How the tourism industry is adjusting to the Cape Town water crisis

Full extract:

The drought has left the region severely water-stressed, with restrictions in place and concerns about how this will affect visitors coming into Cape Town. This is the result of three years of lower than average rainfall in the region, and with creative solutions on all levels, from the government to residents, Cape Town will remain a great place to visit. South African Tourism has reassured the world that Cape Town is open for business and all visitors are welcome as long as they are willing to work with us in conserving water. Water restrictions are in place and visitors and locals need to ensure they use less than 50 litres per day.


Infographic courtesy of the City of Cape Town


It’s not only Cape Town that is affected by issues surrounding water. It’s important to think about water use on a global scale, and preserve this precious resource as best we can. The water shortage in Cape Town is a valuable learning experience. We have to get used to a new normal, where water is used with respect.

Sisa Ntshona, CEO of SA Tourism, appeared on eNCA to talk about the water crisis and its effect on tourism.  He remarked, “This is not an issue to Cape Town only, climate issues are a global thing. Cape Town, however, is at the sharp end of this and is leading the way as to how global cities respond to water restrictions.”

He also cautioned against thinking of ‘Day Zero’ as a kind of “Armageddon”, saying that there is a firm plan in place to ensure everyone has access to water for their daily needs. ‘Day Zero’ refers to the day our dams reach below 13.5%, not run out of water entirely. If this day arrives, visitors and locals will be restricted to 25 litres per day to ensure the dams do not run completely dry. It has been moved out to early June thanks to the conjoined efforts of the agriculture industry, visitors, and locals.

Still, the time has come to start doing things differently, so that the tourism industry can continue to thrive without doing harm. It is vital to support the industry, which provides employment to approximately 300,000 much-needed jobs across the Western Cape. It is nothing short of inspiring to see how businesses have banded together to cut water usage, and make brilliant, creative changes to how they are run.

Accommodation providers in the Western Cape have risen to the challenge of saving water with great aplomb. With rain-harvesting tanks, grey water systems, water-saving devices, and other inventive solutions, usage has come way down. Many hotels and establishments have made alternate arrangements to ensure there is water on site even if ‘Day Zero’ arrives. The Tsogo Sun Hotel group was among the first in the industry to make drastic changes, including reducing pressure to taps, introducing instant-heating showers, using paper napkins and tablecloths, and filling pools with borehole water.

Restaurants are still fully operational, and many also have measures in place to ensure they continue to run throughout the drought period, even in the event of ‘Day Zero’. Hygiene is still being prioritized, and food is being carefully washed and prepped. Some establishments have made some clever changes to their menus (like steaming and grilling instead of boiling). Many have used clever tricks to save water, from using the melted ice to mop floors, to installing greywater systems for flushing toilets.

It’s important for both locals and visitors to stay up to date with the latest news about the Cape Town drought, so they can make the best decisions and continue to use this precious resource responsibly. For up-to-date information about the water crisis, Day Zero, and water restrictions, visit

To find out more about the water crisis and what you can do, read our guide to the water crisis.

Lee Last