Is progress being made with the visa regulations issue? If you relied solely on the Tourism Business Council of SA‘s (TBCSA) update to it’s members, you would think so. Until you get to the sentence, “A Board resolution has been taken that media will be engaged on this matter on a need-to-know basis – we wish to avoid the pitfalls of having this matter playing itself out in the public space and want to ensure that our engagements remain robust but handled with due care.”  Which means they have discarded transparency and are playing voetsie-voetsie with government.

They add, “Our Board Chairman, through his links within the ANC National Executive Committee is also working to ensure that the industry’s concerns regarding the regulations are duly considered.”  Can he do more than tourism minister Derek Hanekom (also a member of the ANC NEC) given that ANC and its NEC are in total disarray?

The DA shadow minister of tourism, James Vos, pulls no punches in the DA’s submission to the Department of Home Affairs.

In a separate statement, Vos says:

The recently tabled Draft First Amendment of the Immigration Regulations made under the Immigration Act by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), does nothing to address the loss of jobs in the tourism industry, including concerns raised by the tourism industry, government departments and opposition parties.

The Draft First Amendment is nothing more than a half-hearted attempt to address the serious problems with the current regulations and will result in the ultimate contraction of the tourism industry.

The reality is that no material changes will be affected by the error-ridden Draft. Rather, the wording of a few provisions have lazily been shifted around, in what can only be seen as an attempt to create the illusion of the DHA’s willingness to engage with criticism of its policies.

The contentious requirement that parents traveling to South Africa with their children must produce an unabridged birth certificate (UBC) has not been removed. Rather than actually change the regulations, it seems that the Department only reorganised the clauses, whilst the requirements essentially stay the same.

Issues with Business Visas, as well as Corporate and Work Visas have not been addressed. The requirements places strict barriers to entry for foreigners who want to do business in South Africa. This makes it more laborious to invest in South Africa, or to attract foreign talent to our country.

Clearly the Department has put no effort into the drafting of their amendments, which provided the Department with the opportunity to improve the widely-criticised Immigration Regulations. The Department should be chastised for this entirely inadequate Draft and its poor attempt at governance.

In order to remedy these issues the DA has made a comprehensive submission to the DHA on the proposed amendments. I will also write the Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, as Chairperson of the Interministerial Committee on visa regulations, to withdraw the current and proposed regulations and be replaced by electronic visas, which cut turnaround time, are safer and ultimately streamline tourist facilitations to our country.

Tourism can be used as an effective tool to create jobs, provide opportunities for small businesses, promote livelihoods for communities and bring South Africans together to share experiences. For every 12 tourists that visit South Africa, one job is created. The Immigration Regulations therefore put tourism job opportunities at risk.

So one has to ask the question, is all this talk and all these submissions worth an iota? Government is paralysed through lack of leadership (the education crisis proves this) and any intelligent agenda.

So  maybe, SATSA (SA Travel Services Association) has the only solution.

David Frost, Satsa CEO, told  South African Tourism Update that legal action against the Department of Home Affairs was a possibility and the association had already sought legal counsel.

“Legal action is an option and it is certainly the last resort and not something that anybody wants to do but it is an option when you’ve exhausted every other avenue,” said Frost. “And it looks very much like we’ve exhausted every other avenue.”

Frost said that what was needed was for the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba to provide the basis of the policy implementation. “Ultimately what you want is a court of law to be able to put the Minister of Home Affairs on the stand and ask him to provide the rational basis for the UBC requirement: how many children have been trafficked? How big is the problem?”

Frost added that they had sought an opinion from senior legal counsel that he would table at the Tourism Business Council of South Africa as an option to consider. “If anyone can provide an alternative remedy to sort the problem out, I’m open to listening to it,” said Frost. “It’s been two years and we’ve made no progress, nor has the Minister of Tourism, nor has the Deputy President, nor the Inter-Ministerial Committee.”

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Are you one in a billion?

If you travelled internationally in 2015 then you are. In fact you are 1 in 1.2 billion. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation that’s how many international trips were made last year. And by 2030 it will be nearly 2 billion.

2030. 2 billion people. Spending just over $2 trillion, in all corners of the world. 2 billion people, experiencing new cultures, sharing new friends, creating new business. 2 billion people providing jobs and an income for 400 million people.

By 2030, Travel & Tourism will be 11% of the world’s economy. Each and every person who travels will play a part in this story of growth, adventure and experience.

But will this story have a happy ending?

When we’re on holiday we can consume double the amount of water we do at home, and can create up to three times the amount of waste. We can alienate local communities by wearing inappropriate clothes, or by going to areas they hold sacred. We can trample on precious biodiversity, or visit places that cannot cope with our presence. We take 32 million flights creating 781 million tonnes of carbon each year.

2030. 2 billion travellers. 4 billion footprints.

We are already seeing the challenges play out.

Overcrowding [Angkor Wat, Venice]

Overcrowding [Angkor Wat, Venice]

Tension between hosts and visitors [Barcelona]

Tension between hosts and visitors [Barcelona]


Biodiversity loss [coral reefs, mangroves]

Biodiversity loss [coral reefs, mangroves]

Impacts of climate change

Impacts of climate change

We need to change how we think about travel if we really want to be sure that the positive impacts outweigh the negative.

The notion of travelling ‘sustainably’ or ‘responsibly’ is certainly not a new one. Since the Brundtland Report first coined the term ‘sustainable development’ in the late 1980s, tourism’s role has been promoted, questioned, and debated. Economic vs environmental impact. Foreign vs local ownership. The visitor vs the visited.

Amongst academics, the international development community, businesses, industry organisations, and NGOs the debate has raged for 30 years. Groups and individuals from around the world have dedicated themselves to raising awareness of the issues around unchecked tourism growth, providing solutions, campaigning for change, and developing new ways of doing tourism that ensure positive impacts.

Across the globe, there are great examples of sustainable tourism in action. WTTC’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards highlight but a few.

But of last year’s 1.2 billion international travellers, how many knowingly or unknowingly took steps to travel more responsibly?

Evidence suggests relatively few.

Speaking at WTTC’s Global Summit in Dallas, USA, last year, ocean campaigner Fabien Cousteau said: “I look forward to the day when there is no sustainable tourism, just tourism”.

As the realities of climate change begin to emerge, social and political tensions rise across the world, and resources become scarcer in the face of growing populations, there needs to be a step change in how people undertake their travel.

We need to combine the forces of those thought leaders who have been driving the sustainable tourism agenda for so many years, the businesses who provide the means for tourism to happen, and the experts who know how to deliver sustainable development on the ground, with the power of the people who travel.

The seminal phrase of the Brundtland report was “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

We need tourism now and future generations will need tourism. Not just for jobs, livelihoods, and economic growth, but for peace, community, and wellbeing.

It is no longer enough to congratulate ourselves on what we are doing well, or point fingers at what we are not doing so well. We need to pose the tough questions and find the solutions together. What sets tourism apart from other sectors is the fact that most of us who work in it, are also consumers of it.

We each have a perspective but we are in it together. From now on it needs to be “just tourism”.

Let’s get talking about how to make this happen. #RedefineTourism

Originally published on https://medium.com/@WTTC/why-the-world-needs-to-redefine-tourism-now

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I was asked to join the board of directors of the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve (CWBR)  in July 2014.

An honour indeed; or so I thought.  This area encompasses one of the most beautiful regions anywhere in the world.  It embraces more opportunities than challenges.  It has — by virtue of its inhabitants, landowners and institutions — access to more brains, entrepreneurial spirit, drive and personal wealth than you’ll find almost anywhere in the world.

CWBR logo

I resigned from the board in August 2015, believing that I could not continue being part of a board of directors that was not providing any competent direction and oversight, and was not, in my opinion, meeting its legal responsibilities.

