Water Shortage Cuts South Africa Bound Air Travel by 30% in 2018

People collecting drinking water from pipes fed by an underground spring, in St. James, about 25km from the city centre in Cape Town. (Photo Credit: Rodger Bosch/AFP)

From Rusana Philander in Cape Town.


South Africans–particularly those in Cape Town learned a bitter lesson on climate change in 2018.

Drought led to a serious water shortage, which resulted in a 30% reduction of south Africa bound travel, according to one stakeholder attending the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) forum recently held in South Africa.

Stakeholders at the inaugural WTTC Africa Leaders Forum which took place at Stellenbosch, South Africa agreed some of the challenges the tourism industry faces relate to climate change.

Last year Cape Town experienced one of the biggest droughts in years.  Olivier Ponti Vice-President of ForwardKeys, said the water crisis in South Africa impacted on people travelling to the country.

Olivier Ponti

“We lost 30% of seating on planes,” he said.  David Green CEO of the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town also spoke on the subject of ‘Beyond Day Zero’.

“We had to change from a city which had abundant water to a water scarce city. We had a potential water crisis, which had an effect on tourism. We are adopting green sustainable practices. Climate change is a reality and this is why businesses must manage their water,” Green said.

Nevertheless, Africa can become the new China when it comes to tourism, the World the WTTC concurred.

President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council Gloria Guevara, said South Africa and Africa  in general has the potential to maximize its tourism growth.  “The potential is tremendous in this sector,” the CEO said.

Travel and tourism is without a doubt South Africa’s greatest engine for job creation and the alleviation of poverty.

In his State of the Nation address in 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa set a target to double the number of people directly employed in the sector from 700,000 to 1,4 million.

According to WTTC’s annual data travel and tourism currently contributes a total of 8,9% of South Africa’s GDP and creates 726 000 jobs directly, rising to 1,5 million when all the impacts of the sector are taken into account.

South Africa’s Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, said the growth of the sector meant opportunities for millions of people.

“In South Africa and Africa it is critically important. The African continent has massive growth potential. If neighboring countries’ tourism industry grows it is good news for South Africa. It also has a host of wild life experiences. In South Africa we also have the Cradle of Humankind which is one of the world heritage sites. As well as Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated,” Hanekom said.