Welcoming the World to Cape Town

We were delighted to attend the official opening of World Travel Market Africa (WTM), hosted in person for the first time in two years at the award-winning Cape Town International Convention Centre. The City of Cape Town is the official host city of the three-day trade extravaganza, which brings together representatives from the travel and tourism sector, from all over the world.

Kojo Bentum-Williams, Publisher at VoyagesAfriq Travel Media welcomed the guests to the event. “It’s been over two years since we last gathered here,” he said. “The pandemic changes the way we travel, and the way people experience their lives, their passions and preferences. We aren’t just returning to normal; we’re building back to be better and more resilient.”

Bentum-Williams celebrated the fact that tourism is back, while also cautioning that we’re not out of the woods yet but this is an opportunity to ignite a lust for travel again.

Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis, formally opened the event, placing Cape Town – WTM’s host city at the centre of a tourism resurgence. “It is wonderful to see all our travel partners and representatives here. It’s been exactly three years since the last event. No one could have predicted what could have happened to the tourism sector. But Cape Town’s tourism industry has returned stronger, more innovative and determined to succeed more than ever before.”

Hill-Lewis described how Cape Town’s tourism sector is beginning to recover after being decimated when the pandemic struck. According to Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), said Hill-Lewis, international passenger arrivals are back at 82%. He also described how the City is allocating time and resources to boost Cape Town’s visibility on the global travel landscape. The city has won various accolades recently, including ‘Greatest City in the World,’ voted by the Daily Telegraph.

‘Best City in Africa’, ‘Leading Festival and Events Destination’, ‘Africa’s Leading Tourist Attraction’ are other rave reviews attributed to the city by various influential parties.

Hill-Lewis also cited other marks of recovery for this all-important sector: international carriers are resuming flights earlier than anticipated, around 100 cruise ships are booked to return, and the Cape Town International Convention Centre and the Cape Town Stadium are fully booked for the entire calendar year.

The Mayor referred to a particular focus area for the city, which is to lobby National Government to introduce a remote working visa. In 2021, Cape Town was named one of the best cities in the world for remote working. A digital nomad visa would encourage a more mobile workforce to make Cape Town their home while working from anywhere. Around 20 countries currently offer a remote working visa, taking advantage of a digitally connected economically active generation.

Next in the event introductions was Carol Weaving, Managing Director of RX Africa, the event organiser, who offered a snapshot of the WTM visitors.

Hosted buyers from 20 African countries and 12 countries internationally were attending. Over 500 buyers were scheduled to attend 7000 meetings – across the virtual and physical events and visiting 400 exhibitors on the floor.

“Industry has been craving physical connections,” she said.

Bentum-Williams was later joined on the stage by Independent Tourism and Hospitality Advisor, Gillian Sandes, who delivered some key take-outs from a recently published Trends Report, as follows.

1. Greenwashing doesn’t wash anymore. The tourism industry needs to address climate change, not only in messaging but also taking action to conserve resources, geo-heritage and communities – especially in the light of the growing chasm between rich and poor which is a key result of the pandemic.

2. Flexcations, bleisure and workcations are changing leisure travel. Remote working is here to stay, with businesspeople adding time on to their holidays to work in destinations they’re visiting. This impacts on facilities and amenity offerings.

3. Slow tourism is picking up. With remote working possible, and to avoid complicated COVID regulations by different destinations, visitors are spending more time at a single destination. People want special travel experiences with bucket list opportunities, bubble experiences (ie, single villas rather than public hotels) and multi-generational travel groups travelling together.

4. Wellness is good for you. This involves the demand for experiences that offer opportunities to visit pristine environments, new cultures and natural locations, which nurture the soul, body and mind.

5. Seamless travel needs support. Governments need to understand what benefits tourism brings and need to work together to make travel seamless. In this, intra-African travel is becoming a priority, where domestic and regional visitors are no longer travelling abroad but are travelling within their country or continent.

6. Diversity builds the tourism ecosystem. Tourism needs to be fit for a diverse and equitable world, where venues accept people of all colours, creeds, orientations and beliefs. Physical diversity is critical, where venues consider adapting their offerings for differently abled travellers. What’s more, there is a need to show greater diversity and representation in marketing materials.

7. Food, glorious food. Gastronomic tourism is becoming ever more popular. This offers an opportunity to build and brand African cuisine in the same way as other cuisines are revered by tourists.

These recommendations are worth noting, especially for local tourism business operators in Cape Town.

Later, the Mayor officially cut the ribbon to open the City’s striking pavilion in the main events arena. The Made in Cape Town team were there to celebrate with the Mayor and Alderman James Vos, the Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management.

Made in Cape Town is represented at the City of Cape Town’s pavilion, joining other partners on the stand all dedicated to supporting the promotion of Cape Town as a key tourism and leisure destination. The pavilion also features artefacts produced by craftspeople who are based in Cape Town and who are creating beautiful products that could adorn any home, hotel or office. Check out this page for more details about who is exhibiting.