Yesterday afternoon Anton Groenewald, Executive Director of the City of Cape Town’s new TEAM (Tourism, Events, Arts, Marketing) Directorate, addressed the French networking group CAP40 at the Alliance Française on the topic ‘Perspective on strategic and policy intiatives to grow the Tourism business in Cape Town‘. He was described as the ‘keyholder that can unlock tourism to the Cape’. Groenewald has become the most powerful person in Tourism in Cape Town, and has a considerable budget.
Groenewald is an interesting man, very honest (often at his own expense) and direct, very goal-orientated, non-political in his actions, and charming even though he may be ruthlessly honest. He is not always ‘media-correct’ in his honesty, yet he does not seem to mind being quoted, no matter how sensitive his response may be to the parties he may be commenting about, as we discovered last year when Cape Town Tourism was blowing its own horn about the number of Twitter impressions it had created by inviting four international bloggers to the city. For Groenewald it is all about the bottom line, his mantra being ‘commercialisation’ to achieve revenue targets. His department has promised Cape Town Tourism R117 million for the three year period from 1 July 2013 onwards, but with demanding revenue and commercialisation targets to be achieved. He certainly means business, and was honest in admitting that a head of Cape Town Tourism who has been in the position for nine years no longer is fresh enough to be on top of her game. He confirmed that its outgoing-CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold did not need any encouragement to not renew her contract. They will shortly start recruiting a replacement CEO nationally as well as internationally. His no-nonsense attitude shows when he stopped Cape Town Tourism PR and Communications Manager Skye Grove from continuing to use its legal firm for a personal matter! Groenewald was told by a number of members of the audience what problems they have experienced with Cape Town Tourism. He welcomed all feedback.
Groenewald related that he had attended a ‘Big Six‘ meeting a few days ago, representing Cape Town’s biggest tourist attractions, being the V&A Waterfront, Kirstenbosch, Table Mountain Cableway, Cape Point, Robben Island, and the Constantia wine route. He emphasised to them that he is focused on conversion from marketing, whether social media or above the line, into hard core bookings. I asked him why the work of his TEAM Directorate is so low key, after a year of operating, and he said that they have just appointed Saatchi & Saatchi to handle all its communication requirements (advertising, PR, and Social Media).
Groenewald’s biggest challenge is the loss-making Cape Town Stadium, and the video he showed us was focused on the behind-the-scenes preparation of the Ajax/Manchester United match last year. He said that a lot has to happen behind the scenes to make an event such as a soccer match or a concert happen. The funniest part of the video was the 1100 umbrella holders who had arrived on the rainy day, and who were not allowed to enter the Stadium with the umbrellas for security reasons, and could not get them back afterwards, which generated negative media coverage for the City. The City team of 2500 – 3000 can prepare events in days, while it would take weeks for an outside company to do.
Cape Town has had major events in the City since the beginning of March, and they will continue into April, which is excellent for tourism:
* Design Indaba
* The Argus Cycle Tour with 35000 participants, and 85000 attendees at the Lifestyle Expo
* Cape Town Carnival on 16 March at which 50000 – 60000 attendees are expected
* Spar Ladies Race at the Stadium, with 15000 participants, on 17 March
* Two Oceans Marathon takes place on Easter Saturday, with 25000 runners and 40000 expected at the Expo
* International Jazz Festival on 5 and 6 April, with 36000 attendees expected.
While we did not see any impact for accommodation from the Manchester United/Ajax match, the City had market research conducted and projected from this that the economic impact of the event had been R 112 million ‘broadly’, and R7,6 million in ‘narrow impact’. Ten percent of the 52228 ticket holders were said to have stayed over for the match, yet 48% of the economic impact was said to have been generated by accommodation, and 23% by food and drink. The media coverage was measured to have a value of R 219 million (mainly broadcast and in print). Given the direct cost of R3,5 million, the economic benefits made this event a success, Groenewald said. He said one should have the ‘right cheese in the trap to attract the economic benefit’.
Groenewald went through the strategy slides far too quickly for all of them to be captured, but the essence was that he wants the different positionings of Cape Town (‘Cape of Great Events’, ‘Creative Cape Town’, Love Cape Town’, World Design Capital‘ and more) consolidated into one, which makes marketing sense. He also wants to ‘create a global world class city experience, comparable with the best that the world has to offer’! He is accountable to 27000 City of Cape Town employees, as well as the citizens of Cape Town, its residents, its ratepayers, and the visitors to the city. His Directorate is working on commercialising the Cape Town Stadium (we were invited to take a copy of the detailed documentation along and to make submissions) and Athlone Stadium; rejuvenate the City Hall (which is 10 years old and requires R 51 million) and the Grand Parade; renovate and redesign the Good Hope Centre; and reposition Cape Town to the BRICS countries, and through events. In addition to Cape Town Tourism’s handout of R 117 million, the City of Cape Town will be giving R 40 million to Cape Town Design for World Design Capital 2014. Six events are planned for World Design Capital 2014. Groenewald could not confirm what is planned for winter, but three of five UK soccer club match proposals on his desk have been confirmed, and there is a likelihood that a Spanish team, as well as potentially Bayer München, could be seen in Cape Town too! The Grand Prix is a definite NO, he said, but two ‘clean fuel’ formula one races will take place.
Groenewald would like to see one events calendar for the City, to start addressing Winter Seasonality. He will only define the success of his TEAM team (with 264 staff in his Directorate) on the basis of measurables such as ticket sales, media output, economic impact, and visitor satisfaction. The City has just appointed tourism consultancy Grant Thornton to measure the value of the tourism to the economy of Cape Town. He mentioned the 1000 x 1000 x 1000 formula of feedback, 1000 departing tourists, 1000 incoming, and 1000 locals to be interviewed. Interesting was Groenewald’s response to the delineation between Cape Town Tourism, Wesgro, and his TEAM Directorate, all handling marketing of Cape Town. The City does Destination Marketing, and Cape Town Tourism handles Tourism Marketing. He had approached Wesgro initially, but he had an ‘awkward conversation‘ with the provincial tourism body at the time. He was ‘not invited by Wesgro’ to talk, so Groenewald decided to ‘occupy his own space for the City of Cape Town’ for the projects which Wesgro could not handle. He described the relationship with Wesgro as being ‘more co-operative‘ now.
We have written before that Anton Groenewald is a very powerful tourism player, his TEAM Directorate controlling Cape Town Tourism directly and indirectly, and he is extremely goal orientated, having been set tough targets himself. Hearing him speak one can only have confidence in the future of the tourism industry in Cape Town, a welcome change!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage