Tag Archives: TBCSA

Where are tourism’s Titans, and why is the tail wagging the dog?

I am fortunate to have known some of the titans of South Africa’s tourism industry — Sol Kerzer of Southern Sun & Sun International, Hans Enderle of City Lodge, David Jack of the V&A Waterfont (who I worked with for 25 years) and many others.  I miss people like them in today’s tourism industry. 

Otto Stehlik, the founder of Protea Hotels

Otto Stehlik, the founder of Protea Hotels

But every winter, I think of Austrian-born Otto Stehlik who started Protea Hotels. He is the only person in tourism ever to receive a national award — the National Order of the Baobab in Silver for “his excellent contribution to economic and social development in South Africa” by Jacob Zuma for 2015.  Protea Hotels employed 15,000 people.

Fedhasa reported on his award at the time (click here):  “Stehlik said that even though it is a great honour to be recognised and awarded, he feels obligated to speak up about the current crisis in South African tourism. As responsible South Africans we should be naming and shaming institutions, corporations and individuals who have done damage to the industry and economy.

“Last year was not an easy year for tourism in this country. We have suffered self-inflicted pain through the Visa disaster caused by the Department of Home Affairs and via the ongoing South African Airways leadership debacle. It is time for corporate South Africa to stand up, speak up and be counted if we are to continue to build upon the unlimited potential our tourism industry offers for the advancement of each and every South African,” he said.

I met Otto for the first time in the mid-1980s. I wanted to interview him and he gladly agreed, but said he was very busy so would I mind meeting him on a Saturday morning. Protea Hotels had one hotel — the Heerengracht Hotel — and we met in his office above the hotel in the old Trust Bank building. During our discussion he said, “I don’t understand Capetonians!… They are always complaining about the weather! Sure we have some bad days, but then the clouds clear and we have Champagne Weather!” That lives with me forever!

My first dealings at Southern Sun were with Peter Venison in 1979 (when I helped them identify a site for what became the Cape Sun Hotel) who was followed by Peter Bacon (I’ve always laughed about their surnames) who took over as CEO from Sol when he left to start Sun International.  Peter gave me one of my best headlines:  “You never say no in a five star hotel.”  I had breakfast with Peter and Jules Schneid, the hotel’s project manager, during the Cape Sun’s dry run.  Jules asked the waitress for honey.  She looked at him blankly and said, “The menu says preserves, it doesn’t say honey.”  Peter called her across — I don’t think she knew who he was — and said very quietly, “I want you to remember one thing very, very clearly — In a five star hotel you never say no.  Now go and fetch some honey and tell the General Manager to come and see me now.”

When he retired, Peter did his “national service” as he called it.  He became chairman of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the Western Cape’s destination marketing organisation.  He put in an enormous amount of very hard work to try to right what was a doomed government organisation.  (David Jack also did stints of “national service”, as chairman of the earlier Western Cape Tourism Board and the Cape Town Partnership — which saved Cape Town’s CBD.)



When I look at the response of the tourism industry’s response to the pandemic and government’s nonsensical lockdown regulations I despair!  I think to the time of the Pagad shootings at the V&A Waterfront in the mid-1990s and how Mandela asked for a meeting with Waterfront’s management “to make sure his responses were complementary to what the Waterfront was planning.”  Mandela went to the Waterfront’s offices for the meeting!  When I remarked about this when former tourism minister Derek Hanekom joined me for lunch at Boschendal a few years back, he replied, “The style of government was very different then…”  Yes, it was characterised by respect all around and there was integrity to deal with.

When our president (not the ANC president) announced the State of Disaster and the subsequent lockdown, there was national pride that het was showing leadership and taking decisive action.  As the regulations rolled out and cabinet members started speaking off the cuff, respect dwindled and died.  At his last public address, taking questions from the public in a live Zoom discussion, his national viewership was far less than the tourism industry webinars, and dwindled as the session progressed.  He became the emperor with no clothes.

I was critical of the visible leadership from tourism’s representative organisations in the first month.  I had held Sisa Ntshona, CEO of SA Tourism, in very high esteem after my interview with him two years ago.  it was weeks after Portugal’s epic and moving video about the nation shutting down that Sisa spoke on video.  I was aghast.  He was uncomfortable, preferring the teleprompter to the camera,  and clearly a man without a plan, popularising the word “unprecedented” far beyond anyone else.

It was only after the minister of tourism’s first disastrous Zoom address to the tourism industry, where she called for protocols to enable the industry to open, that things started to happen.  The industry should have been banging on her door weeks after the State of Disaster with its plans.

SATSA and Fedhasa did team up under the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) to produce the protocols and presented them to Parliament’s Tourism Portfolio Committee.  What were they expecting?  Support for opening to international travel by September, when there are no signs that SA’s pandemic will be under control by then?  Will other countries be keen to allow its citizens to travel here while our disaster unfolds?  Testing and tracing was supposed to be a cornerstone of SA’s pandemic response, but SA has been less successful than other countries at obtaining test kits.  Spain, whose State of Alert preceded SA’s State of Disaster by 2 days, has tested nearly four times the number of people SA has.

The TBCSA presentation to the Portfolio Committee was a disaster.  TBCSA was told that they thought it was too soon to open tourism and that when it does open, they want a focus on the BRICS countries.  Good old ANC ideology (and the portfolio chair Supra Mahumapelo’s own agenda)!



Much has been made of the lack of government support for tourism and especially white-owned tourism businesses, and government’s goals of Radical Economic Transformation when tourism re-opens.  Government is dreaming.  Tourism is opening and government hasn’t shown any plan.  One thing government has demonstrated is its total inability to understand or run businesses… SAA, Eskom, SABC, Transnet, Prasa, Denel, etc. demonstrate that.  It doesn’t have the plan, the money or the competence to implement any Radical Economic Transformation.  Only existing businesses and determined new entrants to the industry can do that.

By the tourism minister’s own admission, government’s support for the tourism has been inadequate… because it has no money.  And her belated offering to tourist guides — R1500 a month for three months — was like handing out sweeties to keep children quiet.

In When will tourism in SA open again? I wrote about the need to start playing hardball and lawyering up.  When it became evident that insurance companies were refusing to pay tourism Business Interruption Claims, TBCSA’s solution was to ask the Minister of Finance to intervene.  Oh please!  That mentality must change!  The TBCSA should have taken a number of test cases to court on behalf of the companies, won, and paved the way for new demands to insurance companies.  That would have demonstrated leadership.  Now, two companies I know of have already won their court cases with resounding success, providing legal precedent.

I don’t agree with the TBCSA/SATSA/Fedhasa goals and strategies.  Opening international tourism in September is a goal with too many imponderables.  What state of chaos will SA be in then?  Will other countries open their borders to SA?  Opening domestic tourism to interprovincial travel now is equally questionable.  If the Eastern Cape unfolds into a total disaster, will we see a flood of sick people heading across the provincial border to Plettenberg Bay and Knysna in search of healthcare?  Will the  Gauteng sick head for home in Limpopo and Northwest, spreading the virus and sickness in provinces ill-equipped to cope?



I wrote about Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane’s presentation two weeks ago on the conditions for opening tourism businesses in There ARE solutions to safeguard tourism & hospitality jobs! Government doesn’t care.  By every interpretation of the regulations since then, her comments during question time were found to be at odds with the law.  (You can see a video clip showing her comments at the link above.  Listen to the last question… it shook me when it was asked.  It was so completely different to all the other questions… was it a planted question?)

Since then, she has ignored media requests for a clarification.  On Friday night, the presidency posted the new regulations on its website and on social media… only to delete them on Saturday morning, saying they were an error.  First the relaxing of the cigarette ban and then the opening of leisure tourism… only a fool will ever trust Ramaphosa again!  Is Supra Mahumapelo setting the agenda?  Apparently, changes to the legislation will be published soon.

On Thursday, the Department of Tourism presented their plans to parliament.

The Department of Tourism's presentation to parliament last Thursday. There are no time lines.

The Department of Tourism’s presentation to parliament last Thursday. There are no time lines. Was this ever discussed with the tourism industry before it was presented to Parliament?  #BigFail

The TBCSA must up its gameplan and play hardball.  (As I said in my first Coronavirus post all those months ago… Hope is not a Strategy!)  We need to listen to Otto Stehlik now, more than ever before. The industry must lawyer up and prepare for a big fight.  TBCSA’s strategy cannot only follow a legal route, it needs to raise the public’s understanding of the importance of the industry by embarking on a huge voter education programme that isn’t about party politics and ideology.  Tourism needs to have the public on its side.

The ANC has demonstrated over and over again that it doesn’t have the first clue about the economy and business.  You can’t have the tail wagging the dog.

There ARE solutions to safeguard tourism & hospitality jobs! Government doesn’t care.

Isn’t it time for the tourism industry to start playing hardball with government?  Maybe it’s time for the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) to start a campaign for employers in the industry to start educating their employees about why they are losing their jobs.  Jobs are being lost and more will be lost, because of the ANC’s financial mismanagement and incompetent government.

Even before the State of Disaster was announced, on 9 March 2020, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said at the in her address to the Tourism Leadership Forum, “Sadly, this outbreak is happening at a time when our economy is not doing well and has not been doing well for the past few years.

“Simply put, ladies and gentlemen, we do not have the resources to offset the damage that our economy will suffer because of this crisis.”

She also chairs the cabinet’s economic cluster, which has given South Africa… junk status, a falling economy, rising unemployment and a 30% drop in overseas visitor arrivals in 2019.  Trillions of rands were stolen through State Capture and corruption; government policies are tanking the economy and driving unemployment; and the cupboard is bare.  That’s the result of 26 years of ANC government.  Can South Africa afford more of this kind of leadership?



It’s time to start educating the voters.  According to a Presidency media release, the tourism and hospitality industry is the largest employer in the country.  And most of those jobs have been, are being and will be lost.  The TBCSA needs to start the biggest voter education campaign SA has ever seen.  Where every employee in the industry knows their jobs are under threat or lost because of ANC policies and actions. It’s not just Covid-19 — other countries have measures in place to support its citizens.  In South Africa, Covid-19 is being used to hide the ANC’s shortcomings.  A TBCSA campaign should not be about party politics but about good governance.  For years now, Government has been the biggest enemy of tourism in South Africa — the visa regime, corruption, public safety, dysfunctional SOEs, and more.

Government doesn’t have a clue about business, and doesn’t listen to those that do.  Government’s restrictions for opening the restaurant industry will cause restaurants to go deeper into debt.  Government is clueless.  The V&A Waterfront considered mothballing all restaurants until the end of the year as one solution, rather than incur greater losses.  But that means retaining and looking after staff.

Throughout Africa, the pandemic is whittling away at one of Africa’s signature achievements: the growing middle class.  For the last decade, the middle class has helped drive educational, political and economic development across the continent.  But because of the pandemic, many more people across Africa are at risk of being “knocked back into poverty,” said Razia Khan, the chief economist for Africa and the Middle East at Standard Chartered bank.

In South Africa, there are solutions but the ANC isn’t interested.  Minister Nkozama Dlamini-Zuma places more importance on her pet projects than practicality and pragmatism, and human lives.  She fails the rationality test.  (And has she ever refuted accusations that her family benefits from the illegal cigarette trade?)



Government is losing R35 million every day in lost tax revenues as a result of the ban on legal cigarette sales.  That’s  over R1 billion a month; R3.5 billion since the lockdown started.  (That’s apart from the income cigarette sellers earn.)  South Africa is the only country in the world implementing a ban on the sale of tobacco products.  Does South Africa know better than every other country on the planet?  Even Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, broke ranks with his party and his cabinet colleagues to voice his disagreement with the tobacco ban.  Government is the benefactor and partner in crime to the illegal cigarette trade.

A billion rand a month will go some way in cushioning the hospitality and tourism industries and safeguarding jobs during the time of Covid-19.

Nothing demonstrates better just how clueless Ramaphosa’s cabinet is than the media briefing by the tourism minister last Friday, ten days after the president had announced that leisure tourism would be opening up, subject to protocols to be announced.  In this short clip from the 45 minute briefing, she answers questions about the opening up of tourism.

In the regulations published the night before her media briefing, they clearly state “A person may leave his or her place of residence to travel for leisure purposes as allowed under Alert Level 3.”

Government Gazette

The Government Gazette regulation trumps anything a minister says. Click here to download the Government Gazette.

The minister is clearly clueless and unfit to serve as a cabinet minister.  One can’t blame her alone because the folly of her appointment lies with President Ramaphosa.  She is a loyal ANC cadre with little to qualify her beyond that; she was initially appointed to the cabinet by Jacob Zuma to promote his ambitions for nuclear energy.

So… Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa (CEO of TBCSA)… do you and your board have the guts to be effective?  To lead a campaign which raises the understanding of tourism to its rightful place as the biggest generator of employment in South Africa, with the capacity to do far, far more.  Can you lead the lobbying organisation you need to be?

When will tourism in SA open again?

“It will not be business as usual in the tourism sector in the post-COVID-19 era,” he said, appealing to the TBCSA to tailor-make tour packages for SADC, Africa, and Brics countries.  “This will be one of the strategies boosting regional tourism and supporting the recovery and sustainability of the tourism sector in the foreseeable future.” — Supra Mahumapelo, chair of Parliament’s Tourism Portfolio Committee

Before we get to Mahumapelo’s statement, it’s important to realise that — under Level 3 of the Lockdown — tourism has already been opened with the addition of business travel to permitted activities.  And for many tourism businesses, the business tourist was what they relied upon most.  (Of course, under Level 4, there was some accommodation business through essential workers, isolation, etc.)

It is likely that business tourism will start slowly and will take a long time — years not months — before it ever gets close to what it was pre-Covid-19.  The Airports Company, in a presentation to parliament — said traffic is likely to still be down 20% on 2019 figures in 6 years time.  In the first two months of the State of Disaster, many companies realised how much they can do with video conferencing, and travel expenses will be looked at very carefully in a crisis economy.  (Government will probably be the biggest user of air travel… because it’s at taxpayers’ cost.)  I recall Johann Rupert saying about 10 years ago that he ran his global empire largely through video conferencing from home in Somerset West.

Saving one tourism business at a time

Covid-19 precautionsCapeInfo also took a very hard look at what we could do to help our clients, and we discovered that Self-catering accommodation is not specifically included in any government restrictions (although AirbBnB was and still is).  Self-catering properties account for over a third of CapeInfo’s 4,000 accommodation listings.  We wrote to all our clients over a month ago suggesting that self-catering properties should look for long-term guests for the next year.

Taking our cue from the Government directive that “Those above the age of 60 and those with underlying conditions should remain at home,” CapeInfo started to promote self-catering to that group.  A self-catering cottage on a farm or at the beachside will be a far better place to sit out the crisis than in a city which is the epicentre of a disaster. It addresses both mental and physical health.

Not everybody can afford this, but there are many who can and who can be contributing to saving the tourism infrastructure and livelihoods in other areas.  The next few months will be a very tough time.

CapeInfo’s home page addresses our Covid-19 responses and properties providing accommodation for business travellers or essential workers, isolation or long stays can identify themselves on CapeInfo as offering these services.  They are businesses whose full contact details are shown and all bookings are free of commissions..  While final bookings may go through an online booking engine, we believe that all arrangements should be made person-to-person through phone, email or chat applications.

Responses by the Tourism Industry

The minister of tourism provided scant leadership and divided the industry by the affirmative action requirements for the Tourism Relief Fund.  Her late response for Tourist Guides ended up offering them a payout of R1,500 per month for three months with no affirmative action requirements.  The SA Tourism webinar with the minister to talk to the industry was an embarrassment.  Up until that stage,  the industry had been floundering with nothing concrete to offer.  The minister did say, however, that it was up to the Tourism Business Council (TBCSA) to come up with proposals for an opening of the industry before the planned December 2020 for domestic tourism and February 2021 for international travel.

A week later, another webinar… this was Cape Town Tourism presenting their recovery strategy — and it probably way ahead of any other tourism marketing organisation in SA.  It was excellent!  (The Canary Islands recovery budget of 24 million euros (about R465 million)  was announced on March 3, ten days before Spain declared is State of Alert, to reactivate their main markets later in the year.  Now that’s proactive!)

The TBCSA, along with SATSA and Fedhasa eventually launched the COVID19 Protocols for Tourism Industry Operations. and presented its proposals to Parliament’s Tourism Portfolio Committee last week.  That’s where Supra Mahumapelo, the committee’s chairman was reported as saying, “It will not be business as usual in the tourism sector in the post-COVID-19 era,” he said, appealing to the TBCSA to tailor-make tour packages for SADC, Africa, and Brics countries.  “This will be one of the strategies boosting regional tourism and supporting the recovery and sustainability of the tourism sector in the foreseeable future.” Committee members said that it could be too soon to consider reopening tourism, as South Africa has yet to reach the peak in Covid-19 infections and flatten the curve, which experts estimate could happen around September.

David Maynier, Western Cape’s minister responsible for tourism, told CapeInfo that “The portfolio committee does not have a mandate to determine what source markets the provincial government can or should target for international tourism. We are working hard to open the tourism sector safely, and will continue to target existing markets, and explore new markets.”  Committee members said that it could be too soon to consider reopening tourism, as South Africa has yet to reach the peak in Covid-19 infections and flatten the curve, which experts estimate it could happen around September.

The ANC’s ideologies will ruin tourism, if they are ever implemented, in the same way that they have ruined scores of state owned enterprises.  That’s the only track record the ANC has.

I can’t understand why the TBCSA focused on international travel, when the priority is to open domestic travel and demonstrate what the industry can achieve.  Opening for international tourism is not a matter of just opening the borders — there will have to be reciprocal agreements between each country.  Germany, one of SA’s  key source markets, for example, has said that its borders will remain closed to any country where there is a lockdown still in force.  SA’s lockdown is expected to continue through into 2021  — although Level 1 of the lockdown allows international flights.

And the provinces are at very different stages of the pandemic and preparedness.

Alan Winde, the Western Cape’s premier, is — as far as I’m aware — the only SA politician who is coming through the disaster with a universally high approval rating.  And the province is months ahead of some other provinces.

Will government end the Western Cape’s lockdown before other provinces if its peak is reached sooner and Covid-19 cases are under control?

An important question that needs to be asked, is “Will government  end the Western Cape’s lockdown before the other provinces if its peak is reached sooner and once Covid-19 cases are under control?” The Western Cape’s Covid-19 peak is expected at the end of June and into July, four months before the Eastern Cape in October and November.

If I was the owner or CEO of a big tourism company, I’d bypass the junior bureaucrats at the tourism organisations and start layering up for a legal fight with government, the likes of which have never been seen before.  Tourism does seem to lack the trailblazing titans that I remember from 20 years ago.  (Companies that do have insurance for the losses they are incurring have been told that they are not covered, since losses are not a result of the pandemic, but by governments regulations.)

Government’s delivery is cause for concern

If government cannot deliver on the health infrastructure needed, and SA replays the scenes the world saw coming out of Italy, all hopes for opening international travel sooner will be dashed.  If the economic meltdown creates a social crisis, Brand South Africa will be in tatters.

  • Government estimates that SA will need between 25,000 and 35,000 ICU beds between August and September.
  • At the end of May, the health department said that there were currently only 2,309 critical care beds available for Covid-19 patients.
  • During the first two months of the lockdown, government only added 207 critical care beds. 

In a report by the Eastern Cape provincial government, they expect between 5 500 to 6 000 fatalities:  “Based on projections and the data supplied on 14 May 2020, it would appear that the E-Cape does not have enough capability in place to manage the demand of the pandemic. Unless capabilities are exponentially and rapidly increased, the province will experience a situation where the demand will exceed supply.

“It would appear based on the projections that demand will outstrip supply by early to mid-July 2020. It would appear from the data that the lockdown did not produce the required increase in capacity in the Eastern Cape to deal with the future demand.”  Really?  Do lockdowns produce an increase in capacity?

The cornerstone of SA’s Covid-19 programme was mass testing and screening, and tracing the infected people.  The health minister targeted 30,000 tests a day.  When delays of 14 days for the results occurred, the Western Cape abandoned mass testing because tracing became impossible.  Members of the Medical Advice Committee (MAC) had been calling for the strategy to be revised and they were ignored.

Just as the advice from members of the MAC to abandon the lockdown had been rejected a month before.

One has to wonder if all the irritating regulations coming out of the National Coronavirus Command Council are a smokescreen, to divert attention away from government’s shortcomings, failings and radical economic transformation agendas.  They have certainly taken government’s eye off the ball.  Opening the economy is as important as saving lives, because the loss of lives from a collapsed economy will be the ultimate disaster.

Update on Immigration Regulations – don’t hold your breath

Is progress being made with the visa regulations issue? If you relied solely on the Tourism Business Council of SA‘s (TBCSA) update to it’s members, you would think so. Until you get to the sentence, “A Board resolution has been taken that media will be engaged on this matter on a need-to-know basis – we wish to avoid the pitfalls of having this matter playing itself out in the public space and want to ensure that our engagements remain robust but handled with due care.”  Which means they have discarded transparency and are playing voetsie-voetsie with government.

They add, “Our Board Chairman, through his links within the ANC National Executive Committee is also working to ensure that the industry’s concerns regarding the regulations are duly considered.”  Can he do more than tourism minister Derek Hanekom (also a member of the ANC NEC) given that ANC and its NEC are in total disarray?

[pdfviewer width=”98%” height=”600px” beta=”true/false”]http://capeinfo.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2016/10/12Oct16_Special_Member_Update_on_Immigration_Regulations.pdf[/pdfviewer]

The DA shadow minister of tourism, James Vos, pulls no punches in the DA’s submission to the Department of Home Affairs.

[pdfviewer width=”98%” height=”600px” beta=”true/false”]http://capeinfo.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2016/10/DA_Submission_on_Draft_Immigration_Regulations.pdf[/pdfviewer]

In a separate statement, Vos says:

The recently tabled Draft First Amendment of the Immigration Regulations made under the Immigration Act by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), does nothing to address the loss of jobs in the tourism industry, including concerns raised by the tourism industry, government departments and opposition parties.

The Draft First Amendment is nothing more than a half-hearted attempt to address the serious problems with the current regulations and will result in the ultimate contraction of the tourism industry.

The reality is that no material changes will be affected by the error-ridden Draft. Rather, the wording of a few provisions have lazily been shifted around, in what can only be seen as an attempt to create the illusion of the DHA’s willingness to engage with criticism of its policies.

The contentious requirement that parents traveling to South Africa with their children must produce an unabridged birth certificate (UBC) has not been removed. Rather than actually change the regulations, it seems that the Department only reorganised the clauses, whilst the requirements essentially stay the same.

Issues with Business Visas, as well as Corporate and Work Visas have not been addressed. The requirements places strict barriers to entry for foreigners who want to do business in South Africa. This makes it more laborious to invest in South Africa, or to attract foreign talent to our country.

Clearly the Department has put no effort into the drafting of their amendments, which provided the Department with the opportunity to improve the widely-criticised Immigration Regulations. The Department should be chastised for this entirely inadequate Draft and its poor attempt at governance.

In order to remedy these issues the DA has made a comprehensive submission to the DHA on the proposed amendments. I will also write the Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, as Chairperson of the Interministerial Committee on visa regulations, to withdraw the current and proposed regulations and be replaced by electronic visas, which cut turnaround time, are safer and ultimately streamline tourist facilitations to our country.

Tourism can be used as an effective tool to create jobs, provide opportunities for small businesses, promote livelihoods for communities and bring South Africans together to share experiences. For every 12 tourists that visit South Africa, one job is created. The Immigration Regulations therefore put tourism job opportunities at risk.

So one has to ask the question, is all this talk and all these submissions worth an iota? Government is paralysed through lack of leadership (the education crisis proves this) and any intelligent agenda.

So  maybe, SATSA (SA Travel Services Association) has the only solution.

David Frost, Satsa CEO, told  South African Tourism Update that legal action against the Department of Home Affairs was a possibility and the association had already sought legal counsel.

“Legal action is an option and it is certainly the last resort and not something that anybody wants to do but it is an option when you’ve exhausted every other avenue,” said Frost. “And it looks very much like we’ve exhausted every other avenue.”

Frost said that what was needed was for the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba to provide the basis of the policy implementation. “Ultimately what you want is a court of law to be able to put the Minister of Home Affairs on the stand and ask him to provide the rational basis for the UBC requirement: how many children have been trafficked? How big is the problem?”

Frost added that they had sought an opinion from senior legal counsel that he would table at the Tourism Business Council of South Africa as an option to consider. “If anyone can provide an alternative remedy to sort the problem out, I’m open to listening to it,” said Frost. “It’s been two years and we’ve made no progress, nor has the Minister of Tourism, nor has the Deputy President, nor the Inter-Ministerial Committee.”

Call to Action… will Gauteng deliver?

I attended a remarkable tourism conference in Johannesburg on Monday and Tuesday.  It was “The Summit” organised by Gauteng Tourism and the Tourism Business Council, with support from SA Tourism.

I live by the adage “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” and this conference measured everything — there was audience participation at every level: on Twitter (where it trended at #1), after every speaker, and responses were quantified immediately.

So… if politicians are in any doubt about their constituencies’ views… doubt no more.  Will it make any difference?  I will say that in the wrapping up session, I was impressed by the rapid feedback and the commitments given from Gauteng’s political sphere.  Guys, your responses were minuted!  If you deliver, the DA must start worrying…

1402870_515304588566632_2110287828_oFor me, the star of the show was Dawn Robertson.  It was her organisation that played the main role in pulling the conference together.  Quietly spoken, incisive, focused and without any brash bravado.  And hugely committed.  I hope she stays at Gauteng Tourism long enough to make a difference… I will be interviewing her next week so come back for more.

This was a conference where Gauteng came to the table to say we are the Gateway; we are the major roleplayer in tourism.   Or we can be if all the stakeholders come to the table.

SA Tourism was there in a show of force, along with TBCSA and Gauteng politicos and bureaucrats.  Some Gauteng local government speakers did impress; some less.  One figure staggered me — tourism’s contribution to Gauteng’s GDP and jobs is 4.5%.  Wake up guys!  You’re way below the world average and even in the Western Cape it’s 12.5%.  You are not delivering!

Given the nature and goals of this conference, Cape Town played a surprising role.    Mariette du Toit-Helmbold (former Cape Town Tourism CEO) and Judy Lain (Chief Marketing Officer at Wesgro) led two of the breakaway sessions.  Other Capetonians were also there to make their contribution.

Cape Town’s global gateway status was made by guest speaker, Chris Buckingham — former Melbourne Tourism CEO —  when he referred to that city as a “soft landing” for travellers intimidated by perceptions of Africa.  He urged other provinces and regions to grasp the opportunities this presents.  (Nothing demonstrates CapeInfo’s role over the last 17 years better!)

What are the main items which need addressing to make SA’s gateway fly as a tourism destination?

A single destination brand was one.  Who cares about the province?  Johannesburg is South Africa’s gateway.  Growing any other brand to match the Joburg brand is little more than fool’s thinking.  What province or state is London, New York or Paris in?

World class Transport was the other. For me, Gauteng and Johannesburg still epitomise a pre-1980s mindset: throw money at problems.  The Gauteng Road Improvement Project is a disaster.  You find tailbacks at 10am on the brand-new N1!  What will happen in 3 years’ time?  Far too little emphasis is placed on management and maintenance.

Having said that, someone I would love to engage with more is Ismail Vadi, Gauteng’s transport MEC.  He is pragmatic and engaging which leaves me with the question, “Are Gautengers somewhat pathetic consumers?”

So… visit http://www.sasummit.net/ for more.

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