Entries tagged with “Ian MacFarlane”.
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Tuesday 8th April 2014 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
What excellent news it was to see on Twitter yesterday afternoon that now former Councillor Grant Pascoe has defected to the ANC for ‘personal reasons’, a decision Mayor Patricia de Lille (who appeared to be a close friend), said caught her by surprise. She announced that he has been stripped of his position as Councillor and as Mayoral Committee member of Tourism, Events, and Marketing with immediate effect. We have been very critical of Pascoe’s lack of marketing knowledge and leadership, once again leaving our City’s tourism industry without a marketing plan for the forthcoming winter, which kicked in earlier than usual last week!
The announcement was made by the ANC, and not by Pascoe himself. The political party said: ‘Councillor Pascoe joins an overwhelming number of South Africans, who despite finding themselves in other political parties, recognise the ANC as the only organisation with the track record, capacity, and determination to build a South Africa’. Pascoe explained that he was unhappy with the direction which the DA was taking, and had discussed this internally. To avoid a fight, he decided to leave. He said he feels ‘at home‘ in the ANC, EWN reported! Yet on Pascoe’s Facebook page for his ‘political organisation‘, his ‘About Grant Pascoe’ still states: ‘The Democratic Alliance is South Africa and Cape Town’s best hope for a better future for all our people‘!
Pascoe served as a City of Cape Town DA Councillor for 13 years, and as a Mayoral Committee member for eight years, the last four of which were heading up the Tourism, Events, and Marketing portfolio. Two years ago he initiated the creation of a Tourism, Events and Marketing directorate, which reported to him and is headed up by Anton Groenewald. Pascoe’s sole contribution was to bring soccer events to Cape Town, which made no impact on the tourism industry in terms of bookings, reflecting his personal interest in soccer. From the outset we have criticised Pascoe’s incompetence in the Tourism portfolio: (more…)
Thursday 19th April 2012 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Last week Cape Town Tourism invited its members to attend a Marketing feedback meeting, to share with them what the organisation has done in terms of marketing since it launched its Marketing Strategy with fanfare at its AGM six months ago. It was also an opportunity for Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold to reconnect with her members, still being on maternity leave, which is due to end next month.
The highlight of the meeting was the re-introduction to Cape Town Tourism of Anton Groenewald, the new Executive Director of Tourism, Events, and Marketing at the City of Cape Town, reporting to Mayoral Committee member for this portfolio Grant Pascoe. While Mr Pascoe has been an ineffective figure head of this department since he took over this portfolio, Mr Groenewald has a good track record of a tough no-nonsense approach to the management of public tourism monies. He worked for the City of Cape Town ten years ago, and was instrumental in the closing down of the previous Cape Town Tourism, and the creation of the new amalgamated Cape Town Tourism. Mr Groenewald left the City of Cape Town to take over the management of the Argus Cycle Tour, and thereafter the FNB Big Walk, and was most recently working in the office of the Premier of the Western Cape, giving him a good all-round management and public service experience. He mentioned that the Cape Town Stadium is one of the key assets he will manage for the city, and is the toughest one of all. Since May 2011 the City has been supporting Cape Town Tourism, when Councillor Pascoe was elected to the Mayoral Committee. Mr Groenewald emphasised that his department is City-focused. His role will be to enhance the co-operation and collaboration between the City and Cape Town Tourism. He will also connect with the tourism industry directly, not explaining in which regard he will do this, but if it is to receive feedback, it would be most welcome. Cape Town Tourism receives the largest chunk of the City’s R426 billion budget, at R42 million per year currently, he said.
Enver Duminy, the acting-CEO in Mrs Helmbold’s absence, shared that the past six months have been tough in terms of budget, and that they had to ‘bite the bullet’, ‘put their money where their mouth is’, and ‘think out of the box’.
Mrs Helmbold provided the background, repeating what members had heard before in that Cape Town now is positioned as the ‘City of Inspiration’, going beyond its ‘Natural Beauty‘ positioning of the past. She reminded us that the new pay-off line for Cape Town is ‘You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town’, which was prominently displayed in the slides and banners on the stage of the beautifully renovated Fugard Theatre. She acknowledged that the past six months were not easy, due to the funding shortage, but she did not explain the reason for the funding problem, having been very confident at the AGM last year, when the campaign was introduced to the industry. She recapped, stating that the main marketing goal is to increase the demand for Cape Town, not only in terms of tourism, but also its business and education sectors. She said that Cape Town had ‘nothing to be ashamed of’, and in fact is on a par with or exceeds its competitors. She mentioned that most of our business comes from the USA, the United Kingdom, and Germany, saying that these countries were all seriously affected by the recession, showing that she is misinformed, given how well Germany is doing, and what great numbers of German tourists have come to our country in this past summer.
The Cape Town Tourism marketing campaign was designed to attract the domestic travellers to take a short break in the city, as well as attract international visitors, offering them a broader economic and business tourism proposition. The marketing approach is three-pronged:
· Increase demand
· Increase their spend when the tourists have arrived in the city
· Capitalise on the greater number of arrivals in benefiting the tourism industry.
