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Amazing Western Cape Tourism Statistics Shows Amazing Recovery 2019/20/21

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Amazing Western Cape Tourism Statistics Shows Amazing Recovery 2019/20/21

western cape tourism statistics 2019 2020 2021

Main Purpose of Visit Before Covid


Today you’ll read about Western Cape Tourism statistics showing the pre-Covid success during 2019, the devastation during 2020 and the potential re-bound for 2021.

Is this the sign we were desperately waiting for?

Key European tourist markets are expected to travel to South Africa in the coming months. Cape Town International Airport has shown a 21% passenger recovery rate for the first three weeks of August 2021, which is a significant increase from their previous year’s performance.

The city is back on the map with 37 ships expected to arrive at the cruise terminal during the upcoming cruise season.

The dreadful UK Red List was lifted for all people travelling between the UK and South Africa.

We have also seen it with our own short-term rental bookings in Cape Town; year-end is nearly fully booked with high demand for summer months.

It’s looking good.

Covid Impact On Western Cape Tourism

Covid-19, a pandemic that has been going around the world is taking a toll on tourism. In December 2020 there was data from the tourism industry that showed how badly it had been hit by Covid-19. Peak December visitors to the top Cape Town attractions have fallen by more than 60 per cent.

The UK had imposed restrictions on international travellers because of this pandemic’s continued spread throughout Europe and North America. Devastating!

Good News: SA off the UK’s Red List

South Africa is off the UK’s red list next week. And fully vaccinated travellers between the two countries are allowed to travel to the UK without an expensive quarantine.

South African government and scientists have been in consultation with their UK counterparts. Also, the Irish decision to allow fully vaccinated travellers from SA to not quarantine may also have played an important role in swaying opinion.

It’s still sad when this had to be said as we all knew it was an odd decision…

“The only conclusion left is that the UK government has an irrational fear of South Africa which is prejudicing decision-making”, David Frost, chief executive of Satsa. So true.

It’s interesting to note how people in the UK searched for Travel to South Africa over the last seven days.


Let’s move on to the Western Cape tourism statistics and future outlook dampened by the vaccination reluctance.

Vaccination is our best defence – Ramaphosa

“Vaccination is our best defence. If we can reach vaccination targets by the end of this year, we can avoid further restrictions and move our economic recovery into high gear,” he said.

Pro or Anti-vaccination is not the issue here. If you are in the tourism industry vaccination is the only way out of this mess. Will this be the solution?

Vaccination Certification Is The Only Way Out. Or Is It?

And he is correct in saying, “Streamlining and standardising proof of vaccination will also go a long way towards getting a number of international travel restrictions both from and into our country eased,” he said.

This implies vaccination certificates. These will be according to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and international best practices.

How will that impact tourism? The trends are towards certification before access. Even Airbnb turns the screws. Slowly but surely.

Western Cape Tourism Statistics & Trends

The good, and the bad and the recovery.

Western Cape Tourism Statistics For 2019

The Western Cape Tourism Statistics show that the top five international markets that conducted bookings at Cape Town during January- December 2019/20 were Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the United States and Brazil. Overseas visitors made up 93.6% of travellers to Cape Town peak season over Jan – Dec 2019, and domestic only 6.4% (looks odd but published by Wesgro).

Then Covid struck. It was doomsday.

Western Cape Tourism Statistics For 2020

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a complete collapse in global travel, at the time projected to decrease to 69.1% during 2020.

International visitors coming to Cape Town fell by 74% in the period from January to December 2020, contrasted with 2019.

Foreign tourist arrivals in 2020 reached 3.1 million when compared to the previous year. A decrease of 69.1%.

International arrivals through Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) decreased by 68.6% in 2020, reaching a total of 374 555 passengers compared to 1 194 042 over the same period in 2019.

In 2020, domestic arrivals plummeted by 62.4% from 2019. And reached 204 671 in December 2020, a 50% decline when compared to the same period in 2019.  But…

Local Travellers Saved The Day!

