Tag Archives: SA Tourism

A Letter to the Minister of Tourism

Dear Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane
Minister of Tourism

Thank you for the opportunity to ask questions.  I look forward to watching and hearing your answers and your discussion with the tourism industry at 12h30 today.

I’d like to know who your advisors are because, if your decisions on tourism are based on ideology, you will be leading the entire tourism industry to the same fate as the once-great South African Airways.  (And all SAA’s staff is facing the end of the week knowing their jobs are over, forever.)  Tourism is a business. Ideologies are not.

Gillian Saunders, a well-respected tourism analyst who was advisor to the previous minister, forecast that tourism will lose 1.1 million jobs in South Africa as a result of government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. That’s 75% of all jobs in tourism will be lost.  That is a calamitous figure.  The industry as we know it will no longer exist.

Saunders also said, “Governments worldwide may have miscalculated the economic impacts of their containment measures when it comes to tourism.”

Her forecast was based on a pandemic with an active period of three months.  The SA government’s lockdown has flattened the curve and government has announced that the peak will only be in September.  So the three months becomes seven months and the damage to the industry will be all that much greater.

Your only action has been the establishment of the Tourism Relief Fund with R200 million.  Now that’s really pathetic and almost meaningless for an industry that contributes R130 billion to the GDP!

Near the beginning of March you said “We do not have the resources to offset the damage that our economy will suffer because of this crisis.

“The question is what is it that we need to do, together, in the short to medium term to minimise the impact of the virus on the tourism sector? Given the uncertainty around the evolution of the spread of this virus, we cannot at this moment provide definitive answers.”

Nothing seems to have changed.  Your advisors have failed you.

So here’s a suggestion… surely the survival of the industry is more important than the activities of a marketing agency and a government department?

SA Tourism’s budget is R3.8 billion a year and the National Department of Tourism’s budget is R2.5 billion.  Both could be closed down for a year, staff paid 50% of their salaries to sit at home, and you’ll have a few billion rand left over to safeguard industry jobs.

You have not been representing or fighting for the interests of the industry in government.

The Finance Minister has said that since Tourism will be the last to start, it won’t need its budget which can therefore be reallocated.  Surely this will make the Tourism Ministry redundant?

Indaba: Sour grapes… and kudos to Wesgro!

Visitors to Indaba at Durban’s ICC last weekend were greeted by posters on the lamp poles around the complex saying “Western Cape welcomes Indaba delegates.” And the Independent on Saturday carried a wrap-around (the newspaper’s outer four pages all promoted Cape Town & the Western Cape).

Wesgro poster at Indaba

Wesgro wrap-around

The wrap-around on the Independent on Saturday

This left Durban Tourism fuming and they launched an unprecedented attack on SA Tourism for allowing this happen.

You can read the full statement by Durban Tourism below, factual errors and all.

Durban’s complaints have been rejected by SA Tourism.

They are just sour grapes at having been caught napping.  The posters and wraparound were paid advertising by Wesgro, the provincial destination marketing agency for Cape Town & the Western Cape, not just the city of Cape Town.

Kudos to Judy Lain, Wesgro’s chief marketing officer!  Wesgro’s stand also won gold for the second year running.

Marketing is all about competitive advantages and, when budgets are really limited, it takes creativity to do good marketing.  I wonder how many Indaba-goers remember 15 years ago how Felix Unite, when he couldn’t afford a stand at Indaba, postered the lamp poles around the ICC?

The number of people who attended Indaba was 9,754, down eight percent from last year.  The number of buyers dropped from 2,019 in 2013 to 1 863 and the number of exhibitors was down to 4,904 compared to the 6,100 in 2013.

Full statement by Durban Tourism:
It was not all rosy for the City of Durban at this year’s 26th travel and trade show, Tourism Indaba, held at Durban ICC during 10 – 12 May 2014. The host city has been left out on key marketing campaigns by South African Tourism (SAT) that seek to promote South Africa globally. The City of Durban, through Durban Tourism, last year launched its marketing strategy aimed at bringing [an] additional 1.8 million visitors with a view to increase revenue from R5.7 billion to R10 billion by 2020, however, it appears that the city will have to do this all by itself, as its partner seems to be on a different path to Durban.

First and foremost, during the launch of the largest tourism marketing events on the African calendar and one of the top three “must-visit” events of its kind on the global calendar hosted in Durban, the city has been snubbed and received just a handful of mentions in the major presentations and marketing collateral that marketed Indaba. Durban’s imagery and branding has not been included in promoting Tourism Indaba and has been left out, and the city’s involvement has not been mentioned in the publication – Indaba Daily News – which is published daily during the trade show. Durban has also been left out in the planning and hosting of trade buyers on [the] Pre and Post Indaba Trade Show.

During Tourism Indaba’s opening launch, it became evident that Cape Town plays a major role in position, and marketing South Africa and Indaba, as it featured prominently on the global marketing campaign. Durban, a major partner to hosting of Indaba has not been featured in the global campaign that seek[s] to attract visitors to the country.

The city of Cape Town, which competes directly with Durban and has hosted a rival trade show – WTM Africa – has been prominently on the South African Tourism global campaigns and has received a prominent spot to ambush Durban – KZN in a platform that has been paid for by the city and the Province of KZN, and this being the event of SAT; they are responsible to authorize and vet marketing materials that make their way to Indaba so that they do not become a prominent feature over the partners who have paid for the hosting of Indaba, which is the province and the city.

Importantly, South African Tourism as the host of Tourism Indaba, did not have a stand at Indaba, which means South Africa as a country did not have a representative in a global trade and travel show.

Despite all of the above, the city of Durban has pulled out all the stops, lived up to its reputation as the entertainment and events capital of Africa, as it hosted successfully [the] Indaba Beach party themed “Ekasi Shisanyama,” which was attended by 3,400 delegates and dignitaries from all over the world. [The] Durban Tourism team worked tirelessly in ensuring that all our visitors to the city get to experience [our] authentic lifestyle.

Durban Tourism held successful trade meetings with international buyers and showcased the city and experiences to the international delegates and media. Most of the hosted buyers come from major source markets namely India, Australia, Botswana, Nigeria, Zambia, and Germany, which are essential to the city’s tourism strategy. The team has ensured that visitors experience the unique Durban Township Lifestyle and experienced the rich culture and heritage of [the] Woza eNanda Heritage Route.

The city of Durban, engaged its key stakeholders with its leadership during the live panel broadcast of CNBC – Africa hosted at one of Durban’s iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium encompassing the theme “Unlocking Durban’s Potential into Africa” with emphasis on investments, events, and tourism destination[s] into Africa, [and] developments in [the] Dube Trade Port and expansion of Durban’s hotel infrastructure.

“It is our view that the city of Durban, as a partner and a host city for Tourism Indaba, maximizes on its investment, [and] showcase[s] the city to key international buyers and media. Our visitor strategy seeks to increase visitors to our city, and Indaba is one of the key trade shows where we are able to show what our city has to offer and what trade buyers can take back to sell our destination. Successful hosting of Indaba carries a positive economic impact of over R140 million, and we remain optimistic that Durban will remain to be the host city for years to come, despite the challenges we have come across this year,” said Phillip Sithole, Head of Durban Tourism.

“Durban Tourism is confident that visitors to Indaba 2014 will take their experiences to the market we seek to target and will result in additional visitors that we seek to attract as part of our strategy,” said Sithole.

An email to President Jacob Zuma

If anything demonstrates that South Africa’s tourism organisations do not have the first clue about the challenges for 2010 World Cup, the following email from Brazil says it all. SA Tourism’s policy is not to comment on 2010 accommodation and Johannesburg Tourism Co won’t get involved in any debate (but then they are close to bankrupt). The Department of Tourism mouths platitudes it does not live up to. And, it seems, the Tourism Business Council and Fedhasa are devoting more attention to feathering their own nests than addressing South Africa’s long term tourism interests. At the rate we’re going, the nett impact of 2010 World Cup will be negative, and South Africa will suffer the consequences for many years to come.

Your Excellency President Zuma,

My name is Berto Nogueira and I am a member of a group of Brazilian soccer fans in the social network “Orkut”. Our community’s name is “ Copa do Mundo 2010, Eu Vou” which translates roughly to ‘World Cup 2010, I am going or I go”. At the time of this writing we were 644 (six hundred and forty four) active members.

Several members of our community have indicated that prices being quoted for accommodation and for domestic air travel in South Africa are way too high. Several members were quoted prices for accommodation double, triple, and in some cases close to five times the going rates.

I take this opportunity to inform Your Excellency that most of us have attended previous world cups and that nowhere have we experienced price increases like the ones being asked in South Africa for accommodations and for domestic air travel.

As a soccer fan and a member of this community of soccer fans, I respectfully ask your excellency and all other South African authorities involved in the World Cup 2010 to reconsider and to regulate this practice of price gouging. It is in everyone’s best interest to have a World Cup where fans would feel they were treated well and paid fair prices for goods and service.

Some of us may return to visit South Africa with our families if we have a positive experience during the World Cup. The World Cup gives a country the opportunity to showcase its beauty and to showcase how visitors are treated within the country.

The current prices being quoted for accommodation and for domestic flights in South Africa do not paint a positive picture of 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

South Africa is a great nation and we hope the 2010 World Cup is going to be a huge success. However, Fifa and the South African government need to make sure that soccer fans from every country of the world are charged fair prices for accommodation and for transportation in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup.

Mr. President, In the name of our community, “Copa do Mundo 2010, Eu Vou”, I take this opportunity to thank you for your time and I look forward to an improvement and a positive resolution of this two critical matters, accommodation and domestic air transportation.

Best regards,

Berto Nogueira, Moderator of the Orkut community “Copa do Mundo 2010, Eu Vou”

Email: bertonsilva[at]hotmail.com

2010, Kortbroek & tourism mafia

Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism

Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism

Are the Minister of Tourism and his Department (DOT) a bunch of blundering idiots or are they getting into bed with a tourism mafia?  Their latest announcement seems to be ill-conceived and acknowledges that accommodation arrangements for the 2010 World Cup are not as rosy as he claims.

Here are the facts:

It started on Tuesday when we received an email from a website called rooms4u claiming to be the official South African accommodation and bookings portal, accredited by FIFA, and supported by the DOT, SA Tourism, Fedhasa, Tourism Business Council of SA, etc.

Now everybody in the hospitality industry has been subjected to a flood of emails from new websites that promise the world and his wife for 2010, so our first thought was that this is another scam.  And we wrote to the DOT, 2010 Organising Committee, SA Tourism and Fedhasa saying, “What’s going on?”

Website ownership is in the public domain so we looked it up.  rooms4u is owned by Kiara Holdings and its MD is Brett Dungan, who is also the CEO of Fedhasa and the chair of the Tourism Business Council [correction — board member].  Could he have the clout to grab all those bednights that the World Cup needs so badly, and that many others have been working very hard to cater for?

Only the DOT responded to all our emails and it was with a phone call the next day from the Head of Communications.

He confirmed that rooms4u is the new official South African accommodation and bookings portal.  It is accredited by FIFA.  There was no tender or public awareness process because it is a businesswide initiative, he said.

So why is the website owned by a private company?  He didn’t answer that but kept repeating that it’s a businesswide initiative supported by MATCH, SA Tourism, Fedhasa, etc.

Why were provincial and city tourism authorities unaware of all of this, since many have devoted a lot of effort to 2010 and the World Cup?  He sidestepped that one too but said if we have problems with the new portal, we must take it up with our provincial tourism authority.

He promised to email the press release with the announcement several times, as though that would solve all disputes, but it never arrived.

Sorry, this sounds like a scandal in the making.

A week ago, SA Tourism was still discussing mechanisms to link 2010 fans to the existing portals offering online booking, and they were considering a panel of approved websites.

Calvyn Gilfellan, Cape Town Routes Unlimited’s CEO, was surprised when CapeInfo told him about the Minister’s announcement.  “Both SA Tourism and DOT’s position on booking portals was consistently one of not getting involved. They have left it up to the provinces, local tourism organizations and private sector,” he said.  Both Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) and Cape Town Tourism rely on booking commisions for revenue.

He agreed that the whole thing is irregular because they knew nothing about it, although they are in frequent contact with the DOT and are working on three initiatives with them.

After further enquiries, Gilfellen wrote saying that “SA Tourism has come back to us and suggested that it be an urgent item on the agenda for Friday’s national marketing manager’s forum in Johannesburg.”

The DOT advised CTRU to ignore my questions saying they would respond to them.  We’ve received nothing.  A further email to Sindiswa Nhlumayo, deputy director-general of tourism, also elicited no response.

This has all the makings of another scam and scandal.

rooms4u advertises free listings but there are no terms and conditions. They say an (optional) allocation and booking system will follow in March 2010  and “your world-wide exposure to all travelers and potential customers will commence.

There is no mention of any booking commissions or other fees that might be introduced when the world-wide exposure commences.  Will this official website offer free bookings and exposure or, if MATCH is part of the rooms4u equation, does that mean that the total fee will again be 30–40%?  It’s only good business practice to state this upfront.

And what will happen to rooms4u after the World Cup?  Will it be closed down or will it continue to compete with other websites, as South Africa’s official accommodation and bookings portal? Will government continue to promote it after 2010?

Surely it is the public’s right to see the contract between the Department of Tourism and Kiara Holdings, or are Fedhasa and the Tourism Business Council a front for Kiara Holdings?

The boards of SA Tourism and the Tourism Business Council comprises some heavyweight businesspeople known for their integrity.  One wonders if they were fully informed of the process or has this caught them by surprise too, like the provincial and city tourism authorities?

This sends out all the wrong messages.  It seems to say that if you sit on boards, you can get a slice of the cake.  Surely the Minister must have been aware that the appointment of a single website owned by a high profile businessman would come under public scrutiny?

The old British Tourism Authority had a very clear way of levelling the playing field but still giving website visitors access to online booking.  They published a list of criteria for accredited websites offering online booking.  They linked to all websites that met their criteria and took no commissions.

But if MATCH is there wanting their pound of flesh, that’s not going to happen.

MATCH got things badly wrong in South Africa.  They had to change their usual rules.  SA doesn’t have the stock of graded accommodation they could call upon elsewhere, and they tried to embrace the small accommodation sector that provides the bulk of all rooms in SA.   But they didn’t change their modus operandi to go with it.  They have been bad communicators and tried to impose big hotel practices on more laissez faire establishments.

With this announcement, ‘Kortbroek’ van Schalkwyk seems to have been caught with his pants right down.

Click here for the Minister’s media statement.