The ‘Inspiration’ communication campaign presents Cape Town as a thriving and vibrant city against a ‘jaw-dropping backdrop’. Mrs Helmbold admitted publicly for the first time that ‘Inspiration’ is not a unique differentiator for Cape Town. The campaign ‘juxtaposes the usual with the unusual’, and is built on ‘stories of our own people’, she said, adding that Cape Town is packaged as ‘an unexpected city wanting to be discovered’. The New7Wonders of Nature and Cape Town winning the 2014 World Design Capital bid, as well as other impressive media accolades and awards, were good for Cape Town, and the past summer was better than expected. But she added that they had not achieved the advertising budget to ‘spearhead the full campaign’, meaning that they had to re-prioritise, with hard work lying ahead. Mrs Helmbold took credit for the media coverage for the New7Wonders of Nature and winning the 2014 World Design Capital bid, little of which was generated by Cape Town Tourism! The organisation has redesigned its website, and achieves 500000 visits, especially from Brazil, she said.
Velma Corcoran has been the Marketing Manager for the past eight months, and she impressed with her professional and charming presentation of the marketing activities of the past six months, and those lying ahead, designed to counter seasonality and to grow tourism demand. She showed the audience a video entitled ‘An Unexpected Cape Town’, which mixed footage of Cape Town with grainy out-of-focus unattractive stills shots of the city, which was launched to the travel trade and media at ITB in Berlin last month. It has been put on You Tube, and has had 30000 hits to date. An Events Calendar was compiled, and 20000 copies printed quarterly, but its print run has not been enough, and will be increased to 50000. Cape Town Tourism has been involved with the Volvo Ocean Race, Design Indaba, Cape Town International Jazz Festival, the Beer Festival, and the Toffie Pop Festival, mainly having a stand at each event. At the Design Indaba, for example, they had an interactive stand, with 1000 tiles which visitors had to attach to the wall. They also hosted YFM during the J&B Met, and 30 international journalists during the Cape Epic, the media interest being greater for this event than for the Argus Cycle Tour and Two Oceans Marathons combined, Mrs Corcoran told the audience.
To counter the perception that Cape Town is expensive, events packages have been put together with Mango and Thompsons, providing an airline ticket, accommodation, and tickets to the event at very affordable prices. At the Cape Town International airport the new campaign message is visible in the Arrivals and Departures sections. Cape Town Tourism has also just had the campaign erected on the exterior of its offices in Burg Street. The refreshed website has simplified navigation, and the content a website visitor will see is determined by the country from which one is visiting the site. A Cape Town Tool Kit was also developed, allowing access to an ‘on-line hub of images and itinerary ideas’, which the trade, the media and Cape Town Tourism members can access. A Brand Ambassador campaign, to teach the Cape Town Tourism staff about marketing, has also been launched.
Mrs Corcoran said that they will be going to Indaba next month, sharing space on a new Western Cape Pavilion with thirteen product owners representing expected and unexpected aspects of Cape Town. A Three Cities Alliance has been established with Johannesburg Tourism and Durban Tourism, through which they share with SA Tourism what they have achieved, and to prevent duplication of activities. Mrs Corcoran had to admit that Johannesburg Tourism was not able to fund any planned joint marketing campaigns, and therefore it left Durban and Cape Town to jointly take on an amended National Geographic campaign, and to drop the Discovery campaign, which had been announced at the AGM as the most important marketing activity its Australian marketing consultant Ian Macfarlane had organised. Mr Duminy told me at the meeting that Mr Macfarlane has completed his contract with Cape Town Tourism, while Mrs Corcoran said he is still working with them! His name was not mentioned at all during the presentation! The National Geographic campaign has the potential of exposure in 173 countries in 37 languages, with 20,3 million online unique visits, as at February 2012. National Geographic will work with Cape Town and Durban, ‘the first urban tourism collaboration of its kind in South Africa’, said the Cape Town Tourism media release about the joint campaign, which for Cape Town will feature Boulders’ Beach, Robben Island, District Six, Woodstock, Bo Kaap, Table Mountain, the city’s wine routes, as well as its design, innovation, and inspirational strengths:
· Sending ‘Digital Nomad’ Andrew Evans to Cape Town (he has just arrived) for a two week period, and he will Tweet (@Wheres Andrew) to 14000 followers and blog (receiving 2,8 million unique visitors per month) about his visit.
· A TV crew will document Andrew’s visit
· 60 second ‘vignettes’ will focus on the ‘sounds of the city’, e.g. the Noon Gun, ghoema music, with exposure to 11,4 million viewers in the UK, 3,9 million in Germany, 7,4 million in the Netherlands, and 4 million in Africa.
· Advertorials will go into the National Geographic magazines, with a joint readership of 600000, in the USA, China, India and Australia
· On-line travel guides will gain exposure for 12 months, from July 2012 – May 2013.
· An one-hour documentary about Cape Town and Durban will be featured six times on the National Geographic channel between December 2012 – June 2013.
A domestic campaign ‘Discover why Cape Town warms up in winter’ will run in airline magazines, while ads with members’ special winter offers will run on Five FM, the Sunday Times, in-flight magazines, and on the Cape Town Tourism website. Four top international Travel Bloggers have been invited to Cape Town, and will address a travel bloggers’ conference in August.
Comparing the Marketing presentation of last week with the promises made at the AGM in October – one should question why the joint venture with the Johannesburg and Durban Tourism bodies for the then planned Discovery and National Geographic campaigns was announced at the AGM before any agreement had been signed, the organisation losing face in the inability of Johannesburg Tourism to participate in what was planned as a R24 million campaign, each city to have contributed R8 million – the planned reduction in the number of Visitor Information Centres, the planned tiered membership program, the City Brand Ambassador campaign (which was to have included Archbishop Tutu and TV and radio presenter Liezel van der Westhuizen), and the Nightsbridge accommodation booking system were not addressed in the Marketing presentation last week.
POSTSCRIPT 1/6: Other than having attended Indaba, no marketing action is visible from Cape Town Tourism over the extremely poor winter period. The organisation has only Tweeted once about the 8 Nation Under 20 soccer tournament taking place in Cape Town now, seemingly seeing it as a non-event, as do most Capetonians and the city’s news media. Last night the Twitter account of Cape Town reported on a dinner at Harbour House in the V&A Waterfront, and a few days before that the husband of Velma Corcoran, the Marketing Manager of Cape Town Tourism, wrote a blogpost for the Cape Town Tourism blog about the Gugulethu Wine Show, which took place last weekend! Cape Town Tourism’s Tweets are identical tot he Tweets by its Communications Manager Skye Grove.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Sunday 1st January 2012 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Looking at 2012, I consulted some Numerology sites, and I was reminded of the prediction that the world will end on 21 December this year, an interesting focus to start the year with, and encouraging one to make the most of this year. Adding up the numbers in 2012, giving a total of 5, the emphasis this year will be one of Change, Change and Change, as one site wrote. A political change is forecast for the USA, more natural disasters are predicted, and the world economy looks to remain shaky. We enter the Year of the Dragon later this month, being the 5th and a very powerful sign in the Chinese calendar, signalling change, power, and improvement.
What does that mean for us:
* Tourism from Europe and the UK will remain depressed. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her New Year’s Eve address last night that this year will be even tougher than last year, but she has promised to do everything in her power to stabilise the Euro, introduced ten years ago today, and to build a stronger bond in the European Union. The UK market is likely to remain depressed, and no great increase in tourism numbers can be expected, with the exception of February, a popular travel month for Britons who like to get away from a bitterly cold winter, and who like to celebrate ‘Valentine’s Month’ in the Cape. Bookings for February already look promising for Whale Cottage Camps Bay. August has become a relatively good tourism month, despite it still being winter, with many Europeans coming on holiday. This year this period coincides with the Olympic Games in London, which may reduce tourism numbers in the first half of the month.
* South Africans will remain the foundation of tourism this year, and the summer season will end early, with Easter falling on the first weekend of April. However, there are six public holidays falling on weekdays this year, and these are normally good for tourism business. A 5-day long weekend, from 27 April to 1 May, could be a last summer highlight for the hospitality industry.
Other predictions we would like to see become reality are the following:
* Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited being amalgamated in one private sector driven body, to prevent the current duplication of marketing activity and spend, with sharper strategic and marketing thinking. Cape Town Routes Unlimited will be incorporated into Wesgro in April. There is no sign of the new Cape Town Tourism “You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town” campaign or its effect, which was launched locally with great fanfare at the AGM in October, and internationally at World Travel Market in London in November. Any work that Cape Town Tourism’s UK trade and media representative may be doing is not bearing fruit. Its Australian consultant Ian Macfarlane seems to have vanished, his contract having ended last month. Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold is on maternity leave, and one can speculate that no marketing of Cape Town will happen until she returns, if the past month is anything to go by. We would like to see a greater transparency by Cape Town Tourism in how it is spending its members’ and Cape Town ratepayers monies (R40 million), information which Mrs Helmbold has refused to release to date!
* A new Eat Out editor and Top 10 restaurant judge, given that the current incumbent has lost credibility, and a fairer and transparent judging process.
* Better support of Cape Town and Winelands restaurants by locals, especially in winter, when unbelievable specials are offered
* Better service in restaurants, shops, and in any other businesses dealing with the public. Franschhoek, for example, is fast losing its professional image due to poorly trained staff, often left to their own devices, without any management support.
* Better ability of businesses to accept service and other feedback, in the interest of improving things, rather than to be defensive and vindictive about it.
* A longer life for new restaurants, which means that they need to do better research to understand their market and potential diners before opening, and must build loyalty.
* A reorientation of when the country goes on holiday, and its bosses in particular. It seems crazy that businesses close on 15 December for 2 – 3 weeks, and that hospitality and tourism bureau management goes on leave, at a time when business is at its peak, instead of in winter, when business is at its poorest!
* A total revamp of labour legislation (a big dream, I know!), in discouraging employee departures without giving notice, greater checking of employee references, the development of a register of unreliable staff to the benefit of all employers, and a better balance in the rights of employers. If there is one aspect of business that most owners complain about and are most influenced by in terms of service delivery it is staff. Such changes may lead to higher employment.
