“The tourist who moves about to see and hear and open himself to all the influences of the places which condense centuries of human greatness is only a man in search of excellence.”Max Lerner: American author and educator; 1902 – 1992
We have written recently about lies, damned lies and statistics, in terms of numbers relevant to the Covid-19 outbreak. Of course, the statistics we were referring to then were projected statistics: potential numbers of victims, infection and so on. These ranged wildly: anywhere from 1% to 60% of the population were potentially in line to contract the disease; deaths were predicted in the low thousands up to Holocaust levels. It was serious stuff – it is serious stuff – and we aren’t far enough down the line to know whether the optimistic or pessimistic predictions were correct. Certainly, at the moment, it appears as if we have held the spread down to manageable proportions, with most of South Africa complying with lockdown rules. Of course, there are those individuals – some in prominent positions who should know better – who flaunt the regulations. Others have no way of not transgressing: if you are living in conditions of poverty, in a 4m² shack in the midst of ten thousand other people in similar conditions, staying in lockdown is not a liveable option. Our fervent wishes go out to members of these communities, and we hope that government’s announced financial aid will encompass them specifically.
But back to statistics. When applied retrospectively (and accurately), statistics are vital to any industry. Planning ahead is made infinitely easier when numbers give you the trends and spend of the past; without these figures, predicting future developments becomes a thumb suck at best. This is especially true of the Tourism Industry worldwide. Waterfront Charters are proud longstanding members of this industry, and we are equally proud of the fact that we serve not only international guests, but South African visitors and Capetonians alike. Our range of boats attract locals from the private and corporate sphere; our private charters are known to be professional and inspiring. But lockdown has shut off the taps for us all; the flow of international guests has dried up and locals are equally restricted.
Turning to statistics, what does this actually mean for the tourism industry as a whole, and the knock-on effect to the South African economy? Let’s take a look at December 2019; a month obviously representative of the height of tourism being in the middle of summer, and indicative of the importance of the industry. Figures taken from Tourism SA statistical sheets are staggering:
• Income from accommodation: R 2 496 765 180
• Income from restaurant and bar sales: R 734 000 000
• Other income: R 1 533 300 000
This reflects a total income of R 4 764 100 000 for a 31 day period. Well over four and a half billion rand, in more prosaic terms, and this was substantially down on previous years due to the pending restrictions and nervousness of travellers. 2018 saw South Africa earn over 120 billion in tourism revenue, or 2.8% of its GDP. Once again, the lies and damned lies so beloved of Mark Twain potentially come into play. These figures are totalled from the numbers that have been reported; there are no doubt many amounts (for both legal and illegal reasons) that have not been reflected.
All the above is to point out that tourism is a vital component of the South African economy. More statistics to back up the above claim: over 770 000 people are employed by the tourism industry, or earn their income from tourism; there were 15 500 000 international visitors to the country in 2019, with an average of over 50% occupancy of available accommodation filled. This leaves room for much more, assuming airport capacities can cope, and that leads us to our main point: the tourism industry must, and will, recover from this enforced drought. Waterfront Charters can claim to know the industry exceptionally well. Having been involved at the V&A Waterfront since the early 1990’s, we have watched the burgeoning growth reflecting the national trends in tourist trade, and as Cape Town’s preeminent scheduled and chartered cruise company, we have been an integral part of that growth. Our input will be invaluable in terms of leading the industry to recovery; in the big national scheme of things we may be a small cog, but every part of the machine needs to be in perfect working order.
Tourism SA is working hard behind the scenes to make sure that tourism resumes safely and productively as soon as the current crisis is past. Whether it will be a phasing-in or an opening of the floodgates nobody can tell, but either way we need as a country to remain positive and whether you are in the tourism industry or not, continue to paint positive pictures of all the incredible attractions our country has to offer.
And Waterfront Charters will be there in full force: our range of unmatched cruises and delightful boats will once again be chiming out with the sounds of happy guests as we ply the ocean. We, too are working hard behind the scenes to make sure that when the happy day arrives, we will be ready to offer everyone a wonderful Cape Town Atlantic cruising adventure.
Looking forward to seeing all step over the gunwales soon!