I attended a remarkable tourism conference in Johannesburg on Monday and Tuesday.  It was “The Summit” organised by Gauteng Tourism and the Tourism Business Council, with support from SA Tourism.

I live by the adage “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” and this conference measured everything — there was audience participation at every level: on Twitter (where it trended at #1), after every speaker, and responses were quantified immediately.

So… if politicians are in any doubt about their constituencies’ views… doubt no more.  Will it make any difference?  I will say that in the wrapping up session, I was impressed by the rapid feedback and the commitments given from Gauteng’s political sphere.  Guys, your responses were minuted!  If you deliver, the DA must start worrying…

1402870_515304588566632_2110287828_oFor me, the star of the show was Dawn Robertson.  It was her organisation that played the main role in pulling the conference together.  Quietly spoken, incisive, focused and without any brash bravado.  And hugely committed.  I hope she stays at Gauteng Tourism long enough to make a difference… I will be interviewing her next week so come back for more.

This was a conference where Gauteng came to the table to say we are the Gateway; we are the major roleplayer in tourism.   Or we can be if all the stakeholders come to the table.

SA Tourism was there in a show of force, along with TBCSA and Gauteng politicos and bureaucrats.  Some Gauteng local government speakers did impress; some less.  One figure staggered me — tourism’s contribution to Gauteng’s GDP and jobs is 4.5%.  Wake up guys!  You’re way below the world average and even in the Western Cape it’s 12.5%.  You are not delivering!

Given the nature and goals of this conference, Cape Town played a surprising role.    Mariette du Toit-Helmbold (former Cape Town Tourism CEO) and Judy Lain (Chief Marketing Officer at Wesgro) led two of the breakaway sessions.  Other Capetonians were also there to make their contribution.

Cape Town’s global gateway status was made by guest speaker, Chris Buckingham — former Melbourne Tourism CEO –  when he referred to that city as a “soft landing” for travellers intimidated by perceptions of Africa.  He urged other provinces and regions to grasp the opportunities this presents.  (Nothing demonstrates CapeInfo’s role over the last 17 years better!)

What are the main items which need addressing to make SA’s gateway fly as a tourism destination?

A single destination brand was one.  Who cares about the province?  Johannesburg is South Africa’s gateway.  Growing any other brand to match the Joburg brand is little more than fool’s thinking.  What province or state is London, New York or Paris in?

World class Transport was the other. For me, Gauteng and Johannesburg still epitomise a pre-1980s mindset: throw money at problems.  The Gauteng Road Improvement Project is a disaster.  You find tailbacks at 10am on the brand-new N1!  What will happen in 3 years’ time?  Far too little emphasis is placed on management and maintenance.

Having said that, someone I would love to engage with more is Ismail Vadi, Gauteng’s transport MEC.  He is pragmatic and engaging which leaves me with the question, “Are Gautengers somewhat pathetic consumers?”

So… visit http://www.sasummit.net/ for more.

Posted in Destination brands | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment