SA Cruise News

Gender violence, xenophobia and visa regulations could impact South African cruise season

Recent xenophobic violence and crimes against women in South Africa have damaged the country’s brand as a travel destination and hurt forward bookings by international tourists, according to Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO, Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA).

“These issues hurt our industry’s growth potential,” he said, speaking to Moneyweb. “We cannot ignore them as they impact the image of our country as a whole.

“These issues, together with SA’s visa regime and continuing challenges around unabridged birth certificates, were raised by international travel companies in our recent roadshow to Europe.”

South Africa is gearing up for its biggest cruise season on record

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Tshivhengwa was speaking in relation to the release of the latest Statistics SA data showing a decline in foreign arrivals of 5% for July, compared to July 2018 (a year which TBCSA described as “the most challenging trading year for the tourism sector since the inception of the TBI in 2010”).

Last year foreign tourist arrivals to South Africa grew by a lacklustre 1.8% to 10.5 million.

TBCSA identifies itself as the umbrella body representing the “unified voice of business in the travel and tourism sector”. It also administers the tourism marketing levy, known as Tomsa, which tourists pay on specific services such as accommodation in South Africa.

This is a worrying trend ahead of what is supposed to be the busiest Cape Town cruise season on record, with three cruise ships homeporting in the city for the summer season (four including MSC Cruises’ Orchestra, which will homeport in both Durban and Cape Town).

While the cruise sector accounts for a tiny fraction of the wider South African tourism sector (less than 100,000 cruise tourists visit South Africa annually), the establishment of a regular and stable cruise season with several homeporting lines is essential to growing it further.

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If cruise lines do not see the demand and yield they expect on their South African cruise itineraries, they may choose to send their ships elsewhere in future.

AIDA Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Azamara Cruises and MSC Cruises will all have ships cruising roundtrip from Cape Town, while TUI Cruises and a second ship from MSC will join them next year for the 2020/21 season.

This year has to go well or next year’s season could be in serious trouble. With the majority of cruise tourists coming from Europe (AIDA and TUI are both European cruise lines), SA Tourism recently conducted a roadshow on the continent.

“The roadshow was a great success, providing more insights into some of the barriers and concerns of tourists wanting to travel to South Africa,” said SA Tourism acting CEO Sthembiso Dlamini.

“The concerns coming out of this roadshow such as unabridged birth certificates, marketing of the less popular regions as well new product offerings, will be addressed in order to make sure South Africa is more accessible to travellers from Europe and other parts of the world,” she added.

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