Tag Archives: ‘Cape Town & Western Cape”

Cape Town Tourism encourages tourists to swim with sharks! Is National Geographic campaign already a flop?

One wonders what is going on at Cape Town Tourism and its marketing of Cape Town, the little that is done! With shock we saw an advertisement for Cape Town on the National Geographic website, alongside the blogposts which their ‘Digital Nomad’ Andrew Evans had written while he was in Cape Town, inviting tourists to the city to ‘Swim with sharks’.  Not only was this advertisement irresponsible in general, but in extremely poor taste, having been posted just days after champion Camps Bay bodyboarder David Lillienfeld was fatally attacked by a Great White shark at Kogel Bay, in False Bay, on 19 April.  The advertisement was Cape Town branded.

The shark attack caused a huge outcry, in that the Kogel Bay beach does not have sharkspotters (Muizenberg, Fish Hoek, St James, Kalk Bay, and Noordhoek have them), and in that National Geographic was implicated in the shark attack, in that Chris Fisher, a documentary maker for the TV channel, had been filming ‘Shark Men in False Bay’, having received a permit allowing ‘chumming’, luring sharks with a mix of fish and oil, to the boat. The permits issued to the film team were withdrawn immediately after the shark attack, but have since been reissued, on condition that the team’s vessel Ocearch only operates near Gansbaai and in False Bay, and that a maximum of 12 sharks may be tagged, reported iol.co.za.  Reuters quoted contradictory research about the effect of chumming on shark attacks. False Bay has 260 Great White Sharks, according to shark scientist Alison Kock, reported the Cape Times. Shark cage diving, mainly talking place in the Gansbaai area, is also blamed for a greater number of shark attacks. The Western Cape provincial government is to hold a special public hearing about shark research and tourism shortly, reports the Cape Argus.

The visit by blogger and Tweeter Andrew Evans kicked off a multi-prong year-long National Geographic marketing campaign jointly sponsored by Cape Town Tourism and Durban Tourism.  No budget figures for the campaign are available, which includes coverage on National Geographic TV, as well as in the National Geographic magazines in limited countries such as China and India.

Readers of the National Geographic blog were invited to ‘follow our Digital Nomad through South African cities‘, and Andrew spent just over a week in Cape Town, from 16 – 25 April, Tweeting his way around the city (he has just more than 15000 followers on Twitter, not an extraordinary number for his international exposure, and surprisingly only about 2300 Facebook likes). Andrew documented his impressions and experiences in only five blogposts about Cape Town. Four blogspot were very short, and the last one was entitled ‘My Cape Town Favorites’ , containing more information, and sharing information about accommodation, restaurants, and sights he experienced in Cape Town.

The restaurant section intrigued me, and it was disappointing to read where Andrew had eaten: Mama Africa; Kalkys; Bread, Milk and Honey; Lola’s, Eastern Bazaar, Noon Gun, Two Oceans, and the Cape Royale, mediocre restaurants at best. The best of the collection was the Planet Restaurant at the Mount Nelson Hotel, an Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant.  Andrew did not eat at Cape Town’s (and South Africa’s) best restaurant (The Greenhouse) or at the Test Kitchen (best chef).  Just after his visit, Chef Luke Dale-Roberts’ The Test Kitchen restaurant made 74th place on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants! We wrote a comment about this on the blogpost, and Andrew replied, writing that his meal at Planet was a memorable one.  We then asked via a further comment how he chose the restaurants he went to, Cape Town Tourism clearly guiding him about this! To our surprise, the comments and Andrew’s reply have since been deleted, probably at the insistence of Cape Town Tourism!  We note that a correction we offered about the ‘Signature (sic) Hill’ winery Andrew wrote about has been corrected!  Despite a Cape Town Tourism media release announcing that Andrew would also visit Robben island and the three wine routes in Cape Town, these attractions were not included in his visit. But he did go up Table Mountain, play with penguins at Boulder’s Beach, kayaked around Cape Point with Lewis Pugh, and visited the Aquarium, Kirstenbosch, Woodstock, Bo Kaap, District Six, Noordhoek Beach, Camps Bay, the V&A Waterfront, Long Street, Muizenberg, and Kalk Bay.  His experiences were mainly Tweeted with a photograph of each of his tourist destinations.  Although Andrew called for recommendations of places to see and visit in Cape Town, and receiving many suggestions, he did not appear to make time to visit any of the more unusual attractions in the city and in surrounding towns and villages.  Surprising is that Andrew did not reply to any of the travel suggestions he received, Cape Town Tourism Communications Manager Skye Grove responding to the more controversial comments (and clearly deleting those that she did not like!).

Andrew spent a week in Durban in the second half of the joint campaign with Durban Tourism, and now advertisements for Durban strongly brand the city (“Durban: The warmest place to be”) on the National Geographic blog, the advertisement and a banner for Durban running alongside the Cape Town blogposts by Andrew, which does not make marketing sense at all!  While Andrew was in Durban he made a fatal error in a racist Tweet “Black woman visiting from Jo’burg & Muslim woman watch the sunrise & the surfers at #Durban beach”. He also Tweeted about OR Thambo being notorious for theft out of luggage (ouch!) – most incoming international flights are via this airport, so the Tweet is damaging to South African tourism in general, hardly what Cape Town Tourism or Durban Tourism should be paying National Geographic for!

The multi-million Rand National Geographic marketing campaign for Cape Town and Durban has not commenced on a good note. One must question the wisdom of two (competing) cities sharing a marketing campaign (as bad as Cape Town Routes Unlimited marketing ‘Cape Town & Western Cape’ as one brand), and why Andrew’s often naive content was not checked for the many mistakes he has made, reflecting badly on our city, the premier tourism brand of South Africa!  One questions what impact this campaign has had for Cape Town, in a period when Cape Town’s tourism businesses are facing a deadly quiet second half of May, as well as June and July! Cape Town Tourism’s shark swimming advertisement is in poor taste and must be scrapped immediately!

POSTSCRIPT 11/5: The Cape Argus has reported that the public hearing will be held on Tuesday.

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

Western Cape tourism to be marketed by Wesgro as a business, focusing on West Africa!

A concern about the future marketing of the tourism industry in the Western Cape, given the closure of Cape Town Routes Unlimited and its incorporation within Wesgro, and the departure of its CEO Calvyn Gilfellan on 31 March, motivated me to call Wesgro and request an appointment with its CEO Nils Flaatten.  Despite the busy and short week prior to Easter, he made time for the interview on 5 April.

The hurdles put in my way to meet Mr Flaatten were considerable, and demonstrated the personality of the organisation and told me more about the company than the time I spent with Mr Flaatten.  It also demonstrated how far removed Wesgro, the Western Cape Trade promotion and Investment agency, is from the Tourism industry, if ‘customer service’ is anything to go by.  When I called to set up the interview, Mr Flaatten’s secretary insisted that I follow ‘protocol’ and e-mail her the meeting request, and tell her who I am.  I had done this telephonically, and it became a power struggle, with constant interruptions from her, before she accepted my meeting request telephonically.  She indicated that it would take a considerable time to get an appointment date, which she would e-mail me!  A Tweet to express my dismay about this lack of approachability by our province’s new tourism head, combined with an e-mail to Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Development, Finance and Tourism, led to a call directly from Mr Flaatten, offering a meeting for a few days later at 11h30, or so I heard.  Mr Flaatten called at 7h45 on that day, asking where I was, having expected me at 7h30!  As a late night blogger and guest house owner I would never have accepted such a time slot, which seemed very ‘Johannesburg’ to me!  Mr Flaatten said he would be out of town for two weeks, and could only reschedule a meeting thereafter.  Yet his secretary called later in the morning, and offered me a midday meeting, which I accepted with gratitude.  For the first time, she offered parking, and took all the relevant details telephonically.  I arrived at the building half an hour early, wanting to make sure that I arrived on time, but I was not allowed into the building as Wesgro had not alerted the parking garage staff at the boom! They refused to let me in, and traffic problems were caused with other garage users wanting to enter.  I had to call Wesgro to ask them to let me in. However, all the staff were in a meeting, and Mr Flaatten’s secretary could not be contacted. I was told that I would be called back.  No such call came, and I had to call again after 20 minutes of being trapped at the boom, and having been threatened by the parking staff that the traffic department would be called if I did not move my car!  I was given a bay number by the Wesgro switchboard and relayed this to the boom operator, but it was refused because it had not been sent to them on the prescribed form!  Needless to say, this incompetent stakeholder-unfriendly introduction to Wesgro twice in one week made my heart sink, and realise how much smarter and visitor-friendly the Western Cape tourism industry is.

I was shocked when I saw the reception area in which I had to wait for Mr Flaatten, which doubled up as an office, with two ugly red chairs. Mr Flaatten’s office did not look much better, the same style ugly red chairs serving as visitor chairs with a rather nice blue desk, but the blue not matching Wesgro’s corporate blue, the functional office having no warmth or professionalism. Mr Flaatten seemed professional but distant, not giving one the feeling that one could ever have a collegial relationship with him in his new role as provincial tourism head. He has headed up Wesgro for the last two years. I was surprised when he asked me to tell me who I am, not what the interview was about, and he made it appear that he knew nothing about me at all!  I at least had Googled his name, and had found out that he went to school in Stellenbosch, served in the South African Navy, and had worked in investment banks in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong.

I told him that other than its name, and having only a broad idea of what Wesgro does, I knew nothing more, and that I wanted to know what its role will be in taking over the duties of Cape Town Routes Unlimited.  Wesgro is governed by the Wesgro Act, and has three duties according to the Act:

*   to attract and retain foreign investment in the Western Cape

*   to grow exports

*   to increasingly attract business to the city and the province

Wesgro is funded by both the City of Cape Town (R10 million) and the Western Cape government (R18,4 million), the R25 million which Cape Town Routes Unlimited received from the Western Cape government being added to give a total of R53 million, larger than the budget of Cape Town Tourism.  The organisation services the province, ultimately reporting to Minister Winde.  It also works with the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee member Belinda Walker, doing strategy planning.  The organisation’s operations include:

*   hosting inward trade missions, at which they try to ‘matchmake’ the visiting delegation members with local businesses via ‘speed dating’

*   outward missions travel overseas, promoting trade with the Western Cape, benefiting from sponsorships for flights and other travel costs from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Any Western Cape business is seen to be a ‘member’ of Wesgro, although one does not take out or pay for a membership. The organisation also looks to stimulate the setting up and development of ‘SMME’s’ (small businesses), including entrepreneurs, emerging entrepreneurs, and start-up businesses.  They also look to grow sectors of Western Cape businesses, and a number of such sector development agencies have been developed, for IT, Craft and Design, etc.  Geographically, Wesgro is concentrating on the ‘West African Trade Corridor’, which includes Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, Namibia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  “The Headquarter for African business should be Cape Town”, Mr Flaatten said.  He shared that a trip to Accra the week before had seen distribution agreements signed with 20 companies represented in the trade delegation.  It was at this point that Mr Flaatten justified his organisation’s take-over of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, saying that Wesgro already has links to the chambers of commerce and influential players in these West African countries, so in the same way they can engage with the leading tourism players in these countries to attract more West African tourists to Cape Town and the Western Cape. He added that the Northern Hemisphere countries of the UK, the USA, Europe and Japan would only show a 1,5 % growth, labelling them as ‘concentration risk’.  Currently most of the Western Cape exports go to the UK, to the Netherlands, and to Germany, in that order. Mr Flaatten also said that 73% of South Africa’s foreign direct investment in Africa comes from Cape Town businesses, mainly being in the financial services, real estate, and hospitality sectors. He added that by 2030 there would be more middle income earners in Africa than in India.  He also emphasised the potential of the BRICS countries.  Further high growth high income countries are Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates. Inward missions coming to Cape Town are from the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, and they offer marketing services, sales support, and call centre services.

Mr Flaatten gave his views of our tourism industry by saying that it has a number of outspoken characters in it, implying that this would be something he would have to get used to!  Wesgro has taken over the 25 Cape Town Routes Unlimited staff, who were in the same building, and will be assimilated into his team, retaining the benefits, and terms and conditions at which they were employed originally.  Wesgro will ‘capitalise on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited’ marketing knowledge, Mr Flaatten said, but I was concerned that he could not tell me the name of the most senior marketing executive (we think it is Debbie Damant, not known to most) that he has ‘inherited’, especially given that the marketing of Cape Town Routes Unlimited had been strongly driven by its then CEO Calvyn Gilfellan.  The Board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, now led by ACSA’s Deon Cloete due to the move of its previous Chairman Peter Bacon to Mauritius, will oversee the activities that are in the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Annual Performance Plan, until the organisation with its Board is dissolved when the Western Cape Tourism Act of 2004 is repealed.  Similarly, the Wesgro Act must be amended, to allow it to additionally manage destination marketing for the Western Cape.

Mr Flaatten requested the industry to give him a month, so that he can get to know his new staff, and what the capacity requirements are, not wanting to be irresponsible in becoming unnecessarily large.  First he must stabilise the staff situation, and then they must focus on planning for the following financial year. They have already hosted a workshop with 100 regional and local tourism bureaus, seeing them as ‘subject matter experts’, and not wishing to duplicate their work, he said. He will also engage with industry representative bodies such as FEDHASA Cape, SATSA, etc, but I left him with a reminder that the tourism industry consists of a large number of small businesses, many not belonging to the big tourism associations, and that their voices should be heard too. Listening to the tourism industry will be the biggest challenge for him currently, Mr Flaatten said. He realises that the ‘Cape Town & Western Cape’ brand is a problem ‘which will not be easy to fix’.

The Board of Directors of Wesgro raises interesting questions.  Board members Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette Du Toit-Helmbold, its Board Vice-Chairman and CEO of the Cape Town Partnership, Bulelwa Ngewana, and Board member Guy Lundy, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town and Wesgro Vice Chairman, may prevent duplication of marketing activity between Wesgro and Cape Town Tourism, but ideally should remain independent tourism bodies, so that the industry benefits from the best of both bodies.  Ravi Naidoo, organiser of the Design Indaba, is well-known and highly regarded.  Interesting too is that Alderman Belinda Walker is on the Board, but does not deal with Tourism matters in the City of Cape Town, which could lead to duplication of tourism management within the City.  One could be concerned about two Boards of Directors managing the duties of Wesgro, until Cape Town Routes Unlimited is closed down legally, and about the incestuous duplication of Board members of Wesgro and Cape Town Tourism.

For an organisation that had a number of months warning of taking over Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and that had taken over its operations four days prior to my visit, I was concerned about the general lack of marketing insight, terminology (other than the branding issue), and discussion that I heard from Mr Flaatten during our lengthy interview.  He did not mention Cape Town Tourism, and how Wesgro will avoid duplication of marketing activities with the city tourism marketing body.  The Wesgro website only shows an amended logo, in that the new duty is incorporated in its descriptor underneath it: ‘The Western Cape Destination Marketing, Investment and Trade Promotion Agency’, and contains a block of information to state that it has taken over the duties of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, with a link to the now defunct tourism body’s website!  I was concerned about the very business-like Wesgro culture, which does not appear ‘customer friendly’ nor service-orientated in simple requests of setting up a meeting and honouring a parking arrangement, which does not auger well for our tourism industry. The offices are functional but unattractive, not matching the tourism industry image. I was concerned that Mr Flaaten did not seem to know anything about Minister Winde’s EDP, which I thought would reside in Wesgro, and would eventually become the home of most Western Cape industry development bodies, the products and services of which Wesgro appears to market.  Mr Flaatten was very responsive in providing the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Annual Performance Plan which they will be working to achieve.  The 27 page Plan lists the mission as marketing the Western Cape as a desirable leisure, business and events tourism destination, and its main goal is to ‘position Cape Town and the Western Cape as a premier leisure, events and business tourism destination in Africa’. However, none of the defined goals are measurable.  The budget breakdown is disconcerting, with about 50% going to staff salaries, and only 24% going to marketing expenditure. Much of the performance is measured in terms of the number of meetings held, the number of convention bids presented, and the only tourism related measurement targets are the number of international arrivals (1,6 million) and domestic arrivals (3,2 million) for the current financial year, Cape Town Routes Unlimited only expecting to generate 5% of each kind of tourist through its marketing efforts, which begs the question as to why it existed in the first instance!

We will give Wesgro the month that has been requested, and await the way forward for the marketing of the Western Cape with trepidation.

POSTSCRIPT 18/4: In a media release sent out by Wesgro a week ago (but not to contacts on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited media list!), Nils Flaatten said that he would continue to report to the Wesgro Board of Directors, and to the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board on a quarterly basis about ‘expenditure and performance against predetermined objects’. “Flaatten assured tourism industry stakeholder (sic) that there would be no ‘disruption to the delivery of the tourism destination function in our province'”, the media release added. It also stated that Cape Town Routes Unlimited and Wesgro will continue to occupy their respective offices in their current building, and that the telephone and e-mail details of the Cape Town Routes Unlimited staff ‘will remain in operation until further notice’.

This Tourism Week asked some critical questions about Wesgro’s new role in handling the Tourism marketing responsibility for the Western Cape in its newsletter on 13 April.

Wesgro, Waldorf Arcade, 80 St George’s Mall, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 487-8600.  www.wesgro.co.za Twitter: @Wesgro

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

What happens to marketing Western Cape tourism, with closure of Cape Town Routes Unlimited?

Loved it or hated it, Cape Town Routes Unlimited tried its best to gain exposure for the tourism industry of the Western Cape province, even though it led to duplication with Cape Town Tourism in marketing Cape Town. Seven years after the Western Cape Tourism Act of 2004 was promulgated to establish a destination marketing organisation, later branded as Cape Town Routes Unlimited, it closed its doors yesterday. A new era starts, with its remaining staff and Board transferring across to Wesgro as of today – no, this is not an April Fools’ Day joke!

In a statement sent to the industry on Friday by Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism Alan Winde, he announced that ‘incorporating trade, investment and tourism marketing under one roof would bring greater efficiency in these strained economic times. It would also ensure coordination of the Western Cape Government’s outward facing marketing initiatives‘.  From today, Wesgro is the ‘single economic development delivery agency of the Western Cape Government, and its official implementation agency’, said the Minister.  He added that financial and human resources would be combined to drive ‘a far more aggressive international marketing campaign with a unified brand focused on business and tourism‘. Combined market research will also be beneficial to both parties, in providing information about the world economy, he added.  While the industry knew about the amalgamation commencing today, it was not told that Peter Bacon, Chairman of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, had left Cape Town for Mauritius. We picked this up in the media conference during a tea break at the Cultural Tourism Conference earlier this week, which was jointly hosted by Cape Town Routes Unlimited and the Western Cape Economic Development and Tourism department.   Another shock was reading the Minister’s announcement that Cape Town Routes Unlimited CEO Calvyn Gilfellan has left the organisation, not allowing one to say farewell to him at the Conference.

One could be concerned about the continuation of tourism marketing within Wesgro, given a new Chairman of the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board (Deon Cloete from ACSA) until the organisation is wound down through the Western Cape Tourism Act being repealed, the departure of the CEO who also was the marketing driver for the organisation, and the departure of all the Marketing executives in the past year, leaving mainly administrative Cape Town Routes Unlimited staff moving to Wesgro.  The Minister stated that a Service Level Agreement has been signed between the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board and Wesgro, for the delivery of the tourism marketing organisation’s functions.  The staff will remain in its current offices in the Waldorf Building, completing the compilation of the Annual Report, and staff receiving the same benefits as they did at Cape Town Routes Unlimited.

The Minister’s concluding paragraph is a subtle admission that all was not well with the marketing of the Western Cape by Cape Town Routes Unlimited: I would like to assure all stakeholders and partners in the tourism industry that we are committed to ensuring even better tourism destination marketing programmes and support. Tourism accounts for 10% of this province’s GDP, making it very serious business. This move will allow us to give this industry the attention it deserves”.

In his last newsletter sent to the tourism industry on Friday, Mr Gilfellan nostalgically looked to the past as well as forward, and said goodbye without announcing his departure from the organisation.  He joined Cape Town Routes Unlimited in 2004, handling Visitor and Membership Services, when Noki Dube was the organisation’s first CEO. After Sheryl Ozinsky was the CEO for a short stint, Mr Gilfellan was appointed as the CEO in 2008. He praised the work of his team in having created ‘a healthy, growing, universally recognised, admired tourism destination marketing organisation… in prime condition’, few in the industry agreeing with this over-exaggeration, and clearly Minister Winde also did not agree, in making such a radical organisational change.  Mr Gilfellan wrote with sadness how the Cape Town Routes Unlimited budget reduced from R60 million at its inception to R 25 million in the past year, due to the withdrawal of the 50% funding of the organisation by the City of Cape Town, monies (R42 million in the current financial year) which were allocated to Cape Town Tourism, which led to duplication of activities in marketing Cape Town specifically, but also the rest of the Western Cape.  He wrote that they found ‘strength, guts and determination to continue delivering work of the highest quality’, despite the financial impediment.

There were many aspects of Cape Town Routes Unlimited which we criticised over the past seven years, but it seemed as if the organisation had finally found its niche in the past twelve months, in its commendable industry communication via media releases, which we received almost daily (compared to the infrequent ones from Cape Town Tourism, which Tweets rather than taxing itself with the preparation of releases), and its marketing activities in Angola, Brazil and Argentina, and in China and India. The biggest criticism of the organisation was the development of a double brand name at its inception, which goes against the grain of all marketing wisdom, being ‘Cape Town & Western Cape’.  The duplication of marketing action lies between Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and the Minister has not shared with the industry how this duplication will be addressed, other than by closing down Cape Town Routes Unlimited. One wonders what synergies there really are between Cape Town Routes Unlimited and Wesgro, with the latter body focusing on marketing our province as an investment and trade destination.  We request the Minister to give the industry far more information as to the ‘route’ ahead in marketing the Western Cape, which is not dealt with in any depth in his letter to the industry.

It will take months for the two bodies to find each other, for the Western Cape Tourism Act of 2004 to be repealed, and for the marketing synergies to be developed, meaning that the marketing of Cape Town and the Western Cape will grind to a halt over the critical winter months, characterised by seasonality, and a time during which marketing is most needed, given the tourism crisis experienced last year.

POSTSCRIPT 4/4: In a harsh letter to Southern African Tourism Update, former co-head of marketing at Cape Town Routes Unlimited and now Director of Sales and Marketing for the Durban International Conference Centre, David Frandsen, said that ‘Wesgro is taking tourism into the wrong direction’.  He called for an autonomous convention bureau for Cape Town, which he describes as being ‘emasculated’ now, given the closure of Cape Town Routes Unlimited.  Even more sharp is his attack against who must be assumed is Western Cape Tourism Minister Alan Winde: ‘It would seem that every decision taken by the politicians seems to retard the proper functioning of tourism marketing in the province, particularly with regard to business tourism. So much potential is bedevilled by those who do not understand how the business tourism industry works!’

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

Cape Town to become a brand, with its own identity

Good tourism news is that finally some constructive marketing work will begin to happen for Cape Town, in that it is to have a brand developed for it.  Currently Cape Town shares the brand name ‘Cape Town & Western Cape’, which was developed by Cape Town Routes Unlimited about five years ago, and which the tourism industry has rejected from day one as being ‘schizophrenic’.

The tourism marketing bodies in Cape Town have stood still for more than a year, having been focused purely on the World Cup, rather than to continue marketing Cape Town.  Even after the event, no visible marketing was seen from both Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, both organisations appearing to believe that their job was done for the next few years ahead.   They too, like tourism players, are surprised that the tourism onslaught has not happened post the World Cup, given all the hype!   The strained relationship between the two tourism bodies, and the Western Cape Tourism Minister Alan Winde’s threat to amalgamate them, has not helped build relationships between the two bodies.  

Creating a separate stand-alone brand for Cape Town is a huge victory, and in my opinion it signals an ‘UDI’ by Cape Town Tourism, declaring to the Minister that the body is determined to go it alone. The announcement of the branding for the city was contained in a long, not always articulate, article written by Cape Town Tourism CEO, Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, in the Cape Argus earlier this week. The article contains the following marketing plans for Cape Town:

1.   “A long-term vision for the decade ahead”, but Mrs Helmbold does not tell us what this vision is

2.   Trends have to be evaluated, and Mrs Helmbold mentions the example of extreme weather conditions, and says Cape Town should capitalise on these opportunities in other parts of the world, with last minute packages.  However, when the UK tourists were snowed in over Christmas, nothing was done locally nor internationally, as both the CEO’s of Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited were on holiday, unheard of for the hospitality industry, when the summer season is at its busiest!

3.   “… Cape Town to lead the way to a new future-fit environment through fundamental change”, a rather meaningless sentence, written in the context of our city embracing “leadership and innovation”, and not hunkering after the way things used to be, is what she is trying to say.  She calls for investing in and testing new ideas.

4.   A “365-day marketing strategy” is mentioned, but no detail is provided.  If this implies a campaign to address seasonality, than it is sorely needed, and should be the priority focus.

5.   In marketing the city, the focus should not only be on Cape Town’s natural beauty, writes Mrs Helmbold.   A series of workshops is to be held to focus on the importance of tourism product development: “We must diversify and invest in new experiences and products”.

6.   Cape Town should be repositioned “as more than just a summer leisure city”.  However, all marketing ever for Cape Town has been focused on the city’s attractiveness to the leisure tourist.   What is needed, Mrs Helmbold writes, is a focus on Cape Town as an attractive business centre, and the encouragement of new tourism entrepreneurs.

7.   The tourist target market must be broadened away from the “white, affluent, well-travelled English speaker”, writes Mrs Helmbold.   Once again, she seems to be out of touch as to the profile of the tourists visiting our city.

I remain surprised about Mrs Helmbold’s lack of understanding of our tourism season.  In the article she writes “While Cape Town’s traditional international season is only starting…”, clearly not aware that the tourism season began in October, and runs through until Easter.

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