I was asked to join the board of the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve (CWBR) last year and was given the marketing portfolio.
Now, the CWBR is mandated by UNESCO, the Western Cape’s Biosphere Reserves Act and MOUs with national & local government departments to address growth in tourism within the Reserve in such a way that it benefits Man & Biosphere: enhancing the natural environment and creating meaningful jobs.
So the obvious place to start was to engage in discussions with with people running existing tourism organisations in the towns within the CWBR to explore opportunities for collaboration, and to start collecting stats that will help us take decisions — “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
The survey has just been launched — so please give us 4 minutes of your time and click here to participate. It was prepared by CapeInfo using our very sophisticated survey system that we’ve put to such good use in the past. In 2009, working with Cape Town Tourism, CTRU, Joburg Tourism, KZN Tourism, Fedhasa, SATSA and others, we started monthly tracking surveys when price gouging started appearing for the 2010 World Cup. One of the effects of this focus and introspection was that price-gouging was largely replaced by far more realistic attitudes — and the World Cup did become a tourism investment for the future.
We invited everyone we could think of in the local industry to participate in the formulation of the questions and answers, help us promote the survey, and share in the stats which become available.
We tried to make contact at the outset with the head of tourism for Stellenbosch Municipality — which is responsible for the iconic and tourist-popular towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Widmark Moses’ first email reply to me was so unintelligible that I shared it on my personal Facebook page in absolute disbelief! It received more than a few comments.
He eventually did call after I followed up and we had a promising discussion, so arranged to meet the next day. He is very likeable and undertook to review the draft survey to see how it could help Stellenbosch take better decisions. The only point he raised was the criticism that tourism is “too white” — which I said had been addressed by asking visitors if our destinations are authentic & unique, reflecting local history & cultures. Widmark also undertook to send a list of people who might be able to contribute to the survey.
Well… we never heard from Widmark again and he didn’t deliver on any of his undertakings. Since then, I’ve heard that he loves meetings, to the extent that he is the bane of busy peoples’ lives. The question I have to ask is, “What qualifies Widmark to manage tourism in such important tourist destinations?”
And then there’s Stellenbosch 360, the town’s tourism organisation. My last three emails to Annemarie Ferns, the CEO, resulted in read receipts and nothing more. Even popping in to the office yielded no result. They are an embattled organisation and the most frequent question I’ve been asked is, “Would Stellenbosch get any fewer tourists if it didn’t exist.” Surely that’s when you need to reach out to new partnerships the most?
Stellenbosch Wine Routes is far more aggressive than Stellenbosch 360 and seems to be gaining support. We also only got a read receipt from CEO Annareth Bolton, but then she was probably totally focused on her imminent AGM. They opened a new visitor centre at the top of Church Street at the end of last year. (They used to have this facility in Stellenbosch 360’s offices not that long ago.) Why on earth start competing facilities — it’s madness and doesn’t make it easy for visitors at all!
A few people suggested I ask Marinda Holtzhausen to participate since she is chair of the Stellenbosch Chapter of the Chamber of Commerce and has been actively involved in tourism for some time. But no response from her either.
So kudos to Tania Steyn in Franschhoek, Melody Botha at Breedekloof Wine Valley, and Elizabeth Nicholls at Cape Winelands District Municipality for their input. (The one tourism organisation that does seem to stand out is Franschhoek Wine Valley, which leads the pack with its calendar of events, although the municipality has received requests for support from new initiatives. Widmark has his hands full making sense of Stellenbosch’s tourism dynamics… but is he up to it?)
Am I any closer to understanding the Biosphere’s role in all of this? Not by a long chalk so please complete the survey!
Apart from tackling the survey for the Biosphere Reserve, CapeInfo also gave the Biosphere a new website last September and it’s done spectacularly well compared to the other brands in the region. Alexa.com ranks traffic to websites globally:
I must repeat something I learnt long ago once again: The late Don Titmas, after he opened the first fine dining restaurant at the V&A Waterfront, pointed out that the tourism and hospitality industries are perishable industries. Like a greengrocer. Because if you don’t sell bodies in beds, and bottoms on restaurant, bus or airline seats today, they are lost forever. You can’t sell those beds and seats tomorrow. Everybody involved in tourism needs to take that to heart!