In my 13 months as a director, we never saw a single financial statement, even of the most rudimentary kind.  In January 2015, when management shortcomings became critical (because an AGM was scheduled for May 2015) a bookkeeper was appointed to prepare the books.  By August 2015, when I left, there was still nothing to show and AGMs planned for December 2015 and January 2016 never materialised, with difficulties in receiving an audit cited for the delays.  As far as I know, the CWBR Company received between R650,000 and R1 million in local government funding during 2015 and an unspecified amount from private & foreign donors.

Just before I joined the board, the CWBR had won six Green Flag awards from provincial premier Helen Zille.  When I was helping finalise the previous year’s Annual Report for publication, I needed to understand the projects the Biosphere was engaged in.  (The 2013/14 Annual Report was never published — Wessel Rabbets, the director responsible for the Company’s finances and administration, said it related to a period before he became a director and was therefore not interested in it.)

It became apparent to me that several of the Biosphere’s projects were not in fact projects at all, but were little more than a discussion or two over drinks.  They were certainly good ideas, but certainly not projects, and as such devalued the whole Green Flag project — a potential embarrassment.

This started a long debate on what is and what is not a project.  Eventually it was agreed that every Biosphere project needed to have its own business plan, with key performance indicators, and an income/expenditure budget that was approved by the board.

In my 13 months, the board never approved a single business plan, and it was not for want of asking.

When I joined the board, I also asked what the Company’s core business was.

Since it has no assets, no legislated authority and very few resources, surely the focus should be to inform, inspire and educate?  So surely its primary focus must be as a  marketing company?  I put this to the chairman who said he didn’t have time to respond and forwarded it to a CapeNature official.

This sort of proposition doesn’t go down well with people who see themselves as conservationists!

Eventually the board agreed to hold a Strategic Planning session — in December 2014.  It was facilitated by Wessel Rabbets, the director responsible for the Company’s finances and administration.  The following was agreed to by the board:

Vision
To innovatively achieve a balance between human development and nature in the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve.

Mission
To achieve our vision by:

  • Starting Conversations;
  • Influencing Decision Makers;
  • Inspire, Inform & Educate Open Society; and
  • Promoting Best Practice.

The Strategic Plan was never completed (during my tenure) but there was enough in it to motivate for the appointment of a Marketing/Communications/Fundraising/Membership manager to support Mark Heistein, the CEO and only person on the payroll (after Heidi Muller resigned from the board and as a marketing consultant).

Since the chairman felt that a secretary could fulfill these functions, I was asked to prepare a job description, which I did.  The only director to respond felt that this would be usurping the CEO’s role.

It was apparent that the other directors didn’t have a clue about the resources the company needed, which was completely unfair on the CEO.  Just too much was being expected of him.  From before I even joined the board and repeatedly since, Mark  made it clear that he knows nothing about marketing and his formal communication skills are lacking.

My patience with Wessel Rabbets snapped in the middle of 2015.  Apart from rarely attending board meetings, he had at the outset promised clean and effective administration and financial management — which I don’t believe he delivered on.  I believe he should have been replaced, a view the chairman and CEO were well aware of.

There were requests from one creditor for payment which dragged on for almost a year.  Another, after asking for goods purchased to be returned, resorted to appealing to a related organisation asking them to pay CWBR’s bill.  It was only after appealing to the chairman that they did get paid, and only after responses from the CEO saying that the matter “had been sorted”, when it clearly had not been.

In January 2016 when I started putting down notes for this story, I went to see if there was any new “News” on CWBR’s website.  It was offline for non-payment of the annual domain registration fee.  The domain (capewinelandsbiosphere.co.za) was terminated at the end of February and, as of the morning of March 2, is available to anybody on a first-come first-served basis!

I hope they get their website sorted out soon so they can publish their 2014/15 Annual Report and financial statements.

