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George Celebrates a Bumper Festive Season for Tourism

In the photo: Bird’s-eye-view of Wilderness beach, with popular paragliders soaring overhead

George experienced a bustling holiday season, particularly from 22 December 2023 to 3 January 2024, with accommodation levels reaching 80% to full occupancy. Shorter stays, around 4 to 5 days, were common, with increased domestic visitors from major cities like Gauteng, Cape Town, and Gqeberha. International visitors also showed growth, pleasing tourism stakeholders. The Local Tourism Bureau, comprising George, Wilderness and Uniondale Tourism were delighted to receive mostly positive feedback from tourism businesses about how the festive season is going for their businesses.

Reflecting on the recent festive season, Executive Mayor Alderman Leon van Wyk expressed satisfaction with George’s tourism performance. “Comparatively, the Garden Route region fared well, aligning with the success seen in Cape Town. Daily flights and passenger numbers reflected similar positive trends, with accommodation levels consistently above 80%, often reaching full capacity,” Mayor van Wyk said.

Mayor van Wyk credited the success to the innovative approaches of participants in the tourism sector and the Municipality’s thorough preparedness for the tourist season. “What we’ve also seen is that those providers who have been able to be adaptive, agile and have novel ideas, have done extremely well. We as the Municipality have also prepared very well for our tourism season and that has certainly helped in giving a pleasurable experience,” he added.

George Tourism conducted a WhatsApp poll with local tourism members, representing restaurants, activities, accommodations, and tour operators. Sixty per cent (60%) of respondents indicated they were busier than last year and 37% said business was similar to last year, with only 3% indicating that business was quieter than the previous season.

The Outeniqua Powervan, a tram-train trip from the Transnet Transport Museum up the Outeniqua Mountains

The Outeniqua Powervan, a tram-train trip from the Transnet Transport Museum up the Outeniqua Mountains, reported a bumper season. According to Directors Vivia and Charl Marais, they were fully booked from 11 December until this Saturday, 13 January 2024. It has been such a pleasure helping locals and visitors enjoy the history of our rails and the beauty of our mountain. We transported 32% more passengers than last December and unfortunately had to turn many, many more people away due to capacity.

Hiking – stunning flora and fauna at the Outeniqua Mountains

Some outdoor adventure operators reported they generally had a good season but that late December wet days slowed down their numbers. Feedback from restaurants was mixed – with some restaurateurs continuing to do exceptionally well, and others reporting fewer feet and spend per head. A tour and transfers operator remarked that the roads were the busiest they’ve ever experienced, creating delays, and the Garden Route to Cape Town trip was particularly busy, even on the traditionally quieter times like Christmas. Laetitia Kotze, owner of the popular Boerevintage Gift Market at Redberry Farm, said they received a remarkable 44 000 visitors over 15 trading days. Several tourism stakeholders remarked that they were back to pre-Covid figures.

By extracting data from software that aggregates information from top Online Travel Agent (OTA) platforms, the Tourism office reported an average occupancy of 77% across George Municipality from 15 December 2023 until 09 January 2024. The best-performing dates on these OTA platforms, where occupancies exceeded 80%, were from 23 December 2023 until 03 January 2024. Twenty-nine December was the crème de la crème, recording the highest average occupancy for the season – at 88%. More good news followed when it was calculated that the destination’s average occupancy had increased by 5% compared to the same period last year. These statistics exclude trade and direct bookings, and through anecdotal feedback, it seems that accommodation was mostly full.

Domestic tourism is still king, with 47% of visitors to the George municipal area originating from within South Africa. The top 5 domestic source markets were Cape Town, Johannesburg, Centurion, Pretoria and Gqeberha. 43% of December visitors were from an international source market, predominantly travellers from Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The average reservation window for December was 80 days, with an average length of stay of 4 days. There were also 62 more properties recorded in December than the previous year, and 118 more properties in January, across OTA platforms measured.

The OTA data also shows that George slightly outperforms its neighbouring Garden Route towns, as well as Hermanus, in terms of occupancy for December 2023. However, Plett, Knysna and Hermanus have more properties on Airbnb.

George’s Tourism office team were out and about over the festive season, distributing tourism information to travellers to help them find things to do, as well as promotional items. “Thank you to the Outeniqua Family Market, the Africa Skills George Tens Festival, as well as the George Airport for hosting the George, Wilderness and Uniondale Tourism Info team over the festive season. This was a great service to travellers and the community, who could pick up tourism maps, brochures, and other information conveniently while exploring the area,” says Joan Shaw, Tourism Manager. Tourism info activations also took place at various beaches across the municipal footprint.

“Additionally, a big thank you to our local private sector stakeholders for providing timely feedback. We appreciate your prompt responses in helping us to obtain a sense of what is taking place during the season beyond the accommodation statistics the office subscribes to”, adds Shaw.

The Wilderness Visitor Information Centre opened slightly later at 09:30 and closed at 18:00 while operating from 11:00 until 15:00 on Saturdays and public holidays. For those planning their next vacation, or still on holiday, get in touch with George, Wilderness and Uniondale Tourism or go to for more information.

• GEORGE TOURISM 124 York Street, George Central, George, 6529 | +27 44 801 9295 | | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM
• WILDERNESS TOURISM 198 George Road, Wilderness, 6560 | +27 44 877 0045 | | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM
• UNIONDALE TOURISM Virtual assistance | +27 44 518 0030 | | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM