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In the 21st century, tourism is regarded as Cape Town's key economic driver for the future. But 300 years ago – probably before the concept of tourism was even coined – the whole town already understood its importance and shared in the benefits.

The arrival of a ship in the port saw the firing of the cannon on Signal Hill to tell farmers to bring their produce to town. Other cannons on Kanonkop's throughout the hinterland relayed the message.

In those days, Capetonians still enjoyed a daily siesta when the whole town came to a standstill but, with the siesta over, stores and businesses stayed open until the last ship left the port for the day.

What can one say that is new and contributes to the debate of "towards a world class city?" What is going to make a difference?

What is tourism?
Getting tourism right means understanding what tourism is… and that it is the most competitive activity in the world. We are judged against the best in the world, not what seems okay to us.

Tourism is not the sole preserve of any group but requires and thrives through collective action.

A successful guest house in a small town will benefit local restaurants, pubs, petrol stations, general dealers, craft producers… and many more. Having a great time at the pub, restaurant or Saturday market will certainly bring the same guests back to the guest house again and again. Eventually they may invest in the town by buying property or opening a business.

When he was CEO of Wesgro, David Bridgman said that probably more direct investment followed a businessperson's holiday in the Cape than any other reason.

Success requires collective action by business owners – tourism authorities are less important than they believe themselves to be, unless they are at the forefront of facilitating this collective action.

When the late Leon Markovitz initiated the Joint Marketing initiative, he was motivated by a real understanding of the issues. He saw tourism, events, the Film Office and Wesgro (investment promotion) working as one – all part of a city and province-wide public-private initiative. Sadly, that was watered down after his departure and the real focus of cohesive marketing was lost.

Tension between the past and future
Now here lies the crunch for a city like Cape Town which faces so many critical challenges. Basic infrastructure, service delivery and housing to bridge the divide between the have's and have-not's were neglected and the City is running out of time.

These are the City Council's priorities which it simply has to address urgently.

This creates the tension between a city which must meet its constitutional obligations – and a dire legacy that must be redressed – and its ability to be forward-looking, crafting and building the future it wants to achieve.

Tourism and tackling challenges and opportunities like the 2010 World Cup provide the only way of generating the economic growth the city needs to heal the divide between rich and poor. Without far faster economic growth and skills training to ensure that the poorest have access to opportunity, the future is too awful to contemplate.

Rising to challenges
The benefit of being competitive, tackling every challenge, is what will make Cape Town great.

The requirements for 2010 World Cup – the stadium, public transport, public safety – are one thing. Ensuring that our city benefits from the spotlight it affords in the build-up and for many years after should be occupying most of our efforts right now and in the many years to come.

In the 6th Progress Report on preparations for Germany's 2006 World Cup, eight pages of their 49-page report were devoted to 'Promoting Germany as a good place for business.' 'Tourism marketing' was covered in one page and 'Service and hospitality campaign' was covered in just over three pages.

The Australian government spent $1.7 billion on the 2000 Olympics and has a ten-year legacy of $4.3 billion in added currency brought by the Games, while 100,000 full time jobs were created over 12 years, from 1994 to 2006.

In New South Wales, the state and private sector joined forces for "Investment 2000", a four year campaign in the lead up to the Olympic Games – which attracted 45 companies who established a presence in Australia.

Summing up Germany's World Cup, Joseph Blatter said, "This was the best World Cup of all time. Never before has an event been presented in such an emotional and global manner."

What happened in Germany during those four weeks in 2006 was the triumph of Brand Germany. The Anholt Nation Brand Index saw Germany becoming the second most valued country brand, from 7th place in 2005. (South Africa ranks 32.)

Tourism bookings increased by nearly one third; investor confidence surged to an all-time high since re-unification; exports are up 14% year-on-year… and German teams keep winning in great fashion, in all sports.

World Cup 2006 boosted the German national psyche and Germans regained national pride and self-confidence. This spilled over into brand Germany, replacing the old image of being dull and dour to a new one of being friendly, open, modern and innovative.

It didn't all happen by accident; there was a clear and carefully-crafted strategy to realise this. In South Africa, there needs to be a broader, multi-sectoral economic-development and nation-building strategy. Tourism – in its widest sense – is at the heart of this.

Brand Cape Town
We all know how unique this city is – the only city in the world that has a national park at its very heart.

Hardly a month goes by without hearing about another award or accolade ranking the city among the best in the world.

But is the world aware of this? The awards come largely from the same media or associations that reflect the views of a very small and selective group of people - in terms of their interests or nationalities. We bluff ourselves if we believe that Brand Cape Town is imprinted on a global audience.

In his City Brands report, brand specialist Simon Anholt says, "Cities have always been brands, in the truest sense of the word.

"Famous and successful cities are usually associated in people's minds with a single quality, promise, attribute or story. That simple brand narrative can have a major impact on people's decision to visit the city, to buy its products or services, to do business or relocate there.

"Paris is romance, Milan is style, New York is energy, Washington is power, Tokyo is modernity, Lagos is corruption, Barcelona is culture, Rio de Janeiro is fun, and so on. These are the brands of cities, and they are inextricably tied to the histories and destinies of all these places."

In an interview with CapeInfo, Anholt says, "Cape Town hasn't ever made an appearance in my research, but I've been there (for the World Economic Forum last year where I spoke about "Brand Africa" - one of my pet rants). My suspicion is that the people who have heard of Cape Town will rate it higher than Joburg, but the majority won't have heard of it."

We can only start making the sort of future that Cape Town wants and needs through a collective vision that drives a dynamic Cape Town brand.

What will a brand do for Cape Town? It will focus us all on the kind of city we want to have and want to share in. It will unite citizens, giving them a sense of pride. It will celebrate our environment, our produce and our products. It will highlight opportunities to unlock the potential of all Capetonians.

It will present and represent the city to the world. Politicians will come and go; but the Cape Town brand and vision will transcend all of that; being owned by all citizens, shared by all visitors and aspired to by people from around the world.

What does London strive to be? They start by saying, "This Tourism Vision is fully integrated with other Mayoral Strategies to ensure that we develop as an exemplary, sustainable world city based on three interwoven themes:
  • Strong, diverse long-term economic growth.
  • Social inclusivity to give all Londoners the opportunity to share in London's future success.
  • Fundamental improvements in London's local environment and reduction in London's impact on the global environment.

    Mayors of cities like London, New York and Paris have played the driving role in creating their cities' Visions, perceptions and brands. And so do people – Sydney's success has more to do with the collective Australian psyche than anything else.

    With the scale of the challenges facing the City of Cape Town – just meeting the constitutional obligations of service delivery – expecting Cape Town's mayor to tackle broader visions is unrealistic at this stage.

    In other cities, private sector groups have come forward to take the lead. For example, James Rouse started the private sector momentum that changed Baltimore – from being called "the armpit of America" to one of the US' most desirable cities.

    Cape Town needs leaders and champions to come forward to drive Cape Town's Vision and Brand.

    Economic growth is at the heart of everything. There are many challenges, such as safeguarding the environment, but tourism must be at the heart of a Cape Town miracle. Can one double the number of visitors, spread throughout the year?

    Open Skies

    Much has been said about air access over the years but little has been achieved. Now, a recent report – Clear Skies over Southern Africa by Comark – shows how, if air transport is liberalised, consumers will benefit alongside increased economic growth and employment – "it results in increased flights and trade, higher levels of foreign direct investment, and increased tourism – all of which directly contribute to job creation."

    This could probably achieve more for Cape Town than anything else. Ireland's renaissance was driven by air access.

    The most important element of the essential paradigm shift revolves around how everybody takes ownership (and is encouraged to take ownership) allowing volunteerism to flourish.

    The first successful Olympic Games of the modern era were the 1984 LA Games. The city refused to contribute a dime so an old stadium was re-used and volunteers provided the engine that made the Games a success. When volunteers came aboard, CEO Peter Ueberroth stopped drawing a salary to reinforce the spirit of volunteerism.

    The 'Make Table Mountain Safe' initiative is an outstanding new local example. Attacks on visitors to Cape Town's gem have been well-documented, while efforts of Park authorities to combat this met with increasing exasperation. Now, volunteers take to the mountain's paths, advising hikers and walkers on safer routes and reporting suspicious characters to enforcement authorities. They are achieving more success than was possible before.

    Tourism is about economic growth and opportunity; it's not about bed-nights and visitor arrivals alone. It's the driver and integrator for many different sectors.

    But now we need leadership and champions to drive our vision and brand.

    For beyond the outward trappings of Brand Cape Town – the logos, the livery and the glossy publications – there is a city in the throes of poverty, hunger and homelessness. Brand establishment is not a marketing end in itself, but a powerful instrument with which to improve the quality of life of all Capetonians.

    We need to remember, if we're serious about Brand Cape Town, that our reputation – and the protection and enhancement of our brand - is more than what we say about ourselves. It's how we think about ourselves, treat each other, welcome our guests, care for and celebrate our environment, how rigorously we celebrate democracy and encourage debate, how loyal we are to our city and more specifically, what we all do about it.

    Sheryl Ozinsky has been involved in making things happen in the City for over 20 years. Her name is indelibly associated with tourism and passion for Cape Town.
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