% of these – around 150,000 – visit the city in December. For a city with a population of around four million, a 4% increase due to foreign tourists is not really a significant increase.

Foreign tourists stay anything between five and 14 days, and arrivals are not only concentrated around Christmas and New Year but also reasonably spaced over the entire month, according to their findings.

Analysing their data over the festive period, Grant Thornton concluded that in December approximately 250,000 domestic tourists travel to Cape Town, but their data showed that around 290,000 Capetonians leave the city – often to go elsewhere in the Western Cape, such as to the Garden Route or to the Overberg. This means that the impact of domestic tourists to the city is not as big as we may believe.

Those who live in the City of Cape Town may well believe differently, given additional traffic in the main tourism areas.

“We have to be reminded that December is also the time when locals – who may spend most of their time in the suburbs otherwise – descend on the tourism areas in greater numbers, either to show visiting friends and family around, or to enjoy the festive season attractions themselves. This leads to congestion in these areas and it also gives the impression that the city is busier than it may actually be.”

Jansen van Vuuren said that hospitality establishments have employed measures to contain the usage of resources.

“Even before the drought, many hotels and guest houses have taken steps to reduce water consumption as this leads to cost savings. These measures include low-flow shower heads and the implementation of prominent tourist awareness campaigns which encourage showers instead of baths.  Some establishments have utilised unused bottled water from guest’s rooms to water their gardens instead of it being wasted. Some bigger establishments have even replaced their swimming pool’s fresh water with seawater.”

He does not believe the crisis is at the point yet to warrant foreign visitors to change their travel plans and concluded that: “The key to managing the crucial tourism sector through this crisis is constant awareness and strict monitoring of wastage where it is in our control. The hospitality sector has done a lot in this regard and as long as we continue to use our resources wisely, Cape Town should continue to welcome and host tourists.”

* Grant Thornton is one of the world’s leading organisations of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms.


Article written by

Nidha Narrandes

Nidha Narrandes is a food-obsessed travel addict with 21 years of journalism experience. Her motto - Travel. Eat. Repeat. She is happiest on a road to nowhere without a plan. A masterchef at home, she can't do without chilli - because chilli makes the world a tastier place.