Tag Archives: CTRU

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.

“It’s just a jump to the left… And then a step to the right…”

Recognise that?  It’s from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

It’s astounding
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.

Nils Flaatten, Wesgro CEO

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.

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.

Please stop the rot!

An open letter to Lynne Brown, provincial MEC for tourism, and Su Birch, acting chair of Cape Town Routes Unlimited:

Dear Lynne & Su

CTRU is going from bad to worse.

Their latest effort is a survey, paid for with taxpayers’ funds, that does nothing to market the province. It’s only aim is to discredit the City as the withdrawing funder. Click here to see the survey.

Please put party politics aside for a moment. Does this sound like an organisation that knows what it is doing; that is focused on the road ahead; or is it a chicken running around without a head?

How can they ask rural tourism organisations if they support the City withdrawing its funding? How stupid! Of course every town in the province would like to benefit from the City’s 50%+ funding of the provincial tourism organisation.

In giving a reason for the survey, CTRU says, “the City of Cape Town has announced their decision to withdraw their funding”. Oh please! That decision was announced a year ago.

This is a disgraceful waste of taxpayers funds. Don’t you agree?

“… just plain lies”!

That’s Calvyn Gilfellan’s take on the criticisms and reportage on Cape Town Routes Unlimited. You can read his full media statement here.

We believe that this extraordinary barrage of unfounded attacks being directed at us is not random or co-incidental and that it serves the selfish interests of a few.

The negative things that are being said about us are just plain lies.

We will not waste our energies on a tit-for-tat media game.

We will choose the time and place of communicating our good news to the world.

He doesn’t say what the lies are and one has to wonder why has hasn’t shot those lies down in flames to prove his point. Why didn’t he respond to Simon’s comments in this blog (click here – and it’s not Simon Grindrod) or anything that was said?

CapeInfo has tried to engage him and CTRU for four years with no success. So he gets CapeInfo’s “Global Award for the Tourism CEO who most needs to go on a Dale Carnegie Course.” CTRU has PR consultants and they have in the past, but they don’t know how to use them.

He also claimed that funding the transformation of the industry is not high on the City’s agenda. The City’s response to that came from:

Simond Grindrod –

Transformation in the tourism sector is best served from a platform of success. Perpetuating mediocrity and inefficiency in destination marketing will help neither the destination nor efforts at transformation within the sector as a whole.

Transformation happens at the sharp end of the business, not by having fancy seminars at expensive resorts or spending untold millions on gimmicky campaigns that nobody understands or supports.

CTRU’s most recent press release is a clear indication that their focus is everywhere but where it should be.

Mansoor Mohamed (a former member of CTRU’s board) –

Can’t be bothered with baseless statements.

And then there was silence…

If anything proves that CTRU has little to say, and nothing to qualm the concerns of taxpayers who fund them and tourism bureaux they work with, it is their silence after the stream of attacks in all the media.

On June 5, 2008, they issued a media release saying: “There will be further comment … about this new idea from the City for a “reconstituted Cape Town marketing body”. Likewise, (CTRU) will also respond to the unfounded and damaging allegations made in the media about CTRU.”

There has been silence since.

CapeInfo had an email from the CEO’s PA after they were informed of this blog’s content:

Kindly indicate your specific request to the CEO. What exactly do you require for him to action on and also indicate timeframe?
Please be advised that there are a multiple of important matters he attends to on a daily basis and by this communication I would like to ascertain the urgency of your request.
I am looking forward to your indicative response.

Well… if they can’t judge what they need to respond to, then they are being paid an awful lot of money for doing nothing!

We hear that their latest strategy is to ask Cape Town Tourism to outsource marketing to them. They need the money. Heaven forbid!

Great ideas that go awry…

A media release arrived from CTRU this week announcing that the Cape Town & Western Cape Tourism Brand Ambassador Programme had been launched at Indaba in Durban.

“The whole idea behind our Tourism Ambassador Programme is to form a network of people who are passionate, motivated and proud of their home – Cape Town and the Western Cape. This is the kind of group that will at every opportunity project a positive image of the authentic culture and beauty of our destination and its people, enthusing others to want to visit and experience it first-hand,” says Calvyn Gilfellan, chief executive of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the tourism destination marketing destination for Cape Town and the Western Cape.

Now that sounds great, doesn’t it? But wait till you hear who the Ambassadors are.

“The first group comprises radio personality Nigel Pierce; City of Cape Town Executive Deputy Mayor Grant Haskin; Members of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Development, Garth Strachan (chair), Ntombomzi Phenduka, Pauline Cupido, Alan Winde, Lennit Max, Johan Gelderblom, Kent Morkel and Lynne Saayman; City of Cape Town Councillors Simon Grindrod and Mansoor Mohamed; Western Cape Provincial Government 2010 Economic Legacy Coordinator, Brent Walters; members of the City of Cape Town’s 2010 team, Terral Cullen, Pieter Cronje and Lorraine Gerrans; City of Cape Town representative Nombulelo Mkefa; and Calvyn Gilfellan, Chief Executive of Cape Town Routes Unlimited.”

Most are politicians – and who believes a politician? – or local government employees who are paid to be passionate. Where is the Province’s highest profile citizen – Helen Zille? Where is Mariette Du Toit-Helmbold – arguably the highest profile tourism champion in the Province?

Where are the great role models the public will really pay attention to?

CTRU have no shortage of truly great ambassadors to choose from – David Kramer, Rashid Lombard, Pieter-Dirk Uys, Ravi Naidoo, Mark Shuttleworth, Schalk Pienaar & all the Stormers, Desmond Tutu, Gavin Rajah, Pam Golding, Natalie du Toit, Jane Raphaely, Raymond Ackerman, GT Ferreira… the list goes on and on.

These are Ambassadors who will mean far more than all the politicians and public servants in Africa. But who will want to join join CTRU’s over-politicised club?

This great idea is a dodo before it got off the ground.  Is it all about scoring political brownie points?