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CAPE TOWN - The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on Cape Town’s tourism sector over the last 18 months and it’s hoped that with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Sunday of a move to alert level 2, more visitors will head to the city.

The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Tourism, James Vos, offered a sense of the pandemic’s impact on domestic tourism.

“The number of passengers on the Johannesburg-Cape Town route dropped from around 4 million in 2019 to just 1.75 million in 2020. And while the city and its partners worked throughout the pandemic to mitigate the effects of this disaster for small businesses, we couldn’t entirely stave it off.”

Vos said now was the time to look forward and work with renewed vigour to bring back as much of what was lost.

Cape Town Tourism said it’s ready and open for business as the summer season approached.

The city has so much to offer, from tourist attractions to exciting activities and adventures, cultural experiences, and delicious food.

A few popular attractions to add to your bucket list include the iconic Table Mountain, Robben Island, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, and if you want a dose of ‘vitamin sea’, best you visit some of its beaches such as those in Clifton, Camps Bay and Muizenberg.

Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy said they had launched two domestic campaigns in September - which is Tourism Month. It will also launch an international conversion campaign as foreign markets open towards the end of this year.

“The first campaign is pocket-friendly Cape Town, and the second is 50 things to do in Cape Town for under R50. The intention of these two campaigns is to showcase Cape Town and that it’s affordable at any budget.”

Eyewitness News recently took a trip on the iconic sightseeing red bus. The first stop on the roofless bus was Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden where we met up with the events and tourism manager, Sarah Struys, to discover what the gardens have to offer.

“There’s something for everyone, you can picnic on the lawn, relax, take a hike, you can come and see the biodiversity, we have over 7,000 plant species which people from all over the world come and see.”

Struys reported that visitor numbers had declined, but there was hope that more feet would be coming through the gates soon.

“Locals love coming here, we do miss the tourists. The Botanical Society of South Africa also offers membership where people can access the garden at any time of the year – and they are running a special this month. There is now a 10% discount for membership whether it be an individual membership or family – and that’s also making it more affordable for locals.”

The second stop on the bus tour was World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary and Monkey Park, which is home to more than 2,000 birds and small animals of 400 different species.

Usually, about 100,000 people visit the park in Hout Bay each year, but they too have seen a drop in numbers. Hendrik Louw from World of Birds said since the pandemic hit last year, visitor figures had declined 40%.

He said the only way the park would survive is by getting more feet through the door.

The last stop on our tour was Hout Bay. It’s an area that is usually a hive of activity, but that seems to have died down in recent months.

For locals, it’s well-known for its fish and chip spots.

One such restaurant is Mariner’s Wharf where you can get some of the freshest fish and chips at the edge of the harbour. As a result of the impact and restrictions of the coronavirus, it had to temporarily close at the beginning of May last year.

The restaurant’s Trisha Francois said that this was a difficult decision, but it was a move that saved them.

“We knew that if we didn’t take those steps, that we would have probably had to shut down for good because we didn’t know how long the lockdown would last.”

Many businesses like Mariner’s Wharf are optimistic about the next few weeks as the country continues the COVID-19 vaccine rollout – and hopes maybe this time round, this festive season, they’ll attract more locals and tourists.

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This article first appeared on EWN : ‘Open for business' - Cape Town Tourism seeks upswing amid eased COVID rules

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