In the Chairman’s Report of the incomplete 2014/15 Annual Report that I saw in May 2015, there was an implied criticism of my marketing portfolio: “Very little of our achievements has reached the news media.”  The fact is that CWBR achieved very little during the 2014/15 financial year.

And when around 6,000 trees were planted in the following financial year outside Stellenbosch, it was impossible to plan any PR around the event.  Even the chairman expressed dismay that he hadn’t been asked to speak at a function to announce the event.

Do the Winelands Biosphere’s achievements pass the “So what” test when so many achievements elsewhere are taking place?

The Cape Wine Auction, held for the second time in 2016, raises funds for education in the winelands.  In 2015 it raised R10 million; in 2016 it was R15 million.

At Platbos Forest Reserve, Africa’s Southernmost Forest near Gansbaai, you’ll find an indigenous forest with trees that are over 1000 years old.  Platbos is not reliant on any local government funding but lots of individual donors and volunteers: they’ve planted 30,204 new trees as of February 2016!

At Boschendal Estate, which is under new ownership, 120,000 fruit trees were planted last year and by July 2017 they will have planted 450,000 new trees!

I was asked to tackle three tasks as a paid consultant after I resigned.  One was cancelled half way through and CWBR was billed for costs to that point.  One, a business plan, was completed and submitted, and paid for.  When I asked some time later whether they were proceeding with it, I was flabbergasted to be told by the chairman that it was not what they wanted.  Surely one engages with someone to make sure you get what you paid for?  I had followed the CEO’s brief.  Will CWBR’s 2015/16 audit show these items as fruitless and wasteful expenditure?

*****

So what’s the point of this story?  One goes through all sorts of experiences in life and if one doesn’t learn from them, they will have been little more than a waste of time.

It’s clear in my mind that the CWBR company simply doesn’t work.  So I hope this story will stir debate.

When I asked “Who owns the CWBR company?” I was told that the directors do.  Does this mean that they are answerable only to themselves?  Surely this needs to be reviewed?

NGOs like the CWBR cannot be an old boys’ club or mutual admiration society.  They need to have a far wider constituency.  Local government funding should only kick in after the company has (say) 500 or 1000 members, preferably paid-up and contributing to the organisation’s costs.  They should be member-based organisations where members have a sense of ownership and benefit.

Paid-up members will hold the company more accountable and will introduce a far better dynamic when it comes to appointing directors.  At present, the CEO’s suggestions for new board members are usually endorsed by the board.  Strengthening the board must be a priority.

Since the CWBR started receiving provincial government funding in the middle of 2015, more onerous reporting has been required by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP) (which oversees biosphere reserves in the Western Cape).  Better reporting is a good thing, but mindless bureaucratic formats — where meetings attended count more than achievements — will chase any competent director away.  Bureaucracy trumps Vision at the DEADP as far as biosphere reserves are concerned.

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This is a tribute to all South African firefighters, disaster management and emergency rescue personnel… to all the volunteers and the grateful public who help where they can.  Cape Town’s fire which is still burning saw volunteers with Working with Fire come from as far as the Free State and Eastern Cape provinces.

The following photos of the big fire that started on Sunday around Ou Kaapse Weg (Old Cape Road) in Cape Town’s southern peninsula, and still rages at the time of writing, come from social media, so a thank you to the photographers for sharing them.

Social media has also been full of posts and photos showing and shaming vehicles where one of the occupants has thrown a lighted cigarette butt out the window, notwithstanding the very-visible inferno on the mountains.  That’s a good thing — it shows concerned citizens — because mindless stupidity cannot be tolerated.

But we must also realise that what we are seeing is nature’s normal cycle of events.  We live in an area of astounding biodiversity — the Cape Floral Kingdom — the smallest yet richest of the world’s six Floral Kingdoms.  And Cape Town is uniquely situated with a National Park at its core.

Our unique fynbos needs fire to regenerate, and it needs that fire every 14 years or so.  So fire will always be part and parcel of the Western Cape.  Cape Town’s last really big fire was in 2000 – when it swept up from Simon’s Town to Hout Bay.  So this year’s fire could have been anticipated — it was almost overdue.