* A better rates dispensation by municipalities, to recognise that most accommodation establishments and other tourism businesses operate at 50 % occupancy at best in winter, yet must pay rates in full.
* More responsible reporting about the state of tourism in the Cape by the media and tourism bodies, and to not exaggerate its status.
* More responsible behaviour in terms of the effect that our lifestyle has on climate change, the negative effects of which were well demonstrated in 2011.
* More kindness and niceness to others, putting the ‘social’ back into Social Media!
We wish all our guests, suppliers, staff, tourism colleagues, friends, and readers a successful, healthy, and bubbly 2012!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Monday 17th October 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
A R32 million three-year advertising campaign to promote Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg is in the pipeline, if the three city tourism bodies approve their contribution of R8 million each to the campaign, reports the Daily News.
Designed by controversial Cape Town Tourism’s Australian Strategetic Consultant Ian Macfarlane, the campaign is said to be flighted on Discovery (a client of Macfarlane, as we reported previously, but not mentioned by the newspaper) and on National Geographic channels, with ‘billions of TV viewers’. The viewership figure is widely exaggerated, Wikipedia reporting that Discovery Channel has 431 million and National Geographic Channel 160 million viewers internationally.
The Daily News refers to Macfarlane’s ‘success with tourism ventures in New Zealand, Australia and Abu Dhabi’. We have previously written about the failure of Macfarlane’s Tourism Australia campaign. The campaign is said to start in April 2012, meaning that it will not benefit the tourism industry for summer at all. While it would be noble for the timing of the campaign to address seasonality that Cape Town suffers from specifically, it could be a failure if flighted only in our winter months.
Discovery Channel is said to make an hour-long movie about South Africans’ lifestyles, and National Geographic will produce a 30-minute programme. For Durban, the joint campaign would counter the loss of 1,9 million tourists in the last five years, translating up to R2 billion, the article reports. SA Tourism will also be requested to contribute R8 million to the marketing campaign.
Information about the presentation by Macfarlane to Durban Tourism about the new joint marketing campaign appeared in The Mercury too last week, but no reporting about the approval of the funds has been seen in Cape Town and Johannesburg-based media, nor national media. The Mercury listed Macfarlane’s experience with the ‘Pure New Zealand‘, the failed Tourism Australia campaign, his association with Gold Coast Tourism, and marketing for Sydney and Abu Dhabi. It also mentions campaigns for Auckland and India, which did not appear on Macfarlane’s Strategetic Consultants’ website (and surprisingly contains no information about the consultancy anymore), nor can they be found on a Google search. In The Mercury, Macfarlane is quoted as saying that Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban are not well known globally. He is also said to have expressed the view that SA Tourism’s marketing of the country is focused around the ‘Big Five’ and natural beauty, when 78% of the world’s tourists are ‘urban travellers’. His criticism of the marketing by SA Tourism is interesting, given that SA Tourism is expected to be one of the four funders of the joint city marketing programme. Macfarlane said:“Our campaign through this three cities joint tourism marketing initiative aims to put South Africa’s three top urban hubs in the global spotlight. We have negotiated agreements with major channels such as National Geographic and Discovery, which will see a dedicated programme created for Durban, Cape Town, and Joburg (sic)“, interesting in that the agreement has been negotiated without clarity of funding from all four the parties. “It’s an unbelievable package that we have negotiated and an opportunity that should not be missed. I am optimistic the cities will secure the funds and hope SA Tourism will come on board”, he concluded. Macfarlane added that the cities would get more than R32 million in value from the proposed programme.
Today Cape Town Tourism reveals to its members its advertising campaign, designed by its advertising agency Ogilvy Cape Town.
POSTSCRIPT I7/10: I spoke to Phillip Sithole, CEO of Durban Tourism, who was featured in the articles, after trying to reach him six times during the day. Each time he made me call back. He was evasive in providing further detail, saying that the campaign is still confidential. He did not know which of the cities have had their contribution to the campaign approved, and said that they were meeting SA Tourism next month, to discuss it with them. He said that each city was to get an hour-long programme, which would be flighted regularly over the three year period. He emphasised the Lifestyle content of the programme, focusing on the urban lifestyle each city offers, including restaurants, entertainment, events, accommodation, education, music festivals and more. Coverage would not only be on the TV channels but also in the affiliated magazines of the channels. He became very agitated and defensive when I asked him if he knew about the failure of the Tourism Australia campaign, saying that failure was good, and meant that Macfarlane would have learnt from it! He said that he believes in the proposed campaign, and supports it.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Thursday 15th September 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Chairman: Cape Town Tourism
15 September 2011
MEMBERSHIP OF CAPE TOWN TOURISM
Thank you for your letter regarding the status of our Whale Cottage Camps Bay membership of Cape Town Tourism, dated 8 September 2011. In your 9-page letter you request us to motivate why Cape Town Tourism should not terminate our membership due to our Blog, and more specifically, selected comments on it!
I thank you for the opportunity to set the record straight in terms of the allegations you make about our alleged ‘barrage of cyber-criticism’, ‘cyber attacks’, and ‘CTT bashing’ in your letter, and for the challenge to revisit our policy as far as comments on our Whale Cottage Blog goes. As the criticism is about our Blog, I am posting my reply to you on our Blog, so that members of Cape Town Tourism should be informed of your proposed action, and allow them to participate in the debate about Social Media and its responsible use in tourism marketing, being a public interest matter.
For the background, you will no doubt know that my PR company Relationship Marketing previously, and now my Whale Cottage Camps Bay, have been a member of Cape Town Tourism for about 20 years, motivated by our belief that it is the right thing to be a member of one’s local tourism bureau, and we have adopted this policy in the four towns in the Western Cape in which we have Whale Cottages. In addition, I was a Board member of Cape Town Tourism for a number of years, of its previous (still not yet wound-up) Section 21 company, and was its Deputy Chairman, working closely with then-CEO Sheryl Ozinsky to run the most successful tourism bureau in the country at the time. Our loyalty towards Cape Town Tourism has been visible to your CEO, in that we assisted her to get her current job, and in that I invited her to address members of our Camps Bay Accommodation association, which I head up, to motivate our members to become members of Cape Town Tourism. In fact, we made it mandatory for members of our association to be members of Cape Town Tourism, until our members regrettably voted against this membership criterion a few months ago, due to their dissatisfaction with the benefits of membership of Cape Town Tourism, leading most Camps Bay guest houses to not renew their membership of your organisation.
You may also know that we have written a WhaleTales newsletter for the past ten years, and it is a tourism newsletter, including general news about tourism in Cape Town and the Western Cape, and news about local restaurants, the wine industry, the film industry, whale watching, and any other news that is related to tourism. Our Whale Cottage Portfolio Blog was started three years ago, and we publish a daily post about a tourism-related topic. Our blog is known for its honesty, and achieved the honour of a Top 10 listing of ‘Most Controversial Blog’ in the SA Blog Awards last year. You will note our blog credo is “independent.incisive.informative”, and we have lived up to this at all times. Over time, both the newsletter and blog have achieved a substantial readership. Our writing has not changed over the past ten years, and Cape Town Tourism has been allowed to contribute input and response over the years. In the past three months (i.e. out of 92 blogposts), we have written nine blogposts about Cape Town Tourism and its marketing activities, and another 21 have referred to Cape Town Tourism in a secondary manner.
It is therefore a surprise that we should receive your letter of allegations relating to our recent writing about Cape Town Tourism, given that it is no more or less in quantity than before. What has changed in content is that we have become more critical of the Marketing activities (or rather, lack of) by Cape Town Tourism, after it became clear to us that there was no recognition of nor action by your management of the tourism crisis in our city, until we wrote about it on our Blog, and it was then picked up as a front page story by the Cape Argus. In our capacity as a member of Cape Town Tourism, as a ratepayer of Cape Town, and as a writer, it concerned me greatly to hear your CEO answer a question about the positioning of Cape Town at the ‘strategic plan’ presentation at the Baxter Theatre recently, which reflected her obviously uninformed Marketing understanding. The fact that she had to call in consultants to write the plan, and Australian ones at that, deserved intense debate in the interest of the industry.
Our response to your adverse allegations about our Blog is as follows:
* No Code of Conduct has ever been sent to us as members, and therefore not signed or agreed to in acceptance. In the past week your offices have not been able to honour our request to send us such a signed document.
* Your nine-page letter refers repeatedly to us not treating Cape Town Tourism, its staff, and its representatives with ‘honesty, respect and dignity’, as per the Cape Town Tourism Code of Conduct, in six comments and two blogposts on our Blog, for which you present examples of alleged ‘disrespect’, but no allegations of dishonesty nor loss of dignity are made or substantiated by you. We reject these allegations with contempt, given that our blogposts and comments have not been designed to prejudice Cape Town Tourism and its agents.
* You write about the ‘immense volume, intensity and frequency of the criticism’ (clause 5.1.1), ‘frequency and intensity of these cyber-attacks’ (clause 5.1.2), and ‘torrent of criticism’ (clause 5.1.3), and it demonstrates your lack of understanding of Social Media. None of these alleged criticisms of frequency by yourselves are contrary to any code of conduct nor to Social Media practice, and cannot be linked to an alleged ‘attempt to denigrate CTT (Cape Town Tourism)’, as claimed by you.
* You refer to “Twitter posts” (the word is ‘Tweets’) as being a problem, yet present no evidence of this!
* You (mistakenly) refer to a commenter on our blog as a ‘follower’, implying that we have a special relationship with our commenters! Most commenters are unknown to us, especially as they use false names and/or gmail addresses. Interesting is how you take one comment out of hundreds on our blog out of context, to support your ‘argument’! You have not fairly highlighted the numerous replies to comments that I have written, defending our relationship with your CEO, and stating over and over again that nothing that we write is meant personally about her or her colleagues. We have also expressed over the years our respect for your CEO and the good work that she and her team has done in amalgamating the Visitor Bureaus in Cape Town. This does not mean, however, that some activities by your organisation are not worthy of criticism.
