Due to the significant knock that the Western Cape hospitality industry experienced as a result of the coverage that ‘Day Zero’ gained globally, with some reporting more than 20% decrease in arrivals to their establishments, the destination now desperately needs to market its comeback as a water wise and sustainable tourist destination.
This is according to Rishabh Thapar, Associate Director at HVS Africa, who says that the local tourism industry suffered a severe blow in terms of declining occupancy and visitation, and that if marketed correctly as a sustainable destination along with the numerous other tourism accolades that stand to its name, the industry can once again get back on track for the unprecedented tourist arrivals that the city deserves.
Thapar says that although ‘Day Zero’ has been pushed out to 2020 (or potentially ‘never’) in light of the city’s commendable efforts in changing their lifestyle and focusing on water conservation in all aspects of their day to day living, the effort needs to be continued. “It was heartening to see industries, buildings, farmers, hoteliers, each and every citizen coming together for a common cause and making an effort to reduce water consumption. Just to give some perspective, Cape Town has reduced its daily consumption levels to as low as 500-550 million litres per day – a reduction of over 50% from the 1.2 billion litres per day mark recorded just three years ago.”
Thapar goes on to say that the hotel and tourism industry has been at the forefront of a lot of these water saving initiatives. “While most of the consumption in the city is residential, hotels seemed to be the ones that took the limelight on water consumption. The hotel industry reacted by closing swimming pools, installing boreholes, fitting taps with aerators, using sea water for air-conditioning, and removing bath plugs, to name a few.
“The industry took to educating its guests on the benefits of conserving water, and in some cases, rewarded guests for reducing their water consumption. There was very little to zero negative commentary from visiting guests and hotels were still able to create memorable moments despite the negative global publicity Cape Town was recieveing.,” says Thapar.
Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris, applauds the city’s efforts saying that Cape Town and the Western Cape have set a new global standard for responsible water consumption. “In the last three years, the city’s consumption was reduced by nearly 60%. No other major city has been able to achieve so much, in such little time. When this is coupled with the alternative water sources coming online, as well as the very significant rains experienced this winter, it is clear that we are in a much stronger, more resilient position today.
Harris add that the work shouldn’t stop now and that the tourism industry needs to continue to build resilience. “It will make us stronger now and in the future. We will do everything possible to get the message out to the world that Cape Town is open for business, and that our world-class experiences are here waiting for visitors.”
The efforts of the city, together with some blessed rainfall, the dam levels feeding Cape Town are back up to almost 51.7% (as of 12 July 2018), with healthy rainfall predicted throughout the rest of the winter months. “While Capetonians are cautiously optimistic, the frightening experience over the last year has left citizens environmentally conscious, water wise and fully equipped to handle the new lifestyle changes,” explains Thapar.
“I feel Cape Town can not only claim its fame for being resilient against the drought and becoming a water wise city, but it’s citizens and visitors can now be ambassadors of sustainable tourism when they travel internationally. Cape Town is one amongst a host of cities around the world that faces water issues and because we have learnt our lesson earlier than others, can now be used as a global benchmark to others.
“These routines now need to be further adopted by all businesses and industries in the region should we want to ensure a drought-free future. We look forward to welcoming the water wise global travellers to the wonders of Cape Town and the Western Cape,” concludes Thapar.