We survived the Ebola panic; we survived the Visa fiasco (and hopefully South Africa will still catch up with Ethopia in making visas easily obtainable). Now government is taking steps which threaten to damage tourism from the inside, showing a complete lack of understanding for how the industry works.
Wesgro, the Western Cape’s trade and investment agency absorbed the province’s beleaguered destination marketing agency (Cape Town Routes Unlimited – CTRU) in April 2012. I attended Wesgro’s AGM in October 2012 and left unimpressed. It was all about ticking the boxes with little vision apparent. As a slick presentation, it was a flop, relying largely on videos. We could have watched it from home and been spared the uncomfortable presence on the stage.
I met with CEO Nils Flaatten and COO Howard Gabriels in January 2013 to discover what progress had been made. In May 2014, I met with Nils and Judy Lain, who had been appointed Chief Marketing Officer in August 2013.
At both meetings, after hearing what they had achieved and planned to do, Nils asked me to rate Wesgro, “How would you score us,” he asked.
Thinking back on it now, I would give Wesgro a score of 30-40%.
I had declined at the first meeting because I was uncomfortable with the rigid process-driven approach he had outlined. I needed to absorb it and see what it delivered.
I had been hoping for good news at this month’s meeting and was taken on a tour of Wesgro’s new offices over four floors in the Reserve Bank Building. That in itself was a strange choice. It’s probably one of the least efficient, least “green” buildings in Cape Town; a national keypoint – which deters casual visitors. This was so different to the vision tourism minister Alan Winde had spelled out a few years ago – all economic promotion and tourism agencies sharing the same high-profile building with easy access. And Wesgro’s new offices (and the activities observed) just screamed “bureaucracy”.
Before meeting with Nils and Judy, I had shared with them my concerns about the performance of their websites and the rebranding which had taken place a few months earlier. In 2012, destination marketing had its website upgraded and revamped, and Nils was expecting great things from it.
It hasn’t performed as one can see from the publicly-available Alexa.com rankings. It trails behind Gauteng Tourism and KZN Tourism.
The most recent rankings show Wesgro trade & investment’s global rank is #918,454, Wesgro’s destination marketing website is at #599,327, KZN Tourism is #473,131 and Gauteng Tourism is #415,060. (For comparison, Cape Town Tourism stands at #98,351.)
Of even more concern, if one looks on the Western Cape Treasury’s website at Wesgro’s Quarterly Performance Reports, the destination marketing website only achieved between 22.9% and 25.5% of traffic targets for the first three quarters of the financial year. Remedial action should have been taken a long time ago! Tourism is a perishable industry – bodies in beds and bottoms on restaurant seats not sold today are lost forever.
(Wesgro seems to be behind in supplying validated reports to the Treasury and some other stats there raise questions too. Click here for that report.)
The good news is the Destination Marketing gets a new website in June 2014, Trade & Investment gets a new one in July 2014 and a new Cape to Namibia Route website comes out in August 2014. Whether they deliver the goods remains to be seen.
The new destination marketing website also gets a new URL (address) which is bound to attract a lot of debate. But we’ll leave it to Wesgro to announce the details in due course. We can’t see it being favoured by search engines though – it does a terrific job of hiding the brand!
Until one reads the tagline, one might wonder if Wesgro is similar to Seagro (a fertiliser) or if it’s a garden shop. It is confusing. Wesgro needs to live and be the brand it markets – a name change is overdue. When Wesgro was established some 25 years ago, the local “Cape” brand wasn’t nearly as strong globally as it is now.
I think it’s also unfortunate that Wesgro has decided to main separate websites, because there are such synergies between trade, investment and tourism. You’re not talking to different markets in effect; but you do need to package information differently. More investment flows out of tourism than any other way. Former Wesgro CEO David Bridgman pointed that out to me in 1997 and Nils concedes that it’s still a fact today.
Judy defends the decisions taken and I’m still waiting for her narrative around the new logo. We’ll save that for another time, for more in-depth discussion.
Judy has only been on the job for about 10 months. She is a marketer, is capable and works very hard. But she has no tourism/trade & investment background and she doesn’t have the benefit of anyone else in Wesgro with any real destination marketing expertise. And, coming from the private sector, being part of a local government agency needs a significant paradigm shift.
Wesgro has been successful in working more closely, and working differently, with the regional and local tourism offices. (That comes through very strongly from the tourism offices I’ve spoken to.) And there’s a blog Judy writes to keep those offices informed – click here. (Have a look and then come back to add a comment saying if the new branding works for you!)
I only received the link to Judy’s blog after I complained about the lack of news and communication from Wesgro over the past year. I used to be on all their mailing lists. Nils and Judy conceded that this is a valid criticism.
And then a week after our meeting, wow! … I receive a media release. It was quite a good one so I used it, only to discover that it was stale news, lifted from another website, and had been published in several other places six weeks earlier. Now that kills all credibility and trust in Wesgro’s Communications Officer! Judy responded to my complaint saying it was “shocking”, and that processes would be put in place to prevent it happening again. That calls into question the calibre of staff appointed at Wesgro.
Another week goes by and I receive my first-ever CEO’s newsletter titled “New year, new home, fresh start”. New year… with the winter equinox just a few weeks away? That’s a *Fail* Wesgro!
Yes I know Wesgro has a number of mandates – conventions, film, trade, investment, Saldanha EPZ, etc. – and a limited budget and limited resources. But destination marketing is what will make or break the organisation. And it’s time Wesgro started sharing big ideas, big visions and demonstrable successes.
Does anybody know what region London, New York, Paris or Sydney are in? Does anyone care? The same goes for San Tropez, Santorini and Timbuktu.
So why – in South Africa – do we make such a big deal of region and route marketing, often with names which are unknown brands? Is it because our destination marketing is dominated by local government politicians and bureaucrats? And they don’t appreciate the fundamental imperative of all marketing: “It’s not what you want to say, it’s what your customer wants to hear.”
There are examples of strong route and regional brands, but none of them were created by bureaucrats. For example, the Stellenbosch Wine Route – where a group of product owners banded together to reinforce their offering… using and enhancing the strong Stellenbosch brand. And there’s the Garden Route, Swartberg and Waterberg, but those have existed as brands long before any destination marketing came into play.
Cities, towns and villages are the ultimate (and very competitive) brands. Anything that dilutes these as brands damages destination marketing.
As an example, take the relatively new Whale Coast Route being marketed by Overstrand Municipality. Wouldn’t they get more bang for their buck by rather boosting their already-recognised brands? What’s it going to cost to elevate Whale Coast Route to the same level of regional, national and global recognition as Hermanus and Gansbaai? The bottom line is… Overstrand can’t afford it.
To make matters worse, most visitors to this area visit when there isn’t a whale in sight! Is this a brand promise that can’t be met for most visitors?
As municipalities around South Africa try to up their role in destination marketing, the nonsense grows worse. Municipalities usually embrace several towns and, because each doesn’t want the other to have dominance, new and meaningless brands are being created. Does the West Coast Peninsula mean anything to you? (I bet Paternoster, Langebaan and Saldanha do!) This epitomises bureaucrats’ need for political solutions, aligned to political structures, rather than marketing solutions.
In Gauteng it’s particularly confusing since many accommodation establishments in Ekuhuleni (East Rand) still claim to be part of Johannesburg. And in the Eastern Cape, Port Elizabeth and East London mean much more than Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City.
Please vote in the poll below.
Dear Alan & Andrew
Have you seen the advert below? What do you think it will achieve?
I think Langeberg Municipality will just get another under-performing, over-paid bureaucrat. Another person to attend interminable meetings, to demonstrate their importance while the real outputs are little more than hot air and obfuscation.
That R215,000 (plus benefits and overheads) for a Tourism Officer would be better spent in the towns’ tourism offices.
We don’t have the skills in SA to place people like these in all municipalities, and we don’t have competence in municipalities’ management — they don’t know what to expect or to demand. Just look how poorly written those job descriptions are. Can people grow into jobs? Only if they have great mentors, which these people won’t have. Should people be highly paid while growing into their jobs? Only if you treat tax and rate-payers as cash cows!
I’m looking forward to seeing you on October 9 and hearing about the Economic Development Partnership’s action plans, because a complete overhaul of tourism and economic development functions is an urgency. My experience of tourism and LED municipal officials is horrendous.
The Municipality serves the towns Ashton, Robertson, Montagu, Bonnievale and McGregor in the picturesque Breede River Valley/Klein Karoo area, where people still live close to nature. Applications are hereby invited from persons with the necessary qualifications and experience for appointment in the following position:
Std 10/ Grade 12 and appropriate 3 year National Diploma or Degree in Tourism; Valid Code EB driver’s license; Computer literate; 5 years appropriate experience; Should be able to communicate (verbal and written) in both English or Afrikaans – additional languages will be an advantage; Should be prepared to work after normal office hours
Key Performance Areas:
Render the tourism function in the Langeberg area; Gathering and processing of tourism statistics; Attendance of Local, District and Provincial Tourism meetings; Marketing of the Langeberg area as a preferred tourist destination by arranging media educational tours and tour operator information sessions; Design, printing and distribution of marketing material; Attendance of Indabas, Expos’s and Festivals to market the Langeberg area; Arrange training programmes for persons employed in the tourism sector and execute schools tourism awareness programmes; Product development in the previously disadvantaged areas; Doing of general administration
R 165 324 – R 214 608 per annum and normal benefits as applicable to a Local Authority.
Local Economic Development Officer (LED) – Contract position
Std 10/ Grade 12 plus 3 year tertiary qualification in economical development; 4 years relevant experience in an economic development environment; Code EB driver’s license; Computer literate
Key Performance Areas:
Planning and prioritize the economic development activities; Facilitate and manage the investment facilitation programme; Contract and manage key Economic Development projects; Networking with National and Provincial Government Departments; Execute research on best practices and interact with other public sector institutions; Facilitate and manage key tourism related projects.
R 219 744 – R 285 240 per annum and normal benefits as applicable to a Local Authority.
Closing date: 8 October 2012. Application / CV (Copy of ID and driver’s license where applicable) with covering letter must be submitted to the Municipal Manager at Postal Address: Private Bag X2, Ashton, 6715; E-mail: ; Fax: (023) 615 1563. Further information is available from the Manager: Human Resources at Tel (023) 615 8035 during normal office hours.
Recognise that? It’s from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll…
I’ve been somewhat underwhelmed by the announcements about the closure of Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) — the Western Cape’s provincial tourism authority — and its incorporation into Wesgro — the provincial trade and investment promotion agency.
CTRU’s last media release on March 30 was a statement by Alan Winde, the provincial tourism minister, that he and the boards of CTRU and Wesgro had decided to incorporate trade, investment and tourism marketing under one roof from April 1.
On April 8, Wesgro issued a media release stating that this “would now be done by a single, ramped up executing agency to increase the province’s national and global competitiveness as a business and leisure destination.”
Why the italics? Someone has yet to demonstrate how the agency has been “ramped up.”
The decision to disband CTRU is the correct one. It was a fatally flawed structure from day one in 2003. It became worse as time went by, and this was illustrated in our 2007 interview with Lynne Brown — then the Western Cape’s tourism minister.
A year before this interview, CTRU’s chairperson had agreed that the organisation’s corporate culture was wholly unsuited to a marketing organisation. But it was all hunky-dory for Brown, a former schoolteacher, and her CTRU CEO, also a former schoolteacher. Yet the interfence in the daily running of CTRU by the minister and her tourism department saw a chairperson and board director resign prematurely at various times.
In his comments on the Brown interview, Hugh von Zahn, a prominent businessman, wrote:
“I once wrote an essay on Napoleon the Third called ”A Tragedy of Good Intentions” which is apt when it comes to the organization of tourism marketing and development in our province.
“The real tragedy is that we have been traversing this ground in the same fashion for years, all to no avail.
“In order to understand why this type of failure happens in an organization like the CTRU you have to look at what is called “process” and how it impacts on service delivery. In the strange new world of contemporary SA we have elevated process to the level of a mantra, all to the exclusion of results.
“In the business world you focus on outcomes and results and decide on the shortest path to get there. This is standard business practice. In the weird world of the bureaucracy you follow a process, often to the exclusion of results. As long as you can show that you are following a process all will be well, the results are incidental.
“The real evil of this fixation on process is that bureaucracies create meaningless jobs filled by people who are function-directed rather than being held accountable for results achieved.
“You measure its effectiveness by hits and Rands generated. In the strange world of the bureaucracy everything is introverted. All things point to stasis. It is a form of navel gazing. So we see ”vision”, process writ large, pictures of staff, corporate manifestos, pledges and self-adulation – precious little about results.”
Shortly before publishing this post, I exchanged emails with Hugh and he said that little seems to have changed in the five years since he wrote that.
CTRU’s incorporation into Wesgro at this stage was rather puzzling, because the process to create an over-arching Economic Development Partnership is underway.
It seemed a rushed and stop-gap solution. When I wrote to Winde’s media liaison person on March 12, asking who I could speak to about the changes, my request was ignored but I received the following bald statement:
- “The Western Cape Government’s tourism destination marketing functions will move to Wesgro from 01 April 2012.
- “A Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, CTRU and Wesgro, has been signed defining all roles and responsibilities.
- “A Memorandum of Agreement is currently being finalized which will further give effect the arrangements discussed.
- “All permanent CRTU staff will be transferred to Wesgro in line with labour regulations.
- “We look forward to marketing the region under a single brand in a more streamlined and efficient. (sic)”
Little more has been released subsequently, other than the fact that CTRU’s board will continue with quarterly oversight of tourism marketing until various bits of legislation have been changed. Monthly reporting will be to the Wesgro board.
What happened here contrasted so to the plans given in our November 2011 interview with Andrew Boraine, who is leading the process for the Economic Development Partnership (EDP). The EDP will be launched as a Section 21 company on April 26, 2012.
All agencies in the economic development, film and tourism spheres that receive any public funding in the Western Cape will be required to be part of this partnership… as a condition for future funding.
The EDP will “lead, coordinate and drive regional economic growth, development and inclusion under a single brand platform through a regional marketing alliance.” Execution of these plans will still be at the agency level.
So, last month’s sidewideays shift of CTRU was probably just a bit of housekeeping by provincial government — a start at putting all marketing under one roof. April 1 (appropriately!) is the start of government’s financial year and with CTRU employment contracts coming up for renewal, it made sense to have provincial government’s perennial problem child out of the way before the EDP is launched.
It is a pity the Winde and his PR people haven’t kept the tourism industry better informed. So what we’re seeing is still an ongoing process rather than any solution. Winde should acknowledge more openly because, at the end of the day, it’s the people (not the processes) that will make for succesful destination marketing.
I have no doubt that Wesgro will be a better home — for starters, its existence is controlled by the provincial Wesgro Act, and it doesn’t have the same strictures that bound CTRU.
Wesgro is also a far cry from the schoolroom corporate culture of CTRU. Nils Flaatten, Wesgro’s CEO, is regarded as a good manager and team leader. For Province, he must have offered a safe bet to move forward.
But Flaaten must still prove Wesgro’s abilities as far as tourism is concerned, which is very different to trade and investment marketing. He is concentrating on cross-over benefits to start — of which there are many — and he is sharp enough to grow Wesgro into a more diversified marketing agency.
In Boraine’s interview, he made the point that “fancy mandates and structures will mean nothing if they does not attract the right people — and that is the risk. It needs a creative environment to achieve that.”
So there are few more jumps to the left, and the right, and some more shuffling before that will happen. But it is a start in the right direction.
The first Joint Marketing Initiative (JMI) started 10 years ago when there was a brief DA-led political alignment between the Province and the City. It lost its way and was watered down during the ANC’s period of tenure — Wesgr0 (the trade promotion agency) was just one of the agencies that pulled out and all that came of it was that the Western Cape Tourism Board was replaced by Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU). It’s only been under the chairmanship of Peter Bacon over the past few years that CTRU has pulled itself together after many years of being in the trenches. Several CTRU directors resigned over undue political interference and a previous MEC, Lynne Brown, saw it only right that it should be driven by politics.
But now the DA is firmly entrenched in both the Province and the City. MEC Alan Winde’s first attempt at bringing all the Province’s marketing bodies together didn’t find public favour… after all, it was written by the same people who wrote what exists now. His new attempt draws extensively on the London Development Agency and others, and saw Andrew Boraine, CEO of the very successful Cape Town Partnership, developing the new initiative.
If anyone can pull this off, it is Boraine. The Economic Development Partnership (EDP) draws on the lessons and successes of the Cape Town Partnership, established 12 years ago. It embraces everything that is the Cape Town success story CapeInfo wrote about recently — click here.
The EDP will not be a statutory body and government will be a client rather than the owner. It will operate outside the bureacratic regulatory system with a business mandate.
Boraine concedes that fancy mandates and structures will mean nothing if it does not attract the right people — and that is the risk. It needs a creative environment to achieve that.
Boraine and his team have started with the fundamentals rather than the big-budget, more glamourous marketing initiatives.
What will the EDP do? The EDP will be a partnership-based organisation that will lead, coordinate and drive regional economic growth, development and inclusion by concentrating on:
- Economic and market intelligence and monitoring to ensure evidence-led strategy and planning.
- Economic vision and strategy through building leadership and a common agenda.
- Business attraction, retention and expansion through building an improved business and investment climate.
- Creation of a single brand platform through a regional marketing alliance.
- Organisation of the economic system for optimum delivery through performance monitoring and on-going coordination of reform.
To see the complete Powerpoint presentation on the EDP, click here. It is an impressive document.
A steering committee was announced last week and met for the first time, with the goal of opening the new organisation by April next year.
I polled two of the steering committee members. Peter Bacon, former CEO of Sun International and chairperson of CTRU, said:
“I am in agreement with the need for a public/private sector initiative to bring together under the umbrella of one organization the private sector support needed to grow the provincial economy. The responsibility for strategic planning, spatial planning, brand development, facilitation, research etc. is not, in my view, being dealt with at a macro level and the EDP will hopefully get all those involved in the public sector ‘On the same page’ together with the private sector to ensure the best outcome.
“If we are to attract more investment to achieve the growth levels needed to make a positive impact on unemployment then, as a destination, we need to make ourselves attractive. Also we need to support those industries which have already attracted very substantial investments e.g. the tourism industry and ensure that we maximize the return on the limited funding available from the public sector to support them e.g. destination marketing. To achieve this we must address the current confusion, overlap and wasteful expenditure which will be a focus of the EDP process.
“Governments do not make money and need to support the private sector. The EDP will be mandated to do this.”
Otto Stehlek, Protea Hotels chairperson, said Alan Winde and Andrew Boraine need a round of applause. “They have assembled a group of people who can be potentially effective. And anything that makes the Western Cape more efficient must be welcomed. South Africa does face difficulties competing at an international level and we must do everything we can to reduce these difficulties.
“This deserves our best shot.”
This time it must work — there must be a unified focus and efficiencies. The bottom line — jobs, investment, tourists, etc — is more important than hype.
Are other provinces watching? The depoliticisation of economic development and tourism is the only way to get them working.
The steering committe tasked with the job of making it happen comprises:
- Mr Ashoek Adhikari – General Counsel of Media24
- Mr Peter Bacon – Chairperson of Cape Town Routes Unlimited
- Dr Walter Baets – Director of the UCT Graduate School of Business
- Mr Michael Bagraim – President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce
- Professor Leon Campher – CEO of the Savings and Investment Association of South Africa
- Professor Brian Figaji – Director of Nedbank Group Limited and Chairperson of the DBSA Development Fund
- Mr Solly Fourie – Head of the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism
- Mr Ben Kodisang – MD of Old Mutual Investment Group Property Investments and Chairperson of Wesgro Board
- Ms Nontwenhle Mchunu – Entrepreneur and owner of Ezulwini Chocolat
- Ms Lele Mehlomakulu – Head of HR at Allan Gray
- Mr Jannie Mouton – Non-Executive Director of PSG Financial Services limited
- Mr Patrick Parring – Entrepreneur and co-founder of WECBOF
- Mr Conrad Sidego – Executive Mayor of Stellenbosch Municipality
- Mr Otto Stehlik – Executive Chairman of Protea Hotels
- Dr Iqbal Surve – Chief Executive of Sekunjalo Investments
- Alderman Belinda Walker – City of Cape Town Mayco Member for Economic Development
- Minister Alan Winde (Chair) – Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism
Two dates in the Western Cape raise the need for the public to hold its tourism representatives to greater accountability.
September 30 is the deadline for your comments on tourism MEC Alan Winde’s plan for restructuring tourism marketing in the Western Cape.
Now CapeInfo’s readers have already voted – only 10 out of 170 votes think his proposal is a good start. That’s a 5.9% approval rating! That’s a BIG FAIL!
So just presenting the proposal shows that he and his advisors have not done their homework, or they are not up to the job.
This must be seen in the light that Winde has been tourism MEC for 15 months. An abysmal plan is all he has to offer after all that time.
While in opposition, surely he should have been champing at the bit to get things right the moment his party swept to power? Surely he should have known just what needs to be done? Or do public representatives waste their time in the hallowed corridors of political power?
Apparently, some DA MPLs did want to start preparing for power while they were in opposition. But Helen Zille told them to focus on winning elections rather than preparing plans to govern.
So we’re paying people for electioneering rather than representation? That sounds a bit like the ANC’s dilemma where leaders are in a permanent state of electioneering.
15 months and still nothing to show
It’s as mind-boggling that Winde has also announced – after 15 months of tenure and after announcing a tourism restructuring plan – that he intends grouping all the Western Cape’s marketing agencies (including Cape Town Routes Unlimited – CTRU) into one Economic Development Agency (EDA).
