Tag Archives: Wesgro

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has said “the PLETT Wine & Bubbly Festival was not supported by the executive management team and has been withdrawn from the upcoming Mayco” which Plett Tourism had been told would endorse the event.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

Knysna

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.

Ladismith

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.

Tale of two annual reports, two divergent corporate cultures

One is an organisation I admire greatly.  The other is one I used to admire.  And it all came into focus when I just happened to read both their annual reports in one week.

Wesgro’s annual report is a monster and reminded me of City of Cape Town reports prior to 1976, when departments tried very hard to show how busy they had been.  Intellectual and creative visions or plans take the back seat.

Cape Town Partnership’s annual report is very different.  It doesn’t tell you how many meetings the organisation attended.  It does inspire and inform, and you don’t need to take annual leave to read it.

The reports tell all about the divergent corporate cultures of the two organisations.  Wesgro is bureaucratic and insecure.  The Cape Town Partnership embodies the spirit of a creative and exciting Cape Town, which is just going to get better and better.

Isn’t it time for an overhaul of Wesgro’s corporate culture?

Take a straw poll, Wesgro… you might be surprised

The previous post on this blog expressed our dismay with Wesgro.  In our recent newsletter, we stated that Wesgro (Western Cape destination marketing agency) hadn’t delivered on the good news they promised (and noted key staff losses amid poor ongoing communication).

Judy Lain, Wesgro’s chief marketing officer, responded to the newsletter with the following email.  We think it’s in the public interest to publish Judy’s email and our response.  What do you think?

Dear Carl

“I see Wesgro is still the only news you are reporting, if you would like an update to ensure that you report the facts please let me know I would gladly meet with you.

“In terms of our website, we have had some development issues so instead of launching a website that is not 100%, we have delayed it. This is not unusual in terms of web development. At present there is a website up.

“In terms of what Wesgro has been up to in the past few months.

–          We are in the process of writing the 5 year strategy with DEDAT. We have presented this to each of the regions for feedback and are now in phase 2 of this

–          We are in the process of writing the cycling strategy for the province in collaboration with private and public sector. We have put together a task team of private and public sector

–          In total we would have attended over 6 international trade platforms promoting the province in our source and emerging markets

–          We are holding individual workshops with our regions to help develop plans around driving domestic tourism

–          We are doing weekly social media campaigns on our platforms

–          We have produced 7 videos, one provincial and one for each region to be used on international and domestic platforms to help drive visitor numbers

–          We have signed over 15 JMAs with media, tour operators and other partners to help drive tourism

–          We have sponsored over 27 events in the province

–          We have hosted over 300 tour operators from source and emerging markets in the Western Cape to help promote the region

–          We have won 16 conference bids

–          We have assisted with incentive groups and corporate meetings

–          We have successfully launched on WeChat in China, their biggest social media platform

–          We hold quarterly sessions with our regions to discuss plans going forward and collaboration

–          We have done research in terms of Ebola effect on the Western Cape and engaged with over 3 000 outbound tour operators from our source and emerging markets in terms of this

So is Wesgro delivering? I believe we are if you just look at what we have done in the past few months.

We don’t do big advertising campaigns, like you use to do Carl. We don’t get the funding for it. So we work with partners that ensure high return on investment.

As I’ve said before, I am more than happy to meet with you if you have questions or issues with us to ensure that you do report on the facts.

Kind regards
Judy

 *****

Dear Judy

I think defensiveness and lack of understanding and accuracy shine through in your email.

“Wesgro is still the only news you are reporting.”  That’s an untruth.  It wasn’t even the lead story in the last newsletter.

“We don’t do big advertising campaigns, like you use to do Carl.”  Please name one big advertising campaign I’ve done, Judy.  There isn’t one.  If anything, I am known for doing more with less.

Keeping busy — as you are at pains to show — means nothing.  What is the Return on Investment?  What was achieved?

I keep thinking of the late Don Titmas’ comment when he opened the first fine-dining restaurant at the Waterfront: “People don’t understand that tourism and the hospitality industries are perishable industries.  If you don’t sell a body in a bed, and bottoms on restaurant or bus or plane seats TODAY, it’s lost forever.  You can’t sell it tomorrow.”

How many bodies in beds, bottoms on restaurant bus and plane seats did Wesgro realise?  Now you’ll probably respond that it’s not your job to do the selling, so let me ask the question another way… what would happen if Wesgro wasn’t there?  I think very little — it would be replaced, where necessity demands it, by more efficient and more effective private sector initiatives.  And all Province needs is a shrewd investment analyser to allocate funding to the best initiatives.

Tourism doesn’t need endless strategies, plans and JMAs that achieve little.  Wesgro has provided poor leadership to the Western Cape’s RTOs and LTOs and I think they are in the weakest position they’ve been in for years.  In Stellenbosch and Robertson, the privately-funded Stellenbosch Wine Route and Robertson Wine Valley have taken the lead from their towns’ LTOs and they are doing far more.  They “do” more than they talk and strategise!

But let’s come to the webite/s.  You’ve been Wesgro’s chief marketing officer for over a year.  You say that the existing site is too bad to be promoted; too bad to drive traffic to.  In May, you said the destination marketing website was going to be launched in June.  And it’s now September.

I’m sorry.  I can’t take you seriously.  A month away from a launch date and you were full of promise of how good the imminent site would be.  And you haven’t been able to address the “development issues” in the ensuing three months?  Come on!  Trying fooling someone else!

It sounds like poor and maybe even incompetent project management.

I’m guessing, but I don’t think Wesgro has met its Service Level Agreement with Province on the website for the entire duration of your tenure.  If I was the Provincial Treasury, I’d reduce Wesgro’s funding until it proves that it can manage a simple thing like developing a website.

Because, in spite of whatever spin you might try to put on it, websites are still a very important element of the marketing mix.

I would never place all blame at your door — because I think you have tremendous energy and enthusiasm —  and I think your CEO, your board of directors, and the Provincial tourism department have contributed to the malaise.  They are the ones who set direction and the tone of the corporate culture.

Is there anyone left at Wesgro with deep knowledge of and insight into the tourism industry?  My experience in dealings with you is that you believe you have all the resources you need (extra funding excepted).  Suggestions intended to be helpful are rebuffed.  And I am luckier than most because some others don’t even get replies.  (See a comment to the previous post.)

This is what happened at the old CTRU, Wesgro’s destination marketing predecessor, where the organisation even rebuffed its own board’s suggestions and requests.  Does the same happen at Wesgro?

I am yet to discover a Wesgro fan club among industry leaders, and I do encounter more criticism than kudos.  Maybe you need more collaboration where you listen more (and a JMA is not, per se, collaboration).  Because, neither you nor the Provincial tourism department have all the answers.

Kind regards
Carl

PS.  When will the marvellous new websites be launched?

*****

But what does the wider industry think?  Please have your say.

 

Wesgro… gets a #Fail!

Wesgro, the Western Cape’s trade and investment agency absorbed the province’s beleaguered destination marketing agency (Cape Town Routes Unlimited – CTRU) in April 2012.  I attended Wesgro’s AGM in October 2012 and left unimpressed.  It was all about ticking the boxes with little vision apparent.  As a slick presentation, it was a flop, relying largely on videos.  We could have watched it from home and been spared the uncomfortable presence on the stage.

I met with CEO Nils Flaatten and COO Howard Gabriels in January 2013 to discover what progress had been made.  In May 2014, I met with Nils and Judy Lain, who had been appointed Chief Marketing Officer in August 2013.

At both meetings, after hearing what they had achieved and planned to do, Nils asked me to rate Wesgro, “How would you score us,” he asked.

Thinking back on it now, I would give Wesgro a score of 30-40%.

I had declined at the first meeting because I was uncomfortable with the rigid process-driven approach he had outlined.  I needed to absorb it and see what it delivered.

I had been hoping for good news at this month’s meeting and was taken on a tour of Wesgro’s new offices over four floors in the Reserve Bank Building.  That in itself was a strange choice.  It’s probably one of the least efficient, least “green” buildings in Cape Town; a national keypoint – which deters casual visitors.  This was so different to the vision tourism minister Alan Winde had spelled out a few years ago – all economic promotion and tourism agencies sharing the same high-profile building with easy access.  And Wesgro’s new offices (and the activities observed) just screamed “bureaucracy”.

Before meeting with Nils and Judy, I had shared with them my concerns about the performance of their websites and the rebranding which had taken place a few months earlier.  In 2012, destination marketing had its website upgraded and revamped, and Nils was expecting great things from it.

It hasn’t performed as one can see from the publicly-available Alexa.com rankings.  It trails behind Gauteng Tourism and KZN Tourism.

Alexa comparison of websites based on traffic rankings

The most recent rankings show Wesgro trade & investment’s global rank is #918,454, Wesgro’s destination marketing website is at #599,327, KZN Tourism is #473,131 and Gauteng Tourism is #415,060.  (For comparison, Cape Town Tourism stands at #98,351.)

Of even more concern, if one looks on the Western Cape Treasury’s website at Wesgro’s Quarterly Performance Reports, the destination marketing website only achieved between 22.9% and 25.5% of traffic targets for the first three quarters of the financial year.  Remedial action should have been taken a long time ago!  Tourism is a perishable industry – bodies in beds and bottoms on restaurant seats not sold today are lost forever.

(Wesgro seems to be behind in supplying validated reports to the Treasury and some other stats there raise questions too.  Click here for that report.)

The good news is the Destination Marketing gets a new website in June 2014, Trade & Investment gets a new one in July 2014 and a new Cape to Namibia Route website comes out in August 2014.  Whether they deliver the goods remains to be seen.

The new destination marketing website also gets a new URL (address) which is bound to attract a lot of debate.  But we’ll leave it to Wesgro to announce the details in due course.  We can’t see it being favoured by search engines though – it does a terrific job of hiding the brand!

Rebranding
Wesgro logoWell, it’s essentially just a new logo or set of logos, which set out to establish Wesgro as an agency managing a number of mandates.  It’s an opportunity lost!

Until one reads the tagline, one might wonder if Wesgro is similar to Seagro (a fertiliser) or if it’s a garden shop.  It is confusing.  Wesgro needs to live and be the brand it markets – a name change is overdue.  When Wesgro was established some 25 years ago, the local “Cape” brand wasn’t nearly as strong globally as it is now.

I think it’s also unfortunate that Wesgro has decided to main separate websites, because there are such synergies between trade, investment and tourism.  You’re not talking to different markets in effect; but you do need to package information differently.  More investment flows out of tourism than any other way.  Former Wesgro CEO David Bridgman pointed that out to me in 1997 and Nils concedes that it’s still a fact today.

Judy defends the decisions taken and I’m still waiting for her narrative around the new logo.  We’ll save that for another time, for more in-depth discussion.

Judy has only been on the job for about 10 months.  She is a marketer, is capable and works very hard.  But she has no tourism/trade & investment background and she doesn’t have the benefit of anyone else in Wesgro with any real destination marketing expertise.  And, coming from the private sector, being part of a local government agency needs a significant paradigm shift.

Wesgro has been successful in working more closely, and working differently, with the regional and local tourism offices.  (That comes through very strongly from the tourism offices I’ve spoken to.)  And there’s a blog Judy writes to keep those offices informed – click here.  (Have a look and then come back to add a comment saying if the new branding works for you!)

Communication
I only received the link to Judy’s blog after I complained about the lack of news and communication from Wesgro over the past year.  I used to be on all their mailing lists.  Nils and Judy conceded that this is a valid criticism.

And then a week after our meeting, wow! … I receive a media release.  It was quite a good one so I used it, only to discover that it was stale news, lifted from another website, and had been published in several other places six weeks earlier.  Now that kills all credibility and trust in Wesgro’s Communications Officer!  Judy responded to my complaint saying it was “shocking”, and that processes would be put in place to prevent it happening again.  That calls into question the calibre of staff appointed at Wesgro.

Another week goes by and I receive my first-ever CEO’s newsletter titled “New year, new home, fresh start”.  New year… with the winter equinox just a few weeks away?  That’s a *Fail* Wesgro!

Yes I know Wesgro has a number of mandates – conventions, film, trade, investment, Saldanha EPZ, etc. – and a limited budget and limited resources.  But destination marketing is what will make or break the organisation.  And it’s time Wesgro started sharing big ideas, big visions and demonstrable successes.

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.

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

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

It’s astounding
Time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll…

I’ve been somewhat underwhelmed by the announcements about the closure of Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) — the Western Cape’s provincial tourism authority — and its incorporation into Wesgro — the provincial trade and investment promotion agency.

CTRU’s last media release on March 30 was a statement by Alan Winde, the provincial tourism minister, that he and the boards of CTRU and Wesgro had decided to incorporate trade, investment and tourism marketing under one roof from April 1.

On April 8, Wesgro issued a media release stating that this “would now be done by a single, ramped up executing agency to increase the province’s national and global competitiveness as a business and leisure destination.”

Why the italics?  Someone has yet to demonstrate how the agency has been “ramped up.”

The decision to disband CTRU is the correct one.  It was a fatally flawed structure from day one in 2003.  It became worse as time went by, and this was illustrated in our 2007 interview with Lynne Brown — then the Western Cape’s tourism minister.

A year before this interview, CTRU’s chairperson had agreed that the organisation’s corporate culture was wholly unsuited to a marketing organisation.  But it was all hunky-dory for Brown, a former schoolteacher, and her CTRU CEO, also a former schoolteacher.  Yet the interfence in the daily running of CTRU by the minister and her tourism department saw a chairperson and board director resign prematurely at various times.

In his comments on the Brown interview, Hugh von Zahn, a prominent businessman, wrote:

“I once wrote an essay on Napoleon the Third called ”A Tragedy of Good Intentions” which is apt when it comes to the organization of tourism marketing and development in our province.

“The real tragedy is that we have been traversing this ground in the same fashion for years, all to no avail.

“In order to understand why this type of failure happens in an organization like the CTRU you have to look at what is called “process” and how it impacts on service delivery. In the strange new world of contemporary SA we have elevated process to the level of a mantra, all to the exclusion of results.

“In the business world you focus on outcomes and results and decide on the shortest path to get there. This is standard business practice. In the weird world of the bureaucracy you follow a process, often to the exclusion of results. As long as you can show that you are following a process all will be well, the results are incidental.

“The real evil of this fixation on process is that bureaucracies create meaningless jobs filled by people who are function-directed rather than being held accountable for results achieved.

“You measure its effectiveness by hits and Rands generated. In the strange world of the bureaucracy everything is introverted. All things point to stasis. It is a form of navel gazing. So we see ”vision”, process writ large, pictures of staff, corporate manifestos, pledges and self-adulation – precious little about results.”

Shortly before publishing this post, I exchanged emails with Hugh and he said that little seems to have changed in the five years since he wrote that.

CTRU’s incorporation into Wesgro at this stage was rather puzzling, because the process to create an over-arching Economic Development Partnership is underway.

It seemed a rushed and stop-gap solution.  When I wrote to Winde’s media liaison person on March 12, asking who I could speak to about the changes, my request was ignored but I received the following bald statement:

  • “The Western Cape Government’s tourism destination marketing functions will move to Wesgro from 01 April 2012.
  • “A Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, CTRU and Wesgro, has been signed defining all roles and responsibilities.
  • “A Memorandum of Agreement is currently being finalized which will further give effect the arrangements discussed.
  • “All permanent CRTU staff will be transferred to Wesgro in line with labour regulations.
  • “We look forward to marketing the region under a single brand in a more streamlined and efficient. (sic)”

Little more has been released subsequently, other than the fact that CTRU’s board will continue with quarterly oversight of tourism marketing until various bits of legislation have been changed.  Monthly reporting will be to the Wesgro board.

What happened here contrasted so to the plans given in our November 2011 interview with Andrew Boraine, who is leading the process for the Economic Development Partnership (EDP).  The EDP will be launched as a Section 21 company on April 26, 2012.

All agencies in the economic development, film and tourism spheres that receive any public funding in the Western Cape will be required to be part of this partnership… as a condition for future funding.

The EDP will “lead, coordinate and drive regional economic growth, development and inclusion under a single brand platform through a regional marketing alliance.”  Execution of these plans will still be at the agency level.

So, last month’s sidewideays shift of CTRU was probably just a bit of housekeeping by provincial government — a start at putting all marketing under one roof.  April 1 (appropriately!) is the start of government’s financial year and with CTRU employment contracts coming up for renewal, it made sense to have provincial government’s perennial problem child out of the way before the EDP is launched.

It is a pity the Winde and his PR people haven’t kept the tourism industry better informed.  So what we’re seeing is still an ongoing process rather than any solution.  Winde should acknowledge more openly because, at the end of the day, it’s the people (not the processes) that will make for succesful destination marketing.

I have no doubt that Wesgro will be a better home — for starters, its existence is controlled by the provincial Wesgro Act, and it doesn’t have the same strictures that bound CTRU.

Nils Flaatten, Wesgro CEO

Wesgro is also a far cry from the schoolroom corporate culture of CTRU.  Nils Flaatten, Wesgro’s CEO,  is regarded as a good manager and team leader.  For Province, he must have offered a safe bet to move forward.

But Flaaten must still prove Wesgro’s abilities as far as tourism is concerned, which is very different to trade and investment marketing.  He is concentrating on cross-over benefits to start — of which there are many — and he is sharp enough to grow Wesgro into a more diversified marketing agency.

In Boraine’s interview, he made the point that “fancy mandates and structures will mean nothing if they does not attract the right people — and that is the risk.  It needs a creative environment to achieve that.”

So there are few more jumps to the left, and the right, and some more shuffling before that will happen.  But it is a start in the right direction.