What was a lifesaver for the tourism accommodation sector, and specifically short term rentals, was local travel. People from Cape travelled locally. And stayed longer. This increased occupancy even though the daily rates were less.

And new trends emerged. Digital nomads; people staying on for long to work “from home” and be on holiday. And the best news…

The Work From Home Digital Nomads

A USA study, during mid-2020 shows, digital nomads grew by 50% from 2019. And we have experienced high demand in Cape Town. More and more people want to work from home and holiday.

Cape Town is one of the world cities for remote workers, with even higher scores than New York, Athens and Barcelona amongst a list of 75 cities.

All good news? Unfortunately, our national government limits the duration of the Remote Working Visa to 3 months. The local government has appealed to the powers to extend it. We’ll see.

Western Cape Tourism Statistics For 2021

Well. We are not yet done with 2021. But the trends are very positive.

With the UK red list causing havoc, Germany has remained an important international market for the Western Cape. According to Wesgro Germany made up 16.2% and the UK was at 11.7% of the tourist to the Western Cape during 2019. (There is a discrepancy as others quote the UK as our largest tourism market).

However, other European markets are still dormant. Tourists from African countries like Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Kenya and Ethiopia have recovered more steadily.

It is interesting to note that visitor arrivals from Ethiopia increased by 50% during Q1 2019 when compared to the first quarter of 2021. Russia and the Philippines are doing well during 2020/21. With the Philippines at 99% of the 2019 levels.

As you may have noticed; during the 2019 peak, only 6.4% were domestic travellers. Today it is flipped.

A Bumper Season For The Western Cape


The expectations are there for a better future. Even News24 lead with this headline, a month ago; Tourists are already pouring in and Western Cape hopes for bumper summer as Covid-19 cases ease.

This was before the lockdown was lifted to Level 1. And before talks that the UK Red List will be scrapped.

For example; Cape Town International Airport recorded a recovery rate of 49% for August of 2021 compared to the same period in 2019.

“While international airline capacity reached the 50% recovery mark for the first time since the resumption of international services in October 2020”, as shared by Western Cape MEC for Finance And Economic Opportunities David Maynier.

(Fedhasa), Jeremy Clayton said “Our members have reported a pick up in travellers from the US and this may account for some of the increase in airport traffic. It’s great to see international airlift into Cape Town opening up steadily.”

Airbnb Occupancy Increasing At Higher Rates

From years of experience, it’s obvious that travellers had enough. They are willing to pay good money to escape the last two years. Demand, for great Cape Town properties, are high for peak. But also for the summer months. And we had to increase rates as demand is high.

There are various examples I can share but to keep this short; Mbali is a luxury 3 bedroom on Constantia Nek, it’s unique and loved. Have a look at its calendar. During November it has dates available but until May 2021 it’s booked. This is not usual. It’s amazingly good news.

Covid or not; people love to stay in great Airbnb’s.

Flights To Cape Town

Cape Town International Airport is the best in Africa (Skytrax) prestigious award for the 6th consecutive year. In 2019 the Airport brought in R14 billion and supported 28 0000 jobs.

James Vos, a member of Cape Town’s Major Committee, is optimistic that more airlines will fly to Cape Town when he said,

“The future is bright, and I am looking forward to seeing the aviation industry of Cape Town fly higher than ever.”

Cape Town Airport is also adding international capacity. Lufthansa has increased the Frankfurt-Cape Town service to three flights a week from September 24, and Emirates will do a daily Dubai-Cape Town flight from October 13. Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines are also flying to Cape Town. And Etihad returns to Cape Town on 25 November 2021.

As we have seen above; Cape Town International Airport is recovering with domestic passenger numbers at 49% of 2019 levels (comparative levels from September 1-12 in 2019 and 202)1.