Now when I asked him about this – it was a predecessor’s “Joint Marketing Inititiative” which was never carried through – in our May interview, he said there were no plans to pursue this.
This sounds seriously like “any plan is a good plan if you don’t have a plan.”
Winde refers to EDAs in London, New South Wales (Australia) and New York as shining examples of what the Western Cape wants to emulate. EDA’s all over the UK are facing closure because of their cost. London’s might survive primarily because of the 2012 Olympics. EDA’s in the UK have been effective when they have big budgets and focus on economic development and support. Tourism marketing always remained the job of DMO’s.
Winde’s counterpart with the Transport portfolio, MEC Robin Carlisle, seems to be as bogged down. If he is serious about making travel on the Western Cape’s roads safer, he would be going all out to encourage tourism traffic to follow Route 62 – bypassing the notoriously dangerous N1. The tourism benefits would be incalculable.
But he and Helen Zille have ignored our open letter on this and the emails to them regarding this. So the Western Cape Provincial Government doesn’t score highly when it comes to the interests of the province’s most important industry over the past 15 months.
There is no doubt that a new structure is needed.
Winde has been naïve to expect leadership and buy-in for a new tourism structure in the Province from existing organisations, set on retaining their turf and status quo. There is no doubt that a new structure is needed. Cape Town and the Western Cape competes at a disavantage with some other world regions and cities. Sydney is one example. It’s going to take much more leadership from Winde.
Cape Town Tourism (CTT) AGM
October 7 is the date for Cape Town Tourism’s AGM.
The task team for restructuring tourism in the province has been a meaningless flop, clouded in secrecy, and pursued a single agenda which ignored CTT’s input.
Ian Bartes, CTT’s chair, represented the organisation on the task team and championed a policy of “quiet diplomacy”, which to all intents and purposes has failed. He has recently resigned from the task team.
He spoke to CapeInfo about the difficulties of serving on the task team, the disputes with minutes, input which was ignored and the City following Province’s line – against Cape Town’s best interests.
It is CapeInfo’s view that Province has and is trying to railroad through what it wants, without thinking things through properly. Province cannot fix their mess at CTRU so they want something new.
This is the tail wagging the dog.
This is the tail wagging the dog. CTT is SA’s largest tourism member organisation and has an enviable track record. City economies are the powerhouses that drive successful regions. By comparison, Winde and his tourism department have an abysmal track record.
In spite of the September 30 cut-off date for responses, a new consultant for the restructuring process has been appointed and has already prepared a new plan. My guess is that it will be worse than the first.
CTT needs to get ready to do battle. It needs an independent, strong, forceful and visionary chairperson. One who will stand up to Province and the City, without fear or favour; one who will know that engaging respect is more important than being popular.
Over and over again, politicians and bureaucrats have shown that they cannot understand tourism – it’s about people, not processes.
- CapeInfo has long been critical of CTRU but were reminded by Brian McDonald, vice-chair, and Riedwaan Jacobs of Global Conferences, in comments to a previous blog post that “the Cape Town Convention Bureau is the envy of all the other cities in South Africa and they have done an excellent job.” They are correct.
Western Cape tourism minister, Alan Winde, has announced a plan to (once again) restructure tourism in the Province. His new plan is a rehash of what his department tried to implement in 2002, and promises new and endless debates (plus costs) about a new trading name, corporate identity, etc.
Since it was established in 2003, Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU — the provincial tourism agency) has cost about R500 million in public funding. Yet it’s common knowledge that most of its budget is spent on staff and travel, not marketing.
When former Sun International CEO Peter Bacon (whose credentials are impeccable) was appointed CTRU chairperson, he was instructed not to right-size the organisation. It is two to three times as large as it needs to be – something Winde acknowledges. Both Winde and Bacon lament leadership and capacity at CTRU that is lacking, “but it’s the best we could get.”
Province’s plan is for a single tourism marketing structure (with the structure still to be defined!) for the whole province that will be overseen by the Province and the City. You can see Winde’s plan here.
Can anyone have any faith in Province’s new structure? Surely they should have shown that they can get their house in order before they waste everybody’s time, yet again. But no… “restructuring” is the way out of their mess… and a way to access more funding from Cape Town’s ratepayers.
Remember, this plan has largely been driven by the same people at the same tourism department that tried to close Cape Town Tourism (CTT) down in 2002. They backtracked then in the face of public pressure.
Politicians and bureaucrats do not understand that structures do not guarantee success — it’s only people that guarantee success. And Province has shown that it cannot attract nor manage the stars that destination marketing needs.
In the mid-1990s, many of Cape Town’s brightest and sharpest minds tried to get involved in tourism and help it grow. Their encounters with all the hot air, talk shops and self-important bureaucrats (who had to demonstrate how important they are by holding cellphone conversations during meetings) chased them away for ever.
It’s no secret that CapeInfo has been critical of CTRU and we have been attacked for our views. But two CTRU directors wrote to us after they resigned from the CTRU board to say “thank you for not saying: ‘I told you so’.”
Mr Winde, you are wasting everybody’s time once again. If you had a plan, you wouldn’t need a consultant to drive it. Your or your consultant’s document just highlights that you are still in search of a solution.
Okay, it’s easy to be critical so what does CapeInfo propose?
- Close down CTRU. It’s a memory best forgotten.
- Open a brand new and untainted Western Cape Destination Brands office that shares premises and resources with CTT.
- As the dominant partner in provincial marketing — Cape Town does represent nearly 70% of the province’s population and economic activity — CTT should chair provincial marketing efforts.
- The Destination Brands Office would comprise Brand Managers for each region, although there could be additional brand managers for other well-established brands or activities — like Knysna, wine routes, conventions, etc.
- Brand managers, like their counterparts in retail organisations, must be performance-driven. They must demonstrate bottom-line benefits to the regions and its product owners. Their tenure depends on their performance, with annual appraisals that are both public and transparent. There is no room for political agendas. These brand managers must be strong, dynamic people.
All big projects are realised with big multi-disciplinary teams where participants retain their own corporate identities. The focus is on shared goals which are more important than any structures and processes. Destination brands must compete but they must also realise that the only way to get stronger is by working together. Weaker regions will learn from and be driven by the successes of the stronger regions. This is a process that could see the whole of the Western Cape emerge as one of the world’s greatest regions.
In a recent interview with CapeInfo, Siva Pillay (CEO of the Tourism Enterprise Partnership) spoke about provincial tourism marketing as being “as dead as a dodo.” It’s a view he’s been selling to his stakeholders — the Business Trust and the national Department of Tourism. His views are gaining support, which make Winde’s plan very much yesterday’s solution. Pillay sees the future in marketing clusters without any of today’s traditional boundaries.
Cities, worldwide, are the new powerhouses for economic growth. And Gateway Cities, like Cape Town, have so much to offer the smaller rural towns. Brochure distribution is just one example: at the French National Tourism Office on the Champs–Élysées in Paris — which is no larger than CTT’s head office public area — one can collect brochures for the whole of France. It’s incredibly efficient.
Nowhere does Winde’s plan address the leveraging of private sector participation to give meaningful marketing clout. In an interview some time ago, Peter Bacon made the point that the Table Bay Hotel has a larger marketing budget than CTRU has for the whole province! What we need to be doing is to find ways for public and private sector to work together. As a member-based organisation, CTT is already doing that.
Now Province may have a hundred reasons why this cannot be done, all geared so that they can keep control — which makes Winde’s goal of “political immunity” a joke. They would far rather continue wasting money as they have done rather than have an effective and efficient solution.
You can leave a comment here but, to join the debate, please visit the CapeInfo Forum and do also vote in our poll (in the right hand column).
UPDATE: July 23, 2010
CapeInfo has had calls from Alan Winde and Felicity Purchase, Cape Town’s mayco member for tourism. The document linked above is being amended and we will publish it as soon as we receive it.
Cape Town Tourism has prepared its own proposals (click here) and will be communicating progress to members in future.
Just before the old CTT was disbanded in 2004, CapeInfo almost called for a vote of no confidence in CTT’s board at a special general meeting to discuss the matter. Two days ago CapeInfo informed a CTT board member (in an email to be shared) that we will call for that vote of no confidence if a similar fiasco ever appears likely again. CTT is a member organisation and its greatest strength is its membership. This is not the time for confidential documents, hidden agendas or selfish posturing.
Way back in 2002, CapeInfo identified the need for a photo opportunity at Cape Agullhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. Something that vistors would want to be photographed with and show off back home — like the backdrop of Table Mountain or the shark tank at the Two Oceans Aquarium.
We discussed the idea of a competition that would take into account the importance of this very special place. Most people don’t go there because it’s the southernmost tip (as they go to Land’s End or John O’Groats in the UK), but rather because it is where two oceans meet, and the only really accessible place in the world where this occurs. But of course, that’s not something you can see.
It’s so easy to mess up and really few people have the first clue about what might be appropriate and what might contribute to a strong global brand. After many discussions, what did come out was that, if one’s trying to build a global brand, it needs to be a global competition which the most creative and understanding people will participate in. And to attract world class participants, one needs a world class judging panel with credibility. And that’s not too difficult.
So, it was with some delight that we received the announcement about a competition for the southermost tip last week, issued by the Western Cape’s Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism.
Minister Alan Winde said: “Visitors to L’Agulhas claim to experience a heightened sense of awareness when they stand in silence at the point currently marked by a stone cairn at the tip of Africa. We want this sense of being to be represented by the iconic structure. The overall idea is that the icon links us with the people of our continent, as the space is ultimately shared and owned by us all.”
But the competition is an amateurish joke! The brief includes statements like “It is an ICONIC IDEAS competition — it does not have to be a concept for an actual structure. If it is a structure the dimensions can’t be too large. Local materials would be a plus. Can’t be too reflective as it is a significant maritime area, no reflection at night. It is the Southernmost Tip of Africa, Mother Africa needs to be reflected.”
But two things despatched this initiative to the trash can.
It’s a “a continent-wide competition” and the competition calls “on all people of Africa”. But the PR company handling the launch said an entry had already been received from Spain and it won’t be excluded. So is it an international competition or a continent-wide competition?
The competition announcement goes on…
“The ‘Iconic Ideas’ competition, launched by DEDAT in partnership with SANParks, will run from the 26th of January until the 10th of March 2010. The competition will be calling on all people of Africa to create or design an iconic concept to celebrate the continent’s most southerly point. It should be a structure or symbol that can blend well with the surroundings at the Agulhas National Park, without causing damage to the environment. It should have continental significance, and be something that people can identify with. Mostly, it should encourage an environment where people can re-connect, spiritually or otherwise.
“We are searching for something unique and interesting that highlights the intense natural beauty, cultural and historical heritage, the ocean, maritime history and natural elements of the area. The DEDAT would like to showcase Africa’s real Southernmost Tip, to ensure that it fulfils its potential as a prime tourism destination.
“A panel of judges, comprising of people from various backgrounds with different expertise in their fields of operation, has been put together. It consists of local chieftains, urban designers, archaeologists, representatives from SANParks, marketing specialists, tourism experts and government representatives.”
So I wrote, asking for a list of the judges. I had a call back and the list was hurriedly read to me. The only name that stood out was Professor Fabio Todeschini, an architect and urban designer I have the highest respect for. So I wrote to him and he copied me his email to the Minister et al:
“I have just returned from the media launch of the competition and need to clearly put my point of view on this matter, as follows.
“I repeat that I seriously question the need for a new icon at L’Agulhas. As I said at our meeting last year, the existing lighthouse is iconic and, as far as I know, is the oldest surviving lighthouse on the African continent (the designer modeled it on the oldest: that of Alexandria, that has not survived). Moreover, the ‘Needles’ and their environment are collectively distinctive and iconic. What is not iconic is the visitor experience, mainly because of the arrival at the spot via the ugly suburban environment of the small town of Agulhas. That is the problem that should be dealt with appropriately.”
I quizzed the PR company again on Todeschini’s views and received the following reply: “Yes, I do understand Prof Todeschini’s view and I do personally agree with he’s (sic) point — which is why an idea like Land Art, which is essentially nothing but does create excitement around the area, would be a great idea!
“The Department and the Minister are very keen for an actual Icon, and have decided to go the route of a competition, to make sure that everyone’s views are heard. I have tried to establish a panel inclusive of views such as Prof Todeschini’s, who may be able to influence the panel to he’s view. I certainly agree with him, although I don’t have a vote.
“It would be helpful if you enter your idea of ‘nothing’ as the SMT is itself an icon. The more of these views we get through the competition the more weight it would carry.”
What bullshit! This is another example of the dumbing down of democracy.
So, it really sounds like a school competition or something on the back of a box of breakfast cereal, and certainly not aimed at a professional outcome…
“Anyone interested in entering the competition should send their concept idea, written out in no longer than one A4 page and a drawing (if necessary). If you are posting your entry please keep the drawing to an A4 page, preferably on the back of your written page. Entries can be emailed, posted or faxed, all clearly marked as SOUTHERNMOST TIP OF AFRICA COMPETITION.”
Please send entries to:
Post: Ministry of Finance, Private Bag X9165, Cape Town, 8000
* A Foefie, in its kindest interpretation, is a Folly.