Tag Archives: Tourism New Zealand

Cape Town Tourism responds to criticism of its Australian “Strategetic” Consultant!

It took Cape Town Tourism two days to formulate a response to our blogpost “So who the ‘bloody hell’ is Cape Town Tourism’s Australian strategy consultant?”. The fact that they have responded to our questions regarding the six-month appointment of Australian ‘strategy consultant’ Ian Macfarlane, and dedicated a detailed reply on their website, and ‘advertised’ it on Twitter, shows that our blogpost has hit a sensitive spot!

The Cape Town Tourism reply (see the full response below) was to point out ‘inaccuracies’ in our blogpost, and to ‘contextualise the reasons for the appointment of Strategetic’, they wrote.  In summary:

*  The Request for Proposal for ‘Strategic Support to Cape Town Tourism for the development and implementation of a Cape Town Marketing and Brand Campaign‘  was announced on its website and on ‘Trade World’ (a digital procurement company, it would appear), and sent to consultants on its database, they write. Three proposals (the two other consultancy names not revealed) were short-listed. The bid by Strategetic Consultants was accepted on the basis of meeting the Request for Proposal the best, they had the ‘most appropriate global destination and brand campaign experience’, and the cost was the most competitive, they write.

*   Ian Macfarlane is knowledgeable about Cape Town, having lived and worked in the city for 18 years, they write.  However, the information about Macfarlane’s studies and appointments do not add up, as there is only a 12 year gap between his completed MBA and Tourism New Zealand starting date.  Also, no Cape Town employers are mentioned for the 1987 – 1998 period, but in our research we found his ‘Bios’ stating that he had worked at Engen (GM of Lubricants Division) and Young & Rubicam Cape Town, neither of these jobs making him an expert about Cape Town, or the tourism marketing of Cape Town.  He has not lived nor worked in Cape Town for 13 years, a vastly different city now!

*    Specific ‘inaccuracies’ in our blogpost are stated as being:

1.  the value of the ‘So where the bloody hell are you?’ campaign, its success (or lack of), and its banning is disputed.  Our information was based on Wikipedia, known to be a reliable source of information, quoting reports by the BBC and Australian media about this particular campaign.  However, should it have contained inaccurate information, reflecting so badly on Ian Macfarlane and Tourism Australia, they would have had the right to request Wikipedia to correct this information – four years or more since the termination of the campaign this has not been done!

2.   The effect of the exchange rate on tourism arrivals, or lack of, is justified through a tourism publication – it goes against the grain of experience of every South African ‘exporter’, which includes our tourism industry!

3.  The www.strategetic.co web address for Ian Macfarlane on his Strategetic Consultants’ business card may be a ‘legitimate address’, as Cape Town Tourism claims, but it does not open to the website of Strategetic Consultants. One wonders why Macfarlane would have such a nonsensical website address on his business card.  It takes one to a page with a heading “Welcome to your new Web Hosting Account”, but requests a password and log-in details!  The consultancy’s web address is www.strategetic.com.au, and one wonders why it is not on the business card correctly!

The last sentence of the last paragraph of the Cape Town Tourism response is a farce: ‘We are more than happy to answer questions to the best of our ability in furthering our commitment to transparency and accountability and we always appreciate constructive input’. It took Mariette Du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, four days to reply to our five questions, which are contained in our blogpost about Ian Macfarlane.  Subsequent questions relating to the appointment have been ignored, despite three reminders!  Last night, Mrs Helmbold finally responded, writing that she will only respond to our questions on the Cape Town Tourism website, and not by e-mail: To the extent that your questions raise new issues which require a response on our website, we will update our website for the benefit of all our members and to ensure that facts are accurately presented. We will address any further queries from you in the same way”. The City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Grant Pascoe, has not replied to our e-mail, Tweet, and phone call either. The detailed Cape Town Tourism response follows below:

“Clarity on the appointment of International Tourism Consultant

Published: August 25 2011  By: Cape Town Tourism

In response to the Whale Cottage Blog post dated August 23, 2011, entitled “So who the ‘bloody hell’ is Cape Town Tourism’s new Australian strategy consultant?”, Cape Town Tourism would like to point out a number of inaccuracies in the blog post and contextualise the reasons for the appointment of Strategetic.

The Cape Town Tourism Board approved the appointment of Strategetic in July 2011 for a six month period (until the end of December, 2011) after a Request for Proposals (RFP) was released in June 2011 for “Strategic Support to Cape Town Tourism for the development and implementation of a Cape Town Marketing and Brand Campaign.”

In line with Cape Town Tourism’s procurement policy, the value of the contract did not necessitate a public tender process, but rather a public request for quotations. For the sake of transparency, Cape Town Tourism published an RFP on Cape Town Tourism’s website, on Trade World, and circulated the RFP to consultants on Cape Town Tourism’s database.

Three proposals that met the key criteria with quotations were short-listed and evaluated by the Cape Town Tourism Board. The Board was satisfied that due process was followed, that Strategetic’s proposal best addressed the RFP criteria and that they presented the most appropriate global destination marketing and brand campaign experience – a specific requirement for Cape Town Tourism in light of the need to grow demand in global markets. The business model and fee structure proposed was the most competitive and allows for a risk-share scenario, which ensures greater accountability and will allow for the generation of additional income.

The lead consultant put forward by Strategetic was Ian Macfarlane who has extensive global tourism marketing experience complemented by a good local knowledge and understanding of Cape Town and South Africa, having lived in Cape Town for 18 years and worked in various corporate senior management positions whilst based in the city. To be relevant in the international arena in which Cape Town competes, access to international best practice and expertise, coupled with local knowledge, is very important.

Macfarlane’s verified qualifications and experience include:

  • B. Com., UNISA 1980 – 1984
  • MBA, UCT, GSB, 1985 – 1986
  • M. Phil (applied environmental ethics). U. Stellenbosch) (1996 – 1997)
  • Adjunct Professor: Victoria University Melbourne, Tourism and Hospitality Research Centre
  • Previous Board Member Ehrenberg-Bass Marketing Institute, University of South Australia, Adelaide (2007 – 2010)
  • Previous Board member Tourism Research Council New Zealand
  • GM Marketing Tourism New Zealand (1998 – December 2003)
  • CEO Gold Coast Tourism, Queensland. Australia (2004)
  • Director Marketing, Tourism Australia, Sydney (2005 – 2007)
  • Strategetic Consultants (2007 to date)

Macfarlane has also consulted on a number of tourism projects, including:

  • Brand and marketing strategy for Abu Dhabi (Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority)
  • Product and experiences development for Alpine regions for Victoria
  • Adelaide: Brand strategy (City of Adelaide)
  • Sydney: Tourism brand and strategy development (Tourism New South Wales)
  • Evaluation of the impact of major events on city brand equity (CRC for Sustainable Tourism)
  • Brand strategy for Sydney Olympic Park (Sydney Olympic Park authority)

It is noteworthy that the entire marketing strategy and subsequent execution of 100% Pure New Zealand was Macfarlane’s work. The campaign is often quoted as the most successful tourism campaign ever, and resulted in market share and visitor increases for its entire duration. It still is being executed some 13 years post-launch, which is testament to its solid strategic foundations.

Regarding the inaccuracies presented in the blog, the following warrant a response:

  • The blog’s remark that the campaign cost was $180 million is incorrect. This was possibly confused either with the gross operating budget for Tourism Australia, after overhead deductions) or the unsubstantiated political spin, of the time. The budget for the So Where the Bloody Hell Are You campaign was $18m in year 1 (2006) and $10m in year two (2007).
  • The campaign was not banned in the UK and was flighted there for about 12 months.
  • Research on the campaign, undertaken by highly credible companies, show that the campaign was positioned perfectly on-brand and had good audience responsiveness.
  • Given that the campaign was developed largely to achieve publicity for Australia as a top tourist destination, it substantively achieved its goals. In fact, it is still recalled even after Tourism Australia has run a further three campaigns.
  • With reference the suggestion in the blog of visitor declines to Australia as a direct result of the campaign, it must be pointed out that, given the multi-dimensional array of factors affecting arrivals, the suggestion that the campaign alone dampened visitor arrivals is incorrect and without substantiation.
  • Since it was a global campaign, and was used in all markets, the arrivals (which were not one of the defined measures of the campaign) actually increased during and after the campaign (Tourism Research Australia, IVS Annual Reports – 2007 and 2008).
  • With regards to Macfarlane’s proposition that the exchange rate has little to no bearing on tourism arrivals, research on this matter has been conducted by both Strategetic and also by Tourism Research Australia, who published a report substantiating this; Factors Affecting Inbound Tourism; Tourism Research Australia, (June 2011 – ISBN: 798-9218121-43-9). We will be hosting a seminar dealing with, amongst other things, this topic later this year, for those who are interested.
  • .co is a legitimate address; this can be verified by Melbourne IT (either in Australia or US).

In terms of research, it is true that much money is being wasted by tourism organisations undertaking spurious research; obtaining precise measures to support ‘researched based marketing decisions’.  Much of this research is wasteful as it is predicated on product decision-making models. Criticisms of these approaches have been uncovered and substantiated by many esteemed academics. Cape Town Tourism does believe in research, but preference must be given to customer-centric research rather than purely academic research. Macfarlane has extensive experience in the field of research having graduated with a Distinction in Marketing Research (MBA 85/86) and having worked with many research agencies designing research projects and executing them throughout the world.

The fact that Macfarlane has worked extensively with global media companies is an asset to Cape Town’s tourism establishment.

Macfarlane remains contracted to Cape Town Tourism and as an independent consultant, as agreed in his contract schedule, he is able to travel between projects and clients. He returns to Cape Town on September 5, 2011.

The industry entrusts the strategic leadership of Cape Town Tourism to an industry elected Board who has the fiduciary duty to ensure compliance, good governance and the appointment of a management team with the ability to implement and manage the organisation’s operational plans and activities. Cape Town Tourism welcomes the right of any member to know more about our procedures and motivations behind our appointments, strategies and activities. We are more than happy to answer questions to the best of our ability in furthering our commitment to transparency and accountability and we always appreciate constructive input”.

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

So who the ‘bloody hell’ is Cape Town Tourism’s new Australian strategy consultant?

I have been intrigued by the appointment by Cape Town Tourism of its new strategy consultant from Australia, ever since the city’s tourism body had him on the stage to part-present the so-called ‘Strategic Plan’ for Cape Town almost two weeks ago. The more I have searched for information about consultant Ian Macfarlane, the less I have found!

My first impression of him at the meeting was one of being patronised by an Australian comedian, cracking jokes with a ‘dof’ Cape Town tourism audience which knows nothing.  We were served obvious information about the state of the international tourism world, and told to focus on ‘urban tourism’.  We were told controversial things, such as the exchange rate has no bearing on tourism arrivals, quoting research.  He contradicted himself, being scathing about market research as a discipline, yet when it suited him, he quoted it in support of his statements. We spoke after the presentation, walking to the car park together, and he told me that he has ‘been involved’ with Nielsen and TNS Research.  In preparing this blogpost, I wondered exactly what this meant – has he been a client, or an employee of these international market research companies?

It was his business card that started to intrigue me, which he handed to me when I asked him for it.  Billed by Cape Town Tourism as a brand strategy development specialist, I was surprised when his business card, for his company Strategetic Consultants, has a web address www.strategetic.co, a non-existent address, as it misses the ‘.com.au’.  Can his attention to detail be so poor that he cannot get his company website address correct on his business card?

Macfarlane was presented to Cape Town Tourism members as follows in an e-mail on 28 July: “Cape Town Tourism consulted Ian MacFarlane, brand strategy development specialist and MD of Strategetic Consultants, regarding the business case for Brand Cape Town and a strategic plan for Cape Town Tourism to deliver its implementation. Ian was employed as Marketing Director for Tourism New Zealand from 1998 to 2004 where his team spearheaded the highly successful ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ campaign, where after he was the Marketing Director for Tourism Australia and subsequently launched Strategetic Consultants where he has worked with a number of tourism destinations (only two, as per below) on their brand strategies”.

Ian Macfarlane’s biggest ‘claim to fame’, it would appear, which would have motivated Cape Town Tourism to appoint an international consultant, is his ‘involvement’ (that word again!) with the ‘100% Pure New Zealand” and “So where the bloody hell are you?” campaigns for Tourism New Zealand and Tourism Australia, respectively.  I could find documentation for Macfarlane writing about the ‘100% Pure’ campaign, as the Marketing Director of Tourism New Zealand. In doing the Google search about the Aus$ 180 million Tourism Australia campaign, I had to laugh when I read on Wikipedia that this campaign was a miserable failure, and had to be canned, as the UK media refused to flight it, due to its headline! Tourism numbers dropped as a result of the campaign, not quite what they had planned, one would think.  Surely this is not what Cape Town Tourism wants for Cape Town?  Macfarlane’s tenure as head of Gold Coast Tourism is not mentioned in any of his ‘Bios’.

The appointment by Cape Town Tourism was not pre-announced, odd as he has worked with Cape Town Tourism for the past eight weeks already.  It is the type of news the PR department of a tourism body would have put out.  His name is no longer visible on the Cape Town Tourism website, appearing to have been removed in the past few days.  As a Cape Town Tourism member, Macfarlane’s appointment signalled to me that Cape Town Tourism is incapable of writing a Strategic Plan and a Marketing Plan for Cape Town, having been entrusted with R40 million by the City of Cape Town to market Cape Town as a business and leisure tourism destination, and even more so when I heard Mrs Helmbold’s response at the ‘Strategic Plan’ presentation to my question about Cape Town’s proposed positioning as ‘Inspirational’.

My Google search about Ian Macfarlane interested me from a Marketing perspective, because a strategy consultant with such a strong marketing ‘involvement’ could be expected to be reasonably good at marketing himself and his consultancy services. His profile on Linked-In lists him as MD of Strategetic Consultants since 2007, past Principal at International Marketing Strategy (the previous name of his current consultancy), and past Marketing Director at Tourism New Zealand.  He did tell us that he grew up in Cape Town, and he still sounds very South African, but with an Australian lilt at the end of each sentence.  He studied at UCT for one year in 1985 (MBA?), and his ‘Bio’ on his company website includes B.Comm and M.Phil degrees, not mentioned on his Linked-In profile.  He was a Marketing Director at Tourism New Zealand from 1998 – 2004, says his Linked-In profile.  There is no timing given for his tenure at Tourism Australia as their Marketing Director, but it would appear that he went to Gold Coast Tourism in 2004, and then to Tourism Australia before he started his consultancy in 2007.  He has also been MD of Young & Rubicam Cape Town, and GM of the Lubricants Division of Engen Petroleum.  The only other mentions of his name on Google are a Cape Argus article about Cape Town Tourism’s new ‘strategy’, our blogpost about the ‘Strategic Plan’ presentation, and a fleeting mention in an in-depth article entitled ‘Cape Town Tourism: delivery time!’ by Carl Momberg on his oddly-named blog ‘A Spaniard in the Works’ !  What is interesting is that Momberg does not question Macfarlane’s credentials, but he does write that he requested an interview with Macfarlane via Mrs Helmbold, but that it was subsequently cancelled by Mrs Helmbold, motivated as follows: “…he isn’t a spokesperson for CTT (Cape Town Tourism) and I should put questions for him in writing to her first”, writes Momberg.  If my alarm bells weren’t already ringing, this action by Mrs Helmbold certainly enhanced my concerns, and one wonders what she would be wanting to hide about Macfarlane!

A call to Cape Town Tourism yesterday was most interesting.  The switchboard assistant told me that Macfarlane was no longer at Cape Town Tourism, and that he ‘had gone back’.  She put me through to Mrs Helmbold’s secretary Elana Theunissen, who became very stroppy when I asked questions about how I could get hold of Macfarlane.  She told me that he has left Cape Town, to return to New Zealand, and will return for ‘Phase 2’ on 5 September.  I questioned the ‘New Zealand’ return, as his business card says that he is based in Sydney, but she assured me that it is where he returned to.  The more I questioned her, the more agitated she became, and then said that she had told me previously that Macfarlane is not the official spokesperson of Cape Town Tourism – I have not spoken to her in months, and this information was in Momberg’s blogpost, clearly showing that Macfarlane is becoming an issue at Cape Town Tourism, and someone they no longer want to expose!  I could not help but get the feeling that she was very cagey and suspicious, asking me why I was asking all the questions!  Just ten days ago Macfarlane told me at the presentation that he will be in Cape Town until November.

