One could see it coming! The marketing of Cape Town and the Western Cape province has been a problem for the last number of years, in that the province and the city were run by the Democratic Alliance and ANC parties, respectively. That is, until last year, when the Democratic Alliance won the city and the provincial elections. The new MEC for Economic Affairs, Finance and Tourism, Alan Winde, vowed from the word go that he would address the strained relationship between Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, as far as each body’s marketing of Cape Town in particular, but also of the Western Cape province, is concerned. Now the relationship is about to become more, rather than less, strained!
One needs to go back in history to paint a picture of continuous turmoil in the tourism industry. Initially Cape Town Tourism was marketing Cape Town, and the Western Cape Tourism Board marketed the province, a harmonious relationship existing between the two tourism bodies, one funded by the City of Cape Town, and the other by the province. As the political parties changed, new Ministers of Tourism at provincial level tried to reinvent the wheel, and the biggest change of all was the establishment of the Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO), taking over the old Western Cape Tourism Board, as well as the marketing role for Cape Town from Cape Town Tourism, about seven years ago. Cape Town Tourism only retained its role as Tourism Information agency.
Numerous complaints from the tourism industry about the lack of marketing visibility of Cape Town, the “gateway” to the rest of the Western Cape, were aired, and the new DMO, which became known as Cape Town Routes Unlimited, was blamed for not knowing what it was doing. Political differences between the province and the City of Cape Town, as well as the lack of Cape Town Routes Unlimited’s marketing performance, led the City to withdraw its 50 % contribution to the running of Cape Town Routes Unlimited two years ago, leaving that body vulnerable in terms of its funding, and crippling it in terms of its marketing role. The City signed an agreement with Cape Town Tourism, whereby it allocated its previous Cape Town Routes Unlimited funds to Cape Town Tourism, with the responsibility for the agency to market Cape Town in addition to its tourism information role. Due to its funding cuts, Cape Town Routes Unlimited was forced to cut its marketing projects dramatically, and to focus mainly on marketing the province.
However, Cape Town Routes Unlimited did not leave the marketing of Cape Town out of its marketing strategy, and once again the industry complained about the duplication in the marketing of Cape Town by both bodies, something that the new DMO had been created to avoid. When Winde, and his counterpart in the City of Cape Town, Felicity Purchase, met last year, the two marketing partners agreed that they would encourage co-operation and that they would avoid duplication where possible. Winde confirmed that there would be no consolidation of the two bodies. The industry was told that a strategy of co-existence between the two bodies would be presented to it, but no such strategy has been forthcoming in the past year. Cape Town Tourism was forced to appoint a Cape Town Routes Unlimited director on its Board (this is not reciprocated on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited board), to ensure that the two bodies were aligned.
This week the Minister changed his mind, and made the shock announcement that he is “pushing for the speedy implementation of a new efficient destination marketing model so that the region may benefit from the current window of opportunity created by the Soccer World Cup”, reports Southern African Tourism Update. Now this sounds like a ludicrous statement as a start – another DMO in the making, when we have one already? Did we not just host the most amazing World Cup without integration of the two bodies? What window of opportunity is the Minister referring to? Why did he not get his act together, and create a united body before the World Cup, when it was needed most? Accommodation in Cape Town and the Western Cape was not well booked for the World Cup, and the city did not have a single soccer team setting up a base camp in it.
Reading the Southern African Tourism Update article, and having been closely involved with the setting up of the DMO whilst I was Deputy Chairman of Cape Town Tourism, it sounded like deja vu. The Minister wants to set up a new DMO, with a new “trading name”, responsible for the “marketing of the province, regions and cities within the Western Cape – as well as single tourism brand for the destination.” This is exactly what Cape Town Routes Unlimited is meant to be, currently having the schizophrenic brand name “Cape Town and Western Cape”, all of which was criticised by the industry when it was launched about 5 years ago!
The new DMO would be solely funded by the Western Cape province, according to the Minister, and all municipalities in the province must contribute to the DMO, including the City of Cape Town, endangering the marketing role which has been allocated to Cape Town Tourism. Members of Cape Town voted by overwhelming majority to support the acceptance by Cape Town Tourism of the marketing of Cape Town at its AGM two years ago. Municipalities must present their marketing plans to the new DMO, it is proposed, and define how they will support the marketing activities of the DMO. The Minister also wants to move the head office of the DMO from Burg Street to the V&A Waterfront, in a building to be called “Tourism HQ”, to be “more visible and accessible to tourists”! Now this is something I do not understand, given that Cape Town Tourism is responsible for tourism information and accommodation bookings, via its network of tourism bureaus around the Cape Town metropole, including Somerset West and Strand. The first problem one saw was when Cape Town Routes Unlimited set up a “Gateway” tourism bureau at the V&A Waterfront, taking the “ownership” of it away from Cape Town Tourism, even though it is staffed by and carries the branding of Cape Town Tourism!
The municipalities were presented the new model by the Minister last week, and they have been given two months to table their response. It is interesting to see how the new Cape Whale Coast DMO will deal with this news of the Minister, as it set itself up as a marketing agency for the coastal area stretching from Rooi Els to Gansbaai and including Hermanus. This DMO is already making the fatal error of encouraging the members of the local tourism bureaus to become members of the DMO, in addition to being members of the bureaus.
Winde motivated his new strategy on the basis of “absolute duplication of national, provincial, and municipal marketing resulting in taxpayers’ money being spent three times in the same place”. He stated that the Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited marketing of the city and the province caused confusion, and that the city and province did not have a clearly defined marketing strategy.
Not surprisingly Cape Town Tourism is not happy with the Minister’s announcement, and its Board announced last Friday that it will oppose the Minister’s move. CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold’s words were carefully chosen when she wrote: “Cape Town Tourism has noted the proposal and embarked on a comprehensive negotiation process with the City of Cape Town and the office of the MEC. The Board of Cape Town Tourism has indicated that it is not in agreement with the proposal in its current format.”
She continued by stating the support of the City of Cape Town for the marketing role of Cape Town Tourism in marketing the city, exactly what the Minister proposes to change. She wrote: “Cape Town Tourism is committed to protecting the interests of tourism in Cape Town and finding a workable solution that will most effectively realise the tourism opportunities in the city, whilst eliminating duplication and confusion. Cape Town Tourism has received reassurance from the City of Cape Town that we are and will remain the City’s tourism promotional and marketing body and that Cape Town Tourism’s structure will not change.”
It is disturbing to see that the same tourism marketing issues are being addressed again, and that tourism history is repeating itself, a waste of taxpayers’ funds in itself. It appears that every new provincial Minister of Tourism in the Western Cape sees it as his role to redesign the tourism bodies and their role, much like new Marketing and Brand Managers like to change their marketing strategies and advertising campaigns (and ad agencies at times too), just to make their mark.
This is likely to become another long drawn-out battle between the City and Province about the marketing of our precious brand “Cape Town”!
POSTSCRIPT 26/7: Cape Town Tourism has sent out another e-mail to its members, reiterating its view about the Minister’s proposal, and has made the document available, inviting comment and input from its members: “I informed you of the proposed centralised model for tourism marketing that was put forward by the MEC for Tourism and Economic Development, Minister Alan Winde. Cape Town Tourism has indicated to the office of the MEC and the City of Cape Town that the proposed model for a single, provincially centralised tourism destination marketing structure and brand for Cape Town and the Western Cape is patently misguided. If implemented, it will have negative consequences for tourism in Cape Town” , wrote Cape Town Tourism CEO today.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com