V&A Waterfront does not wait for global tourists …
The V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. (Photo: Nasief Manié)
While the return of international tourists is crucial to the economic well-being of the V&A Waterfront, management is not holding back investment and development while waiting. And, meanwhile, local tourists are the flavor of the month.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
The South African tourism industry has its eyes on the UK government as it updates its red-orange-green travel list this week. Despite lobbying from the Southern African Tourism Services Association, SA has remained firmly on the red list, costing the economy more than R790 million each month in lost tourism spending, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. Losses since May have exceeded 2.4 billion rand.
Having the UK’s traffic light system undergo a strategic review before October 1 with suggestions for a new two-tier system that will ditch expensive PCR testing for double-bitten holidaymakers and a big cut to the red list.
One person who desperately wants SA removed from the redlist is David Green, CEO of V&A Waterfront. Visits to the iconic destination are down 40% from 2019, when the Waterfront welcomed more than 26 million visitors. “We have no international tourists, no events, no business trips,” he said, pointing out that before the Covid strike, international tourism was the fastest growing sector in the world. South African economy.
Attracting visitors is vital for the 123 ha “district”, as Green likes to call it, to reconnect with the economic contribution of previous years. During the year to March 2020, V&A Management, its tenants and their suppliers contributed R36.4 billion to GDP, equivalent to 2% of the provincial economy, creating nearly 50,000 direct jobs and 25,000 indirect jobs. The continued investments and development of the V&A district have seen this contribution increase steadily over the years, compared to 28.9 billion rand and 16,000 direct jobs in 2012.
Despite the unwelcome disruption of Covid-19, the management company has worked hard to preserve and protect existing infrastructure, while planning and investment in new infrastructure continues. “The tourists will come back, the cruise ships will dock at the cruise terminal again and we have to be ready. “
The cruise terminal, which opened in December 2018, is among the investments that have yet to reach their full potential. In FY2020, 42 cruise liners docked at the terminal, dumping some 74,000 passengers, up from 22 liners and 33,000 passengers in 2017. Green sees no reason why this terminal should not accommodate 300,000 to 400 000 passengers in the coming years.
Another project that has yet to reach its full potential is Makers Landing, the R63 million farm-to-fork food experience that opened to the public last December.
It is a partnership with the National Treasury Employment Fund.
Other investments are underway. A 4.3 billion rand project to modernize and redevelop the historically significant Canal District is nearing completion. This development reconnects the Waterfront with the city. It includes the Roggebaai Canal, which connects the V&A and the Cape Town International Convention Center; the Waterfront Theater School, commercial, retail and hotel spaces, and the recently redeveloped Battery Park. The park preserves the remains of the old Amsterdam Battery and incorporates a skate park and basketball courts which are already well used – when closures allow. A primary school is still in the planning stage and further “densification” is possible, says Green.
Public access and a link to the city are his favorite workhorses.
“When Transnet first sold the land, 30 years ago, it was walled up and inaccessible. Today, although the land is private property, it is accessible to the public, ”he said. This means visitors can get close enough to cruise liners, boats in the marina, dry docks, and watch the tugs at work. The fall in waterfronts elsewhere is due to the fact that too much private property has been incorporated into the enclosure. “Preserving freshness, growth and flexibility is not served by selling to individuals; they don’t have the public good in mind, ”says Green. As a result, the Waterfront (co-owned by Growthpoint Properties and the Government Employees Pension Fund) owns some 200 buildings in the area.
Another recent investment is the completion of 250 studios for rent. With average rents of 7,000 to 10,000 rand for a one-bedroom apartment, these are accessible to young working people, a Green group is trying to win over.
What is evident, speaking to Green, is that the Waterfront is not just a retail and entertainment space. It is a mixed-use neighborhood that attracts more than its fair share of commercial tenants. What is also clear is that development is far from over.
“There are two ways to be taller. One is to develop less developed areas, such as Granger Bay, which includes Grand Beach and the Oranjezicht market. There are long term plans for this area which include the possibility of land reclamation. The other idea is to further develop the area around the cruise terminal. While the “ocean economy” already occupies 21% of available land, Green (and others) see the potential to further develop this sector – at the heart of which is the building of world-renowned Cape Town catamarans – and the space could be made available to businesses operating on the outskirts of it, such as sailboats, kitesurf makers and the like.
“We could grow an additional 50% in terms of volume (buildings) and activity. We have a 20-year plan… ”
Of course, there are a few little thorns that nag at Green. One is to find ways to bring people back to the city. Another, the biggest thorn, is that of public transport, or the lack thereof. “MyCiTi is awesome, and we are considering the Park and Ride in the northern suburbs. But the future is rail.
“Cape Town has an incredible rail system. Most cities would kill to have these links with their most populous areas. Our priority is to see Prasa work – it is a catalyst for growth. Let’s use what we have. This is where the energy and focus should go. ” DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 which is available for R25 from Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest dealer, please click here.