Four days ago we called for the establishment of a co-ordinated marketing body representing Cape Town and the Western Cape, given the contradictory articles written in the Cape Times by Cape Town Routes Unlimited CEO Calvyn Gilfellan and City Councillor Tony Ehrenreich.  The day after our blogpost appeared provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde announced a surprise move for Cape Town Routes Unlimited, which will see the provincial tourism marketing body incorporated into the provincial investment and trade marketing body Wesgro from April.

Minister Winde said that the new body does not have a name yet, and it is uncertain if its name will change. Cape Town Routes Unlimited will be wound down, and the province’s tourism, trade and investment marketing will be pulled in under one roof, to ‘bring greater efficiency in these strained economic times’, said the Minister’s media release.  Minister Winde had previously announced the creation of an Economic Development Agency, a co-ordinated body of about twenty associations marketing various business aspects of the Western Cape.  The Agency will provide economic and marketing intelligence, develop an economic vision and strategy, help to attract, retain and build business, create a united brand, and will encourage ‘optimal delivery’ of the new body.  What was not revealed previously was that Wesgro is to become ‘the single economic development delivery agency of the Western Cape Government, and its official implementing agency’ from April.

Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten motivated the incorporation of the tourism body into Wesgro as follows: “Through this move, we can combine our financial and personnel resources to drive a far more aggressive international marketing campaign with a unified brand name focused on business and tourism.  The creation of tourism marketing within Wesgro will result in greater efficiencies, economies of scale and a complete set of services”. He added that data collection will guide the organisation’s understanding of the world economy, and will guide ‘action plans and delivery’. Gilfellan assured the industry that it can expect ‘even better tourism destination marketing programmes and support’, an unfortunate overstatement of the industry’s trust in and support of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, which demise will not be missed.

A task team representing both Wesgro and Cape Town Routes Unlimited is working on the incorporation, and on repealing the Western Cape Tourism Act of 2004, which dictated the setting up of the Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO), which later became Cape Town Routes Unlimited.  The Western Cape Trade and Investment Agency Law Amendment Act of 2005 is to be expanded, to incorporate the function of tourism marketing.

Minister Winde said about the role of tourism in the Western Cape that ‘it is seen as the ugly stepsister when in fact it has the potential to be the Cinderella of our economy.  Tourism accounts for 10% of this province’s GDP, making it a very serious business. This move will allow us to give this industry the attention it deserves’.

Minister Winde would not commit to the incorporation of Cape Town Tourism into the new provincial marketing body, stating that he can only make decisions at a provincial level.  The real wasteful and duplicated marketing expenditure occurs between Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and it is this duplication and resultant cost that should be prioritised before Cape Town Routes Unlimited is incorporated into Wesgro.  Given that both the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape province are run by the DA, one would think that this would be a relatively easy amalgamation to achieve!

Nils Flaatten was appointed CEO of Wesgro earlier this month, having been its Acting CEO since June 2010. He has been a Rotary Exchange student, studied at the University of Stellenbosch, worked in London for Dresdner RCM Global Investors, in Jersey for Barclays Global Investors, in Hong Kong for Citigroup, in London for the Capital Markets Company, was an advisor for the provincial Minister for Development, Economics and Planning, and was the MD of the African Carbon Trust.  Ironically Cape Town Tourism’s CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold sits on the Wesgro Board, with Accelerate Cape Town CEO Guy Lundy (who is closely allied to Cape Town Tourism), and Bulelwa Ngwana, the MD of the Cape Town Partnership, all three also serving on the Cape Town Tourism Board, and others.  It will be interesting to see how Cape Town Tourism’s Mrs Helmbold reacts to the incorporation of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, but she will be out of action until the incorporation takes place, being on maternity leave.

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