With throngs of global travellers eager to embark on post-pandemic “revenge travel”, and tourism’s vital signs indicating a bounce-back in 2023, the world’s hottest tourist destinations are welcoming global passengers once again.

Boasting some of SA’s most quintessential natural, historical, and shopping attractions, Cape Town has led the charge among Africa’s most prestigious tourist destination cities with a proactive, collaborative approach to economic recovery in the tourism sector.

Growing at an annual rate of around 8.5%, the SA tourism industry’s value is projected to approach $1bn by 2026. In Cape Town, the tourism sector’s recovery has achieved significant momentum, with strong signs that a bumper summer season can be expected.

A recent report from Wesgro – who record and report on the sector’s economic recovery in terms of air travel passenger and foot traffic rates at major attractions in the Western Cape – notes that foot traffic at Cape Town’s various attractions recorded a total of 269,016 visitors. Furthermore, Two-way passengers through Cape Town International Airport’s international terminal had recovered to a tune of 83% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Cape Town International Airport (in December) reported an incredible recovery of 72% in domestic visitors and 98% in international visitors compared to the December 2019 festive period.

Wesgro also reported that Hotel occupancy for the province expressed a recovery rate of 95% compared to 2019 and that the Average Daily Rate for a holidaymaker’s accommodation in the Western Cape had actually exceeded pre-pandemic levels, rising to R1 833.44.

Citing data from October 2022, the report also noted that 4 out of the 5 attractions with the highest year-on-year growth rates are situated in the Mother City, and 3 of these are on Table Mountain itself: The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway (TMACC),  Boulders, and Cape of Good Hope National Parks (both situated at Table Mountain). The other two are the historic Robben Island and the Swartberg’s subterranean marvel, the Cango Caves.

These optimistic tourism industry forecasts have recently been affirmed by United Airlines’ newly established direct, year-round flight service between Washington Dulles Airport and Cape Town International Airport. The service complements the popular New York – Cape Town direct flight route – suggesting that the already thriving influx of USA-based tourists into Cape Town is set to increase.

Tourist industry actors such as the Tourism Growth and Development unit and Wesgro are optimistic that these developments will see American tourists visiting the city revert to pre-Covid numbers.

Wahida Parker, MD of TMACC explains the ‘Big 6’, which includes Cape Point, Groot Constantia, Kirstenbosch, Robben Island Museum, and the V&A Waterfront, are “… the iconic destinations that form the essence of an authentic Cape Town experience. Together they encapsulate the beloved combination of awe-inspiring natural scenery, enthralling historical spaces, and exhilarating activities that have come to define this remarkable corner of Africa.”

The Cableway, she adds, recorded strong visitor numbers in December 2022 and reached almost 99% of the pre-pandemic numbers they saw in December 2019. “We aimed to help build the city’s tourism sector back in a more inclusive way post-COVID, to the benefit of local communities as well as the established tourism companies and emerging entrepreneurs.

“We are grateful for the contributions and hard work of our colleagues in the Cape Town tourism sector, most notably Cape Town Tourism and the City of Cape Town, who have all rallied together to help showcase Cape Town’s commitment to a citizen-centric approach to tourism. We all have endured our challenges – big and small – but we have persevered. The success of this effort has required collaboration and commitment across multiple sectors.

“Table Mountain and its iconic aerial cableway stand as a symbol of the Mother City’s long-standing legacy of world-class tourism and hospitality, and TMACC are proud to have played a part in bringing Cape Town back to the forefront of the global travel scene,” says Parker.