How Cape Town hoteliers are coping with the city's water crisis
Cape Town’s water crisis has NOT affected visitor numbers and a news report this week indicates hotel guests are ‘doing their bit’ to help the South African city survive its worst drought in living memory.
“I’m very happy to say that the majority of the luxury hotel market has bought into the process and the majority of our international guests have also understood what we’re trying to do‚” says Jeff Rosenberg‚ head of the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa.
“I know of certain instances in luxury hotels where the manager has gotten very firm with the guest in explaining the reasoning behind it. One guest actually checked out and went to another five-star hotel‚ where they ran into the same situation.”
The association has launched a WaterWise Pledge to give hotels conservation tips‚ and Rosenberg said that although a small minority of travellers had complained‚ the reception had been overwhelmingly understanding.
Richard Lyon‚ general manager of the One & Only at the V&A Waterfront said the hotel had already cut water consumption by more than 30 per cent and aimed to increase the saving to 50 per cent.
At the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel – one of the city’s most famous hotels at the foot of Table Mountain – room occupancy rate is at the usual 90 per cent, despite the water shortage, says a news story this week by The Citizen.co.za.
Spokesperson Gaby Palmer told at the foot of Table Mountain all guests were aware of the water crisis before making their reservations and they were reminded again when arriving and throughout their stay with notices in their bedrooms and suites.
“A lot of them were already aware – they all know about it now,” she said. “People prior to booking are concerned that taps are going to be turned off altogether,” Palmer said, adding that the hotel had managed to lessen fears.
“They are very accepting … we had one attempt to cancel a booking due to the drought but in the end, they still came. We were running at 90% occupancy throughout our festive season.”
Some of the initiatives the hotel has put in place include tags on bath plugs reminding guests of the crisis and encouraging them to shower. the hotel’s steam room is only operational when specifically requested.
The hotel has been employing its own water-saving initiatives include aerating bathroom taps and showers, washing linen every third day and using disposable towels. There is a spring which passes from Table Mountain down to the ocean through the property and that water is used for filling up the swimming pools, watering gardens and to flush toilets.
The Citizen.co.za also spoke with Hubbard Hospitality, which caters for less affluent tourists at its three facilities in the city for backpackers. Owner Dean Hubbard said accommodation was fully booked. In total, the three properties can sleep approximately 100 people. Pubs and restaurants at the venues also attract around 150 people a day.
The Kimberley Backpackers hotel, which houses one of the oldest pubs in Cape Town, is one such drawcard for travellers and locals alike. Hubbard said 90 per cent of all guests and visitors were aware of the crisis and wanted to know how they could make a difference during their stay. “There has been absolutely no resistance,” he said.
To curb water use, linen was not washed each day and brown or grey water was used to flush toilets. Fortunately, one backpackers venue has a borehole.
Hubbard wasn’t concerned about the proposed tax levy and how it would affect his bottom line. “Not as long as the resources are used for the right reasons,” he said.
Despite fears that the increase in tourists over the festive season would plummet the city into an even deeper crisis, advisory firm Grant Thornton has indicated it would have little impact.
Director of tourism, hospitality and leisure Martin Jansen van Vuuren had predicted last month the drought would not deter tourists. He said Cape Town received approximately 1.5 million foreign tourists per year.
About 10 per cent of these visited the city in December. For a city with a population of around 4 million, a 4 per cent increase due to foreign tourists was not really a significant increase.
Foreign tourists stay anything between five and 14 days and arrivals were reasonably spaced over the entire month. In terms of local tourists, approximately 250,000 descended on the Cape but this had to be put into context in light of data showing that around 290,000 Capetonians left the city.
The latest countdown until water runs dry and taps will be cut off indicated that on December 12, water usage was 628 million litres per week. The estimated day zero was May 18. However, only six days later this figure was readjusted to April 29 with usage recorded at 641 million litres. The target is 500 million litres.