Tag Archives: Cape Town Tourism

If dams go dry – what it means for tourism in Cape Town

The latest forecast for Cape Town’s rainfall in June, July and August is that it will be 40% below annual averages.  And there are predictions that this drought could last at least two years.  Cape Town could become the first world city to simply run out of water due to bad management and too much wishful thinking.  And that’s something CapeTalk radio has been emphasizing for months.

Listening to the Kieno Kammies show on CapeTalk last week and the on-air spat about the water crisis between City of Cape Town (CoCT) Mayco member responsible for water, Xanthea Limberg and Tony Ehrenreich (Cosatu), one couldn’t help but feel that politicians put party politics and point-scoring above the interests of the city.  It was a spat that made a mockery of the mayor’s call the night before for everybody to work together! Continue reading

Wesgro… gets a #Fail!

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.

Alexa comparison of websites based on traffic rankings

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!

Wesgro logoWell, it’s essentially just a new logo or set of logos, which set out to establish Wesgro as an agency managing a number of mandates.  It’s an opportunity lost!

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.

Mariette du Toit-Helmbold to leave Cape Town Tourism

CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold has announced that she will be leaving Cape Town Tourism at the end of July 2013 but will continue to support the organisation until after its AGM in October.

She will, however, continue working on tourism and marketing strategy initiatives, nationally and internationally, as an independent tourism and marketing strategist.

She was appointed CEO of the new Cape Town Tourism in 2004 and had the difficult job of bringing the various tourism bodies together when several local authorities were amalgamated into the new City of Cape Town.

Few will argue the point that she led CTT to become the best destination marketing organisation in South Africa.

CapeInfo appreciates the relationship we’ve always had with her, and we’re sure this will continue as she starts on her new chapter.

Cape Town Tourism: delivery time!

Cape Town Tourism's key statisticsWith a drop in market share of 16% over the last five years, one can understand that Cape Town’s tourism industry is licking its wounds and looking for salvation.  A drop in market share has less to do with the recession than other destinations doing things smarter or reaping fortuitous benefits.

Where does accountability lie?  Is it the Destination Marketing Organisation (in this case Cape Town Tourism [CTT] and Cape Town Routes Unlimited [CTRU] — the provincial agency) or the industry itself?   Cape Town Tourism’s CEO, Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, says plainly that it’s not her organisation’s job to make conversions – getting the bodies on the planes or in hotel beds, its job is to create awareness and demand.  But with the 16% drop in market share (and no growth) during her tenure as CEO, it’s seems that the demand isn’t there.

Yes, the industry needs to do more and get behind CTT, calling it to account more often, but it’s also a fact that few in the hospitality industry are marketing experts (well, some think they are, but…) and they look to CTT for marketing expertise and guidance.

My first question when I saw this figure was, “How can this be?  After all the awards and accolades, how can Cape Town fare so poorly?”  Mariette’s response was: “Destination awards and accolades are great to get and does contribute to general destination awareness. It does not however automatically translate to increased arrivals and economic growth especially in tough economic times when the consumer mind-set is not necessarily conducive to making travel decisions.”

So when I get a media release from CTT a day later saying that Cape Town Tourism’s leadership in the e-marketing discipline has been confirmed as the world’s thirteenth Most Influential Tourist Board and Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) online by Influencers in Travel, I realise how little this accolade actually means – other than to remind and reassure politicians why they back tourism.  Surely increased arrivals and economic growth are the only bottom line?

If CTT wasn’t the best DMO in Africa, something would be seriously wrong and, if accolades meant anything, it should be in the top ten worldwide.  There isn’t another city in Africa that has the same allure, is as well run or has as much going for it – notably the entrepreneurial spirit and capability of its citizens.

After reading her presentation on Cape Town’s new marketing plan (click here to see it), I put some questions to her:

Which destinations have grown their market share at Cape Town’s expense?

Mariette: “We are seeing statistics broken down for Cape Town for the first time, which give a more accurate indication of our ‘real’ market share, i.e. not bloated by local travel.

“The growth in travel has been limited to the East, predominantly linked to intra-regional travel.  There has also  been an uptake in domestic or regional travel in Europe, with many of our traditional travellers opting for shorter and closer breaks from home.“


This begs the question: Is Cape Town doing enough to grow domestic and regional tourism like the other successful destinations, especially given the recession in the city’s traditional markets?

Would it be reasonable to associate loss of market share (but not the lack of growth, since others will experience the same) with the failure of CTT’s marketing actions over the last five years?

Mariette:  “Cape Town Tourism’s marketing actions have been informed by global and local trends, input from experts and the industry. We have been flexible, open and honest in developing and sharing the plans we have, never afraid to adapt when the market conditions dictate change (which is evident from the latest plans shared). We have never proclaimed to have all the answers, but we are certainly committed to remain relevant and dynamic.

“Cape Town Tourism has done ground-breaking work over the last 5 years, despite tough conditions, limited funding and a short-term annual mandate.”

One expects leaders to have more answers, more quickly and provide more leadership than CTT has displayed.  This is a criticism I have made directly to CTT on a number of occasions relating to a number of issues.  CTT consults more than it acts; it has more strategies than action plans.


Did CTT have a plan and put any marketing actions into effect to mitigate the expected drop in tourism that follows every mega event?

Mariette: “Our marketing strategy and activities pre, during and post- World Cup were aimed at long-term growth.  CTT was always very vocal about the need to have realistic expectations and focus on using the WC and the obvious benefits related to investment in infrastructure and awareness, as a springboard for long-term economic growth.”

In other words, CTT did nothing to directly mitigate against or counter the impact of a post-World Cup slump.  Surely, safeguarding jobs today is far more important that long-term strategies alone?

How should ratepayers and CTT members measure the benefit they receive from CTT’s funding?

Mariette refers to the Memorandum of Agreement and the Service Level Agreement (SLA) that exists between the City and CTT.  But neither evaluate value for money or bang for the buck: whether CTT gets R4 million or R40 million in funding makes little difference to these agreements. Mariette didn’t answer the question of how CTT members or the tourism industry should evaluate CTT’s performance.

Could you provide the percentage breakdown of total international versus domestic tourist numbers and your source for these statistics?

This question was asked since Mariette’s presentation contained the following slide which we dispute – it shows domestic tourism accounting for less than 30% of total arrivals.

Statistics for Cape Town's tourism arrivals and spend

She answered with some actual figures for 2010:

International 41.6% 1,251,215
Domestic 58.4% 1,755,000
Total 3,006,215

Just as the tourist arrivals graphic is misleading, I’m pretty sure the visitor spend graphic is equally misleading.  Cape Town Routes Unlimited estimates tourism to the Western Cape is 75% domestic and 25% international in origin.

Before chasing international business, one should bear in mind Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus’ view that local consumer spending will underpin SA’s economy during the global recession.  The national Department of Tourism conducted research that showed a far higher return – bang for the buck – on domestic tourism marketing at present, and that’s where their priority currently lies.  Is CTT prioritising its focus on a diminishing market?

In the UK, it has taken a terrible recession to fuel the domestic industry – which is currently doing very well and has proved to be the saviour.  Are there lessons there?

The City of Cape Town – the main funder & client

How does the City view all of this?  I asked Grant Pascoe, mayoral exco member for tourism, “how you measure the success of your ‘investments’ or funding.”  I also included the questions I had asked Mariette.

He was on the phone before the email read receipt arrived, thanking me for asking the questions.  “This has been worrying me,” he said, “but whenever I try to get answers, I’m faced with a blank wall.  My job is on the line if CTT doesn’t deliver.”  He went on to say that if they don’t, their R40 million grant is on the line.

Nombulelo Mfeka, the City’s director of tourism and an ex officio member of CTT’s board, provided a more detailed response:

“The City manages performance by monitoring indicators – visitor arrivals and deliverables in the SLA.

2007-8 year on year         9.32% positive growth
2008-9 year on year        -9.72 negative growth
2009-10 year on year      -1.76 negative growth

“The 2010 figures included the SWC 2010 tournament that inflated arrivals.

“Since their appointment their performance can be seen against a very successful SWC 2010 tournament with resulting accolades, and a good visitor experience.”   Was CTT’s role in this visitor experience really that great, or was it due Cape Town’s citizens and hospitality industry?

“Yes, we haven’t taken up the opportunities that the “2010 glow” afforded as effectively as we could have but some things have been done.”  But was it enough?

“Cape Town Tourism has responded to what was happening to the industry not only the drop off period but the impact of the global economic crisis that hit our source markets.”   How, she doesn’t say.

“We use the international arrivals at Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) as the barometer … because our international visitor spend is much greater than domestic tourism spend.”

Surely this is beyond short-sighted? Using international arrival statistics from CTIA alone (while large numbers of visitors arrive from Johannesburg) rather than total bed-nights, and excluding domestic travel – which accounts for up to 75% of all travel – present such a distorted picture that it’s almost useless.

If CTT and its funding are being driven by a poorly informed client, that’s where criticism should be ultimately directed.  Should the CTT board be more informed, visionary and decisive?  Well, that’s another whole story!

I can understand Councillor Pascoe feeling that he meets a blank wall – his staff and the City’s representative on CTT’s board are doing a questionable job!  I haven’t been impressed by the City’s tourism department for the past ten years – maybe it needs a complete review?  Hopefully that will come with (or prior to, given the urgency) the establishment of the new Economic Development Agency.

A Marketing Plan for Cape Town

I wasn’t able to attend the presentations on August 10 & 11 by Ian Macfarlane, CTT’s Australian/expatriate consultant, and Mariette but CapeInfo was represented at one presentation by Mel Miller.  I wanted to interview Ian Macfarlane, whose presentation was unanimously applauded, about his experiences internationally and his perceptions of Cape Town.  Mariette initially facilitated this by introducing Ian and I, but then reversed her decision saying that he isn’t a spokesperson for CTT and I should put questions for him in writing to her first!

I also phoned and emailed around to get broader comments from a wider range of people, and here they are:

The plaudits

  • It has taken forever, but the manner in which they have done this is positive.   They’ve had a long, thorough and robust process in building and formulating this strategy, and have presented it.  So, I think they have their act together now.
  • There is an action plan and a detailed schedule of the activities and actions that are being taken.
  • CTT is retaining its foothold in the overseas source markets and not listening to the calls to rush off to developing markets to spend even more money starting from scratch.
  • I love their new focus on the urban tourist but we did not get any real meat on what the joint city marketing (CT, Jhb, Dbn & SA Tourism) will do.


The critics

  • There nothing in Mariette’s presentation that can be measured and what people want to see now are results.
  • I expected to see the glue, or nuts ‘n bolts, that will bind this house of cards.
  • There are no action plans – not the high-level, big-picture stuff but rather measurable marketing plans, segmentation, media, travel trade, online, etc.
  • I’m concerned that the focus on “inspiration” is far too airy-fairy in relation to the very real challenges the average consumer is dealing with today.
  • Much will depend on Ian Macfarlane’s on-going role at CTT – he comes across as incisive, informed, dynamic and as gets the job done – the complete opposite of most of our public sector DMO’s
  • CTT uses too many consultants who have twisted reality without any need to be accountable for end results, which are sales, bums and beds and tourists – be they local or international.
  • A lot of new things on the table but we’re still trying to deal with the past issues which have not been accounted for.
  • Managing communications to the travel trade is their single biggest challenge and something they need to effectively do on a continual basis…  The new marketing manager (who joins on September 1) is a case in point – to address the speculation, they should announce who this is to instil confidence!   Instead, the silence does them no favours….

I also watched what appeared on Twitter from the presentations and was filled with a sense of despair.  It all sounds good but either lacks substance or has been said before (without the goods being delivered).  It reminded me of an interview with the MD of the old Garlicks department store in the mid-80s, which was becoming very run-down.  “We’re about to start competing with Woolworths on garment and food quality,” was the action plan he gave me.  “And how will you achieve that, without the technical resources that Woolworths has and gets from Marks & Spencer?” I asked.  “Oh, we’ll develop those too,” was his reply.  The store closed a year later.

Here are a few tweets:

  • Cape Town Tourism launches plan to propel the city to world prominence.
  • We are working on an urban tourism marketing campaign with Johannesburg and Durban – showcasing the live-ability of our cities.
  • We will position CT as ideal ‘short-break’ city in the domestic market especially during winter & shoulder seasons.
  • We will put significant effort into addressing the domestic market’s perception of CT as unwelcoming, racist and expensive.

