It is interesting to see how the Western Cape government, and even Cape Town Tourism, have reacted to the feedback that the Cape Tourism industry is in crisis, stated in a Cape Argus front page story featuring information from our blog as well as referring to an open letter to the tourism industry by Collection by Liz McGrath GM Tony Romer-Lee.  Alan Winde, Minister of Tourism in the Western Cape, has announced that the BRICS (Brazil, India, China, Russia, and even locals from South Africa) are the tourism market of the future.

Without spelling out the exact details of what is planned, a Cape Argus report earlier this week highlighted what the Western Cape is planning:

*  ‘Escape to the Cape – Whatever the Weather’: this campaign is to be aimed at Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.  The name is clumsy, another way of saying Green Season, but there has been no sign of the campaign actually having been launched, as claimed in the article.

*   attending trade shows in Brazil and Argentina in September, organised by the South African embassies in those countries

*   a road show to China, Korea and Japan by Cape Town Routes Unlimited CEO Calvyn Gilfillan. Cape Town has just been awarded the Preferred Tourist Attraction 2011 by the World Broadcasting Union in China, beating the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, Spain, Germany, Italy, and Paris. Sun International has also been on a marketing expedition in China in the past month.

*   market to the west coast of Africa, rich in oil, with huge numbers of wealthy individuals.  Clive Bennett, CEO of the One&Only Cape Town, told me at a recent function that Nigeria has a population of 160 million, of which 20 % are hugely rich, yet most have not heard of Cape Town!

*   Exhibiting at the FILDA International Trade Exhibition in Luanda, Angola, last week, and the Western Cape was the only South African province to exhibit.  Minister Winde will be visiting Angola in September.  Cape Town Routes Unlimited’s Debbie Diamant, who headed the exhibition, said that Angola is an important growth market, but marketing material must be prepared in Portuguese. Obtaining visas to South Africa is one of the greatest barriers to tourism.

Adding to this, CEO of Cape Town Tourism Mariette du Toit-Helmbold said the (now amended) positioning  ‘Inspirational, value-for-money destination’ will be ‘branded’ (it appears she does not understand that ‘Cape Town’ is the brand, not the positioning!) for Cape Town.  She plans to ’leverage events’ (held in summer!) like the Cape Town International Jazz Festival and the J&B Met, but exactly what she plans to ‘leverage’ is not stated!  A joke is that she seriously states that the new “100 Women 100 Wines’ competition to be held in Cape Town next month, and run by Spill blog with TOPS, will ‘stimulate domestic tourism arrivals’!  Cape Town Tourism is marketing the event heavily, as if it has nothing else to do!!

The same Cape Argus report contained same political point-scoring from ANC ex-Premier Lynne Brown, blaming the DA for the ‘tourism crisis’, saying that it was due to ‘funding cuts, the distress of thousands of workers who may lose their jobs, and adverse elitist perceptions deterring visitors from other provinces”!  Minister Winde reacted to the criticism, countering that it was not only tourism, but that all business sectors in the Cape that are struggling. 

An interesting e-mail from S A Tourism, written by its Trade Manager, provided interesting insights into the Chinese market: 68000 Chinese tourists visited South Africa in 2010, a 62% increase.  They stay for 10 days on average, and are most likely to visit Gauteng, and then the Western Cape. They enjoy wildlife and the scenery, and visiting the soccer stadia.  She also provided hints and tips to the hospitality industry, in dealing with Chinese tourists: they love green tea, sausages, fruit, yoghurt, eggs and bacon for breakfast; they eat ’2-minute’ noodles in the morning; they prefer Chinese food but are interested in trying local food; they like our seafood, especially abalone and lobster; they enjoy a braai; they do not like sweet desserts; they like our fresh fruit; they enjoy going to the casino and to see a live show; they enjoy karaoke bars; they enjoy receiving small hand-made gifts; they like seeing the clouds in our clear skies, and the stars at night;  wireless internet is important, and an adaptor for their plugs, so that they can charge their camera, laptop and phone; they prefer 4- and 5- star hotels, and guest houses too. 

We have always been told that Cape Town is unique in suffering seasonality of business in winter.  I was surprised therefore to speak to a Johannesburg tour operator, who called to express his surprise about our recent newsletter spelling out the doom and gloom about the Cape Tourism industry.  He believed that the Cape receives almost all the tourism business in the country, and therefore should be flourishing relative to other parts of the country.  He told me in what dire straits the Gauteng tourism industry is in, and this was confirmed by the shock news that The Grace hotel in Rosebank, Johannesburg, will be closing at the end of August, as it is no longer financially viable to operate it.

While it is commendable that the Western Cape’s Tourism department is acknowledging the tourism crisis, we worry about Cape Town Tourism’s ability to react to the it, still being without a Marketing Manager, and not spelling out its immediate plans to address the crisis.  The tourism body will be doing a road show to share its Marketing Plan with its members on 10 and 11 August.

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