SATSA appoints David Frost as CEO, driving Tourism competitiveness!

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David Frost SATSAThe Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA), an association of tourism operators, has appointed Economist and Tourism Strategist David Frost as its CEO. Given that SATSA represents a large number of tourism operators, and Frost does not fear speaking out, it will be interesting to see how he will drive his association and members to achieve his goal of enhancing the competitiveness of our country’s Tourism industry.

SATSA has more than 700 members who guarantee ‘quality in tourism‘, its website states.  This is achieved by annual assessments which are done of its members, and that all members are bonded, ‘providing a financial guarantee of deposits held against the involuntary liquidation of a SATSA member‘. Members span the transport, tour operator, destination management, accommodation, tourism broker, adventure tourism, business tourism, and tourism service sectors, the bulk of the components of the Tourism industry.  The main benefits of being a SATSA member are the lobbying done with the government on behalf of the industry, networking with other members, an Employee Benefit and Provident Fund, legal advice offered, member discounts, arbitration services, and newsletters.

Frost has a wide experience in Tourism, having moved into the field after working as an economist for a trade union movement, and thereafter at the Premier Group.  As the Group unbundled, Frost was seconded by The Business Trust to Tourism Ministers Pallo Jordan and his successor Valli Moosa.  He chaired the South African Tourism Marketing Partnership Committee,  and developed the country’s international tourism marketing strategy, and implemented it thereafter.  He joined Tourvest, where he was promoted to Managing Director of the Inbound Division, at that stage consisting of thirteen individual companies, for which he had to design a synergistic divisional strategy. He then established Fuller Frost & Associates, which was re-named The Tourism Strategy Company in 2011, offering consultancy services to leading hotel groups and tour operators, many of whom will be his SATSA members now.

Frost has developed destination growth strategies for KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Zambia, the Inhambane province in Mozambique, and for Namibia. Of his three year project in Namibia he said: ‘I was able to assemble a wonderful team and we managed to achieve sustained double digit growth out of our key markets off a modest R30 million budget’.  Prior to joining SATSA Frost prepared a strategy for the Swaziland Tourism Authority.

Explaining how he would move SATSA forward after taking over the reins from Michael Tatalias, Frost said: ‘My approach is to get in touch with the members and progress issues that have a tangible effect on their businesses. To do so I aim to build on the solid bridges that have been forged with the public sector agencies at national, provincial and regional levels and to constructively engage with a view to increasing tourist receipts to the country. I will continue to be guided by my three adages – data driven, market led, and to find solutions that are both practical and implementable’.

I had the opportunity to meet with Frost when he visited tourism players in Cape Town last week. His trip was to hear the industry speak, and to find key strategic thrusts, so that he can develop a member-input driven association.  He wants to unpack arrival statistics, wants to address problems with transport licencing and visa applications, and wants to encourage ‘hubs’ of tourism marketing, i.e. on the hard-hit Garden Route. Knysna and Plettenberg Bay should not compete against each other but rather should work together in pooling their marketing monies to make them go further, he believes.

I liked the fact that he seeks truth and honesty in communication, and with his strong views which he is not afraid to express and his extensive tourism experience he is likely to be an excellent representative of his membership base in addressing issues that hamper tourism growth, including Winter Seasonality in the Cape, and it is clear that he will not allow himself to be fobbed off by any governmental bureaucracy.  He has practical hands-on experience in marketing destinations, and one hopes that SATSA has enough budget to allow Frost to use his destination marketing skills at SATSA, and that he will work with SA Tourism, as well as the provincial and city tourism bodies, in attracting more tourists to our country generally and to the Cape specifically.  One of his first tasks will be to update the SATSA website, we speculate, the design looking very dated!  While he is not a fan of Social Media, he may have to embrace it as his members increasingly use it as a communication medium.

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

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