South African Tourism says Cape Town is ‘open for business’ as it bids to take the lead on the global issue of water shortages in tourist destinations.
Cape Town and some surrounding areas have been suffering a drought for three years. On February 1, the city restricted daily water consumption to 50 litres per person.
The message comes as South African Tourism releases details of a new website, waterwesterncape.com, for up-to-date information on the current water shortage and guidelines for visitors.
Chief executive Sisa Ntshona, who is visiting London to reassure tour operators and travel agents, and raise awareness of the situation, said: “It would be irresponsible not to tell people to travel to Cape Town.
“We are open for business; the experience and service they are used to is there, however, we want tourists to be mindful of the acute water shortage and fall in line with the guidelines.”
Tourists in Cape Town still have access to drinking water and showers, which are recommended to be no longer than 90 seconds, while other parts of South Africa are not affected.
Baths are being discouraged, with some hotels removing bath plugs, and some hotels have converted their swimming pools to salt water.
A much publicised “Day Zero”, when the authority will be forced to cut the regular water supply to a limited daily supply, is currently due to take place on July 9. The inner city area of Cape Town where many of its hotels are located will not be affected.
Ntshona said UK holiday bookings to Cape Town had yet to be affected by the water shortage.
The tourist board is keen to raise awareness of the fact most parts of the country, even areas near Cape Town in the western cape such as Hermanus and the Garden Route, are unaffected by the shortage, and ensure holidaymakers use water responsibly when visiting. Around 700,000 jobs depend on tourism in Cape Town alone.
Ntshona stressed the water shortage caused by climate change was also not a Cape Town problem, but a global issue, which the country is working to solve by establishing water reclamation and desalination plants, for example.
Ntshona added: “We want to make sure people know we are doing something about this. This is a global issue; weather patterns are wreaking havoc around the world if you look at California; Sao Paulo; Beijing, even Sydney.
“Cape Town has been thrust into the spotlight and we see an opportunity to lead the way in terms of how to respond to the water crisis. We are really encouraged by the way people are changing their behaviour.”
South African Tourism is also looking for ideas to help encourage action globally on the water shortage issue and to change customer attitudes and behaviour. Ntshona is already planning talks with global travel organisations such as the UNWTO.