Destination Category Finalist
Few people walk around Cape Town's V&A Waterfront and fail to be struck by the sense of optimism and renewal. From the strains of Cape Jazz heard from street musicians to the innovative wire sculptures and other local arts and crafts for sale everywhere you look, this remarkable restoration project in the heart of the historic harbour is infused with hope. No wonder it is South Africa's most popular tourist destination, with 24 million people now visiting each year.
Over the past nine years, what was once an industrialised brownfield site has been decontaminated, rehabilitated and totally reinvigorated to become a mecca of independent shops, world class restaurants and iconic hotels, while at the same time still supporting a marina, local fishing industry and residential developments. And all this with the backdrop of Table Mountain everywhere you look.
As well as regenerating a rundown area, the V&A has provided a huge economic boost to the local economy. According to an independent economic impact assessment, in 2014 alone it contributed an estimated R33.4 billion (US$3.34 billion) to the country's GDP. And from the beginning, it has ensured that as much of this money as possible goes to support local people and the environment.
Since 2008, the V&A has invested over R65 million (US$6.5 million) in environmentally-friendly practices, while always looking for ways to support its local communities. For example, all the lights used in its energy efficiency initiatives have been manufactured locally, thus not only saving energy, but creating jobs at the same time. Elsewhere, at the Watershed, over 150 African independent craft makers and designers are provided with space to sell and exhibit their work.
Finally, they also work to look after many of the homeless people found on the streets of Cape Town. Since 2012, the V&A has supported getting 206 of them back off the streets and reunited with their friends and family. It typifies the sense of inclusiveness that is apparent to anyone who visits, and that is at the heart of its phenomenal success.