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Navigating the Covid Rollercoaster: Q&A with Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy

28 January 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a rollercoaster ride for the travel industry, but it has also acted as a catalyst for change. We caught up with Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, to find out how he is managing the ups and downs of the pandemic.

enver duminy, ceo cape town tourism

2020 has been  a rollercoaster year. How have you been coping both personally and professionally?

Rollercoaster is a good example, but I prefer to think of the last few months of Covid-19 and lockdowns as a rollercoaster who’s wheels have come off and we are about to hit the sharpest bend on this ride. Despite this rollercoaster of uncertainty, there have definitely been fluctuating emotions and experiences not just one week to another, or one day to the next, but there are times during the day when you may wake up on top of the world and end it down in the dumps. But you pick yourself up and move forward, as backward rollercoasters are not exciting enough. I  find solace in connecting with friends and family, I try to read, but mostly I try to work on ways towards recovery, to focus on inspiring and supporting

Let’s go back to March 2020. Where were you when the President announced the hard lockdown and what was your first reaction?

My honest first reaction, was lots of profanity that would make a sailor feel ashamed. Once I had collected myself, I then connected with my team and key partners to set up a meeting to plan our way out of this situation. We needed to act decisively, we needed to act collectively and we needed to act immediately. We, in partnership with our local government City of Cape Town, created an emergency Covid-19 tourism recovery task team. We had to revise all plans, programs and resourcing to develop more relevant and agile responses for both containment, adjustment and recovery from lockdown.

How has Covid-19 changed the future of tourism in Cape Town?

I think it has forced us to stop and reassess so many things, from international market over-dependence and reliance to more appreciation and dependence on domestic markets. Future travellers have fundamentally changed from deciding where to travel, how to get there and back home safely, where social distancing and mass or over tourism is not tenable

Do you believe that international travel to Cape Town will return to pre-Covid levels?

Not in the short term. It will take a long time to get any pre-Covid levels, as the only light for us to start towards recovery is to get take-off and hopefully get to cruising altitude. However, I also see this as an opportunity with our wide open spaces which allows for special experiences that are not over-crowded, increased safety protocols and care for visitors, employees and communities. This allows us to deliver these experiences now while we all await vaccine rollouts. Quarantine rules and durations that differ create further confusion, we need agreed global or universal standards, as well. Travel insurance for travellers and businesses will create added risks and further preparations for future pandemics now become a reality. There is going to be pressure on long distance  travel as additional screening and safety concerns will impact on time in destination. We are currently expecting that we should return to pre-levels by end 2023 but rollout of vaccine may speed that up.

How should the travel industry and government adapt to ensure that tourism remains an economic driver for Cape Town?

Both industry and government should continue to promote local travel. It’s going to be a while before international travel picks up again, so we need to do all we can to boost domestic tourism and make South Africa appealing to those who live here. If people spend the money they had saved for a European holiday in Cape Town instead, it would make a massive difference. We also need to encourage entrepreneurs to enter the tourism market, industry and government could offer more help, assistance and workshops to those wanting to start a tourism business. We need to expand on our mentorship programmes to assist small businesses and ensure they grow their business in the tourism industry.

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What is your view on Cape Town’s tourism source markets in light if the Covid-19 pandemic? Do you think we’ll see a shift?

The traditional markets were Germany, USA, UK, Netherlands, France. However, in light of the COVID-19 impact there is a possibility that this will change. The shift is dependent on regulations both in South Africa and the origin country. We believe that there is a potential for a shift in key outbound markets but it is too early to determine such shifts. However, it will strongly correlate to the vaccine rollout as well as the number of cases in each instance.

Key source and traditional markets are still important as awareness levels are still high and pent up demand needs to be converted to assist with recovery, new markets are great but take a longer time to convert. However, we continually scan for markets, but I think we need to move beyond market segmentation and redefine new travel segment that are not geographically segmented but more life-stage and experience divided for ease of recognition and application on global and local levels

Has Cape Town Tourism’s future roadmap changed as a result of the pandemic?

Our future goals have not changed and purpose to positively change the lives of all our citizens via tourism, by getting visitor to stay longer, see and do more and spend more. We can achieve our vision sooner rather than later. However our tactics and prioritisation has shifted, but I also think the pandemic and impact of global lockdowns has forced us to not become complacent as a destination but to relook at ourselves, our positioning and responsibility and not take things for granted.

What gives you hope for the future of tourism in Cape Town?

Always optimistic in the world of pessimism. I hope SMEs survive and key attractions make it through concern about asset losses which will make recovery more difficult.

What are your recollections of your last international trip?

Wow, I am having major travel withdrawals to be honest. I even miss the passport or border control official who makes you feel guilty of something you may not have done without uttering a word. You know that look, that is special to a very few. Like traffic cops, mall security or your life partner – you know that look that says – I know you did something or didn’t do something and I am going to find out and when I do, oh boy….what I would give to get one of those looks now…

What are the items on your 2021 bucket list?

Exploring more of South Africa and Africa, I would like to visit Nairobi in Kenya, spend some time in Namibia.

What is your favourite international destination and why?

Cape Town of course, but I do have some other favourites like New York, London, Seoul (Korea) and Melbourne to name a few. It’s the energy of NY, the tradition of London, the culture and soul in Seoul and the liability of Melbourne.

Why should people visit Cape Town in 2021 and beyond?

Cape Town has something to offer all travel groups. Whether you are travelling with friends, family, as a couple of on your own, Cape Town has experiences to satisfy your need for adventure, nature, food and wine, culture. But more than that, its our people who add the cherry on top. We have been known as having the friendliest people in Cape Town which helps build authentic and memorable experiences for anyone visiting our beautiful Mother City.