Cape Town Tourism responds to criticism of its Australian “Strategetic” Consultant!

It took Cape Town Tourism two days to formulate a response to our blogpost “So who the ‘bloody hell’ is Cape Town Tourism’s Australian strategy consultant?”. The fact that they have responded to our questions regarding the six-month appointment of Australian ‘strategy consultant’ Ian Macfarlane, and dedicated a detailed reply on their website, and ‘advertised’ it on Twitter, shows that our blogpost has hit a sensitive spot!

The Cape Town Tourism reply (see the full response below) was to point out ‘inaccuracies’ in our blogpost, and to ‘contextualise the reasons for the appointment of Strategetic’, they wrote.  In summary:

*  The Request for Proposal for ‘Strategic Support to Cape Town Tourism for the development and implementation of a Cape Town Marketing and Brand Campaign‘  was announced on its website and on ‘Trade World’ (a digital procurement company, it would appear), and sent to consultants on its database, they write. Three proposals (the two other consultancy names not revealed) were short-listed. The bid by Strategetic Consultants was accepted on the basis of meeting the Request for Proposal the best, they had the ‘most appropriate global destination and brand campaign experience’, and the cost was the most competitive, they write.

*   Ian Macfarlane is knowledgeable about Cape Town, having lived and worked in the city for 18 years, they write.  However, the information about Macfarlane’s studies and appointments do not add up, as there is only a 12 year gap between his completed MBA and Tourism New Zealand starting date.  Also, no Cape Town employers are mentioned for the 1987 – 1998 period, but in our research we found his ‘Bios’ stating that he had worked at Engen (GM of Lubricants Division) and Young & Rubicam Cape Town, neither of these jobs making him an expert about Cape Town, or the tourism marketing of Cape Town.  He has not lived nor worked in Cape Town for 13 years, a vastly different city now!

*    Specific ‘inaccuracies’ in our blogpost are stated as being:

1.  the value of the ‘So where the bloody hell are you?’ campaign, its success (or lack of), and its banning is disputed.  Our information was based on Wikipedia, known to be a reliable source of information, quoting reports by the BBC and Australian media about this particular campaign.  However, should it have contained inaccurate information, reflecting so badly on Ian Macfarlane and Tourism Australia, they would have had the right to request Wikipedia to correct this information – four years or more since the termination of the campaign this has not been done!

2.   The effect of the exchange rate on tourism arrivals, or lack of, is justified through a tourism publication – it goes against the grain of experience of every South African ‘exporter’, which includes our tourism industry!

3.  The www.strategetic.co web address for Ian Macfarlane on his Strategetic Consultants’ business card may be a ‘legitimate address’, as Cape Town Tourism claims, but it does not open to the website of Strategetic Consultants. One wonders why Macfarlane would have such a nonsensical website address on his business card.  It takes one to a page with a heading “Welcome to your new Web Hosting Account”, but requests a password and log-in details!  The consultancy’s web address is www.strategetic.com.au, and one wonders why it is not on the business card correctly!

The last sentence of the last paragraph of the Cape Town Tourism response is a farce: ‘We are more than happy to answer questions to the best of our ability in furthering our commitment to transparency and accountability and we always appreciate constructive input’. It took Mariette Du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, four days to reply to our five questions, which are contained in our blogpost about Ian Macfarlane.  Subsequent questions relating to the appointment have been ignored, despite three reminders!  Last night, Mrs Helmbold finally responded, writing that she will only respond to our questions on the Cape Town Tourism website, and not by e-mail: To the extent that your questions raise new issues which require a response on our website, we will update our website for the benefit of all our members and to ensure that facts are accurately presented. We will address any further queries from you in the same way”. The City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Grant Pascoe, has not replied to our e-mail, Tweet, and phone call either. The detailed Cape Town Tourism response follows below:

“Clarity on the appointment of International Tourism Consultant

Published: August 25 2011  By: Cape Town Tourism

In response to the Whale Cottage Blog post dated August 23, 2011, entitled “So who the ‘bloody hell’ is Cape Town Tourism’s new Australian strategy consultant?”, Cape Town Tourism would like to point out a number of inaccuracies in the blog post and contextualise the reasons for the appointment of Strategetic.

The Cape Town Tourism Board approved the appointment of Strategetic in July 2011 for a six month period (until the end of December, 2011) after a Request for Proposals (RFP) was released in June 2011 for “Strategic Support to Cape Town Tourism for the development and implementation of a Cape Town Marketing and Brand Campaign.”

In line with Cape Town Tourism’s procurement policy, the value of the contract did not necessitate a public tender process, but rather a public request for quotations. For the sake of transparency, Cape Town Tourism published an RFP on Cape Town Tourism’s website, on Trade World, and circulated the RFP to consultants on Cape Town Tourism’s database.

Three proposals that met the key criteria with quotations were short-listed and evaluated by the Cape Town Tourism Board. The Board was satisfied that due process was followed, that Strategetic’s proposal best addressed the RFP criteria and that they presented the most appropriate global destination marketing and brand campaign experience – a specific requirement for Cape Town Tourism in light of the need to grow demand in global markets. The business model and fee structure proposed was the most competitive and allows for a risk-share scenario, which ensures greater accountability and will allow for the generation of additional income.

The lead consultant put forward by Strategetic was Ian Macfarlane who has extensive global tourism marketing experience complemented by a good local knowledge and understanding of Cape Town and South Africa, having lived in Cape Town for 18 years and worked in various corporate senior management positions whilst based in the city. To be relevant in the international arena in which Cape Town competes, access to international best practice and expertise, coupled with local knowledge, is very important.

Macfarlane’s verified qualifications and experience include:

  • B. Com., UNISA 1980 – 1984
  • MBA, UCT, GSB, 1985 – 1986
  • M. Phil (applied environmental ethics). U. Stellenbosch) (1996 – 1997)
  • Adjunct Professor: Victoria University Melbourne, Tourism and Hospitality Research Centre
  • Previous Board Member Ehrenberg-Bass Marketing Institute, University of South Australia, Adelaide (2007 – 2010)
  • Previous Board member Tourism Research Council New Zealand
  • GM Marketing Tourism New Zealand (1998 – December 2003)
  • CEO Gold Coast Tourism, Queensland. Australia (2004)
  • Director Marketing, Tourism Australia, Sydney (2005 – 2007)
  • Strategetic Consultants (2007 to date)

Macfarlane has also consulted on a number of tourism projects, including:

  • Brand and marketing strategy for Abu Dhabi (Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority)
  • Product and experiences development for Alpine regions for Victoria
  • Adelaide: Brand strategy (City of Adelaide)
  • Sydney: Tourism brand and strategy development (Tourism New South Wales)
  • Evaluation of the impact of major events on city brand equity (CRC for Sustainable Tourism)
  • Brand strategy for Sydney Olympic Park (Sydney Olympic Park authority)

It is noteworthy that the entire marketing strategy and subsequent execution of 100% Pure New Zealand was Macfarlane’s work. The campaign is often quoted as the most successful tourism campaign ever, and resulted in market share and visitor increases for its entire duration. It still is being executed some 13 years post-launch, which is testament to its solid strategic foundations.

Regarding the inaccuracies presented in the blog, the following warrant a response:

  • The blog’s remark that the campaign cost was $180 million is incorrect. This was possibly confused either with the gross operating budget for Tourism Australia, after overhead deductions) or the unsubstantiated political spin, of the time. The budget for the So Where the Bloody Hell Are You campaign was $18m in year 1 (2006) and $10m in year two (2007).
  • The campaign was not banned in the UK and was flighted there for about 12 months.
  • Research on the campaign, undertaken by highly credible companies, show that the campaign was positioned perfectly on-brand and had good audience responsiveness.
  • Given that the campaign was developed largely to achieve publicity for Australia as a top tourist destination, it substantively achieved its goals. In fact, it is still recalled even after Tourism Australia has run a further three campaigns.
  • With reference the suggestion in the blog of visitor declines to Australia as a direct result of the campaign, it must be pointed out that, given the multi-dimensional array of factors affecting arrivals, the suggestion that the campaign alone dampened visitor arrivals is incorrect and without substantiation.
  • Since it was a global campaign, and was used in all markets, the arrivals (which were not one of the defined measures of the campaign) actually increased during and after the campaign (Tourism Research Australia, IVS Annual Reports – 2007 and 2008).
  • With regards to Macfarlane’s proposition that the exchange rate has little to no bearing on tourism arrivals, research on this matter has been conducted by both Strategetic and also by Tourism Research Australia, who published a report substantiating this; Factors Affecting Inbound Tourism; Tourism Research Australia, (June 2011 – ISBN: 798-9218121-43-9). We will be hosting a seminar dealing with, amongst other things, this topic later this year, for those who are interested.
  • .co is a legitimate address; this can be verified by Melbourne IT (either in Australia or US).

In terms of research, it is true that much money is being wasted by tourism organisations undertaking spurious research; obtaining precise measures to support ‘researched based marketing decisions’.  Much of this research is wasteful as it is predicated on product decision-making models. Criticisms of these approaches have been uncovered and substantiated by many esteemed academics. Cape Town Tourism does believe in research, but preference must be given to customer-centric research rather than purely academic research. Macfarlane has extensive experience in the field of research having graduated with a Distinction in Marketing Research (MBA 85/86) and having worked with many research agencies designing research projects and executing them throughout the world.

The fact that Macfarlane has worked extensively with global media companies is an asset to Cape Town’s tourism establishment.

Macfarlane remains contracted to Cape Town Tourism and as an independent consultant, as agreed in his contract schedule, he is able to travel between projects and clients. He returns to Cape Town on September 5, 2011.

The industry entrusts the strategic leadership of Cape Town Tourism to an industry elected Board who has the fiduciary duty to ensure compliance, good governance and the appointment of a management team with the ability to implement and manage the organisation’s operational plans and activities. Cape Town Tourism welcomes the right of any member to know more about our procedures and motivations behind our appointments, strategies and activities. We are more than happy to answer questions to the best of our ability in furthering our commitment to transparency and accountability and we always appreciate constructive input”.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

6 replies on “Cape Town Tourism responds to criticism of its Australian “Strategetic” Consultant!”

  1. An extremely professional and well formulated response. In light of this it would certainly seem that Ian MacFarlane offers a strong and experienced tourism background which should ultimately be of benefit to Cape Town. External consultants often get an unjustified roasting when they can offer an unbiased and practical viewpoint on a wide variety of problems and topics.

    It would seem prudent if Cape Town can take the plus points out of his recommendations for the benefit of the city.

    Perhaps in the mean time Mr Macfarlane will update his website address on his business card since clearly it must be causing him some embarassment!

  2. Paul says:

    Thank you for this comprehensive response to the questions raised about the appointment of Mr MacFarlane. I agree with Frances – an extremely professional and well-formulated response, not unlike what we have come to expect from Cape Town Tourism. Let’s work together to make this city shine.

  3. I am surprised about your praise Frances, given that you wrote that the ‘So where the bloody hell are you?’ campaign was a dismal failure, confirmed by the research presented on Wikipedia. Yet Cape Town Tourism rejects the information provided, and does not accept that the Tourism Australia campaign was a failure and a massive waste of money.

    Chris

  4. Dear ‘Wyltk’

    I am happy to post your comment if you can take out the disparagement please.

    Chris

  5. Paul says:

    Hi Chris

    I wouldn’t believe everything I read on the internet or Wikipedia. There are misleading information published on the internet about just about all of us. I think what Cape Town Tourism achieved through their response was to put the record straight and that is good enough for me.

    Chris

  6. Dear Paul

    Wikipedia is generally reliable. As I wrote, one is entitled to correct inaccurate information that is published on Wikipedia, particularly if it is damaging. Again this proves the marketing weakness of Ian Macfarlane.

    I doubt that the BBC, The Sydney Herald and other media quoted about the Australian campaign could have all got it so wrong!

    Chris

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