Tag Archives: Mariette du Toit-Helmbold

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

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

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

Plettenberg Bay

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

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

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municipality has said “the PLETT Wine & Bubbly Festival was not supported by the executive management team and has been withdrawn from the upcoming Mayco” which Plett Tourism had been told would endorse the event.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Swellendam & Barrydale

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

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


Toerisme brief final Swellendam


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

We received the following response:

Tourism statement by Municipal Manager, Swellendam


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


Swellendam Tourism Research Proposal and Methodology


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Langeberg Municipality — Robertson, Montagu, McGregor & Bonnievale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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ICONIC CAPE TOWN – have your say!

This is where you get to have your say – click on the comment link directly above and/or vote in the right hand column.  At the end of the day, it’s your opinion that counts.

It’s not often that one comes across a truly great idea and this just has to be one of those times.  Mel Miller’s concept for Iconic Cape Town really hits the nail right on the head.  No single phrase captures the essence of Cape Town better.

“Cape Town is the brand,” says Mel. “What Cape Town represents – what it has to offer and what it is known for – needs to be communicated instantly and effectively. The brand message needs to do that.

“We have so many memorable, recognisable and revered icons, it makes complete sense to capitalise on them. As a collective then, we can make one crisp, concise promise – ICONIC CAPE TOWN.” (The issue is not about logos, slogans or complex strategies.) It’s about simplicity of communication – “iconic” being the language and experience of our customers. (Operators at the rock face of tourism confirm this to be true. It’s the conversation they have with visitors daily.)

To South Africans outside Cape Town who ask, “how can a strong Brand Cape Town benefit me?”, the answer is simple.  Do you think Sydney’s strong brand benefits Australia, or London’s strong brand benefits Britain?  Of course they do!

  • CapeInfo set about testing the brand message by updating its “Introduction to Cape Town” page. ICONIC CAPE TOWN is a powerful statement, a promise and, when one explores it fully, has the legs to carry Cape Town to its unique position on the world stage. It works at a generic and a product level.  Do visit the new, surprising and inspiring “Introduction to Cape Town” page.  It says it all but can grow to encompass much more.
  • And if you want to read about how the concept came about and why it’s being launched like this, click here.

What does ‘Iconic’ mean?
Of, relating to, or having the character of an icon (an adjective)
What is the definition of ‘Icon’ (also i·kon):

  • An image; a representation.
  • An important and enduring symbol: “Table Mountain is one of the world’s global icons.”
  • One who is the object of great attention and devotion; an idol
  • Landmark moments in time, eg, iconic moments – public and personal: “Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and his first speech from City Hall; the world’s first heart transplant at Groote Schuur hospital.”

“Iconic” is rich with meaning, not just visual. One of Cape Town’s greatest icons is not primarily visual at all. Robben Island should be deeply ingrained in Cape Town’s brand message with its iconic symbolism of “a triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil, a triumph of wisdom and largeness of spirit against small minds and pettiness; a triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness.”

Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, said: “It was clear that although Cape Town ranks among the top city destinations of the world, its brand image is fragmented, misunderstood and diluted.

“Countries, regions, states and cities, like large corporations, have begun rising to the challenge of communicating with power and persuasiveness. Furthermore, famous and successful cities are usually associated in people’s minds with a single quality, promise, attribute or story. The competition amongst travel destinations is tougher than ever before. We cannot afford not to put out a confident and powerful brand message out to the world.”

Getting the public involved in the branding debate has been enthusiastically received by Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism:

“I love Iconic Cape Town. It is simple, but powerful and tells the story of our city. Iconic Cape Town captures the diversity, richness, beauty, history and complexity of Cape Town. But for a brand message to be trully effective and real, it must be embraced, shared and lived by the people of the city. If not, it is reduced to a meaningless strap line without soul. Cape Town Tourism looks forward to being part of the process and hearing what our fellow Capetonians have to say.”

Comments from outside Cape Town are as important – that’s where the brand really has to work.

A milestone & an exciting birth

CapeInfo has never, in its 10 years, featured a person on the home page. Well that’s just changed with Mariette du Toit-Helmbold’s photo which appeared there yesterday – a most deserving person to be number one. She’s driven Cape Town Tourism to new heights in her four years there.

We’re launching a new section called The List, where we have started inviting cognoscenti and celebrities to send us their lists on anything.

Our first 12 emails inviting people went out on Sunday afternoon and we had Mariette’s list just after 3am on Monday morning (that’s no typo!).

It was so good, we just had to share it with you immediately. Her passion for her “10 Great Getaways” is palpable. And that’s how you get to see a preview of what is to come.

The invited lists will go into our best lists category, but all readers will be able to submit their own lists soon too. These will go into the fresh lists category. And you will be able to rate the lists and see which are the most popular.

We invited Sheryl Ozinsky too and received an interesting comment in her acceptance:

Nick Hornbey in his brilliant novel, High Fidelity, painted an entire character for the reader, through the lists this character would make: “Top ten best love songs”, “Top Five best break-up songs” etc.

The things we list and the way we use lists can really illustrate the way we think, and more importantly the way we do things.