The New Year heralds the usual cascade of travel trade bookings hype and bluster; Sunshine Sunday or is Bumper Holiday Monday when the entire country rushes to the tills to buy their summer holiday.
To get to the bottom of whether it’s all hot air, or genuine bookings being made, I spoke with key Cape Town Tourism travel trade partners and airlines here in the UK.
2012 was an exceptional year in that the Olympic Games and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee gave enough reasons to stay in the UK. But what no one counted on was the weather (do we never learn?), and that the summer was officially one of the wettest ever!
There is therefore a pent-up demand to get away – recession or not, and leading tour operators who sell Cape Town and South Africa holidays, including single and multi-centre itineraries report much better than expected sales figures. The bigger tour operators report that the trend over the past three years is to book the holiday earlier and that can mean as soon as Christmas is out the way.
Unusually too, there is a greater number of online and broadcast advertising at present; airlines, tour operators and destinations slugging it out to win market share. Tour operators and airlines can make a direct link between when the advertising breaks and traffic and bookings on their website. One of the biggest outbound tour operator reports that cumulative Cape Town forward bookings are outperforming the rest of Africa! Another informs me that the year has started with Cape Town bookings up 118% on room nights and 87% on pax. Durban and Jo’burg are also doing brisk business, but the numbers are nowhere near Cape Town.
Whilst we can take nothing for granted, there is cautious optimism that we are over the worst, and that the industry has learnt to cope with awkward trading conditions and consumers reluctant to part with cash just for any old holiday. Cape Town Tourism has been conducting extensive destination training amongst the key outbound tour operators, ensuring they have the resources they need to promote and sell Cape Town, and this too will see benefits down the line.
The cherry on the cake however, is that the BBC is currently broadcasting a brilliant series on the wildlife and regions of Africa, from north to south, east to west. It has been very well received and viewing figures average 6.5 million per episode. Last week also saw the start of the Charley Boorman Adventure through South Africa, with good Cape Town coverage – supported by SAA. These can only generate enquiries and future bookings.
So, whilst not sure if it was the Sunshine Sunday or the Bumper Holiday Monday that did it, but here’s hoping it sets the trend for 2013.
Local attractions such as the V&A Waterfront and Table Mountain Cableway report a good season too. Further details and insights can be be read here:
Mary Tebje is the UK Rep for Cape Town Tourism