Despite the boom in the number of visitors to the city during the festive season, mainly because of a surge in domestic tourism, the chamber believed visitor numbers would have been even higher if there had been a “normal” airline service.
“We hoped that other airlines would arrange more flights to fill the gaps left by SAA and 1time to keep up the flow of visitors,” said chamber president Fred Jacobs.
“This does not seem to have happened, but the airlines may have filled more seats and some larger aircraft may have been used.”
According to the Airports Company of SA, the number of international visitors was 10 percent lower last month than in the same month the year before, while domestic arrivals were down 6 percent. About 760 000 passengers arrived at the airport last month.
In a statement, Jacobs said passenger numbers had been more than 14 percent lower in October and November than in the same months the year before.
“December’s tally of 318 665 passengers arriving on domestic flights was down by 5.6 percent. This figure included overseas passengers arriving in Johannesburg and using a local carrier into Cape Town.”
Jacobs said the city had a successful festive season, with the tourist industry and retailers reporting good business, but there was no doubt that SAA’s decision to stop direct flights to London had affected numbers.
Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, chief executive of Cape Town Tourism, has been quoted as saying: “The figures from Cape Town International Airport suggest that more visitors to Cape Town travelled by car these holidays.
“This suggests budget-consciousness.”
Jacobs said: “In spite of the reduced airline service, Table Mountain Cableway sold more tickets in the month than in any month since 1929 and the V&A Waterfront reported a 10 percent increase in visitors… to more than three million. There was an 8.24 percent increase in sales.”
Jacobs said hotels in the CBD and Sea Point and at the Waterfront had also reported higher numbers.
SAA was not available for comment at the time of posting.