* Your clause 5.1.3. is devoid of all logic
* Your clause 5.1.4. alleges ‘CTT bashing’, which you link directly to comments being disallowed on our blog. As the owner of a blog, one has the right to disallow defamatory, disparaging, and dishonest comments. Whenever we post a blogpost about Cape Town Tourism, we receive what can be described as ‘hate speech’ towards ourselves, and while they may state their support for Cape Town Tourism, they also ‘bash’, to use your word, myself and my Whale Cottages, which is not what comments are intended for. A question begging an answer is how you would know that (unpublished) comments have been sent to our blog, given that comments are not visible until I allow them? Could it be that the sending of comments in support of Cape Town Tourism has been encouraged by your PR department, or dare I allege, even written by Cape Town Tourism, using pseudonyms and gmail accounts?!
* It is the comment we received from Mavis Wilken (clause 5.2.1) that appears to be at the crux of your letter, as we received a separate letter from your lawyers Webber Wentzel on the same day, threatening legal action if her comment is not removed from our Blog in its entirety. We had edited the comment soon after it was allowed (30 hours is an extreme exaggeration), to protect your CEO. The comment was received on the same day as Ms Wilken forwarded an e-mail to us which she had sent to the tourism representatives of the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government, alleging mismanagement by Cape Town Tourism in a number of respects. Under threat of legal action by yourselves, but not in admission of any wrong-doing, we have removed Ms Wilken’s comment in its entirety.
* The remark made by Ian Macfarlane, the Australian ‘Strategetic consultant’ of Cape Town Tourism, was written by me in a positive manner, and was expressed by him as a compliment to your CEO in her ability to obtain funds from the City of Cape Town and other sources. To read an allegation of ‘corruption’ , defamation, and disparagement into this compliment is preposterous, and is disparaging in itself!
* We have noted a surge in disparaging comments from a small collection of commenters (Marco, Mike, and Jeremy Claasen in the main, the latter sometimes writing the same comment six times a day, in the mistaken belief that it will be published), all in support of Cape Town Tourism, and wildly disparaging towards ourselves, whenever we publish a blogpost about Cape Town Tourism. We have had to increasingly request these commenters to rewrite their comments by editing out their disparagement, and we delete these comments if they are not rephrased. It is our Blog, and quite frankly we can write on it what we wish (you appear to have little problem with its content, and more with its comments), and can allow reasonable comments. For the first time we have edited two commenters’ comments, both of these edits relating to blogposts in which Cape Town Tourism is mentioned, received from Ms Wilken and Maria. No disparagement was intended nor implied in our reply to Mike’s comment (clauses 5.2.3 and 5.2.4). To read into our reply to him that Cape Town Tourism ‘…is deserving of no support…’, as alleged by you, and that it is an ‘..attempt on your part to undermine and cause embarrassment to the organisation’ is ludicrous, and is rejected with contempt! Being a member of the tourism industry, it would be ludicrous for me to defame or disparage the good name of an industry association that my company is a member of.
* The comment we made about your CEO’s lack of support of the Grand Prix in Cape Town was exactly as you stated it, made in ‘jest’ (clause 5.2.5). No allegation was made that your CEO is ‘…not of sound mind and sober senses’, and cannot be deduced from our writing. We reject your allegation.
* You appear to be looking for allegations of implied ‘corruption’ in reading our Blog and its comments. The ‘corruption’ link you make to my observation about your Board members Nils Heckscher and Susanne Faussner-Ringer, in their capacity as previous Board members of FEDHASA Cape, and their irresponsible attempts at coercing the accommodation industry to sign with MATCH for the FIFA World Cup last year, is far-fetched and incomprehensible (clause 5.2.6). It therefore cannot be seen to be ..‘unfounded, unsubstantiated and patently disparaging’, as alleged by you, as the tourism industry knows about the financial loss it suffered as a result of signing with MATCH on the recommendation of these two directors, and it is ironic that the loss suffered included the properties managed by Mr Heckscher and Mrs Faussner-Ringer! It is also rather obvious that your organisation is using the same threatening technique to terminate our membership, as FEDHASA Cape attempted to two years ago, when we spoke out against MATCH!
* Your response to our claim that Cape Town Tourism ‘planted’ the ‘100 Women 100 Wine’ blogpost comment from ‘Thandiwe Motse’ is factually incorrect, as I did not write that it emanated ‘..from the offices of CTT’, as alleged by you. Comments can be sent to a blog from any computer, and after hours too (clause 5.2.7). Cape Town Tourism’s link to this comment is clear, especially given that no Google reference exists for ‘Ms Motse’, that she provided an incorrect e-mail address for herself, very odd for a businessperson, and that her surname was incorrectly spelt in both the comment and Cape Town Tourism Tweets about this event. ‘Ms Motse’ would have been welcome to e-mail and to call me, to express her point of view to me directly, as the owner of the Blog, rather than to complain via her ‘friend’ about our Blog to Cape Town Tourism! No racial slur was implied, as alleged by you! We have proof that your PR Manager has directed an (unpublished) comment to our Blog, using a false name.
* Over and above the specific denials we have made against your allegations, we categorically deny your allegations of ‘bad faith’, ‘malicious intent’, ‘evident satisfaction in what you perceive to be failings…’ , as well as of ‘disparaging, undermining and even defamatory comment and criticism’.
Lastly, comments have become the bane of blogs, and are increasingly disparaging, rude, and even crude, not always aimed at the subject matter of the blogpost, but often at the blog owner too. Initially our policy was to allow most comments, in the interest of freedom of speech without prejudicing tourism, but soon it became evident that commenters saw our Blog as a means of ‘blog bashing’ us in the main. As the blog is a voluntary unpaid-for activity we do for the love of it, we see no reason to post such disparaging comments.
We are delighted that you support that ‘..our members are entitled to engage in debate about the direction, strategy and performance of CTT, and that this debate may be ‘robust’. We believe that we have acted within these guidelines, as well as the Freedom of Speech which is ensconced in the Constitution of our country. We feel that your organisation’s CEO may be over-sensitive to Social Media, which spares no one, including myself and my company!
While you and I are debating ‘respect‘ in the main, I believe that respect is a two-way courtesy, and therefore we have the right to demand respect, and that we should not be disparaged or defamed by your organisation, its CEO, and staff too. Consider the following examples of disrespect which have been shown to ourselves as a member of Cape Town Tourism, and as a blogger listed on your Cape Town Tourism media list:
* The Re-Tweet in October last year by your PR Manager Skye Grove of a Tweet by Naashon Zalk, of which the content was defamatory to ourselves, making her guilty of defamation too. A complaint lodged to your CEO about the defamation was rejected, reflecting your CEO’s lack of understanding of the law of defamation. Another defamatory Tweet by @Lesterkk was also Re-Tweeted by Ms Grove on 22 November 2010.
* The acceptance by Cape Town Tourism of a complaint lodged against our Whale Cottage Hermanus (not a member of Cape Town Tourism), by Mr Zalk about our warning to our guest house colleagues in Hermanus about an attempt by him and his House & Leisure editor wife Naomi Larkin to defraud us, instead of it being passed on to the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, as would have been the correct procedure. Cape Town Tourism attempted to bring us into disrepute with the provincial Consumer Protector, by passing on Mr Zalk’s complaint to them. We have never heard from them again about the matter, after explaining Mr Zalk’s alleged fraud attempt against us.
* Ms Grove attempted to have our website www.whalecottage.com, which was hosted with Hetzner, closed down last year, which led us to move it to an American server, at a cost to ourselves.
* The accusation on 22 November 2010 by Ms Grove, in a comment posted on the ‘Spaniard in the Works’ blog, that I had ‘unlawful‘(ly) taken down Martin Hatchuel’s website is defamatory. It was clear, by Mr Hatchuel’s own admission, that his refusal to delete a defamatory comment on his website, leading to a complaint against his site, had led Hetzner to close down the website. In the same comment, Ms Grove disparages my ‘lack of journalistic quality and substance’! Further content in her comment to this blogpost, as well as on the Salma Gandi blog, demonstrates the personal issues she has with ourselves, something a ‘professional’ PR Manager should not express of a member of Cape Town Tourism, or any other person for that matter, on a public platform!
* In the past three months Whale Cottage has made a concerted effort to improve its Facebook presence. Proactive suggestions by Facebook about prospective persons to ‘befriend’ led us to Ms Grove, and so we sent a Facebook Friend request. The immediate message we received from her questioned why we would want to be a friend. Ms Grove never accepted the Friend request, as is her right. However, later that day, she Tweeted that she could still taste the vomit in her mouth from the Friend request that she had received earlier that day!
* Your CEO, new Marketing Manager Velma Corcoran, and PR Manager have blocked us on Twitter, but your CEO reconsidered her action, and unblocked us. Blocking is a severe sign of disrespect on Twitter. It is such a shame that your managers should be missing out on my pearls of wisdom contained in my Tweets about Cape Town!
* We have good reason to believe that Ms Grove is part of the team writing the disparaging, libelous, and defamatory ‘Whalespotter’ Twitter campaign about Whale Cottage and myself. A Tweet on Monday this week referred to your letter by implication, which Ms Grove would have inside knowledge of.
* In the past month your CEO has refused to respond to our e-mails, which have requested information for input to our blogposts, despite an invitation by the City of Cape Town representative on your Board, Ms Mkefa, to direct any question to Mrs Helmbold. Your CEO Tweeted on 31 August that she would only answer questions from us via the Cape Town Tourism website, and a few days later a detailed justification for the appointment of the Australian Strategetic Consultants was posted on your website. When one receives no reply to e-mails, the negative inference is that the organisation is trying to hide something.
* Cape Town Tourism has not reacted to the blogposts that you refer to in your letter, having the opportunity to do so via a comment to each blogpost, as would any other commenter. In the past we have posted all comments received from your CEO, either in the blogpost, or as a comment.
* Your City of Cape Town Mayoral Executive Committee member for Tourism, Grant Pascoe, directly responsible for the R40 million allocation of the City’s monies to your organisation, has refused to return our calls or to respond to our e-mails relating to Cape Town Tourism.
No blog forces readership of it on anyone, and therefore your CEO and staff are welcome to save their valuable time and to not read our Whale Cottage Portfolio Blog in such detail, and to rather focus that time on marketing Cape Town, given the severity of the tourism crisis.
