Western Cape government raises concern in decline of international visitors

Johannesburg – The Western Cape Government has raised its concern about 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.

Provincial authorities expect improved passenger loads from January until Easter.


Data on advent over the festive season released by the provincial government on Monday show that in 2019, before the pandemic, international return trips calculated nearly 2.6-million. Whereas in 2020 the figure declined to 810 811, and in 2021, it declined further to 525 411.

Due to the detection of the Omicron variant and the cancellation of flights and bookings, the sector also saw a decline from 96 323 to 76 522 between November and December 2021.

International passenger recovery in December 2021 was 27% of 2019 figures. This was lower than the 38% reported in November 2021.

In addition, the data shows a decline in occupancy from 70.2% in December 2019 compared to 54.1% in November 2021. It was 76.7% n November 2019.

“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 the government to focus on the second pandemic of unemployment and ensure that we get tourism jobs back in the Western Cape,” said the Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.

The data further showed a decline in domestic return trips which stood at just 3.2 million in 2020 compared to a total of 8.4 million in 2019. In 2021, it calculated 4.2 million, which is half of the pre-Covid-19 total.


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,” he added.

“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,” Premier Winde concluded.

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