Doesn’t this make a case for more planned and controlled fires in future?  Or better fire breaks if nature must be allowed to take it’s course because one of the major threats to fynbos is too-frequent fires — it does not allow for seed beds to mature.

 

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In the next few days, we’ll be re-introducing ratings & reviews for destinations — towns & cities.  And it’s been a challenge to try to do it better and more appropriately.  The 21st century is different — it’s about social media, experiential travel, digging deeper and being more aware.  It’s about caring and being environmentally-aware.  Travellers take home far more than just a  t-shirt.

We’d really appreciate all comments and suggestions before we finalise everything.

So what are the Rating Criteria we’re looking at?

How safe?  Public safety — that’s foremost on any list.  Not many people are willingly to head off to risk their life and possessions.  Did you feel safe most of the time?  Crime stats alone can be misleading if most crime only occurs in hotspots tourists are unlikely — or foolish — to visit.

How much to do?  How much is there to see and do?  Big cities obviously offer much more but some small towns punch way above their stature in their offerings, and the quality of those offerings.

How caring?  Is it a “feel-good” destination?  Does is draw you back or make you want to own a piece of it?  Were you impressed by the sense of inclusivity and community-minded citizens.

How authentic?  Does it offer a unique, unusual or appropriate experiences that reflect local history & culture?  Does it celebrate its roots and place in the universe, with a clear vision for its future?

How aesthetically pleasing?:  Did it feed your soul?  This is the difference between surviving and living.  Vibrant creativity or great urban design and public spaces contribute to this, but so can natural features and environments.

The atmosphere: Cities and towns that are unsafe, dirty or unpleasant to visit, regardless of the quality of their attractions, will score badly.  Occasionally some cities or towns get extra points for being unusually pleasant, vibrant, charming and tourist friendly.

Getting around:  Are you forced to use your own car and is the drive an acceptable experience?  (Big cities are always daunting.)  Or is there excellent public transport?  Or even better, can you forget wheels and walk (or cycle) everywhere, soaking up all there is to soak up?  Small towns need not be at a disadvantage.

The bottom line: was it value for money?

So where is accommodation, food & drink, shopping…?  They are all parts of the above.

The Review
What counts ultimately is the thought given to the review.  Is it an original and insightful view?  Other readers will give your review a thumbs-up or thumbs-down based on how helpful and believable yours has been.  Over-the-top reviews are rarely credible.  No place is perfect!

We also ask reviewers:

  • To describe their highlights
  • To describe their lowlights
  • If they locals or visitors
  • Was it a solo, partnered, family or business trip
  • The year of the last visit
  • Do they want to visit again
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I was asked to join the board of the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve (CWBR) last year and was given the marketing portfolio.

Now, the CWBR is mandated by UNESCO, the Western Cape’s Biosphere Reserves Act and MOUs with national &  local government departments to address growth in tourism within the Reserve in such a way that it benefits Man & Biosphere: enhancing the natural environment and creating meaningful jobs.

So the obvious place to start was to engage in discussions with with people running existing tourism organisations in the towns within the CWBR to explore opportunities for collaboration, and to start collecting stats that will help us take decisions — “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

The survey has just been launched — so please give us 4 minutes of your time and click here to participate.  It was prepared by CapeInfo using our very sophisticated survey system that we’ve put to such good use in the past.  In 2009, working with Cape Town Tourism, CTRU, Joburg Tourism, KZN Tourism, Fedhasa, SATSA and others, we started monthly tracking surveys when price gouging started appearing for the 2010 World Cup.  One of the effects of this focus and introspection was that price-gouging was largely replaced by far more realistic attitudes — and the World Cup did become a tourism investment for the future.

We invited everyone we could think of in the local industry to participate in the formulation of the questions and answers, help us promote the survey, and share in the stats which become available.

