Western Cape on 27% recovery in international trips for December 2021

The Western Cape Government is concerned with the decline in international passenger numbers recorded at Cape Town International Airport since December 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

While domestic tourism increased notably between 2020 and 2021, providing a very welcomed relief for the tourism and hospitality sector in the Western Cape, it also remains below 2019 levels. 

On a positive note, the Cape Town Air Access team, housed at Wesgro, expects a better summer season with improved passenger loads from January until Easter. 

The report released by Cape Town Air Access showed that: 

  • In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, international return trips totalled nearly 2.6 million. In 2020, this figure declined to 810 811 and in 2021, it declined further to 525 411. 
  • Between November 2021 and December 2021, we saw a decline from 96 323 to 76 522 international trips owing to the detection of the Omicron variant and the cancellation of flights and bookings. 
  • International passenger recovery in December 2021 was 27% of 2019 figures. This was lower than the 38% reported in November 2021.
  • If we compare occupancy from December 2019 to November 2021, we see a decline from 70.2% to 54.1%. In November 2019, occupancy was 76.7%.

Premier Winde said: “It is upsetting that we are passing another summer season with so much lost opportunity for the tourism and hospitality sector and the jobs it creates. While we are expecting some growth this year, these statistics demonstrate the urgency required by government to focus on the second pandemic of unemployment and ensure that we get tourism jobs back in the Western Cape.”

The report by Cape Town Air Access further showed that: 

  • In 2019, before the restrictions, domestic return trips totalled over 8.4 million. In 2020, this figure declined to 3.2 million and in 2021 it stood at just 4.2 million, half of the pre-COVID-19 total. 
  • Positively, the recovery of domestic passenger arrivals grew to 65% from 467 159 in October 2021 and again to 457 599 or 66% in November 2021, and 520 508 in December 2020, a 76% recovery.

Speaking to the impact on the tourism and hospitality sector, Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier, said: “The most recent international travel restrictions had a devastating effect on our peak international tourist season in the Western Cape. I am pleased that international passenger arrivals are set to recover in January 2022 and are already showing signs of an uptick in January 2022 when compared to December 2021. I also want to thank fellow South Africans for travelling to our province this Festive season. This helped many of our tourism and hospitality businesses, who have had a difficult two years.”

“Tourism is a key driver of job creation and economic growth in the Western Cape, and we will continue to do everything we can to support economic recovery by tackling barriers to growth, increasing connectivity to the region, and running our award-winning destination marketing campaigns that showcase the best that Cape Town and the Western Cape has to offer,” said Minister Maynier.

Premier Winde concluded: “If we are to move forward, we need to prioritise job creation this year with the same energy and passion that we demonstrated in our fight against COVID-19. The Western Cape Government is committed to doing so.” 


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