February, and happily the hotel is buzzing with activity. This is traditionally our busiest month, and 85% of the business is international. This is the month we see leisure business increase dramatically, and Brits continue to dominate by at least 20% over visitors from the USA.
January proved to be incredibly hot. I'm not referring to the occupancies, unfortunately, but to the bush fires that blazed through the Western Cape, leaving us with water shortages and some sad-looking forests. It was a lesson for our emergency services, who were far too late to act in a situation which, everyone could clearly see, was about to become devastating.
Unfortunately, occupancies in the five-star market for January were down, a trend felt by all, which seems to be attributed to people travelling later due to the millennium. However, the good news, according to the latest industry survey, is that tourism in South Africa may soon pass mining to become the biggest contributor to GDP. Overseas visitor arrivals to South Africa are increasing at almost three times the world average. This is certainly great news, but I still believe that we need to do more to promote Cape Town as a long-haul destination, and to deal with the realities and perceptions surrounding safety and security.
The industry is delighted that Virgin Atlantic has been granted a second direct routing to Cape Town. This comes hot on the heels of their inaugural flight direct to the "Mother City" in December. They now operate two daytime flights out of London on Fridays and Sundays.
Golf in Cape Town continues to be a huge growth industry and recently we have seen the opening of several world-class golf courses. And South Africa eagerly awaits the decision on who will host the 2006 soccer World Cup. This would be a huge event for us, and certainly a wonderful opportunity to show the world what we are capable of.
My next project, now that our 20 new rooms have been occupied for two months, is the building of a small, private wine cellar and whisky bar. I'm hoping to stock the bar with at least 250 to 300 malt whiskies. Any readers who can offer me advice in purchasing or point me in the right direction regarding South African importers, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do appreciate this help. Thanks.
EUAN McGLASHAN is general manager of the Cape Grace hotel in Cape Town, South Africa