As a ‘brand strategy development’ consultant, Macfarlane’s website for Strategetic Consultants, when I worked out how to find it, given the incomplete web address on his business card, is very lean on information.  Its home page has the most information, stating that the company is a group of consultants specialising in brand auditing, strategy development, and marketing strategy assessment for ‘high involvement brands’ (one questions whether ‘Cape Town’ is such a brand).  Naively, it assures the prospective client that its consultants ‘have extensive experience and are well qualified in the discipline of marketing’!  Its philosophy is the consultants’ belief that ‘success is predicated on efficient and effective functional relationships within and external to any organisation. This requires focused strategy and co-ordinated implementation’. The Consultancy’s guiding principle is ‘Strategy and implementation optimisation without incremental costs’! It states that its Approach is: “We have adopted a framework which makes maximum use of resources and information already available to the client organisation.  The process is adjusted to meet specific client requirements and modified in accord with investigation findings“, with a diagram showing the flow of a project from Project specification, to Analysis, to Consolidation (the Report, it explains), to Feedback, and finally to Recommendations.  The website information is all very simple (too simple for comfort!), and without any ‘consultant-speak’!  Five consultants are listed in addition to Macfarlane, whose ‘Specialist Area’ is denoted as ‘Strategy Development’.  On the ‘Projects and Assignments’ page, the Strategetic Consultants’ website lists Quick Engen shops, Hertz, Goodyear, J&B, and Smirnoff as South African brand projects, as well as Tourism Australia, Tourism New Zealand, City of Adelaide, Sydney Olympic Park, and the City of Sydney.  A Blog page has a latest blogpost by Macfarlane on Brand Equity, written in October 2009!   Interestingly the Contact page has only an e-mail contact form, without a telephone number, e-mail address, or physical address!

I found only one further website with a link to this particular Ian Macfarlane, being Veridian Media, an Australian social media consultancy.  On this site Macfarlane’s ‘Bio’ (confirmed by Veridian Media CEO David Warwick as being the same Ian Macfarlane as being used by Cape Town Tourism) is listed as an academic, but not one of these university sites offer any link to this Ian Macfarlane when one does a search: he is listed as ‘Adjunct Professor’ at ‘University of Victoria’ (actually the name of a Canadian university – the Australian one is called ‘Victoria University’!); member of the Advisory Board of the University of South Australia’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Sciences; and lecturer at the School of Marketing at the University of New South Wales, which is part of their un-mentioned Australian School of Business.  He is also said to have ‘provided strategy and management services’ to Sydney Olympic Park, Tourism Australia, ‘J&B Whiskey’ (sic), Engen Petroleum, and Hertz, as listed on his Strategetic Consultants website.  Interesting is that his work for Tourism New Zealand, City of Sydney, and City of Adelaide, is not mentioned, as per his Stategetic Consultants’ website, and that clients are listed, which are not listed on his company website, being SAS Software, the Delta Motor Corporation, and surprisingly, Discovery Channel, one of the communication channels proposed for Cape Town Tourism!  Macfarlane and I spoke about Twitter as we walked to the car park, and he told me that he was surprised at how big Twitter is in Cape Town, it being insignificant in Australia.  The Veridian Social Media website’s most recently recorded Tweet is a month old!

What interested me too, the more I thought about the mystery consultant, was the questions I posed to Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold (and to the City of Cape Town Executive Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, Grant Pascoe, who did not reply), in the interest of transparency, to which Mrs Helmbold replied as follows:

1.  “Why was an Australian consultant used, and not a Cape Town or South African one? “Strategetic’s proposal addressed all elements raised in the RFP (Request for Proposal) and presented the most cost-effective fee structure based on a risk-sharing model.  In summary, the Board approved Strategetic’s proposal because it best addressed the RFP criteria, proposed consultant/s had the most appropriate actual global destination marketing and brand campaign experience, of importance to CTT in the light of the need to grow demand in global markets, and the fee-structure was the most competitive”.

2.   What exactly are Ian Macfarlane’s credentials that make him suitable to work with Cape Town Tourism? The managing consultant proposed for this project was Ian Macfarlane, B.Com (sic), MBA., M.Phil., who has extensive international experience having developed and executed brand and marketing strategy for New Zealand, Australia, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Sydney and Abu Dhabi (This city is not mentioned in any of Macfarlane’s ‘Bio’s’). Furthermore, he has a solid understanding of the local environment, having worked and lived in Cape Town for 18 years in various senior management positions in the corporate sector. It is likely  he will be assisted by Lyska Nelson B.Sc. MSc., previously Marketing Research Manager Tourism New Zealand, Catriona Fraser (formally Marketing Director of Tourism New South Wales and The Australian Tourism Commission),  and Carolyn Childs, previously Tourism Director of TNS Research”.

3.   How much is he costing Cape Town Tourism?  “At least 63% of the remuneration would be ‘at risk’ (not explained)…for hard costs and a percentage of time (termed basic fee) , at predetermined intervals between July and December, not exceeding R170 000; on a commission basis (termed commission) for successful generation of third party campaign contributions (payable ex contributions and not ex CTT (Cape Town Tourism) budget)”.

4.   What exactly is his mandate? Over the next few months CTT will be required to execute both strategy development, operational activities and engage with extra-organisation partners. The required scope of work includes the following elements:

a.  Strategy development in association with the CEO with input from the Board of Cape Town Tourism and management including the following key considerations:

i. The drafting of a consolidated “future-fit” destination marketing and brand strategy

ii. 3 Year Operational Plan developed

iii. Budget revisions made

iv. Alternative funding channels identified

v. Action plan developed and implemented

vi. Concluding three cities marketing strategy which should reflect an urban city strategy, collective and individual plan, timetable and funding model, South African Tourism engagement plan and an individual and collective support plan.

vii. Development of the CTT support programme, which stipulates and arranges the necessary private and public sector support for the destination strategy as well as funding requirements.

viii. Development and implementation of the programme funding plan.

b.   Support of partner activities. Irrespective of the strategic programme; CTT is required to perform against its mandate. In this regard, the organisation will be required to shift its marketing activities and focus in the immediate future. This will require a number of activities alongside those, which will inevitably be executed in the day-to-day execution of tasks at hand. These incremental activities are likely to focus on partners who will assist and contribute to the campaign development and execution. Activities could include:

i. The selection, appointment and overseeing of an advertising agency to execute the brand campaign.

ii. Media plan; the development of a core media plan including the assessment of channel options and most appropriate media owners

iii. Budget reformulation: A process to reassess and attain Board approval for a revised budget”

5.   Can you confirm that he will be working with you until November?  “The Board approved the appointment of Strategetic in July 2011 for a 6 month period (until end December 2011)”

We question whether, as an Australian ‘tourism consultant’, Ian Macfarlane is the right man to have been appointed to prepare a ‘Strategic Plan’ for Cape Town, and what credentials he has specifically to do this job in preference to a Capetonian or South African consultant, particularly as he lists Sydney as a client, a city which is a significant competitor to Cape Town!  The actual scope of the project sounds vague and even academic in many respects, and could be a concern in itself, as a poor brief could lead to a poor plan.  The domestic market must be an important focus, one would think, in these trying times, but it is not mentioned in the Cape Town Tourism brief at all.  Given Macfarlane’s poor ability to market himself, his business, and Australia, we seriously question his ability to do this for Cape Town!

POSTSCRIPT 16/10: It is interesting to note that the website for Macfarlane’s Strategetic Consultants is now a blank one, especially poor for a marketing consultancy!

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

Cape Town Tourism Marketing presentation: nothing brand new, collection of clichés!

Last week Cape Town Tourism hosted a series of four workshops on “A Strategic Plan for Cape Town Tourism and Destination Brand for Cape Town”, invitations having been sent to Cape Town Tourism members.  The presentation was wishy-washy, and most certainly did not meet the promise of a “Strategic Plan”.  I left the two-hour presentation concerned, and convinced that Cape Town Tourism does not have a clue about Marketing, despite the appointment of an Australian consultant!

What was not previously declared by Cape Town Tourism was that it has appointed Ian Macfarlane of Strategetic Consultants in Sydney, who has worked with the organisation for six weeks already.  One wonders why a consultant had to be appointed at all, if Cape Town Tourism is the City of Cape Town appointed marketing agency of ‘Brand Cape Town’, and had Lianne Burton as its consultant Marketing Manager (we have previously questioned her Marketing capability, being a journalist),  and why a consultant from Australia has been appointed on a five month contract, and at which cost!  Macfarlane was introduced as the ex-Marketing Manager for Tourism New Zealand,  which developed the ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ advertising campaign more than ten years ago, CEO of the Gold Coast Tourism Bureau in Australia, and Marketing Director of Tourism Australia, which launched the controversial campaign ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’, when tourism dipped after the Olympics.  This campaign cost $180 million, and was deemed a failure and withdrawn, being banned in the UK for the use of the word ‘bloody’, and tourism numbers dropped rather than increased, according to Wikipedia!  Macfarlane is an ex-Capetonian, who was once MD of Young & Rubicam Cape Town, and left the country about 18 years ago.  Surprisingly for a marketing consultant, it was hard to find information about him on Google!  

Instead of the presentation by Macfarlane on ‘the strategic plan proposed for Cape Town Tourism’ (the plan should be for ‘Cape Town’ as a brand anyway, and not for the organisation!), as indicated in the invitation Cape Town Tourism members were sent, Macfarlane entertained us with a humorous take on the global tourism scenario.  He said that the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reflects an increase in tourism, but that this is not the case, as the body is counting cross-border Asian travel, something SA Tourism has been blamed of as well, in counting shopping visits from neighbouring South African countries.  He spoke about cities winning tourism awards, which is nice for them, but that these do not translate into bookings, as we have seen with the recent TripAdvisor top destination award.  He candidly said that he hasn’t a clue about the future, and that no one knows for sure!  “Times are tough, and friends are few”, he said!  He said that tourism will be successful if many little things are done a little better, rather than doing one big thing.  These were hardly the quips we were wanting to hear about a serious topic, being our livelihood!  He talked about ‘conspicuous consumption’, having led to over-extended consumers, and that a new post-materialism era had begun. This means that consumers are looking for better value, are cutting back on their expenditure, and have become more conservative in spending their money. ‘Urbanisation tourism’ is a trend too, Macfarlane said, in that tourists like to experience the music, museums, art, and entertainment in cities. Bush holidays are on their way out, he added.  He told us that South Africa is not competing that well in a tourism context.  He reiterated that the only visuals one sees of South Africa, in SA Tourism marketing campaigns, is the Big 5, which means that these campaigns miss 70 % of the world’s travellers visiting cities.  While many expected South Africa to fail during the World Cup, it was a success he said, and left an overriding impression of its great cities in which the soccer matches took place.   The marketing of our cities has not been carried through, and now SA Tourism is pushing wildlife tourism again, he said sarcastically!  Wildlife is not unique to South Africa, shared with other African countries, thus not giving our country a unique positioning.

Macfarlane shared with us ‘learnings from the rest of the world’:

*   Visitors are the most important element of tourism, not the suppliers of tourism services.  Visitors are changing all the time.

*  There are no ‘silver bullets’ to fix tourism. A portfolio of events is needed, not one big one.  He sarcastically wished us good luck in hosting the proposed Grand Prix, saying that it had led to a financial loss for Melbourne, and had not grown tourism to the city.

*  If there is no demand, there are no sales, which means that one must get into the mindset of the traveller. 

*  Communication must be on travellers’ terms, meaning that Cape Town should not be packaged aspirationally, ‘badge value’ no longer being important to tourists.

*  There is no correlation between the exchange rate and tourism arrivals, a contentious claim!

*   ‘Destinations don’t sell themselves.  They need a USP (unique selling proposition), representing the sense of the city, touching different people at different times’

*   The ‘mindful consumer’ is tougher, looking for value, wanting to see and do more at no or little cost.  He/she wants to expend energy, cycling being popular, and wanting actively engaging experiences, in contrast to ‘restorative’ ones.

None of the above was a ‘strategic plan’, and was more of a consultant-speak overview of the world!

When Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold introduced the session at the Baxter Theatre, I was concerned when the word ‘Marketing’ was not mentioned at all.  Contrary to the invitation to hear the presentation of a ‘strategic plan for Cape Town’, Mrs Helmbold talked about an ‘intervention strategy’  that was to be an open-forum discussion, to which they wanted input.  It was not clear what Mrs Helmbold was addressing when she took over from Macfarlane.  Much of what she had said at the Brand Cape Town presentation was re-packaged, but with some changes.  For example, the upturn Mrs Helmbold had predicted for 2014 just two months ago is no longer on the table, saying that we will never recover to 2008 levels.   She urged us to become ‘scouters of change’.  Consumers are depressed.  She said it would be suicide if we looked for new markets, such as business tourism and the domestic market, and neglected the 80 % of tourists coming from our traditional European (Germany, Netherlands, France and Italy), UK, and USA markets, contradicting what she had said at the ‘Brand Cape Town’ presentations.  The marketing message for Cape Town must be changed to be relevant to more people.  Most people in the world are in ‘survival mode’, and not thinking of travelling.  “We must speak to people in their mindset, so that they put us on their bucket list”!  In the past 24 months, 118 tourism businesses closed in Cape Town.  No job creation is occurring in tourism, given the reduced tourism growth since 2008.  We are over-reliant on the traditional long-haul market, and should attract more locals, but the international tourism spend is far more lucrative.  The domestic market is the toughest ‘nut to crack’, as it comes with such established preconceptions about a city like Cape Town, e.g. it rains all the time, it is so expensive, it is so ‘racist’, it is so clicky, and it is so far away!  For the domestic market these are realities.  This market should be attracted to Cape Town for short city breaks.

Further highlights mentioned by Mrs Helmbold reflecting marketing activities included:

*  Cape Town should package tourism around events already hosted rather than creating new events. 

*  airfares to the country are high, and discussions are taking place to address this. Increased demand is needed for airfares to drop.

*   Cape Town has some of the world’s best 5-star hotels, but also good value for money B&B’s and guest houses

*    the knowledge for Cape Town must increase, and change.  Here Mrs Helmbold  went down the ‘Brand Cape Town’ workshop presentation route, justifying a broader positioning for the city in being a centre of academia, business and creativity.

The only element of a ‘Strategic Plan’ I picked up was its Vision: “to make Cape Town a ‘must visit’ city”!  This means that visitors must be encouraged to come now and spend more.  Very briefly, some marketing activities were mentioned, too specific to be a ‘Strategic Plan’, including:

*  promotions of the city, with showcases on Discovery (interestingly, the Tourism New Zealand campaign also focused strongly on the Discovery channel) and National Geographic channels, a joint project with the tourism offices of Durban and Johannesburg, as well as of SA Tourism.  Within these programs, city-specific ads and promotional programs will be placed.

*   packaging food and wine events under one umbrella, to establish Cape Town as the Gourmet Capital of Africa (the city cannot lay claim to this, as this accolade belongs to Stellenbosch)

*   tourists must go beyond the usual city tourist attractions, and should be involved in the history of the city, in experiencing the story of freedom in a creative way, and incorporating the Fan Walk.

*   proactive PR

*   do more direct marketing with the consumer via the Cape Town Tourism website, with real-time bookability

*   ‘community-building’ on-line via social media

*  appointment of an ad agency this week, to create a brand campaign, to be launched at the Cape Town Tourism AGM om 17 October.

*   local content about Cape Town is to be created and distributed via the Cape Town Film Commission

*  reviewing and probably reducing the number and location of the Cape Town visitor centres, eighteen being too many.

*   A Brand Ambassador campaign, using Cape Town residents as communication icons, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Olympic swimmer Natalie du Toit, and SABC3 Expresso Show and Kfm presenter Liezl van der Westhuizen.  The day after the presentation, the Cape Argus headline screamed “Tutu: tax wealthy whites”, hardly the brand ambassador needed for Cape Town! 

*  inviting visitors to Cape Town to attend blog club meetings

*  targeting the ‘young black market’

‘Cape Town’ is a brand that is 361 years old, and is a ‘city of villages’.  It still has a very generic image, and stands for a ‘cloud of things’.  The cloud must give the tourist enough reason to come to Cape Town, concluded Mrs Helmbold. 

It was clear to me that there is no exact ‘strategic plan’, let alone a Marketing Plan for Cape Town, which is what we were expecting!  It was a collection of clichés!  A discussion arose around my question about the proposed positioning of ‘Inspiration’, which Mrs Helmbold harps on about for Cape Town, despite it already having been used for Edinburgh and Korea, and even by Pick ‘n Pay!  Mrs Helmbold’s response, saying that it is hard to find something unique to say for Cape Town, and that Cape Town would be packaged ‘as a basket of unique propositions’, despite the appointment of an international consultant, made me realise that she has no understanding of Marketing!  Scary, when one considers that the City of Cape Town has entrusted R30 million of our ratepayers’ monies to Cape Town Tourism to market our city in the next twelve months, with a new Marketing Manager, coming from an advertising agency, and who is only starting at Cape Town Tourism in September!  Oddly, no summary of the ‘strategic plan’ has been sent to Cape Town Tourism members who could not attend the presentations, nor to its media list.

The report about the ‘strategic plan’ by the Cape Argus, with a headline “Cape Town to launch global drive for tourism”, appeared exaggerated relative to the information we heard in the presentation.  The report states that the plan presented by the tourism body was a response to a report by the newspaper about the city’s tourism industry being in crisis, but we challenge this, in that work on the plan commenced seven months ago, coming from the ‘Brand Cape Town’ workshops!

POSTSCRIPT 15/8: A lengthy report about the ‘Strategic Plan’ was sent to Cape Town Tourism members after our blogpost was published this morning!

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