Travel

Tourist numbers from the UK to the Western Cape recover to pre-pandemic levels

Business Insider SA
UK tourist are returning to the Western Cape. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
UK tourist are returning to the Western Cape. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
  • The number of visitors from the UK to the Western Cape has recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
  • The number of visitors from the UK who arrived through Cape Town International Airport in April 2022 was 10,255, compared to the 10,467 who came in 2019.
  • It was a marked recovery from the 400 who arrived in April 2021.
  • In 2016, UK tourism contributed R3.7 billion to the Western Cape’s economy.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The UK has rediscovered its love for the Western Cape, with arrivals recovering to 98% of pre-pandemic levels.

According to Stats SA, the number of visitors from the UK who arrived through Cape Town International Airport in April 2022 was 10,255, just 212 fewer than the 10,467 who came in 2019.

Even so, it was a marked recovery from the 400 who arrived in April 2021.

The Covid-19 lockdowns were an enormous blow to the Western Cape tourism sector, which employed 300,000 people and generated R16.3 billion in foreign spend in 2018.

The UK is a key tourism market for the Western Cape, and the recovery in tourism numbers sees a return in billions of rands of spend. According to a 2017 Wesgro report, the UK market contributed R3.7 billion to the Western Cape’s economy. This ranked it as the top tourism spender for the province.

The return of UK tourists, however, does not mean all the overseas visitors from other key tourism markets are returning at the same rate. The overall number of visitors entering via Cape Town International Airport was 41,310 for the month, which was down by 17,211 from the 58,521 who arrived in April 2019.

Though there has been a substantial recovery in the number of visitors coming from Germany, US, the Netherlands and Switzerland, the arrivals from these markets are still noticeable lower than where they were at the same time in April 2019.

Even though Western Cape tourism still had some way to go to reach its pre pandemic levels, the trend was welcomed by tourism leaders in the province.

“This is more good news for our tourism and hospitality sector, which is recording a sustained tourism recovery. But we all agree that we don’t just want to get back to 2019 levels, we want to far exceed them,” says Western Cape MEC, for finance and economic opportunities, Mireille Wenge.

Wesgro says it has been working hard at trying to get these tourists to return to the province.

“We’ve been targeting German, Dutch and UK travellers through our respective ‘Neverending Tourists’ international marketing campaigns, which have performed, and continue to perform, exceptionally well in market,” says Monika Iuel, Chief Destination Marketing Officer at Wesgro.

Iuel adds: “It is extremely promising to see the return of loyal visitors, and welcome new explorers to the destination from our key source markets.”

The recovery in the global airline industry also looks set to give the Western Cape’s tourism sector a much-needed boost.

“From welcoming United Airlines increased service in February, to Air Belgium’s plans to launch flights to Cape Town from September, and Virgin Atlantic’s commitment to return to the Mother City starting November - we are confident that we are on the right track to surpassing pre-pandemic visitor figures,” says Iuel.

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