Cape Town Tourism misleads tourism industry on state of winter business (or lack of)!

It is shocking to see how Cape Town Tourism publishes meaningless media statements, especially during winter, to attempt to deceive the tourism industry about the state of business.  Every tourism business owner and manager is aware how poor the current winter business is on a daily basis.  Last week the predictable media release once again was sent out, exaggerating the ‘state of the tourist nation’, when most in the industry are reporting that their current winter performance is even worse than 2011, which then was labelled as ‘a tourism crisis‘.

Cape Town Tourism conducts a survey amongst its members irregularly, and reported that the 83 members (out of at least 1000 – 1500 accommodation members making up the bulk of its membership, an embarrassingly poor response rate) had experienced unbelievable occupancy levels of 50 % and 39% in April and May, respectively.  Making the figures even more unbelievable is that Cape Town Tourism’s membership is no reflection of the average accommodation establishment in Cape Town, many leading guest houses having elected to no longer be members of the Cape Town tourism body.

It is no surprise that Seasonality is mentioned as tourism’s biggest threat, and blamed for the poor tourism performance, the winter weather being a deterrent for local tourists to visit the city, and the ‘over-reliance on leisure tourism’ leading to mainly summer tourist visitors, it is written. Surprising is that Cape Town Tourism has been tasked with promoting leisure tourism specifically, and just cannot crack the ‘Seasonality’ nut. Last year the tourism body bragged at its AGM how it would promote tourism during the winter season, but its winter advertising activity has been poorly executed, and has resulted in no impact to date!

Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold is quoted in the media release as saying: “If we cannot establish a year-round demand for Cape Town as leisure, business and events destination the industry will remain threatened and we will not be able to grow the sector. This is a critical issue for an industry that employs more than 300 000 people and is the second largest contributor to the Western Cape’s GDP.”  The tourism body does not have a mandate to promote business tourism, even though it tried to expand its advertising campaign with the slogan ‘You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town’ to include conferencing, and setting up businesses locally.  The business application of the campaign has not been visible since the launch.

The media release also records the ‘modest‘ increases in passenger arrivals (it is not qualified if the arrivals were international or local) compared to 2011, a year all in the tourism industry know was the worst winter in years.

The media release is shocking in its poor quality information, in stating that the Pick ‘n Pay Cape Argus Cycle tour and the Cape Town International Jazz Festival took place in April, when in fact they were held in March! We have seen the poor writing quality by Cape Town in the past, but these factual errors are unforgivable!

The shocking conclusion to the release is Mrs Helmbold’s admission that Seasonality is out of control of her organisation, with a waffled identification of what is needed to fix the problem, which the industry is told year in and year out: “The need for a year-round brand positioning and demand-generation strategy to fill beds during the quieter months has been recognised, but seasonality and destination marketing are not one organisation’s concern. We can only solve Cape Town’s seasonality challenges and create year-round demand through partnerships and through understanding the changing needs and travel habits of potential visitors, whether business or leisure. We need collaboration within the industry, innovation, new experiences to promote, joint mobilisation within niche sectors on unusual projects, value-for-money travel packages and convenient access to the destination. We need an exciting calendar of events all year round and we need to cultivate tourism sectors such as food and wine, family travel, extreme adventure and sport”.

It is time that some new thinking is demonstrated at Cape Town Tourism.  The organisation’s strategic and marketing skills clearly are lacking, and even its CEO appears to no longer have the respect she once had, and seems severely taxed by her domestic challenges. She should take responsibility for the poor quality media information which her Communications department is issuing. It is time for new blood at Cape Town Tourism, to save Cape Town’s tourism industry from drowning!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: Twitter: @WhaleCottage

4 replies on “Cape Town Tourism misleads tourism industry on state of winter business (or lack of)!”

  1. Kobus says:

    Chris, your numbers don’t match those of Marthinus van Schalkwyk’s on tourism. The minister reckons the industry is booming:

    Either he’s lying, or you’re simply overlooking the truth conveniently in your ongoing vendetta with Cape Town Tourism…

  2. Hi again Chris – been a while since I chatted on your portal. Again, one is grateful that you draw attention to the shortfalls and challenges that we are faced with here in Cape Town tourism. You mention the challenges, you mention the possible solution ( new blood) but how would you like to see this solution taken to the next level? What sort of action do you think needs to be taken towards the ‘ new blood’? What would you like to see happening in order to bring about a change in the management /improvement of Cape Town tourist industry? What can one do without having to rely on the tourism bodies that seem to be part of the challenge, as opposed to part of the solution? Or how can we collaborate with them? I must say that the content of the speech in the second to last paragraph is a bit of waffle to me. I would like to hear more specifics and actions plans being laid out there. More examples of the proposed solutions e.g ” collaborations” – what sort of collaboration and with who and why and when”. I could go on.
    That’s where I am at right now!

  3. Talk about ‘ongoing vendetta’ Kobus – you seem to have one against our blog, with your continued negative attacks!

    Had you read the article in detail, you would have seen the Minister was referring to the first quarter of 2012 (January – March, our summer months). Cape Town Tourism was referring to April (spring) and May (winter) – very different periods Kobus!


  4. Welcome back Rose.

    ‘Waffle speak’ is what Cape Town Tourism is very good at, and we hear the same ‘solutions’ year after year, but there is no action ever.

    Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee Member for Events, Marketing and Tourism, and responsible for Cape Town Tourism, tried to create a tourism benefit for the 8 Nations Under 20 Soccer Tournament in May, with no benefit at all! The Manchester United/Ajax Cape Town match on Saturday will benefit restaurants and bars around the Cape Town Stadium, but there is no tourism benefit as such.

    The sold out Bastille Festival marquee in Franschhoek on Saturday, despite atrocious weather, proves how attractive events and festivals are in stimulating tourism. Franschhoek’s accommodation was sold out on Saturday evening, and business boomed for most restaurants and other businesses in the village. Once a month over a weekend Franschhoek hosts an event in the winter months, from May – September, and it attracts visitors from Johannesburg and Durban too, not just Capetonians.

    The last Cape Town event of note was the Two Oceans Marathon in early April, and the next big one after the Festive Season will be the Mining Conference early in February, which will sell out Cape Town for about a week. Not even the J&B Met attracts large numbers of non-Cape visitors anymore.


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