We tried to make contact at the outset with the head of tourism for Stellenbosch Municipality — which is responsible for the iconic and tourist-popular towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.  Widmark Moses’ first email reply to me was so unintelligible that I shared it on my personal Facebook page in absolute disbelief!  It received more than a few comments.

He eventually did call after I followed up and we had a promising discussion, so arranged to meet the next day.  He is very likeable and undertook to review the draft survey to see how it could help Stellenbosch take better decisions.  The only point he raised was the criticism that tourism is “too white” — which I said had been addressed by asking visitors if our destinations are authentic & unique, reflecting local history & cultures.  Widmark also undertook to send a list of people who might be able to contribute to the survey.

Well… we never heard from Widmark again and he didn’t deliver on any of his undertakings.  Since then, I’ve heard that he loves meetings, to the extent that he is the bane of busy peoples’ lives.  The question I have to ask is, “What qualifies Widmark to manage tourism in such important tourist destinations?”

And then there’s Stellenbosch 360, the town’s tourism organisation.  My last three emails to Annemarie Ferns, the CEO, resulted in read receipts and nothing more.  Even popping in to the office yielded no result.  They are an embattled organisation and the most frequent question I’ve been asked is, “Would Stellenbosch get any fewer tourists if it didn’t exist.”  Surely that’s when you need to reach out to new partnerships the most?

Stellenbosch Wine Routes is far more aggressive than Stellenbosch 360 and seems to be gaining support.  We also only got a read receipt from CEO Annareth Bolton, but then she was probably totally focused on her imminent AGM.  They opened a new visitor centre at the top of Church Street at the end of last year.  (They used to have this facility in Stellenbosch 360′s offices not that long ago.)  Why on earth start competing facilities — it’s madness and doesn’t make it easy for visitors at all!

A few people suggested I ask Marinda Holtzhausen to participate since she is chair of the Stellenbosch Chapter of the Chamber of Commerce and has been actively involved in tourism for some time.  But no response from her either.

So kudos to Tania Steyn in Franschhoek, Melody Botha at Breedekloof Wine Valley, and Elizabeth Nicholls at Cape Winelands District Municipality for their input.  (The one tourism organisation that does seem to stand out is Franschhoek Wine Valley, which leads the pack with its calendar of events, although the municipality has received requests for support from new initiatives.  Widmark has his hands full making sense of Stellenbosch’s tourism dynamics… but is he up to it?)

Am I any closer to understanding the Biosphere’s role in all of this?  Not by a long chalk so please complete the survey!

Apart from tackling the survey for the Biosphere Reserve, CapeInfo also gave the Biosphere a new website last September and it’s done spectacularly well compared to the other brands in the region.  Alexa.com ranks traffic to websites globally:

Low numbers are best. Google is #1. Paarl-Wellington is not shown in the graph because it was so much further down.

Low numbers are best. Google is #1. Paarl-Wellington is not shown in the graph because it was so much further down.

Last Word
I must repeat something I learnt long ago once again:  The late Don Titmas, after he opened the first fine dining restaurant at the V&A Waterfront, pointed out that the tourism and hospitality industries are perishable industries.  Like a greengrocer.  Because if you don’t sell bodies in beds, and bottoms on restaurant, bus or airline seats today, they are lost forever.  You can’t sell those beds and seats tomorrow.  Everybody involved in tourism needs to take that to heart!

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Dear Derek

I hope you’re going to be speaking to your colleagues now that a list of the National Key Points has been published.  I’m sure you also didn’t know when you were breaking the law before government was forced by the courts to let us know which laws we are breaking before we break them!  Twenty years into democracy and we were even more in the dark than the unenlightened days of apartheid.

This legislation needs to be scrapped immediately. It’s making most tourists to SA criminals. Don’t we want them to take home photos of our Parliament Buildings, or Tuynhuys, or the Union Buildings? And what about all the photos taken inside and outside our airports?

Let’s rather replace it with a new Act that says that any law which has not been enforced in a period of a year must be scrapped from the statute books.

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