I’d love to read concrete action plans for the last item…  Some time back I tried to address perceptions that Cape Town is unfriendly, which some CTT staff argued was a false perception.

The trend to and perceptions of elitism is one of the greatest challenges Cape Town faces.  I’d like to see as much dedicated effort put into reversing this as has been put into the city’s bid as World Design capital.  As someone wrote recently, “CT is becoming elitist and too ‘in thrall’ with creative, foodie, tourism rankings stuff.  The Design Bid, whilst commendable, I think is a step too far in the elitist direction.  I have heard sentiments of elitism too from national tourism people – they don’t like Cape Town, I think they are threatened by its success.”

CTT’s strength is the big picture but it spends a lot of time putting out fires and being reactive.  Sometimes it’s overwhelmed with requests it cannot service.  This is all the more reason for solid planning and implementation, with a clearer focus with measurable outcomes (and the ability to say “no, we can’t do that”).

I wonder if CTT’s marketing manager shouldn’t in fact be a Joint CEO, because CTT is a marketing organisation and needs to focus on the nuts and bolts of the ‘now & today’.  Strategizing needs to be secondary or run parallel to accountability and results, and delivering the goods is CTT’s big challenge ahead.

But then I’m reminded of something Liz Westby-Nunn said to me after the appointment of Noki Dube as CTRU CEO: “Since when have you heard of a consultant being able to run a company?”    CTT’s new marketing manager, Velma Corcoran, comes from a successful consulting background but still has to prove herself at the coalface of bottom-line accountability for a city and industry.  I really wish her well and I’m always ready to be supportive wherever possible.

Everybody needs to realise that the hospitality industry is a perishable industry, something the late Don Titmas pointed out to me many years ago:  “Bodies in beds and bottoms on restaurant seats not sold today, can’t be sold tomorrow.”

There is a need for urgency.  As Winston Churchill said, “Action this day!”

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Why Cape Town is surfing the crest of a wave

In 1990, while I was part of the V&A Waterfront team, I bought an international travel magazine. There was a story on Barcelona’s renaissance after the end of Spain’s dictatorship. With events then starting to unfold in South Africa, I wondered if the same could happen in Cape Town.

Although there have been scores of accolades for the city since democracy in 1994, most of these have been from the city’s traditional markets with limited global awareness. Probably one of the most important accolades came from Parliament itself with this note from the Speaker of Parliament, Baleka Mbete: “On 25 October 2007, the National Assembly of South Africa agreed to a motion, noting that Cape Town was ranked the best city out of the country’s 283 municipalities.
The House further noted that the city won this award because of the way in which the municipality dealt with poverty, the level of access to basic services, its economic activity and infrastructure and because its citizens are well qualified.
The House recalled that in July [2006] Cape Town was ranked by USA’s Travel & Leisure magazine as the number one city in Africa and the Middle East and claimed tenth spot in the “best city in the world” category.
The National Assembly congratulates both the city administration and the residents of Cape Town on making it a world class city and a top tourist destination.”

TripAdvisor Traveller's ChoiceCape Town’s international profile received a major boost when, in 1997, it bid for the 2004 Olympics and made it through to the final three cities. Here, and with events like the Argus Cycle Tour, the city has repeatedly demonstrated its capacity and capability.

But it was TripAdvisor’s World’s Best Destination 2011 that almost took everybody by surprise. Was this one of the benefits of hosting the 2010 World Cup? Will it remain in the top 5 or was this a fluke showing? Cape Town’s ranking next year will be an indication.

World Design Capital 2014The latest achievement, and the first since the Olympic Bid to demonstrate a wider footprint that embraces Cape Town’s poorer areas, was making the three-city shortlist out of the 54 entries from 27 countries for World Design Capital 2014. (Read the full story here.) This is also, as far as I know, the first international bid out of South Africa where the Mandela-factor hasn’t been a trump card.

So what are the reasons for Cape Town’s success — accepting that God-given natural beauty isn’t the only reason? What does Cape Town owe its renaissance to? One of the reasons for the V&A Waterfront’s success has always been given as timing – the end of apartheid and SA’s isolation.

Institutional interventions
Timing must again be one of the reasons, but institutional interventions without bureaucratic control must surely be another? It is these institutions that have contributed more to Cape Town’s heritage and vitality than anything else. One of the first, if not the first, is the Cape Town Heritage Trust, established in 1987.

