Tag Archives: Johannesburg

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!

Five of SA’s nine provinces in one day!

En route to Beaufort West

En route to Beaufort West

Today’s plan is to drive until I’ve had enough – and I’m not accustomed to long drives.  That does mean hourly stops for the animals’ piepie breaks and walks, and those are rarely short because Akela loves sniffing and there are so many strange smells.  She can spend 10 minutes smelling a single leaf – I’d love to know what she can tell.

The day started off spectacularly – our early morning long walk was under a blanket of bright stars.  I seem to have grown more appreciative of the Karoo landscape too – the varying vegetation and always the spectacular mountain ranges, like those above on the road to Beaufort West.

The telephone poles alongside the road tell the story of changes in information technology – a once busy telephone pole now only carries two strands of wire.

I’m starting to get used to the Sony A200 DSLR camera and it seems impossible to take a bad photograph with it.  I’ve only been using the Auto setting and must still explore the manual overrides.  I love the way it starts focussing as you bring it to your eye and the speed of taking the pic and saving it.  No lag at all!

I tried the SatNav on my Blackberry cellphone for the first time and was surprised to see the distance to Mokopane was about 1,500km.  I thought it was more… could it be reached in one day?

Beaufort West really surprised me… it has character!  I remember it from 20 years ago as a rather dusty and easily-forgettable town.  If this wasn’t a drive north with a mission I would have stopped to explore.  Another time.

Breakfast was beckoning and the Shell UltraCity before Three Sisters proved to be the perfect stop.  It was, without doubt, the best National Road service station I encountered in the trip north.  (The worst was a BP stop on the outskirts of Bloemfontein.)  Staff made eye-contact when they spoke to you, they were outgoing and very friendly.  And of course nothing beats a toasted bacon and egg sandwich.

There was a great playground for kids (no pets please!) and an equally great place to walk and water pets.

The last time I drove this route I remember being bored out of my mind.  I must have changed because I appreciated the scenery far more than before.  But then I remember looking at Hermanus’ mountains in 2004 and thinking, “Strange that I never noticed how beautiful they are are before.”

In the past 20 years I’ve driven more national roads in France and the USA than I have in SA, and ours leave much to be desired.  I wondered if a better legacy project for 2010 shouldn’t have been a proper freeway between Cape Town and Johannesburg.  Now that would generate a lot of jobs!

As one drove out of the Western Cape, traffic police patrolling the N1 were replaced by traffic police hiding alongside their speed traps, while large, articulated trucks drove in convoys of six, making overtaking a slow and dangerous business.

The approaches to Bloemfontein arrived with a proper freeway system but enjoying the decent road wasn’t to last for long, and was replaced by the most irritating feature of road travel in the Free State, Gauteng and Limpopo – toll roads!

If these were engineering wonders, or spectacular roads along scenic routes, they might be justified.  But all the toll roads I experienced fall far short of freeway status and most were plagued by road works.

The whole of the Western Cape has two toll roads – the Huguenot Tunnel on the N1 between Paarl and Worcester, and Chapman’s Peak Drive.  All other national roads are free.  I lost count of the number of toll plazas between Bloemfontein and Mokopane, and the cost must have been around R200.  It’s iniquitous and a sign of public sector incompetence.  A cop out!

Imagine if the Western Cape had to levy a special tourist tax for visitors from these provinces, to level the playing field.

As dusk and Johannesburg approached, Blackberry’s SatNav – or Vodafone’s SatNav to be more accurate – really came into it’s own.  Using it chews up the cellphone’s battery but luckily, with no car charger, I kept the battery going by charging the phone from my laptop.

One learns to rely on SatNav so quickly… at the expense of all inner sense of direction, even glossing over road directional signs in favour of Blackberry’s directions and instructions.  And this was how I found myself on the M1 South at about 7pm on a Friday.

The outbound lane was crawling at a snails pace as a result of a rather gruesome accident.  The speed limit (due to construction work) on my side was 80km/h; I was doing 100km/h and was – by far – the slowest vehicle in sight.

And then there was another realisation – Joburg’s motorways have no street lighting and rarely have road verges where you can pull over!  I had arrived in the Wild West and darkest Africa in one fell swoop.  Eskom must love Joburg Municipality!

The M1 North to Pretoria offered more delays caused by accidents and drivers pushing their luck when they saw a gap.  French taxi drivers would be at home here.  The Great North Road (N1) is littered with toll plazas and, given the heavy traffic on the road, seems to be way under specification.

The solution seems easy to me.  Let Jacob Zuma pay his own legal bills and transfer what’s saved there as well as the budget for politicians’ protection units to road building.  Those cool dudes in their dark glasses and hearing aids could be redeployed…

“That was a long drive!” Kenya just crashed.

Enough of those flights of fancy… the reality is I drove over 1,500km in a day, I saw five of South Africa’s nine provinces in one day.  I had arrived in Mokopane/Potgieterusrus in Limpopo Province.  Who would ever have thought that I would visit Potties!

It’s not that onerous a journey, even driven alone, and it does give one a unique perspective of South Africa’s incredible landscape.