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Is local government the saviour of or a hindrance to tourism?

What sets the Western Cape apart from other provinces — in terms of it’s success in growing tourism — is largely the existence of membership-based, local tourism associations.  (These are a rarity in other provinces where control of tourism is more largely vested in bureaucracies with political agendas.)  The South African Constitution mandates tourism as a local government responsibility and makes municipalities responsible for making sure that tourism reaches its full potential to the benefit of all citizens.

The Western Cape’s local tourism associations have varied widely in terms of their success — but they have created a forum for local businesses to promote their interests.  Not the the politicians and bureaucrats always bothered with what the industry had to say.

Plettenberg Bay

The first chinks in a system which has worked well for several years appeared in Plettenberg Bay during 2018.  Plettenberg Bay’s Bitou Municipality wanted a new tourism dispensation which sidelined its very successful Plett Tourism.  (Read about that here.) A public outcry saw the status quo continue, but without clarity on funding at the end of 2018, Plett Tourism announced that it events programme may be curtailed, and the future of the organisation is at stake.

Apparently, politicians say that funding is available which bureaucrats deny.  Bitou Municipality has been through another two municipal managers since our story last year and municipal stability is a fiction.   (At one stage during 2018 the municipality wanted to make a new appointment for event management to someone outside the town, with little track record.  One can only ask “Why?”  Yes, tourism contracts are easy pickings for tenderpreneurs if there is no accountability, and tender processes don’t ensure accountability.)

News just in states that the Bitou municipality has said “the PLETT Wine & Bubbly Festival was not supported by the executive management team and has been withdrawn from the upcoming Mayco” which Plett Tourism had been told would endorse the event.

While there is no support for a growing industry like wine, nor support a festival which is gaining traction, it continues to set up a parallel tourism” structure — just publishing a tender for R50k for someone to write a history festival brief.  When you have a successful PLETT Tourism across the way ….  Is this another R50k wasted that will be written off?

Plett Tourism is prepared to go it alone, and seems to have the local industry’s support to do this.  Which makes a mockery of a municipality mandated to support and grow tourism.

Knysna

Then there was the palace revolt in Knysna, and their tourism association had only been surviving at the whim of a municipality-without-a-plan.  The DA mayor was ousted after an internal revolt and the mayoral committee was changed.  The personal agendas of troublemakers saw municipal support for the Knysna Tourism end.  The Tourism Association, however, remained intact and the municipality owes its members money for funding the municipal info office when it stopped its funding!

Following a request from the provincial Department of Economic Development & Tourism and Knysna Municipality, and several months of consultation, Wesgro initiated a pilot project to take over the mandate for local tourism promotion on the 1st November 2018 under the name “Visit Knysna”.

The mandate is conferred to Wesgro and governed by a Service Level Agreement (SLA) signed with the municipality. This SLA requires that the initial plan for tourism promotion is presented to Council at the end of January 2019.

In response to queries from CapeInfo, Wesgro says that — since the start date — the following action steps have been taken:

  • ensured a smooth handover for the office and its staff
  • an acting GM has been put in place
  • called for applications for full-time GM, short listed and completed interviews
  • signed an MOU with Knysna Tourism Association (which is made up of Knysna Tourism and Knysna Accommodation Association) to ensure that tourism promotion is delivered in conjunction with the local tourism industry
  • hosted an industry engagement with Wesgro, Minister Winde and the Mayor
  • ensured that the office is up and running for season with additional staff and maps etc (there were no maps when we took over)
  • ensured IT, admin, operations, staff contracts, etc were in place
  • held a marketing strategy session with the Business-led steering committee
  • held a first round meeting with industry around the plan for the Knysna Oyster Festival
  • met with Sedgefield Ratepayers to discuss the local tourism office in Sedgefield
  • began drawing up RFPs for website and Sedgefield tourism office management
  • held multiple one on one meetings with the tourism industry in Knysna
  • attended Vakansiebeurs in the Netherlands

CapeInfo spoke to the chair and vice-chair of the new Knysna Tourism Association.  Both said that it’s still early days and any real progress can only be evaluated in six months time.  Both were optimistic about the potential as long as everyone works together.

In conversation several months ago, Tim Harris spoke about their commitment to doing this really well, as a pilot project that could be rolled out elsewhere.  Knysna probably got lucky because this is Alan Winde’s home town, and he was Minister for Economic Opportunity when this started.  There’s no doubt that other towns would appreciate the same attention.

Ladismith

CapeInfo helped focus public attention on Ladismith Tourism at the end of 2017, when municipal funding was just not forthcoming.  At the end of last week, we received the following from Ladismith Tourism:  “As you are well aware, we have had running battles with the municipality in Ladismith for the last several years. The issue of no-funding and lack of support was an ongoing battle we faced annually. Finally I think it became even too much for them and on 6th November 2018 they formally revoked all support. Hence we officially closed our physical doors at the start of December 2018: right at the start of crucial tourist season. Online services though continued, and social media. But there was and still is nothing for walk-in visitors.

“HOWEVER…. there is a bistro-gin bar-deli opening in the next 3 weeks or so and a visitor centre will see the light there. We feel it is crucial and absolutely essential to have a presence and relationship with tourists. This will be a completely independent and non-funded service: the bistro will shoulder all relevant costs but the service will be there for the community at large. Ladismith needs it, deserves it. We have fought too long and hard to get it on the map to give up now.”

Swellendam & Barrydale

Swellendam Tourism Organisation (STO) grabbed everybody’s attention when it announced an innovative way to grow tourism and empower grass roots tourism development.  Read about that here.  We’ve never managed to find out exactly how that initiative unfolded as the management at STO seemed to face one crisis after another, with one manager replacing another.

Then at the end of last year, we received a communication from Swellendam’s municipal manager, Anton Groenewald, saying that STO and the tourism office had been closed down.  It was very peculiar, to say the least.  You can read it below.

 

Toerisme brief final Swellendam

 

I wrote to Anton Groenwald, the municipal manager, and asked him, “Swellendam’s decisions seem to have been taken without a presented and canvassed vision for what the old system will be replaced with?  What happens to the old membership organisation?  Was the appointment of Destinate put out to tender as required by the Auditor General?”

We received the following response:

Tourism statement by Municipal Manager, Swellendam

 

So, the old STO had become dysfunctional with no members, but in my original email I asked about “a presented and canvassed vision for what the old system will be replaced with.”  In his statement, he said “A report is currently out for comment”.  I asked for that.  Anton sent the methodology, which is a summary of the three phases of work that is to be done by Destinate, and the feedback report.

 

Swellendam Tourism Research Proposal and Methodology

 

Click here for the feedback report shared by Swellendam Tourism after the first round of engagements with industry.  (You can also comment on it.)   A second round of engagements will follow in February and  a detailed market research report should be ready by mid-March which Mariette du Toit-Helmbold says should make for really interesting reading.

What can one make of all of this?  Groenewald says, “This has been a very sensitive time as it is clear that certain elements in tourism were being misled with misinformation.”  I think closing STO without a clear path ahead was a big mistake.  Destinate’s work should have started in May 2018 and the new strategy should have presented before STO was closed.  Uncertainty breeds uncertainty, and shows bad leadership.

And the methodology comes out of the old and tired textbook.  Is it going to deliver anything new, in line with Groenewald’s expectations?  I’ll be surprised if it does.  I keep thinking of the way Apple’s Steve Jobs scoffed at focus group research.  “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them,” he said.  Innovation and the next big idea rarely comes out of research.  The feedback report is reminiscent of Cape Town Tourism’s brand-building workshops, which delivered very little new.  And much of the brand identity it delivered was replaced soon after Mariette left CTT.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to the people involved.  Is the Swellendam Municipality a good client who knows what it wants?  And is it employing the right people to deliver the goods?

Anton Groenewald resigned from the City of Cape Town under a cloud in 2014, after the City had suffered a financial loss of some R30 million as a result of the disastrous staging of a soccer tournament touted as the Cape Town Cup.  He wasn’t solely responsible for the fiasco but he drove it.  I admire him for taking responsibility.  I’ve known him for over 15 years and I believe he is one of the most dynamic local government bureaucrats around, and I don’t hold arrogance against anybody, as long as they deliver… beyond expectation.  I think Groenewald could pull the rabbit out of the hat and what Swellendam does is worth watching.

Mariette du Toit-Helmbold founded Destinate — a destination marketing company — after she resigned as CEO of Cape Town Tourism, where she worked with Groenewald.  I’ve known her since she started her career and I can only echo what one industry CEO said about her: “I love Mariette dearly.  Her only problem is that she believes all her own hype.”  Destinate works to a set formula, and relies heavily on tired textbook methodology.  If she chucks that aside, she is capable of pulling another rabbit out of the hat.

Once again, Swellendam is worth watching.  Will it be a consultants’ smorgasbord or will it deliver real innovation?

Langeberg Municipality — Robertson, Montagu, McGregor & Bonnievale

Compared to tourism structures in other areas, the towns in the Langeberg Municipality seem to be plodding on as normal.  But there are big plans afoot… if only the tourism industry could get to discuss these with the municipal manager!  There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm in the industry for the changes, as well as words of caution that it won’t happen quickly.

Essentially, it comprises a tourism levy, which would be collected by the municipality and ring-fenced for tourism promotion & marketing.   It requires a wide buy-in from all sectors that benefit from tourism.  There are precedents for this — there are 39  City Improvement Districts (CID) in Cape Town (with two more about to be launched).  Their successes have been enormous.  This was how the Cape Town Partnership was established in 1999 and the first of the CIDs was established in 2000.

Tourism funding is always an issue and, in Montagu for example, a big chunk of the tourism office’s municipal funding is spent on office rent to the municipality!

The equitable share of tourism funding between tourism offices is another issue.  CapeInfo was surprised to learn that, based on the municipality’s tourism figures, Montagu accounts for 79% of all visitors in the municipal area.  And yes, Montagu is used as a base for visiting other areas because the town itself offers relatively little.  (See Tourism will never be Helen Zille’s game-changer until there are lots of changes

No. Visitors Tourism Office Walk-ins Top activities
Robertson 80,110 5,942 Sky diving, Birds paradise, Viljoendrift River Cruises
Montagu 336,776 25,132 Protea Tractor Trips, Montagu Museum. Avalon Springs Day Visitors
McGregor 11,681 5,086 Boesmanskloof Hiking Trail, Eseltjiesrus

If tourism gets a CID-type structure going in the Langeberg area, it will be a very, very interesting development.  CIDs have been a Western Cape success story.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure”

What benefit do municipalities and taxpayers receive from their financial support for tourism?  Who benefits from tourism?  These are some of the questions that municipalities are asking when they pay over many millions each year to tourism bodies.

While companies like the V&A Waterfront and Cape Town International Conference Centre can tell us exactly what their contribution to the local economy is, the tourism industry cannot and does not.  Phrases like “job creation” are meaningless.

Why hasn’t Wesgro introduced decent and meaningful statistics?  Maybe the answer lies in the confusion over Wesgro’s role. CapeInfo asked Tim Harris, Wesgro’s CEO, if they have any view on the events playing out in Swellendam.  The answer was, “No, local tourism is the responsibility of the municipality and therefore this is their decision.”  Surely, if one has oversight of provincial tourism marketing, one should have a view at grassroots level too?

We also asked about the accreditation of tourism organisations, which used to be a requirement for municipal funding and was Wesgro’s oversight of local offices.  Do they still accredit?  “No, when CTRU was merged into Wesgro, this function fell away. Today Wesgro works with all official regional and local tourism offices across the Western Cape.”  That function stems from the Western Cape’s Tourism Act and one wonders why this function just “fell away”.  It’s time for the province’s Tourism Act to be completely revised.

South Africa slips in World Economic Forum Tourism Competitiveness Index

The Asian Tourism Century is Arriving as Japan, China, South Korea and India Boost Region’s Tourism-Friendliness while South Africa drops five places.

  • Asia has most improved its tourism-friendliness of all regions, the 2017 World Economic Forum’s global Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index reveals today
  • Japan (fourth, up five places), China (15th, up two) and India (40th, up 12) are Asia’s exponents in the global index led by Spain, France and Germany; the United States (sixth, down two places) and Switzerland (10th, down four) fall back
  • The travel and tourism sector in many countries around the world remains a bright spot in economic and job growth, but technological and sustainability challenges are growing
  • Download the full report, highlights, summary, profiles and rankings here

The 10 most Travel and Tourism-enabled countries

Continue reading

Why the world needs to redefine tourism now!

httpv://youtu.be/6H265K8bAJQ

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

How can you manage what you can’t measure?

Here’s a question mainly for people in the SA tourism industry – which should mean all South Africans!

Having visited many tourism offices around SA, one can’t help wondering, “Are they just info offices, or do they actively market to a far wider audience?”  Do they match the expectations of paying members?  Do they give a return on local government funding or is that just a feel-good grant?

So we asked Alan Winde, the Western Cape’s MEC for Finance & Tourism: “Should Local Tourism Ofiices (LTOs) receive municipal funding without proper, annual business & marketing plans?”

His answer was “No, they must be able to show plans and report after the year end. It’s public money.”

How many LTOs and municipalities comply with this fully?  You may find rudimentary plans submitted, but are they worth the paper they are written on?  And how many submit the required annual reports that show what was achieved?  It’s not just about accounting for money spent, but showing that it was effectively spent and that it did produce returns, measured year-against-year.

Now the real problem lies with the municipalities who provide the annual grants.  Are they failing in their duty?  Are they competent to assess business and marketing plans, and do they demand the annual reports showing what was achieved?

Maybe provincial authorities like Wesgro (for the Western Cape) or independent assessment organisations need to be tasked with endorsing plans and reports – because most municipalities don’t have the expertise.  And this could provide the opportunity to raise the bar in destination marketing everywhere.

The question:  Do you think your local tourism office meets these requirements & your expectations?  (Do they share their annual business & marketing plans, and annual reports, with you?)

Please vote in our poll and you can also add further comments below:

{jvotesystem poll=|3|}

Say No! to toll roads in Cape Town

Mariannhill Toll Plaza in KwaZulu-Natal. Pic: THEMBINKOSI DWAYISA. 2009. © Sunday Times

The SA National Roads Agency (SANRAL) wants to introduce toll roads on the N1 and N2 between the city and the Winelands.  The City of Cape Town has objected and declared an intergovernmental dispute.

The story first appeared, as far as I know, in The Sowetan – Cape Town not happy with tolls. SANRAL’s website has info on the N1/N2 Winelands Project and N2 Knysna Toll Highway.

Tolling roads is the most insidious form of tax (since motorists already pay a road levy as part of fuel taxes).   As has been shown in Gauteng – which has more toll roads than the whole of the UK – it is the thin end of the wedge.  Tolls for sections like Chapman’s Peak Drive and the Huguenot Tunnel can be justified, but not roads that are part of the essential infrastructure government is duty-bound to provide.

SANRAL has the policy of “the user pays”… but the user already pays.  Toll roads are run by concessionaires for profit, and I don’t believe that essential infrastructure should have costs loaded in this way.

Have your say.  If SANRAL has theirs, you can expect a toll plaza near you sometime soon.

The reason for Limpopo’s road carnage?

A team of only ten traffic officers with four vehicles is responsible for patrolling the whole of Limpopo province’s major routes for moving traffic violations.  And two of those vehicles are frequently withdrawn from use to serve as VIP escourts.

That’s what I was told by a senior official in Limpopo’s department of roads, with the undertaking that Gordon Horn, Limpopo’s manager of traffic support services, would call in the following three days.

That was two weeks ago and he hasn’t called, nor have we been unable to get hold of him.  The whole issue arises from our complaint to the presidential hotline about poor traffic management in Limpopo.

Related content:

Double barrier lines mean nothing in Limpopo.  To most road users they seem to mean “overtake now!”  Headon collisions are inevitable in Limpopo and every time I drive there, I wonder, “Is it my turn next?”

I’ve driven most of Limpopo and seeing any traffic police patrolling for moving violations is like hen’s teeth.  One does see many manning speed traps or road blocks, or snoozing under a tree.

But these road blocks are a farce, geared more it seems to meeting a quota for the number of cars stopped than checking vehicles.  All they ask for is the driver’s licence.  I have been stopped many times but none have checked that the vehicle’s registration is valid or correct, or that the vehicles lights work, or that the vehicle tyres meet safety standards. Yet any drive between Limpopo and Gauteng in the early hours or around dusk show many vehicles with faulty lights.

It really seems as though Limpopo’s traffic officials are more geared to meeting some impressive-sounding quotas that show how many vehicles are stopped each month.

So until Limpopo’s roads department get serious about traffic policing, CapeInfo’s advisory to tourists remains that driving on Limpopo’s roads is dangerous.