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Cape water crisis: Tourism could be picking up

Sep 13 2018 18:16
Carin Smith

Perceptions created by the water crisis had an impact on tourism, but there are signs of recovery, says Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro. 

Wesgro is the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape. 

Harris was participating in a panel on resilient tourism in times of crisis. The discussion formed part of the Africa Travel Summit hosted by Airbnb at the Guga S’thebe culture centre in Langa, Cape Town this week.

In Harris's view, there is a lot of internal resilience in Africa and among its people.

"If we are looking for hope, then we should assure ourselves that we in Africa have great resilience. We can then communicate that to the rest of the world," he said.

Cape Town during the drought was a prime example, Harris said. 

According to Harris, the Cape's water crisis forced all role players to work together to send out the right message.

He said the Day Zero message was designed to strike fear into consumers so that they would cut down their water usage - but the external impact for the city was also significant, particularly on the important sectors of tourism and agriculture. 

Therefore it was also important to signal that the city was still "open for business".

'Open for business'

"We led a campaign to inform Capetonians that international travellers are responsible for only 1% of the water usage in the city and that we certainly could remain open for tourism business," said Harris.

"We believe we have learnt a lot from the water crisis, which will make our tourism industry even more resilient. Many households in Cape Town are continuing with their changed ways of water usage. This process of change was also led in a real way by our tourism industry," said Harris.

"I think it will position the Cape as a forward-looking tourism destination. I also think that, as Cape Town comes out of the drought, we have learnt how to position ourselves. We are building an incredible long-term resilience by diversifying our water sources."

Harris said important relationships were forged during the water crisis. That has led to a joint campaign to signal to the rest of the country and the world that Cape Town was still a viable destination.

"This would not have happened if we did not learn to work together during the water crisis. Now different stakeholders trust each other after having come through the crisis," said Harris.

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tim harris  |  cape town  |  travel and leisure  |  tourism
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