Perceptions of the water crisis in Cape Town resulted in a 67% drop in bookings for accommodation in the Mother City, a survey by the hospitality industry body Fedhasa shows.
The survey, among more than 100 Fedhasa members, also indicated that the industry is likely to still come under pressure as a result.
"It is very important that we send out the message as much as possible that Cape Town is open for business," Jeff Rosenberg, chair of Fedhasa Cape, said on Wednesday at the Tourism, Hotel Investment & Networking Conference (THINC) Africa 2018 in Cape Town. It is hosted by HVS, a global company providing services to the hospitality industry.
In his view, February and March - normally a good "booking window" for the industry - was when the drought was arguably at its worst. He predicts that the local hospitality industry will likely only recover from the impact of drought perceptions by December 2019.
The survey also indicated that in terms of the Cape, there was not only a decline in domestic visitor numbers, but also those from countries like the UK, Germany, the US, Australia, China and Brazil.
"We need to work very hard as an industry to ensure this can be turned around," said Rosenberg.
The survey also listed several other things that impacted negatively on the industry. These included the current economic conditions, crime and unrest in the country, the rand and visa requirements.
As for the outlook for the second half of 2018, the survey indicates that only about 10% expect the tourism situation to improve.
Keeping economy going
Wesgro CEO Tim Harris believes, however, that the tourism sector is what has kept the Cape's economy going during the drought.
Wesgro is the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape.
Wesgro wants to establish Cape Town as the business and leisure tourism hub of Africa.
"In Africa we have to make the right policy decisions for this to happen. It will only succeed if African countries become more open and connected with each other," he said.
During question time a delegate put it to Harris that the tourism industry in SA needed to deal with the issues of safety and security which often discourages international tourists.
To this Harris responded that the resources and models were available to address these challenges.
Outgoing Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, who was also present, said Cape Town wants to be a "business-friendly" city.
"It is not government's role to create jobs, but to create the conditions for the economy to grow and for the private sector to create jobs."