City of Cape Town misleads tourism industry on ‘winter’ performance!

One wonders what Councillor Grant Pascoe, the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing, hopes to achieve by bragging about a supposed positive‘winter’ performance, having ‘defied the odds, with visitors flocking to the city’, as reported by the Cape Argus yesterday, when the industry experience is that business this winter has been worse than the very poor 2011 winter!

The first error in the article is defining ‘winter’ as the April – June months. April is not a winter month, containing a mix of summer until Easter, and then going into autumn, and generally has an above average occupancy, given its large number of public holidays, which is normally good for tourism business.  In May winter starts and stretches until the end of August.  This means that the City of Cape Town and Councillor Pascoe are adding apples and pears to come up with meaningless performance information, which excludes the very wet and cold July and August, which were detrimental to the tourism and hospitality industries, to make himself and Cape Town Tourism look good! Yet the article did admit that ‘Cape Town Tourism’s report for April to June found that seasonality remained a challenge. A drop in visitor numbers during winter was an ongoing problem. In response to this, the city needed to find a way to make sure it was an all-year destination’. Every year the tourism authorities blame Seasonality for the poor winter performance, promise to create and encourage more events in this period, and nothing changes, with winter occupancy levels decreasing rather than increasing.

Councillor Pascoe referred to a survey which Cape Town Tourism conducts amongst its members, very poorly as we have seen when participating in the unprofessionally designed questionnaires in the past, and used airport arrival figures as well as visitor information numbers to try to justify his positive message. He also referred to the so-called success of the Thompson’s campaign, based on three poorly designed Cape Town Tourism ads placed in the Sunday Times in June, and the Manchester United and Ajax Cape Town match, which we reported had made no tourism impact at all (he was clever enough to not make a tourism story out of the failed ‘booby prize’ Eight Nation Under 20 soccer Tournament, in return for having lost the bid to host the Africa Cup of Nations in Cape Town early next year)!

Councillor Pascoe praised Cape Town Tourism for ‘having started drafting plans well ahead of winter’, yet its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold had to admit in March that due to budget constraints many of the marketing programs presented to the industry at its AGM in October had to be cut. “We put in a lot of effort and are happy that some of these things are coming into fruition. And we are glad that they worked out favourably.”  Few tourism players will agree that anything has ‘worked out favourably‘ this winter!

Ever the optimist, Councillor Pascoe forecast that Cape Town would be able to ‘double the numbers by next winter‘!  He said: “We will push hard. We know we’re up against many other cities, but these numbers show we can compete with the best of them.”  We have asked in the past, and request again, that tourism officials present an honest picture of the tourism industry, and not mislead those that have a far better overview of the reality of the tourism industry performance than the City of Cape Town and Cape Town Tourism have! (In similar vein, tourism operator Colin Bell has written to Southern African Tourism Update about the exaggerated tourism statistics coming from SA Tourism)!

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

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