Tourist town revived

Visitors stroll past Mariners Wharf.
While it has been another challenging year for Hout Bay, 2018 is ending on a high as tourists are returning in large numbers to enjoy the village and its myriad attractions.
Despite regular violent clashes between police and protesters over housing and fishing concerns and a spike in taxi violence, the fine weather in the wake of the drought crisis has meant that visitors are returning in droves to Hout Bay and Llandudno.
According to Carly Stovell, spokesperson for the Bay Harbour Market, one of the bay’s most popular attractions, the centre has seen a 20% increase in visitor numbers compared to the same time last year.
“This trend has been constant since the second weekend of November. We have data regarding footfall for the past seven years of being open. For us personally, it’s a great indication tourists are back after the water shortages and Day Zero warnings and drastic fall last season,” Ms Stovell said.
“After a very difficult 2017 for many businesses and Hout Bay in particular, with riots and a long winter, we all welcome this positive start to what we hope will be a fruitful season for our Bay Harbour Market family.”
She said the market’s busiest weekends were normally Christmas and New Year running through to Easter “which is another big peak before numbers drop off for the end of season and our autumn and winter period”.
Shaun Bloch, of Mariner’s Wharf, concurred that visitor numbers were up.
“(However) spend per head is definitely down. For example, for many people it is hake instead of kingklip and mussels instead of oysters. (Mariner’s Wharf owner) Stanley Dorman returned from Europe recently and saw much the same trend,” he said.
Mr Bloch’s insights correlate with the results of Statistics South Africa’s recently-released Domestic Tourism Survey.
This found that while South Africans were undertaking more day trips (39.4 million in 2016 to 48 million in 2017), travellers were spending less money on accommodation, food, beverages, recreation, culture and shopping.
Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said despite a challenging 18 months, “with fires of nationally disastrous proportions, storms and protest action as well as drought”, Hout Bay had weathered these challenges and appeared to be bouncing back as one of the favourite locations to visit in Cape Town.
“Increased and improved services by the City such as visible traffic and other policing, additional cleansing and implementation of a grass and verge cutting, as well as park maintenance and repainting of road markings has enabled Hout Bay to recover significantly and becoming more appealing,” he said.
“The ongoing beach and dune regeneration project also shows the commitment to furthering Hout Bay as a world-class destination. A cleaner, safer and brighter Hout Bay attracts the type of visitors and business investment that creates jobs and improves the lives of our communities.”
Last week, Cape Town was voted as the greatest city in the world for the sixth consecutive year by readers if the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.
In a speech to the City council, Mayor Dan Plato said accolades such as these needed to translate into entrepreneurial and job opportunities for the unemployed.
“Councillor James Vos has a major task ahead of him and he is going to have to work closely with our tourism partners, and provincial counterpart, the Western Cape 
MEC of Economic Development and Tourism, Beverly Shaffer, to ensure that Cape Town remains the number one destination for tourists; and that our communities keep benefiting from job 
creation and skills development opportunities that this sector brings,” Mr Plato said.
“I want to urge the business sector to work closely with us here because, even though this metro has the lowest unemployment in the country, there are still more jobs to be created.”
An interesting development is that with Cape Town having seen off the worst of the drought, many tourists are opting to visit wine farms again. However, this has had a direct impact on township tours in Hout Bay.
“So far our numbers are down compared to last year,” said Kenny Tokwe, of Imizamo Yethu African Hospitality, which offers township tours in the informal settlement.
“This time last year we
 were giving tours to 50 tourists a day, but now they’re preferring to go the Constantia wine route. Currently, we are receiving about 20 
tourists a day. A lot of them to ask us about the water situation, so it is still something they’re aware of,” he said.
Mr Tokwe was not panicking, however, as he expected more tourists would undertake township tours after Christmas and New Year.
Last month, the Western Cape government, 
City of Cape Town, SA Tourism, Cape Town Tourism and the South African Tourism Association launched the “Nowhere Does It Better” campaign, aimed at luring tourists back to Cape Town after the drought took a heavy toll on the industry.