The drought crisis in Cape Town appears to have done little to dry up the flow of tourists flocking into the Mother City.
The iconic and majestic Belmont Mount Nelson Hotel, which takes up prime real estate at the foot of Table Mountain, said despite its heightened awareness campaign, its room occupancy rate was at the normal 90%.
Spokesperson Gaby Palmer said all guests were aware of the drought crisis before making their reservations and they were reminded again when arriving and throughout their stay with notices in their bedrooms and suites.
“A lot of them were already aware. They all know about it now,” she said. “People prior to booking are concerned that taps are going to be turned off altogether … In October/November it wasn’t an inevitable reality,” Palmer said, adding that the hotel had managed to lessen fears.
“They are very accepting … we had one attempt to cancel a booking due to the drought but in the end, they still came. We were running at 90% occupancy throughout our festive season.”
Some of the initiatives the hotel has put in place to lessen the burden on the highly overburdened water supply was to attach tags to bath plugs, reminding guests of the situation and encouraging them to shower instead of laze in a bath of bubbles. In addition, the steam room was only operational when specifically requested.
The hotel has been employing its own water-saving initiatives. These include aerating bathroom taps and showers; only washing linen every third day and using disposable towels. The spring which passes from Table Mountain down to the ocean also goes through the property and that water is used for filling up the swimming pools, watering gardens and to flush toilets.
On the other end of the spectrum, Hubbard Hospitality caters for less affluent tourists, with three facilities in the city for backpackers. Owner Dean Hubbard said accommodation was fully booked. In total, the three properties can sleep approximately 100 people. The pubs and restaurants at the venues also see foot traffic of about 150 people a day.
The Kimberley Backpackers hotel, which houses one of the oldest pubs in Cape Town, is one such drawcard for travellers and locals alike. Hubbard said 90% of all guests and visitors were aware of the crisis and wanted to know how they could make a difference during their stay. “There has been absolutely no resistance,” he said.
To curb water use, linen was not washed each day and brown or grey water was used to flush toilets. Fortunately, one backpackers venue has a borehole.
Hubbard wasn’t concerned about the proposed tax levy and how it would affect his bottom line. “Not as long as the resources are used for the right reasons,” he said.
Despite fears that the increase in tourists over the festive season would plummet the city into an even deeper crisis, advisory firm Grant Thornton has indicated it would have little impact.
Director of tourism, hospitality and leisure Martin Jansen van Vuuren had predicted last month the drought would not deter tourists. He said Cape Town received approximately 1.5 million foreign tourists per year.
About 10% of these visited the city in December. For a city with a population of around 4 million, a 4% increase due to foreign tourists was not really a significant increase.
Foreign tourists stay anything between five and 14 days and arrivals were reasonably spaced over the entire month. In terms of local tourists, approximately 250 000 descended on the Cape but this had to be put into context in light of data showing that around 290 000 Capetonians left the city.
The latest countdown until water runs dry and taps will be cut off indicated that on December 12, water usage was 628 million litres per week. The estimated day zero was May 18. However, only six days later this figure was readjusted to April 29 with usage recorded at 641 million litres. The target is 500 million litres.
Repeated attempts last week to get the latest figures on tourists in the city failed.