Weekend trips to South Africa’s Gay Capitol, Cape Town, will become much easier in the coming months.
We shall have a wider choice of airlines and destinations in the coming summer. Despite the depressing state of our tourism industry at present, which is causing some hotels and restaurants to close, more airlines will fly into Cape Town from October.
Some that have been with us for years are putting on more flights, a sure indication they are confident of more incoming passengers.
Air France will be flying non-stop from Cape Town to Paris, after withdrawing about 10 years ago and making Johannesburg its only destination in South Africa. There will also be flights by a newcomer, Edelweiss Airline from Switzerland, which will fly between here and Zurich. Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines and, possibly, Malaysia Airlines are increasing the number of flights to Cape Town. Singapore and Turkish are each adding one more a week to make a total of four. Malaysia, which already has four a week, is considering a fifth, although this has apparently not yet been finalised. Its Cape Town flights are now flying directly between here and Kuala Lumpur and no longer by way of Johannesburg.
Singapore Airlines has been bringing more Chinese passengers in the past two years and this is likely to increase exponentially in the coming year. Cape Town was named as the most popular overseas destination by, literally, millions of Chinese in a survey conducted by the government-owned World Travel Broadcasting Union in China this year.
Bradley Brouwer, South African Tourism’s regional representative in China and Japan, who has lived in Beijing for more than a year, told me that out of 10 destinations Cape Town received “an overwhelming majority of votes”.
He thought it was largely due to the friendliness with which Capetonians received Chinese visitors, particularly during the World Cup, and the efforts of tourism organisation Cape Town Routes Unlimited and Sun International hotel group. So, whatever the reason, we can expect to see a large number of Chinese tourists here in future – presumably helping to save our battered hotel industry. And we shall benefit from more flights coming into our airport in response to this demand. Brouwer hopes to add Cathay Pacific Airlines, which already flies daily to Johannesburg, to the number coming to Cape Town.
Low-cost airline Mango is renewing its partnership with Starlight Cruises, under which it flew passengers from here to Durban to join the cruise ships last year. Although the tourism industry worldwide was hit by recessionary conditions in the past two years, cruising was an exception. It attracted more people because of the convenience of travelling to different destinations on board ship, with restaurants and entertainment a short walk from their cabins and meals included in the cost.
Starlight has been taken over by the much larger Mediterranean Shipping Company, whose container ships enter Cape Town. Starlight, which was a family business, leased its ships and crews from MSC. The Foggitt family, who started Starlight 17 years ago, are still running it but, with investment from MSC, they will have one ship, the Melody, operating from Cape Town part of the time this summer while the Sinfonia is based in Durban.
Sinfonia returns for its third season in South Africa on November 8, bringing more tourists to Cape Town on its repositioning voyage from Genoa before sailing on to Durban. This year its ports of call will include Port Elizabeth, and Bazaruto in Mozambique. Its New Year cruise will last 11 days with a three-night stop in Mauritius to see fireworks, and a one-day stop in Reunion. The second ship, Melody, arrives later, in December, and will put on a series of short cruises.