Wesgro indicated that international passenger recovery is at 24% of 2019 levels. Which is the highest monthly recovery since international travel started again in October 2020.

After moving to lock down Level 1, and the lifting of the UK Red List these numbers will increase. If you can believe the news the look at the following headline:

Brits are scrambling to book Christmas holidays in SA, and paying some pretty crazy prices.

This is really encouraging news. And given that South Africans are travelling locally the season should be great; as we have seen and you will read about.

If you are not yet convinced that Cape Town is the place to go have a look at this short list of reasons why tourists love Cape Town.

What Are Cape Town Tourism Industry’s Competitive Advantages

  • Cape Town is the top revenue-earning city in South Africa.
  • The city offers a variety of attractions from historical sites to leisure activities for people looking for something different from other cities in South Africa.
  • Cape Town is stunning, but it also has a lot to offer outside of just its looks.
  • Cape Town is an amazing place to visit and stay for business or leisure travel.
  • The Mother City has received numerous accolades in the last few years.
  • Cape Town is multicultural and thriving with innovation.
  • There are great natural attractions for tourists to enjoy.
  • The weather is mostly pleasant, making it easy to enjoy outdoor activities.
  • The city provides first-world infrastructure and business tourist amenities, including conference facilities, good connectivity and premium accommodation options
  • Cape Town has a world-class airport. And the best in Africa.
  • Cape Town is self-sustaining, one of the best-run cities in South Africa and still makes it into many top ten lists globally.
  • There are many great restaurants in Cape Town that help establish the city as a gastronomic destination on the African continent.
  • The exchange rate is favourable for tourists.
  • The city offers a variety of attractions, from leisure activities to historical sites.

How Does The Future Look For The Western Cape And Cape Town?

It’s easy to see the bleak picture of where we were. But let’s ask a few questions:

Why would 37 ocean cruisers want to make port in Cape Town? They talk about a hunger to get out.

Why would Cape Town self catering still run at high occupancies while there are very few foreign visitors or domestic arrivals at Cape Town airport? If people could not travel far they travelled locally. Local is big.

The Cape Town peak season is filling up. Accommodation is booking out and at higher rates. Yes. It will be fewer foreigners but they will come.

We are looking forward to a brighter tourism future.

Have fun

Johan Horak

FAQ: Western Cape Tourism Statistics

What Are The Western Cape’s Tourist Arrivals By Country?

During 2019 the top five international markets were Germany (16.2%), the United Kingdom (11.7%), France (8.5%), United States (5.4%), and Brazil (4.6%). Overseas visitors made up 93.6% of travellers to Cape Town over the Jan – Dec 2019 and 6.4% originated from the domestic market.

During 2020 the International tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) declined by 74% over the period January – December 2020 when compared to the same period in 2019. Domestic arrivals declined by 62.4% year-on-year in 2020 compared to 2019.

The most important travel season is December. But domestic arrivals reached only 204 671 in December 2020, a 50% decline when compared to the same period in 2019.

But Where Did Most Travellers Come From Who Stayed In Airbnbs?

The question now is; if arrivals declined such a lot where did the travellers came from who stayed in our Airbnbs?

The answer may be in here somewhere:

“In the short-term at least, people just want to leave their homes and their cities rather than leave their countries,” said Shay on USA domestic travel. “A change of scenery is a big demand driver right now.”

And I agree. But from the Cape Town arrival numbers, it’s clear that South Africans did not travel in droves to Cape Town. The only explanation is that Western Cape residence travelled locally and outsiders drove rather than fly.

How Much Does Western Cape Tourism Contribute Towards GDP?

Western Cape Tourism contributed more than R6 billion to the Regional Gross Domestic Product (GDPR) in 2020. Compare this to the R15 billion in 2019. And about 75 000 jobs were lost during 2020 (more).

How Many Tourists Arrived From The UK In South Africa?

South Africa recorded 466,481 UK touristss during 2019.

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