Western Cape tourism, finance and economic development MEC Alan Winde says he will sign an agreement with German national airline Lufthansa for it to fly directly between Munich and Cape Town.
“The contract would be for one tourist season and we would have to prove to them (Lufthansa) that the route is viable,” he said. Addressing the Cape Town Press Club on Tuesday, Mr Winde said the aim of the new direct flight would be to offset the loss of South African Airways (SAA) cancelling its direct route between London and Cape Town, which ended on August 15 after 20 years.
When announcing the cancellation of the route, SAA said it was unprofitable because of a drop in business travel caused by the global financial recession. Mr Winde said: “I am reluctant to criticise SAA on what was essentially a business decision. And it is about time they made business decisions. But it was a blow for Cape tourism and we have to find ways to offset that.”
He said the air route between Cape Town and Johannesburg was rated as one of the 10 busiest in the world during the tourist season. Another German airline, Condor, will start direct flights between Frankfurt and Cape Town from November 3 for the tourist season that ends in May.
Mr Winde said he would also explore the idea of a direct service between the Miami in the US and Cape Town. He said the Western Cape had to become far more competitive in its tourism offerings and the way it conducted its tourism business, as countries such as Greece wanted to use their tourism industries to get their economies back on track.
“Currently 10% of the Western Cape’s economy is tourism and I would like to see this increase to 15% over the medium term. However, a lot will depend on the Western Cape realising that tourism is a serious business,” he said.
Mr Winde said the provincial government was preparing legislation to have the economic development agency Wesgro merge with the province’s tourism body in order to streamline decision-making and marketing operations. “Tourism is part of the economy and it doesn’t make sense to separate it out from other business activities,” he said.
He lamented incidents of tourist offices and private-sector establishments being closed on public holidays and over long weekends when tourist activity was at its peak.
According to research conducted by his department, 41% of tourists travelling in the Western Cape are South Africans and of those about 37% are from the province itself, with only 8% from Gauteng.
Mr Winde said 60% of tourists to the Western Cape were from international destinations but that ideally the split should be closer to 50%, with the rest coming from South Africa and neighbouring countries in order to mitigate any international financial shock.