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Luxury hotel boom makes Cape Town a must for Middle East travelers

A boom in luxury hotel accommodation with quite a few five-star hotels opening soon, and the launch of a spectacular new fashion mall, is making Cape Town and the Western Cape an absolute must for the Middle East traveller. Couple that with a new daily direct flight between Dubai and Cape Town, and there is no reason why tourists from the Middle East should not be sending their next holiday postcards from Cape Town and the Western Cape.

Says Calvyn Gilfellan, Chief Executive of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the official tourism destination marketing organisation for Cape Town and the Western Cape: “While Cape Town and the Western Cape is known as a travel destination that specialises in diversity – from the most incredible natural scenery, the world’s finest gourmet delights and rejuvenating spas, to extreme outdoor fun and a vibrant culture and music scene; it’s steadily emerging as a first choice destination for the chic, luxury traveler.”

A team from Cape Town Routes Unlimited, together with other tourism partners from Cape Town and the Western Cape, is promoting the destination and its irresistible offerings this week at the Arabian Travel Market (Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), 6 – 9 May 2008). The show is the industry’s leading travel and tourism exhibition dedicated to unlocking the leisure and business potential within the Middle East and pan Arab region. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, Arabian Travel Market 2008 is expected to attract over 23 000 industry players from over 100 countries.

“In many aspects, the Middle East represents the luxury tourism market to Cape Town and the Western Cape, with travelers often being interested in a top quality tourism experience: five-star hotels, elegant restaurants, shopping for world-famous brands, spectacular golf courses and first-class fun. Cape Town and the Western Cape easily delivers in each of these areas.

In fact, the destination was honoured to be invited to the very exclusive Emirates Holidays Global Brochure Launch held in Dubai earlier this month. Organised by one of the UAE’s leading tour operators, the event provided Cape Town and the Western Cape with the ideal opportunity and audience to market the destination to strategically targeted Middle East travel trade and key decision-makers.

At the event, Cape Town and the Western Cape’s International Leisure Marketing Manager, Debbie Damant, accepted a prestigious award on behalf of South African Tourism for being the “Most Supportive National Tourism Organisation 2007 – 2008”. South Africa has beaten tourism bodies from countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia.

“The newly introduced direct Emirates flight between Dubai and Cape Town inaugurated at the end of March this year, is a perfect recognition of the growing interest between our two regions. Not only has it strengthened our tourism and business relationship, but it also means that Cape Town is now a hassle-free flight away from the Middle East, adding to our luxury tourism experience. There’s little time difference and we have good international and domestic air connections. And, our destination’s cooler but moderate winter temperatures also offer a pleasant alternative to the scorching summer heat of the Middle East,” says Gilfellan.

The Middle East leisure tourist mainly travels between June and September, their hot and dry summer season. This is good news as it assists Cape Town and the Western Cape in its efforts to curb seasonality by drawing more tourists during its traditional lower season said Gilfellan.

The Middle East traveller generally speaks Arabic and 67% of this market still prefers to arrange their travel plans through traditional Arabian agencies. “Word of mouth” is a powerful form of advertising in this market. Arabian travellers spend an average of three to four weeks on holiday, generally prefer rooms with sea views, enjoy water-based attractions like waterfalls, beaches and lakes, prefer private tours, like seafood, and love spending on shopping especially for branded clothes. The two biggest outbound travel markets in the Middle East, both in volume and per capita, are Saudi Arabia and the UAE. They travel beyond the Middle East, travel in large groups and stay much longer in destinations than any of the others in this market.

Boom in new hotel accommodation

As South Africa is preparing to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup and welcome between 400 000 and 500 000 overseas soccer enthusiasts to its shores during the four week period, major infrastructural upgrades are being undertaken across the country.

In Cape Town in particular, there’s a boom in new hotel accommodation across all market sectors. These include a luxury 130-suite and 12-penthouse apartment hotel in Cape Town’s city centre by the New City Group; the 180-room five-star Taj Hotel, also in the city; the Holiday Inn Express Hotel; as well as the 150-room One & Only luxury hotel and the Ambassador Group’s Dock House boutique hotel in the V&A Waterfront.

According to the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA) Cape, another hotel planned for the city centre is the 150-room five-star NH Oscar Pearse. It should be opening its doors at the end of 2009. The 96-room Tijger Wijn conference hotel will be opening later this year in Durbanville on the outskirts of Cape Town. It will cater for conferences for up to 200 guests. The all-suite Cape Royale Luxury Hotel and Residence recently opened in Green Point with facilities such as three restaurants, a spa and wellness centre, and rooftop entertainment area.

Outside of the city centre, there are the new 20-room boutique De Noordhoek Hotel and two new Protea hotels, while Sun International’s 96-room hotel to complement its Golden Valley Casino in Worcester, a town in the Western Cape’s scenic Breede River Valley, opened on 2 April 2008.

Cape Town transforming into fashion capital as world-class fashion mall opens

In April this year celebrities, media, business partners and long-time supporters came together for an evening of glitz and glamour in the V&A Waterfront, also represented at this week’s Arabian Travel Market, to celebrate the opening of a one-of-a-kind shopping environment. Here the best of local and international fashion are trading side by side, providing something special for every taste and every pocket and making it the ultimate fashion destination in the country.

Says V&A Waterfront acting COO and representative of London & Regional, Arnold Meyer: “We have a huge amount of confidence in this world-class setting. This launch of this fashion mall, along with the new tenants that we have introduced to South Africa for the very first time, is taking the V&A Waterfront to a new and global level and we are extremely proud to have this development on our portfolio.”

James Wilson, CEO of Dubai World Africa Services, concurs. “I have to reiterate what I said when we first bought the V&A Waterfront. Our vision has always been to transform the V&A Waterfront into the African Riviera and that’s exactly what we’re doing. But it’s not going to stop with the fashion extension – the level of development you can expect to see here over the next decade are nothing short of overwhelming.”

This all contributes to maturing Cape Town and the Western Cape, already known as one of the most beautiful places in the world, into a lifestyle destination. “It’s here where beautiful people from all over the world, dressed in fine-looking fashion, take pleasure in sumptuous cuisine in the most stunning settings, savouring the best life has to offer. It’s all about enjoying the good life,” says Gilfellan.