Almost half a million passengers touched down at Cape Town International between December and February this year

Almost half a million passengers touched down at Cape Town International Airport in the three-month period from December to February, the Western Cape Government has confirmed.

The figure is likely to breach the 500 000 mark when March figures are added to the tally -- a remarkable turnaround for the Western Cape tourism sector which suffered huge job losses during the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s as if the sector wishes to make up for lost time, buoyed by renewed global appetite for international travel.

The impressive figures are all the more satisfying when you consider that every 100 international arrivals translate into about two jobs. This means the summer tourism influx supported around 9 300 jobs in the Western Cape alone.

Now just imagine how many more jobs could be created if sector growth wasn’t constrained by crime and visa processing delays.

It is not hyperbole to reiterate that the Western Cape, and Cape Town in particular, has the potential to sit atop the rankings of preferred international tourism destinations - our attractions are too numerous to list here. But we would naïve to rest on our laurels in the belief that fine wines, pretty beaches and a flat-topped mountain will guarantee future growth; in the same way that our precious minerals are only worth something if they reach their market, the potential jobs bonanza implicit in skyrocketing visitor numbers demands a proactive response, from both the public and private sector. 

Fortunately we’re already seeing huge investment in some quarters, with more in prospect. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront recently confirmed it is applying for development rights for a R20-billion expansion project which will no doubt attract even more visitors to this iconic location. Over the past few years the V&A has also invested heavily in their Cruise Terminal, and is now reaping the benefits after weathering the Covid storm. 

Any doubts over our tourism potential were surely dispelled by the sight two iconic cruise liners, the Queen Victoria and the Queen Mary 2, alongside in Cape Town Port earlier this month. 

At a time when other waterways are choked with warships, we should make the most of the tourism bonanza while the proverbial sun shines. 

John Lawson
CEO of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry