The State Department has updated its travel advisory for South Africa as the destination, particularly Cape Town, continues to grapple with a severe drought and water crisis that could lead to the shutting off of municipal water to most households and businesses on May 11, which has come to be known as “Day Zero.”
According to the latest update, dated February 9, the State Department has rated South Africa as level 2, “Exercise Increased Caution,” on its four-level travel advisory scale, due to crime. The update also advises travelers to be aware that Cape Town and the Western Cape Province are experiencing a severe drought, and that the city has restricted household water use to 50 liters per person per day.
The State Department reports that violent crime, including armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging and “smash-and-grab” attacks on vehicles, is common, with a higher risk in the central business districts of major cities after dark. Travelers are advised to avoid walking alone, especially after dark, and to avoid visiting informal settlement areas unless with someone who is familiar with the area.
Travel agents our partner publication Luxury Travel Advisor spoke with have mixed reports on how the water crisis has been affecting tourism. Premier Tours, Extraordinary Journeys and Travel Beyond have said they remain comfortable sending clients to Cape Town, while others, such as Jeff DalPoggetto of Andavo Travel, remain hesitant, ultimately letting clients decide.
Lucille Sive, the CEO of The Travel Corporation’s Africa Division, recently returned from a trip from the city, and in a written statement reported that “Cape Town is open for business.” Sive noted that there were “a few minor adjustments to [visitors’] personal hygiene and dining routines,” but that hotels, restaurants and attractions had not otherwise been disrupted.
In a statement issued shortly after reports of “Day Zero” began to circulate, the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SASTA) said that, in the event that “Day Zero” does take place, “there will be available water for tourists’ and locals’ critical needs.” Additionally, Cape Town’s Central Business District will not have its water shut off.
Luxury hotels in and around Cape Town, including Kensington Place, Cape Grace, Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, One&Only Cape Town and others, have implemented a number of water-saving measures, including filling pools with recycled water, restrictions on water use during showers, and altering the schedule for washing linens.