Tag Archives: Indaba

People set it apart!

Bruce Barritt, MD of First Car Rental says it's people that make the difference

IN A WORLD where global brands rule, there is a South African car rental company that is taking a wholly South African brand onto the world market.  And its commitment to people – which is all that really differentiates one car rental company from another – is so great, that there was an in-house joke when they started that they had more staff than cars!

I met up with Bruce Barritt, MD of First Car Rental, at Indaba in Durban.  First Car Rental is a subsidiary of Combined Motor Holdings (CMH Ltd) which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

While First Car Rental is a relative newcomer in comparison to their competition (having opened its doors in 1999 as the National & Alamo brands), Bruce Barritt has a 30-year track record in the car rental industry.  Bruce Barritt ran the National Alamo franchise in SA for nine years – winning numerous awards as the best global franchise – until the National Alamo EMEA brands were sold to Europcar… South Africa was really a by-product of an International transaction – without much consideration & after First Car Rental (then National Alamo South Africa) paid R180 million in royalties.

But they had their own systems and a very loyal client base so the change to First Car Rental was smooth and their growth since then has been rapid.

His first passion in the company are the people because that’s what sets the company apart.  “We have very committed people at First  Car Rental – they are the lifeblood of the business.  This is a people business,” he says.  He expects everybody within his compliment of staff to make the customer’s experience hassle-free and memorable.

He is also committed to having the most user-friendly systems in the industry and their online systems are very, very good.  They have been innovative, introducing a number of firsts in the local industry.  The vision of wanting to move to a process where bar-coded vehicles and contracts replace the paper trail is more than 50% there, giving staff more time to interact with and get to know their customers.  His biggest nightmare is losing the personal touch and not having direct and immediate contact with all FCR’s customers.  “If something goes wrong, I want to pick up the phone and fix it,” he says.

The in-house joke about more staff than cars started when they rolled out their very impressive national footprint.  You can rent a First Car Rental vehicle almost anywhere in SA.

The move to roll out the First Car Rental brand started in Mauritius and was followed by a former National Alamo franchisee in Malta who needed to be part of a international brand to keep his airport slot.  A few other international franchisees are under consideration at the moment.

Increasing the revenue stream is less important than the marketing footprint of a global brand and it’s with some pride that Bruce says that this is the first time a South African car rental brand has gone international.

First Car Rental also has a servicing agreement with Sixt Rent a Car which is very strong in Germany and also has a presence throughout Europe, South America and the Asia-Pacific region.

They have just launched Direct Transfer, a chauffered service that picks you up and takes you from A to B.  Click the link to check it out.

When CapeInfo started looking for a marketing partner and sponsor for Travels with Akela, FCR stood out  as the most responsive, friendly and innovative.  They are a delight to work with.

Click here to rent your next vehicle.

Indaba 2009

I haven’t been a regular visitor to Indaba for several years so this year I saw it with new eyes.  Yes, it’s grown and yes, most of the products are spell-binding.  It’s a marketers’ dream because I doubt that any other destination in the world can offer as much variety… coupled to unsurpassed professionalism in so many cases.

SA Tourism have also matured and their side of the organisation has become very slick. (The only exception was, on responding to an invitation to interview CEO Didi Moyle, Monde Mateza never responded to my request.)

At the start of this blog I said that I’m a typical Capetonian who believes that the Western Cape is more blessed than almost anywhere else on earth. Well, I still believe that to a certain extent, but my travels have shown me people, products and places that really do excite me. More than ever, I realise that Southern Africa as a whole has the potential to beat all other regional destinations… if we just change some mindsets.

So, after three months away from home, it was with no lack of eagerness that I set off to find the Cape Town and Western Cape area at Indaba first. It took some effort because the organisers had signposted the direction incorrectly. And then, at the tail-end of the whole Indaba complex, I found an anonymous tent.

Cape Town & Western Cape's No-Name Brand - the entrance to the Western Cape's pavilion

For South Africa’s leading city brand to be presented in this way was just not good enough; I was astounded. I was embarrassed as a Capetonian.

Was I being over-critical? I spoke to Cape Town Tourism’s Mariette du Toit-Helmbold and learned that the usual tent had been commandeered for Jacob Zuma’s coronation and their banner couldn’t be accommodated in the new tent. I greeted CTRU’s Dave Fransen (responsible for the Western Cape pavilion) several times but he seemed to make a point of avoiding me.

I spoke to Peter Bacon, CTRU’s chair, and he agreed that it was unacceptable and needed a serious rethink.

I spoke to Nils Heckscher, MD of Winchester Mansions Hotel and CTT board member, who always shoots from the cuff. He agreed it wasn’t as good as it should be and said that maybe the Province was resting on its laurels. He added that things will be different next year with the new alignment of provincial and city politics.

I spoke to Rema from Fedhasa Cape, based in the main ICC at Fedhasa Natal’s stand. She felt that the Western Cape area lacked its usual vibe and buzz: “and it reinforces the typical view of Cape Town… that we want to be apart from the rest.”

I bumped into an old friend, Di Campbell (now Dagh), as we looked at the CTT stand. “Is that Cape Town Tourism?” she asked incredulously, “I thought it was Cape Point Routes!” Great for Cape Point Routes, bad Cape Town branding.

Free State's position was centrestage and their external branding was excellent.

Mpmalanga's stand in the Durban Exhibition Centre displayed pure branding professionalism.

Cape Town Tourism's area... come on guys, you can do much better.

