New hotels, dining options and more for an increasing number of business travellers capitalizing on growing opportunities in technology, winemaking, tourism and shipping.

South African business leaders cheered last December when the group of major emerging economies called “BRIC” changed its name to “BRICS.” That’s when Brazil, Russia, India and China invited South Africa to join their exclusive club, adding a capital “S” to the acronym.

Add in the excitement and pride around the phenomenally successful 2010 FIFA World Cup plus a 15% bump in visitor arrivals this year and you have a country bursting at the seams with a newfound confidence and optimism for the future.

To capitalize on growing opportunities with industries such as technology, winemaking, tourism and shipping, an increasing number of business travellers from around the world are landing in Cape Town, South Africa’s second largest city. To host the influx, Cape Town has witnessed a burst of brand new world-class hotels, a new cutting-edge airport terminal and an increasingly sophisticated food and wine scene.

Hotel: Elegant or edgy?

The 5-star Taj Cape Town Hotel opened in 2010 in the increasingly vibrant heart of the city, across the street from the Houses of Parliament. Fittingly for business travellers, the new hotel tower rises 17 stories out of the beautifully restored Reserve Bank Building (which now serves as the lobby), offering guests stunning views of Table Mountain or the city. Unlike many of the city’s other luxury hotels located on the tourist-oriented V&A Waterfront, the Taj is surrounded by office buildings, museums, gardens, art galleries and pedestrian malls. For some fun, check out the adjacent Twankey Bar for occasional live music, a platter of fresh Namibian oysters, a glass of Champagne or a nightcap.

The strikingly contemporary 15 on Orange Hotel, which opened in 2009 near Cape Town’s central business district wows guests as soon as they step onto the lobby’s ruby red and white marble walkway or when they see the egg shaped Lucite chairs hanging from the ceilings or their suites. Patrons at the hotel’s chic Murano Bar sit inside a two-story crystal chandelier. But it is not all about the design. This five-star, 129-room hotel offers business travel essentials such as complimentary wi-fi, flat screen TVs, large desks, a full-service business centre and a boardroom-style meeting space. If you tire of the visual overload, take a walk in the Company Gardens, the popular public park nearby. 

Do not do this!
While South Africa has a reputation as unsafe for visitors, do not let fear of crime keep you in your hotel and away from experiencing the region to the fullest. While central Cape Town is much safer than other parts of South Africa, it is always smart to use common sense. Avoid walking alone at night (taxis are cheap and plentiful). Keep cameras and mobile phones out of plain site. Do not accept assistance from anyone at ATM machines. If you would like to explore outside the city centre, like the Cape Winelands region or the Cape of Good Hope, travel with organised tours arranged through your hotel.

Off the clock
A half-day trip to the top of nearby Table Mountain is on nearly every visitor’s agenda. But even on sunny clear days in the city, the top of the mountain can be covered by fog (a phenomenon known as “the tablecloth” among locals.) Business travellers with limited free time can steer clear of the tablecloth and take in a lot of the region via a helicopter tour. CIVAIR, with charters departing the V&A Waterfront, offers short flights around the city for as little as R575 per person. For a dramatic bird’s eye view of the Cape of Good Hope (50 km south of the city) consider the longer “full peninsula tour” for about R2400 per person.

Go local
Visitors like to visit Cape Town’s buzzy downtown and waterfront areas, or they hit the beaches in the summer. But if you want to see how a large portion of Capetonians really lives, consider a “township tour”. Despite difficult circumstances and poverty, township life is improving and you will encounter vibrant, spirited and proud residents eager to interact with visitors. These popular tours typically take half a day and can include a visit to a local pub where you may hear some famous Cape jazz. Tours also stop by typical homes, schools and shops where visitors are encouraged to spend money on locally made arts and crafts. Inquire at your hotel about the best tours.

Expense account
The dynamic Cape Town food and wine scene changes dramatically from season to season, so it is best to inquire at your hotel about the best spots to celebrate a deal, impress a client or to simply sample the exotic local fare. Some examples from various seasonal menus around the region include Impala tenderloin, coffee-roasted warthog and Mozambican prawns seasoned with indigenous herbs and spices at Le Quartier Francais in nearby Franschhoek. At French/Asian inspired La Colombe in Constantia you will find “medallions of pan-seared springbok served with fig puree” or “a fricassee of prawn and veal sweetbreads with miso dressing”. At the Bombay Brasserie, order a local staple, sweet corn soup, topped with an Indian-inspired twist: turmeric popcorn.


Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel.