NEARLY two million holidaymakers and businesspeople have made their way to Nelson Mandela Bay shores this year, with this being a better year for tourism than the last.
Accommodation establishments have enjoyed above-average occupancy levels throughout the year, with bookings already made for the festive season showing it is set to be a bumper season.
While economists have decried the new visa regulations, introduced earlier this year, as a deterrent to foreign visitors, local tourism could largely benefit as many South Africans opt to take a holiday at home.
Last year, tourism pumped more than R6-billion into the region’s economy – with R5.5-billion coming in from South African visitors – and created more than 40 000 jobs.
The country’s overall tourism GDP last year was R104.8-billion and figures for this year will only be available early next year, when the SA Tourism report is made public.
Up to the end of August, the Bay had hosted more than 1.7 million overnight visitors, of which nearly 1.5 million were domestic visitors and more than 206 000 foreigners.
Last year, a total of two million foreign and local visitors graced the Bay, while just under two million came through in 2013.
The first quarter of the year saw an average 53% occupancy rate, nearly 5% more than the same period the previous year, while the second quarter saw a 49% rate, which was up by 2%.
Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism chief executive Mandlakazi Skefile said: “From what we can see we are having a better year in terms of occupancy and overnight visitors. We do not have the day visitor figures as yet.”
Hotels and other accommodation establishments, particularly along the beachfront, boasted above-average occupancy levels throughout the year, with some booked above 80% for the festive season.
The new visa regulations look set to benefit South African tourism, with many would-be overseas travellers opting for a holiday at home.
The Boardwalk Hotel is almost fully booked for the festive season, having enjoyed high occupancy levels throughout the year. “The Boardwalk Hotel is a preferred destination for business travellers to Port Elizabeth while also attracting holidaying tourists from across South Africa and internationally,” hotel manager Ayanda Kgwathe said.
City Lodge Hotel Group communications manager Angus McMillan said their hotels around the country saw 68% occupancy levels, with those along the coast set to bustle in the coming weeks.
“Our inland hotels, especially in Gauteng, are quiet between mid-December and mid-January, but our coastal hotels do benefit from the festive season when more holidaymakers are around,” he said.
“With the weak rand and a time period before the amended visa and birth certificate legislation kicks in, it looks like more South Africans will holiday at home this year, which could positively affect coastal hotel occupancies.”
The Protea Hotel Marine will have accommodated 33 028 people by the end of the year, with visitors staying an average two days.
This story appeared in Weekend Post on Saturday, 14 November, 2015 e-Edition