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Camps Bay: Beauty and the Beach

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Cape Town – Although the Hospitality Industry does not have a reliable visitor number measurement tool, this season certainly seems to be a far busier summer season, with virtually no seasonal dips in mid-December and mid-January, says Chris von Ulmenstein, Chairman of the Smaller Accommodation segment of FEDHASA Cape.  The festive season peak usually begins around the 11th of December and ends around the 5th of January, although recent trends see this period expanding.  Commenting on visitor numbers, Von Ulmenstein says that the 2007/8 Summer season started off disappointingly slow in September and the first half of October, which can be attributed to the Rugby World Cup taking place at that time.   “Since then Cape Town has been booming, with many last-minute bookings, even now over the most sought-after New Year period.  Occupancy levels in accommodation establishments have improved and are far better than last season, even if the bookings have been very last minute.”

Guests are desperate, and many did not think of booking for this period in advance, which traditionally is booked out nine months ahead of time in areas such as Camps Bay and Plettenberg Bay.  Von Ulmenstein, owner of the Whale Cottage Portfolio of guest houses in Camps Bay, Hermanus, Franschhoek and Plettenberg Bay, says that the increase in visitor numbers is very welcome for the Hospitality industry, given that South Africans have been burdened by several interest rate and petrol price increases, and have to tighten their belts – clearly something they have decided to delay until 2008!

Late minute bookings challenge the Industry to meet sudden demands, but many residents on the Atlantic Seaboard and in popular holiday destinations rent out private accommodation, so there always is “room at the inn”! New accommodation establishments open all the time, and many locals visit their family and friends, and are less likely to use the formal accommodation industry. Many visitors to Cape Town have had to accept that they cannot stay in Camps Bay and have had to look for accommodation in other suburbs of Cape Town. Guest house owners are excellent at passing on their overflow to other colleagues in the area, which means that guests wanting to book are almost always accommodated.

“Heavily populated roads to Hermanus and the Garden Route just after Christmas, and throngs of shoppers in popular shopping centers are proof of the vast numbers of out-of-town visitors in the Western Cape,” says Von Ulmenstein.

Their presence is certainly felt in shopping centres and restaurants.  Chairman of the Restaurant segment of FEDHASA Cape, Rey Franco, says that eating establishments in the Blouberg area are definitely experiencing an increase in visitor numbers, with double dinner bookings every night, and Cape seafood dishes an all-round favourite.

One of the challenges facing the Accommodation sector during this time of year, is that many suppliers to the Hospitality Industry close over the Festive Season, a practice that cannot be understood, given that the Hospitality Industry is at its busiest right now.

Also, staff arriving for work over the festive days is always a concern for accommodation management, given that most of their friends and family have annual leave at this time. Availability of basic service providers such as plumbers and electricians also is a concern, as their services are much needed in such a time.

FEDHASA is the lobbying body and watchdog for the South African hospitality industry nationally, and in all tiers of government on tourism, legislation, trading conditions, taxation, education and related industry issues.  The association services four segments: the Hotel segment, the Small Accommodation segment, Restaurant and Catering segment, and the Suppliers segment.

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