Are shark attacks good for business?
Shark attacks are damaging the surfing industry but they may be good for the cage-diving operators.Cape Town Tourism general manager Mariette du Toit said there was a notable increase in cage-diving inquiries each time there was a shark encounter.On the other hand, many surfshops, surf schools and other watersport businesses have reported a drop-off in business in the wake of recent shark encounters.
'Every time somebody is bitten, it obviously awakens interest'Speaking at a shark attack debate held by surfers at Muizenberg on Sunday, Du Toit said: "Cape Town Tourism has noted our concern in terms of the sensationalism attached to shark incidents."Ironically, we see an increase in the number of people interested in a shark experience after each incident.
"Many people have a wrong perception of the great white shark, and tourism stakeholders and operators must be responsible in the way in which we 'sell' natural experiences."However, cage-diving operators were adamant that business had not boomed in the wake of recent shark attacks.While Gordon's Bay cage-diving operator Theunis Esterhuizen agreed with Du Toit's observation that "every time somebody is bitten, it obviously awakens interest", he said this had not sparked a sudden boost in his business.
Rob Lawrence, another of the three cage-diving operators licensed to work in the False Bay area, denied there had been an increase in business or inquiries."An increase in clients and business is a long-term thing. The growth in my business is not because of isolated shark attacks in the area, but rather because of a steady increase of interest over the years and because we've built up a reputation in the industry," said Lawrence, who has operated in the area for 15 years.
Simon's Town operator Chris Fallows said he had operated for 12 years and has not used chum for the past three years.Surf shop operators said they had been hard hit by the recent attacks. Dave Chudleigh, co-owner of the Surf Shack school at Surfers Corner in Muizenberg, said there had been a drop in business. "It's mostly been in the local market and not tourists. I think it's not so much the shark attack as the media coverage that came after it."He said the media was "sensationalising" the shark issue, despite the fact there were more deaths by other causes each year.Titch Paul, who owns the Lifestyle Surf Shop at Surfer's Corner, had registered a "remarkable" drop in clients."
It could just be the time of the year, but since the Sunrise Beach incident, business has definitely been down," said Paul. "Some of it is probably the media, but you can't take away the reality. It could be people's lives at stake. This has become a real issue, and it hasn't been an issue since I started surfing 45 years ago."But Roxy Towill, who owns the Roxy Surf School for girls in Muizenberg, said her business had not suffered.
"I am in the water every day, and occasionally it does cross my mind as to what's happening underneath me, but in the last few months a number of friends have been injured or come close to death on the roads I drive on every day. It needs to be put into perspective."Shark attacks have been in sharp focus since August 28, when lifeguard Achmat Hassiem, 24, lost his right foot in a shark attack off Sunrise Beach near Muizenberg.
On August 13, Fish Hoek lifesaver Lyle Maasdorp, 19, had a close shave when a shark bit off a piece of his surfski. During the same period, there were two other close encounters between surfers and sharks, most notably when a surfer fled the ocean at Noordhoek about two weeks ago after a shark took an interest in him behind the surfline.