The vast empty spaces in the Western Cape tent just emphasized a feeling that it was not as well attended as other destinations.

CTRU will say they had a large banner at the one end of the tent (see right hand side).  Yes, and it was a stunning photograph of an unusual view of Table Mountain and the 12 Apostles.  But to anyone not familiar with the mountain, it's almost meaningless.  To use it for branding is just muddled.

The promise of the Free State pavilion outside wasn’t carried through inside, where strong brands (like Clarens) fought with geo-political districts.  And what on earth was the Limpopo Treasury doing with a stand at Indaba?  Now that’s an example of misguided efforts (and budgets)!

While I am seeking out the best of the best in people and products during these Travels, what interests me most are destinations and destination brands, and it’s here that the SA tourism product doesn’t fare well at all.

World Travel Awards
A highlight at Indaba was the presentation for the World Travel Awards. We publish the list for Africa and South Africa in full.

Africa’s Leading…
Airline South African Airways
Airport Tambo International Airport, South Africa
Boutique Hotel Saxon Boutique Hotel & Spa, South Africa
Boutique Hotel Brand Mantis Collection
Budget/Low Cost Carrier 1time
Business Car Rental Co. Avis
Business Hotel Sandton Sun
Business Travel Agency Travel with Flair
Car Hire Europcar
Casino Resort The Palace of the Lost City, South Africa
City Tourist Board Johannesburg Tourism Company
Conference Centre International Convention Centre Durban, South Africa
Conference Hotel Kempinski Hotel Djibouti
Conservation Company Shamwari Game Reserve, South Africa
Cruise Line Silversea Cruises
Destination Cape Town
Family Resort Sun City Resort, South Africa
Game Reserve Brand Mantis Collection
Golf Resort Fancourt Hotel & Country Club, South Africa
Green Hotel Nairobi Serena Hotel, Kenya
Hotel Mount Nelson Hotel, South Africa
Hotel Brand Starwood Hotels
Luxury Hotel Arabella Western Cape Hotel & Spa
Luxury Lodge Thanda Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Luxury Train The Blue Train
Marketing Campaign South Africa Tourism, It’s Possible
Port Cape Town (Port)
Resort Sun City Resort, South Africa
Responsible Tourism Co. Nkwichi Lodge
Safari Lodge Shamwari Game Reserve
Spa Resort Fordoun Spa, Hotel & Restaurant, South Africa
Sports Resort Zimbali Lodge & Country Club – South Africa
Suite Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite, Saxon Boutique Hotel & Spa
Tourism Dev. Project Legend Golf & Safari Resort
Tourist Board South Africa Tourism
Town House Hotel Shamwari Town House
Travel Agency Club Travel, South Africa
Travel Exhibition INDABA
Travel Management Co. Travel with Flair South Africa
Villa Queen Cleopatra Villa, Savoy Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
South Africa’s Leading…
Beach Hotel The Long Beach, Cape Town
Boutique Hotel Saxon Boutique Hotel & Spa
Business Hotel Sandton Sun
Game Reserve Brand Mantis Collection
Golf Resort Fancourt Hotel & Country Club
Hotel Mount Nelson Hotel
Resort Sun City Resort
Spa Resort Fordoun Spa, Hotel & Restaurant
Travel Management Co. Travel with Flair
Villa Ellerman Villa

For some, Indaba is a chance to get out of the office and party; for some it’s a rare opportunity for networking or checking out the opposition; and for some — like Horst Frehse and Rick Taylor who I repeatedly tried to say hello to — it’s a time to really work hard!

Akela goes to Indaba!

Akela meets Nicholas Kitching, the ICC's security manager

The fantastic people at Durban’s ICC who made arrangements for Akela to visit were all keen to meet her.

These photos are the highlights of the people she met — the story on Indaba and our travels there will follow.

Most ask if they can touch Akela but only women get lucky — she’s female and only makes friends with women and children, running away from men. (She’s bonded to her pack so hard luck to all other men!)

ICC's Nicolette Elia gets to touch a wolf while ?? only gets to look on.  Most people how soft Akela feels.

Hannelie Slabber is one of SA Tourism's real stars and has been enormously helpful to Travels with Akela.  She meets Kenya (an immediate fan) and Akela for the first time.

Some people dance with wolves... Hannelie and Akela talk to each other.

Melissa Storey of First Car Rental, which have made Travels with Akela possible, also meets Akela in Durban for the first time.

Wow! Durban’s ICC impresses

We’re planning a detour in our Limpopo travels to visit Durban’s ICC for Indaba — Africa’s biggest travel show.  So I wrote to the ICC asking for help with shade parking for a wolf in a bakkie.

I have never had such a fast, positive and helpful reply.  Nicolette Elia’s answer suggested alternatives, mentioned concerns — for Akela — and was thoroughly thought out.  Obviously there must be a very strong team at the ICC.

Minutes after my email reply, I had a call from her to firm up on what she suggested, which she followed up moments later by email — with clear directions and cellphone numbers of anyone I might need.

In our conversation, she even mentioned that security staff had offered to water and walk Akela if necessary.

I told her how impressed I was by her first email and she replied, “It’s sad that one should be impressed by something like that…”  Indeed it is.  Limpopo Tourism’s first response to Travels with Akela was that a wolf wouldn’t be welcome at Limpopo establishments.  They have been proved wrong.

Thank you ICC.  I have started a list of Hospitality Superstars and you’re on that list.