Project Description

Water scarcity and tourism

Cape Town case study

“Despite the recent water security challenge we faced, the impact of this event was minimised through collaboration and common goodwill between citizens, government, businesses and tourists. Our refreshed focus on retaining our reputation as a world-class destination meant needing to do things differently and asking the right questions to find the right solutions. Data, insights and analytics from ForwardKeys have proved valuable resources in allowing us to reshape our strategies to make up for lost tourism numbers. This study has proved essential in looking at the impact of natural disasters from a different perspective.”

Enver Duminy
Chief Executive Officer of Cape Town Tourism

How global traveller statistics provide the basis for Cape Town’s crisis communication

In May 2017, the South African government was faced with the possibility of its largest city running out of water. Water stockpiling and panic began upon the goverment’s announcement of ‘day zero’, when the dam levels would be so low that taps in Cape Town would be turned off.

Residents leapt into action and requested the restriction of water use. Reusing shower water and limiting toilet flushing and night-time irrigation were among measures that saved the city from running dry.

Given the importance of tourism to the South African economy, local politicians were worried about the impact the water-saving scheme might have on the industry. It seemed clear that travellers concerned about water use would stay away; the question was to what extent tourism would be affected by the situation. South Africa’s position as a popular travel destination was under threat.

The background

Follow the trends: How is tourism really affected?

In May 2018, Cape Town Tourism, Cape Town’s official regional tourist organisation responsible for promoting the destination, requested that ForwardKeys analyse the city’s historical and forward-looking air travel trends. ForwardKeys carried out an independent study measuring the real impact of the water crisis. Other factors affecting tourism, such as visa regulations, the Ebola crisis and rising crime figures, were isolated.

The objective

Measuring the impact on travel trends

The report provided a thorough investigation of how travellers reacted to the development of the water drought. For key moments, it showed the immediate impact on bookings. It also revealed how other cities in South Africa were affected by the drop in travel to Cape Town, and which traveller segments held back on booking trips to the coastal city.

The analysis not only included past performance but also estimated future development and potential recovery.

The solution

Making data-driven decisions

The report showed that South Africa’s 2017 performance was solid as air travel increased throughout the year. A decline in bookings was visible from February 2018, which is when the media attention for the water crisis started to grow. Bookings from key markets to Cape Town also declined.

The study included trends from the most important souce markets: Germany, the UK and the USA. Interestingly, these markets did not respond to the water drought in the same way. Travel segments also responded differently; travelling couples, for example, were more likely to shy away from booking a trip to South Africa.

The results and continued work

Effective crisis communication

In the case of unexpected events, insights into booking patterns via global traveller statistics provide the basis for clear and timely crisis communication. When destination marketing organisations are aware of how bookings develop in response, they are able to communicate on the crisis to inform future travellers at the right moment.

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