Cape Town Heritage Trust

The Cape Town Heritage Trust is an independent, private-sector, non-profit organisation which conserves the architectural, cultural and natural heritage of Cape Town and environs for the benefit of the inhabitants of the City and of the nation at large. The Trust was established in 1987 by the Cape Town City Council with the backing of the Cape Provincial Administration. A number of buildings in Shortmarket and Hout Streets, originally acquired for road-widening purposes, were donated to the Trust.


Cape Information Technology Initiative, a non-profit organisation established in 1998, develops & supports the information & communications technology cluster in the Western Cape.

There have been many initiatives — too many to mention here — some driven by local government but most by the private sector with local government support. This is a major reason for the growth and strength of Cape Town’s knowledge economy.

Those agencies that still kowtow to the politicians — like the provincial tourism agency — have never enjoyed the same level of success.

Looking at the reasons for Cape Town’s success, deputy mayor Ian Neilson, quotes Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and Who’s Your City?, who lists five required success factors:

  • aesthetics
  • civic leadership
  • safety – physical & economic
  • acceptance of diversity
  • effective legislation

“These factors define the cities that people want to live in,” he says, “and I think Cape Town does fairly well in all respects. We’ve concentrated on creating platforms for effective institutions and enabling effective legislation — to facilitate rather than control.”

Desirable cities and towns always attract the most creative and entrepreneurial people.

There’s little doubt that Helen Zille’s award as World’s Best Mayor in 2008 helps the city’s credibility. In a competition where public comments and votes do count, Capetonians made themselves heard.

Cape Town Partnership

The Cape Town Partnership, launched in 1999, is a collaboration between the public & private sectors working together to develop, promote & manage Cape Town Central City.

Consumer activism

Theodore Yach, who chairs the Cape Town Heritage Trust and is a member of the Central City Improvement District, says consumer activism is one of the reasons for Cape Town’s success. “People have started realising that it’s not just the city administration that needs to take responsibility. There are now about 40 City Improvement Districts (CIDs) around the city, and what’s happening there is a fantastic story. In the CBD alone, there’s been an explosion in value of ten times since 2000! That’s unheard of!”

While the CTP and its CIDs are excellent examples of consumer activism, a much earlier example needs to be mentioned. Gabriel Fagan and the late Victor Holloway conceived the idea for the redevelopment of the V&A Waterfront in 1970s and, after Holloway’s death in 1983, Fagan continued lobbying for this.

Creative Cape Town - Imagine City Hall

Creative Cape Town, a programme of the Cape Town Partnership established in 2006, communicates, supports and facilitates the development of the creative & knowledge economy in the Central City of Cape Town. Imagine City Hall is a citizen activation programme: its aim is to draw support for the development of the Cape Town City Hall as a dedicated cultural venue.

Then a group of waterfront enthusiasts, supported by then-mayor Sol Kreiner, managed to get permission from the port authorities to host the Pierhead Festival in 1985 – the first time widespread public access was allowed to the docks since the Suez Crisis in the 1960s! It was a resounding success and organising committee chair, Harold Gorvy, asked for a meeting with the ministers of transport and tourism to ask for the redevelopment of the area. They agreed and a committee under the chairmanship of Arie Burggraaf was announced the following year, resulting in the formation of the V&A Waterfront company. (I bumped into Hendrik Schoeman, the transport minister who took the decision, at the Waterfront in the mid-1990s just before his suicide. He remarked, sadly, that no-one would remember the roles played by the early lobbyists — consumer activists? — or the breakthrough decision he took to get it all started.)

Victor Holloway must also be credited with saving the Lutheran Church complex at the top of Strand Street. While arts editor of Die Burger, he published a superimposed photo of the area showing the proposed elevated freeway. The proposal was dropped after a public outcry. Cape Town is renown for its vocal citizens.

  • Citizen and consumer activism — taking action and responsibility — is the lifeblood of successful cities and towns.

Character of Capetonians
And then there is the character of Capetonians – more educated, creative, entrepreneurial and lifestyle-focused than citizens of most other cities.

Capetonians take ownership of their city more than one finds elsewhere in South Africa. Mornings and evenings, streets are filled with people walking (with or without dogs), jogging or cycling. That’s a rarity in other metropolitan areas.

