03/02/2018 07:07 SAST | Updated 03/02/2018 07:07 SAST

Will Western Cape Tourism Be Affected By Day Zero ?

The province's heady mix of mountains, vineyards and oceans appeals to thousands of tourists making their way to the province every month.

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Professor Umakrishnan Kollamparambil of the school of economic and business sciences at the University of Witswatersrand says the economy of Western Cape depends largely on tourism revenue – so Day Zero and water restrictions could make tourists' stays unpleasant and discourage visitors.

Western Cape's heady mix of mountains, vineyards and ocean appeals to thousands of tourists making their way to the province every month.

More than any other province, its attractions draw tourists to landmarks like Cape Point, Robben Island, Groot Constantia, Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch and the V&A Waterfront.

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Vineyard for the Hottentot Mountains

"You cannot ask a holidaymaker to cut down on water consumption, because that is the [worst] kind of holiday scenario for visitors [who] spend so much money to visit the city," Professor Umar said.

She says the water crisis in Western Cape is a difficult issue, because management of water should be done without it affecting the economy of a city so dependent on the service and hospitality sector.

However, she says the crisis is something residents need to take cognisance of, and change their water usage habits to make sure that existing tourist attractions can continue running until an alternative is found.

Judy Lain, chief marketing officer for tourism at Wesgro, the official Western Cape promotional agency, said the region has over the past weeks experienced booking cancellations and international clients calling the city to ask about concerns regarding water.

"We have reassured concerned tourists that should Day Zero come, we have a plan in place – and that they should not worry," Lain said.

Lain said Western Cape welcomes about 1.6 million visitors on a annual basis, who spend close to R40-billion in the local economy and support about 200,000 jobs. If they were all to cancel their bookings, it would have a massive negative impact.

Tim Harris, Wesgro CEO, said these numbers make it clear that visitors to the city add enormous value to the province, even though they make up a small proportion of the overall population.

"Visitors sustain livelihoods, and they stimulate growth even during challenging economic times. We are fortunate enough to live in arguably the most beautiful region on earth, and we must emphasise this now more than ever," Harris said.

Harris has urged residents to welcome tourists during this time, so that they can help the economy grow.

"We want to let visitors know that they are most welcome, but when they visit, to be mindful of the drought and help us save water."

He said that if the population worked together, Day Zero could be avoided and the province's economy could be maintained – which would lead to job creation across Western Cape.

"Our major hotels have business contingency plans in place, and we are also working with the small establishments – guesthouses, BnBs, etc. – to assist them with plans to ensure that the hospitality of tourists is not affected.

"We have explained to concerned international tourists that they only add one percent to the total Cape Town population, which means they use less water and should not worry about not having water – because we can guarantee that they will, " Lain said.

Meanwhile, Cape Nature CEO Razeena Omar maintains that visitors should not worry, as there are measures in place to ensure everyone visiting the city reserves has access to water.

Cape Nature is the city's public institution with the responsibility for biodiversity conservation.

"Tourism offerings – such as hiking and accommodation stays on our nature reserves – are still available for bookings," she said.

Omar said development projects are also being carefully planned to mitigate any local environmental harm, while also optimising the use of green building technology.

"Despite our green efforts, ultimately it is up to each and every one one of us to ensure we stick to the water restrictions in the various municipalities," he said. "Only use the amount allocated – or less – per person; not just for us, but for future generations to come."

Cape Nature's reserve accommodation boasts low-flow showerheads and other water-saving facilities, including waterless/composting toilets and rainwater harvesting.

"Two pilot projects are currently underway to contribute towards conserving water on our reserves," Omar added. "These include atmospheric water generators at Rocherpan Nature Reserve and grey water recycling at Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve."