When it comes to the leading business hubs of Africa, there are a few immediate names that spring to the fore, and - shining like a beacon above the continent’s traditional gateway - Cape Town perhaps stands head and shoulders above them all.
The sights of Table Mountain down to the stunning coastline of Clifton Beach are renowned on a global scale, and far from the norm of neighbouring cities and urban hubs around Africa, Cape Town’s reputation as a desirable tourist destination, migration opportunity or business travel centre is firmly set in stone already.
Very little marketing or promotional work needs to be done to drill home the appeal of South Africa’s second most populous urban area and provincial capital. And Western Cape’s finest asset somewhat inevitably carries a similar cachet when it comes to the business world and its appeal to the executive fraternity.
As the seat of the National Parliament and the legislative capital of the country, the city’s ability to marry business with pleasure is undoubted; only with the added bonus of being wedded on some of the most stunning backdrops in the world.
By proxy, its hugely diverse and multicultural make-up ensures its status as a key hub for business travel from all continents, and despite the wider country no longer being the sole point of entry for industry in Africa, South Africa’s tradition and history as the continental front door has already done the hard work in making Cape Town’s infrastructure one of the most varied, developed and lucrative for miles around.
Cape Town Tourism, the City of Cape Town’s official regional tourism organisation is responsible for destination marketing, visitor and industry services; and is excited about the potential that Cape Town still has from both a tourism and business travel perspective
“Successful tourism doesn’t just boost economies – it builds pride too. Cape Town Tourism believes in close encounters, people as the focus point of tourism, responsible living, and immersion in the destinations and cultures we visit; this is what gives tourism in Cape Town its unique energy and appeal,” the Company says.
“We believe that tourism is built around involvement, participation, relationship and partnership, and that it is about actively taking hands with local communities, listening to their needs and working side by side to ensure that the environment and indigenous cultures are preserved, while allowing responsible travellers to experience the holiday of a lifetime.”
Facts and figures
Country: South Africa
Province: Western Cape
Languages: English, Afrikaans, Xhosa
Area: 2,445 square kilometres
Population (2011): 3.7 million
GDP: $58.9 billion
Time zone: UTC+2
Dialling code: +27
Internet TLD: .za
Climate: Warm-summer Mediterranean
Highest recorded temperature: 42.4°C
The business end
The World Cup in 2010 not only had a positive influence on the city’s transport network, local economy and business outlets, but also provided Cape Town with an opportunity - or necessity, at the time - to improve its levels of accommodation; in preparation for welcoming the largest influx of people at one time ever seen in the area.
Not only was capacity an issue, but the pressure was also on to meet stringent quality and sustainability standards in improving the state of hotels, hostels, apartments and resorts around the city; a benefit that is still seen in the aftermath of the tournament for the business travellers coming into the country, and that is still being improved upon to this day as previous infrastructure for the World Cup continues to be renovated into offices and hotels.
This level of innovation and business acumen is indicative of a city that has long been the economic hub of the Western Cape, is South Africa’s main economic centre, and is the third main economic hub city in the whole continent.
While tourism inevitably comprises a sizeable portion of this ongoing GDP growth, it is once again the mix of leisure and industry that keeps driving Cape Town forward, and key sectors including manufacturing, agriculture, financial services, supply chain, electronics and textiles have all flourished over the years as a consequence of its strong trade routes and its FDI (foreign direct investment) attractiveness.
Additional booms across real estate and construction markets - again largely thanks to the World Cup in 2010 - further cements Cape Town’s standing as a key area for business growth, and subsequently, business travellers entering the city.
Multinational giants including Johnson & Johnson, Nampak, GlaxoSmithKline and Adidas all house manufacturing bases in the city to emphasise the level of industry being enjoyed to this day, and the extent to which Cape Town has to make itself suitable for the business domain as a consequence.
Out and about
Once again bringing to mind the nature versus nurture debate, the must-dos and must sees of Cape Town essentially split these options down the middle, giving every preference and demographic plenty of choice as to how they spend their time in the region.
On the side of nurture, the city’s CBD is littered with four and five star hotels, efficient transport links and - most importantly - a vast array of eateries, retail outlets and leisure activities.
Encompassing all three of the above is the V&A Waterfront which is arguably the most popular daytime destination for locals and tourists alike. And for the more adventurous or curious among you, Two Oceans Aquarium’s glimpse into local exotic sea life is one of the area’s most visited attractions.
When night comes, it’s well worth checking out theatre productions being put on by Artscape in the city centre or, if you’d rather eat and drink your business stresses away, then Cape Town’s restaurant and bar assortment is equally abundant.
Despite all of this though, it is on the nature side of the argument where Cape Town makes its name as one of the world’s most desirable destinations.
And with the likes of Table Mountain, Clifton Beach, Shamwari Game Reserve, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and Robben Island to boast, it is no wonder why.
“You really can’t overstate the case for visiting Cape Town.” - Pippa de Buryn, TheTelegraph
Bringing together the diversity of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, Two Oceans Aquarium has become one of Cape Town’s top tourist attractions, and an equally attractive proposition for business travellers looking to immerse themselves in something fun and informational during their time in the city.
The “results-based, full service digital agency” has offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban and, as such, is established as one of the country’s leading business agencies. Building its success around performance and agility, Hitch Digital focuses on providing industry-leading results for the sake of its clients.
With a fulfilled promise of never letting you down, Premier Car Rental has long serviced the city of Cape Town - its residents, tourists and business travellers - virtue of its extensive car, van and truck rental options. As one of the country’s fastest growing companies in the sector, customer satisfaction is given paramount consideration.
Art & Culture
World-class productions, high-tech sets and locally-made productions all come together through Artscape to showcase the highest levels of artistic excellence that Cape Town has to offer.
The four-star Hout Bay-located landmark has refined first-class levels of hospitality, food & drink, and spa treatments to offer all demographics the “perfect resting place for your journey”.
As one of the most successful private conservation initiatives in Southern Africa, Shamwari Game Reserve is one of the Eastern Cape’s most popular safaris, being described as an unforgettable destination and an opportunity to create memories that last a lifetime.
Food & Drink
Sport & Leisure
Given the city’s positioning, status and urban responsibilities - as well as the widespread nature of Cape Town’s suburbs and both high and low-lying areas - it comes as no surprise that the transport system is extensive and hugely refined.
Initially geared up as a port city, the longstanding tradition as such has culminated in The Port of Cape Town hosting one of the busiest shipping corridors in the world, while also setting the scene for the scope of consumer travel avenues as well.
Cape Town International Airport, the city’s rail network, road infrastructure and general public transport have all been labelled as traditionally one of the best on the continent, and received a further boost in the early 2000s in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
As the first country on the continent to host such an esteemed global sporting occasion, all eyes were on how an African city could cope with the sudden influx and demand; a challenge that was risen to via investments into a new airport terminal, improved rail and Metrorail links, a significantly enhanced public transport set-up, and upgrades to the city’s roads.
As a result, Cape Town - much like Johannesburg who also benefited from the national focus on the World Cup - is up there with anything the west can offer in terms of moving from place to place and, especially given the natural challenges and logistics of the city, this blend of nature and nurture will make any business trip far more simple than you would perhaps expect.
Table Mountain is arguably Africa’s most renowned natural landmark and is a must-visit for tourist and corporate visitors alike in order to achieve the full Cape Town experience. As a natural backdrop to the city in general, seeing the spectacle is guaranteed, but with Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head on either side, and the Cape of Good Hope offering the main chance to walk through the National park, there are no excuses not to turn scenery into an adventure for the day.
For those who prefer to keep themselves at sea level, Clifton Beaches offer a far more relaxed experience for executives looking to catch a bit of sun in between meetings or for those simply looking to lap up the waves at the end of a long day. Regular bus services to each of the four hotspots make the areas every bit as accessible as they are idyllic.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
For something a little more cultural or structured, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens represents one of the largest and most beautiful of its type the world over. More than 50,000 square metres of indigenous plant species and guided walks make it one of the most authentic experiences in Cape Town, while giving a wider sense of South African beauty for those only on short-stay visits.
“Used as a prison from the early days of the VOC right up until 1996, this Unesco World Heritage site is preserved as a memorial to those such as Nelson Mandela who spent many years incarcerated here,” notes Lonely Planet regarding Robben Island; a site which can only be visited via a four-hour ferry tour, but that rewards you with a mixture of scenery, architecture and history to encapsulate the historical significance of some of South Africa’s most important events.