Except for the brief period under Nomaindia Mfeketo’s mayoralty, when the city council approached a total meltdown, Cape Town has had strong and effective local government. Equally strong were the media and bodies like the Cape Institute of Architects, which engaged the council rigorously.

When the late Revel Fox (a prominent architect) was elected city councillor after the first democratic local government elections, he became chair of the important Town Planning Committee. Every meeting started an hour earlier for rookie councillors, when Revel took them through the agenda and the implications of the decisions they would be required to make.

Cape Town has grown up. Through recent projects as diverse as the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) and the Cape Town Jazz Festival — and their capable management — it has shown that it competes on a world stage. The city’s hotels, restaurants and airport are all top-ranked in the world. Democracy did open the doors and the new constitution ended the era of conservativism. So, looking back, Cape Town did follow in Barcelona’s footsteps.

But is everything rosy? Not quite. The acclaimed Cape Town Partnership and its CIDs are not a solution for all Capetonians. Their mission still reads “for the central city” although there is now a CID in Athlone’s regional centre — the CID model only works where there is commercial property management who can afford to top up the municipality’s expenditure and efforts. It only works in affluent areas so it’s not a city-wide solution.

(Unfortunately, Andrew Boraine — CTP’s CEO — is as bad at returning phone calls as he’s always been… since his time as city manager, so I couldn’t get his comments on this or on Cape Town’s renaissance.)

And the city’s marketing is still trying to catch up with its mandate. Cape Town Tourism (CTT) has been talking about the Cape Town brand for five years and it’s three years since it was mandated by the City as custodian of Cape Town’s brand. The process has followed a long road of consultation and inclusiveness, rather than inspired and inspiring leadership. If one follows Twitter, the ‘eats’ at the last meeting were outstanding, as was the enthusiasm for something which can only be described as a clone of Pick n Pay’s tagline. (CTT previously appropriated New York City’s famous signature I ♥ NY for its Facebook page, I ♥ Cape Town. As veteran marketing commentator Chris Moerdyk remarked during the preparation of a related story*, anyone who uses NY’s signature phrase will always be regarded as a copycat.)

CTT has announced that its new brand positioning of Inspiration rolls out from July 1 with new creatives, images and productions on the Discovery and National Geographic channels for example. But will this address the domestic market — the mainstay of all tourism?

After extensive research, the national department of tourism has found that they will get far more bang for their buck by growing domestic tourism, and this is where they and all their agencies are focussing their attention.

Cape Town desperately needs to change perceptions nationally that it is not an enclave of white privilege and that it is welcoming to all visitors. Surely the DA needs that too for further gains at the polls.

Related content: Why is Cape Town special?

More on the CID model
Since its establishment in November 2000, the CCID has become an internationally acclaimed model of public-private partnership between property owners and businesses, supported by the City Council. The formation of the CCID was a significant event for Cape Town, because it was the first major city in South Africa to implement a fully constituted, legally bound Improvement District covering the entire core of the Central City. Property owners have contributed more than R150 million to the rejuvenation of the Central City during the past eight years.

A Central Improvement District (CID) is a precisely defined geographical area, approved by the City Council in terms of the Municipal Property Rates Act, Section 22 (Special Rates Area) and the CID bylaw – to provide complementary services in that area.

To address the stated requirements of property owners, 51% of the CCID’s annual budget is spent on security, approximately 22% on cleansing, 3% on social development and 11% on communications and marketing. The remainder of the budget goes towards operational and administrative costs of the CCID.

The CCID offers safety and security, urban management, social development and marketing services.

* The comment was published on CapeInfo along with the most successful destination brands to have come out of the city. I’m trying to find it in the archives which weren’t transferred to the new content management system.

Tourism representatives must be accountable

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.

CapeInfo challenges Alan Winde’s abysmal plan

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 ChampsÉlysées 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.

2010 and a Can of Worms

Good and bad has come out of the whole rooms4u saga and the conundrum of the “official South African accommodation and bookings portal.”

The good was renewing an old aquaintance with Sindiswa Nhlumayo,  the deputy directory-general of tourism.  She brought a bit of clarity to the whole issue.

The ‘bads’ were several.  Firstly, the Department of Tourism’s Head of Communications should be looking for another job.  He provided incorrect information by confirming that rooms4u is the official government and FIFA  bookings portal; he accused me of jealousy because CapeInfo didn’t get the appointment; and refused to put me through to Ms Nhlumayo’s office when I felt I was not getting anywhere.

Secondly, it transpires that rooms4u did try to mislead the public.  They stated clearly on their website “Welcome to the official South African and FIFA site for accommodation bookings for soccer world cup 2010.”  This was echoed in their two mass emailings to potential clients.  To claim this might stem from miscommunication is nonsense.  Before anyone starts making claims of that nature — if you are responsible and honest — you make very sure that there will be no comebacks.

Thirdly, one must question whether the so-called industry representative organisations do in fact represent the whole industry or merely a closed group of interests.  Did they apply their minds to the best solution for the industry at large or was the job just handed over to one of their own who sits on their boards?  It seems that thoughts of a tourism mafia are justified.

Ms Nhlumayo’s written response to CapeInfo sets out the Department of Tourism view of the situation:

There was negative recording about lack of available accommodation in South Africa.  As a Department we undertook an audit of available accommodation in all provinces of South Africa. When we were about the complete the process of collating information, MATCH and FIFA informed us that it would be appropriate to have the database linked to the booking engine so that people who will come to South Africa without booking can access information on available inventory.

As government, we felt that we were not able to run a booking engine. We were of the view that the Industry should agree on what would be the appropriate booking engine for the available inventory. We engaged with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and FEDHASA on the matter, since they were industry associations. We indicated that a booking portal should be something that must be led by the industry. They came back to us and indicated that as an industry association they had a solution to the matter, which was rooms4u.travel. They indicated that it is what the industry had endorsed. Both parties agreed in principle that rooms4u was an industry initiative and was endorsed by the association. The meeting took place at HICA Conference and the industry was represented by Brett Dungan (CEO of FEDHASA) and Mmatsatsi Marobe (CEO of TBCSA). Government was represented by myself and Aneme Malan Chief Director for Tourism Development. We requested both parties to give us a written confirmation.

We wanted confirmation in black and white, which we received. We agreed based on the principle that there are many booking agents out there and we were not going to stop the industry players from choosing whom they should book with. We also understood that there were many smaller players who were not linked to any booking engine. We were of the view that rooms4u was not going to replace other booking engines but will complement what exist and also focus on those that were not linked to any booking engine. We also understood that it was businesses choice to register with any booking engine based on accepting the conditions as provided by the supplier.

If this is problematic for the industry, it means that there is something wrong with how associations are run.

In this regard, I believe that we have done our part to collate data and the industry, through Fedhasa, has done its part to commit to an industry-led booking portal. If this is problematic for the industry, it means that there is something wrong with how associations are run. I am of the view that this matter should be dealt with by the industry and the industry must sort itself out.

As government, we understand that no one is forced to be linked with any particular booking engine, but as a country, we need to make it easier for consumers to access available inventory in South Africa.

The fact that the owner of the website rooms4u represented the whole tourism industry beggars belief and should have raised all sorts of questions!

But then the TBCSA provided CapeInfo with its response where it appears that only Fedhasa, yes, who’s CEO owns rooms4u, is the only organisation that has endorsed the initiative:

“Following recent reports and enquiries about the web portal Rooms4U, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa would like to make it clear that Rooms4U is a private enterprise venture and not a private sector driven initiative as was reported. Prior to its launch, the TBCSA was informed of this initiative, however, the Council did not officially endorse the portal as the Council does not endorse private enterprise initiatives. The Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA), a member association of the TBCSA, has endorsed Rooms 4 U initiative.

“In response to your query about membership and representation within the TBCSA, I would like to highlight that the TBCSA is a member-based organisation and we strive to ensure that through the various sector associations who are our members, we represent the travel and tourism private sector.”

Something is patently not right. There seems to be a difference of opinion between the Department of Tourism and the TBCSA. And the website rooms4u carries the TBCSA logo implying endorsement.

CapeInfo is of the opinion that the so-called representation organisations do not represent the industry nor the interests of the industry as a whole, although we have been supportive of the TBCSA’s efforts to build a representative organisation since it was established in the mid-90s.

CapeInfo is a member of Cape Town Tourism — by far the largest and most successful tourism industry body in South Africa.  Neither CapeInfo nor Cape Town Tourism are members of the TBCSA nor Fedhasa, nor am I aware of any other tourism website that is a member of these bodies.  Nor has CapeInfo ever been approached to become a member of these bodies.  Other tourism representative bodies are also not members of the TBCSA or Fedhasa.

The whole rooms4u saga has undermined the credibility of the Department of Tourism, SA Tourism and TBCSA, not to mention Fedhasa which is left with almost no credibility. Who is going to make things right?

Postscript: Click here for more questions by Travelwires.com

Dear Danny – make 2010 a love affair, not a one night stand

Open letter to Dr Danny Jordaan, CEO of 2010 LOC

The stadiums are almost all finished, and Cape Town and Durban’s must surely join the ranks of the great stadia of the world.  Johannesburg’s Soccer City, demonstrating local is lekker, is sure to appeal to many locals. It seems the cities (or their consultants) were up to the tasks.

You’ve given the world assurances that it will be a great World Cup and that people will be safe.  But what happens if the people don’t come, or they come and they are ripped off by greedy airlines and accommodation establishments?  Imagine the tourism catastrophe, the branding bungle, if tens of thousands of people go home and say they were ripped off in South Africa.

It’s time we realise that we have to make 2010 a love affair, not a one night stand.

Is government blind to this?  How the hell can they allow our national carrier, South African Airways, to be the flagbearer — extending the metaphor of one night stands — of whorish behaviour, raising air fares for the World Cup month by almost 400%?

With government and its subsidiary setting that kind of example, how can little guest houses and B&B’s take calls for them to offer value for money seriously?

Just for the record here, we should state some facts.

Although MATCH missed their targets, they have contracted 48,093 rooms and 1,725,190 room nights. So you have 48,000 rooms but you’re expecting 450,000 fans.

The fans who book through MATCH will be protected from racketeering, one hopes, because that’s why it was established.

(It’s worth noting that many hotel groups committed inventory many years ago so that South Africa could tender for the 2010 games and they did so at reasonable market related rates. In Cape Town, hotels like The Table Bay and Winchester Mansions are charging for World Cup almost exactly what they are charging in the current high season.)

So government is looking at cruise liners. “They are going to be quite important especially for 2010 both as people movers and even as accommodation,” Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele told Reuters on Wednesday during a visit to London. Now that’s priceless, before one even asks what sort of value for money these will offer. Has the ministry secretly been digging a canal to link the coast to Gauteng where most matches will be played?

No, the solution lies with the “small accommodation” sector, the non-accredited accommodation.

And there it’s a free for all largely through a lack of direction by tourism authorities. We looked at one random establishment — a lodge in Sea Point — to see its World Cup rates, and then compared that to its usual rates.

Its usual off-peak rate is R450; the usual peak rate (January 2010) is R750. The rate during World Cup is R1990! A 250% premium over their current peak season rate. This is scandalous.

Now that’s obviously not the norm but it’s evidently commonplace enough for many overseas newspapers to have started highlighting rip-offs and naming the offendors. The only host city tourism authority with any guts and gusto is Cape Town Tourism who have been workshopping pricing policies with their members for many months. By comparison, Johannesburg Tourism Company refused to respond to media complaints.

At the World Travel Market in London recently, Kwazulu-Natal MEC for economic development and tourism, Mike Mabuyakhulu, promised an urgent investigation into allegations that local hospitality businesses are planning to overcharge tourists. He had been briefed by Ndabo Khoza, the chief executive of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, who said that service providers in certain circles had not only doubled and tripled their prices, but were believed to be quadrupling them. Is Tourism KZN toothless and has the MEC delivered on his promise?

So dear Dr Jordaan, please ask government to get serious about leadership and protecting brand South Africa. Get them to make South African Airways reduce fares and set an example to everybody else in the hospitality industry.

Maybe then we’ll make 2010 a love affair, not a one night stand. And the fans will go home as fans of South Africa too.

Note: The headline and phrase “make 2010 a love affair, not a one night stand” comes from Cape Town Tourism’s Lianne Burton. It is exactly what South Africa needs now and should be the rallying call through to the end of the World Cup. Click here to read Lianne Burton’s interview.