It would appear that you hold me solely responsible for criticism of Cape Town Tourism’s performance. However, blogger Carl Momberg recently wrote a critical piece, also questioning your organisation’s ability to market Cape Town. The Cape Times picked this up and ran with the story, quoting additional tourism players expressing their dissatisfaction with the performance of your organisation. Will you also be attempting to censor Mr Momberg?
Surely the monies of Cape Town Tourism should more wisely be spent on marketing Cape Town, and not on lawyers’ fees? Surely your organisation would want to retain members and not lose even more members? Surely you do not want Cape Town Tourism to be perceived as the ‘big bully’ of tourism media censorship?
Earlier this year your membership officer Mrs Cathy Alberts begged us to rejoin as a member of Cape Town Tourism, and I explained to her my reservations to do so, given the unprofessional behaviour and disrespect I and my company have experienced from Cape Town Tourism and its staff, as detailed above. We were surprised about Mrs Alberts’ insistence that we rejoin Cape Town Tourism, and it was our ‘patriotism’ to Cape Town, and loyalty to Cape Town Tourism, that made us rejoin.
Given the disrespect which Cape Town Tourism, your CEO Mrs Helmbold, your PR Manager Ms Grove, and you as Chairman with your Board of Directors, through this one-sided disparaging letter, have shown Whale Cottage, coupled with the lack of delivery on the promised Cape Town Tourism membership benefits, we have decided to not renew our membership of Cape Town Tourism, which expired at the end of August 2011, for the next year. We reserve the right to re-apply for membership in future. We will continue the debate about the marketing of Cape Town, and will continue to write about the activities of your organisation, as well as any other body handling the marketing of Cape Town. I am available to share my tourism and marketing experience with your organisation’s management at any time that it is needed, in the interest of our common passion for our beautiful city Cape Town!
Warm whale wishes
Chris von Ulmenstein
Whale Cottage Portfolio cc
POSTSCRIPT 15/9: We have just (11h41) received a follow-up letter from Webber Wentzel, Cape Town Tourism’s lawyers, making a demand that we apologise to Mrs Helmbold for Ms Wilken’s alleged ‘defamatory comment’, promise to “…desist from, in the future, publishing any further such defamatory comments about our clients on the Blog and/or any other cyber-medium used by you to communicate to the public including,but not limited to, Twitter and Facebook”, and provide the ‘correct and full name’ of ‘the so-called Mavis Wilken’, so that they can take ‘steps on behalf of our clients against the author’. We are shocked that Cape Town Tourism could be setting itself as the Tourism information censor! We await with interest their reaction to our Open Letter!
POSTSCRIPT 18/9: In an interview with the Cape Argus published today, Cape Town CEO Mrs Helmbold is quoted as saying that Whale Cottage Camps Bay is still a member of Cape Town Tourism, as our membership has not been resigned by letter. There is no form that we are aware of to complete to resign one’s membership, and one would have thought that the last paragraph to this blogpost, addressed to its Chairperson, motivating why we will not be renewing our long-standing membership, as well as the non-payment of the annual membership fee, for the period 1 September 2011 – August 2012, would have been a clear communication that we have no intention to renew our membership for the next year! We are considering our legal options regarding a defamatory Tweet sent by Cape Town Tourism on 15 September, and Re-Tweeted by Mrs Helmbold, stating “Whale Cottage Membership Termination“.
POSTSCRIPT 19/9: We have posted our new policy on comments received to blogposts written about Cape Town Tourism today, in the light of the letter we received from the Chairman of Cape Town Tourism, as well as two letters received from the lawyers of Cape Town Tourism.
POSTSCRIPT 23/9: In response to our lawyer’s letter to Cape Town Tourism, to confirm that our Letter to its Chairman Ian Bartes posted on our Blog above is confirmation of our non-renewal of our membership of Cape Town Tourism for the next year, Cape Town Tourism lawyers Webber Wentzel have sent a three-page lawyer’s letter, accepting our non-renewal, which somehow had not been clear to Cape Town Tourism from our blogpost above! One wonders why Cape Town Tourism is wasting its scarce financial resources on legal fees against a past member of Cape Town Tourism!
POSTSCRIPT 6/10: Under pressure from ourselves, Cape Town Tourism has revised its misleading and defamatory statement about our membership of Cape Town Tourism on its website, confirming their acceptance of our communication that we have chosen to not renew our membership for 2011/2012.
Monday 29th August 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
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
Tuesday 23rd August 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
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
Wednesday 17th August 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Shakespeare asked what is in a name! He must have been referring to the heads of both Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, in both bodies denying that the Cape tourism industry is in ‘crisis’, naively countering that it is only in a little bit in trouble, in facing a ‘tourism slump’!
Cape Town Routes Unlimited sent a ‘CEO Update’ e-mail to its stakeholders a week ago, and wrote that “some captains of industry are theorizing about the ‘crisis’ in the tourism industry”. The poorly written letter also stated that the ‘global economy is mulling over a new potential US debt induced recession’ (my underlining in both sentences)! It then questions (defensively) if the ‘alarmist inclinations’ are in fact accurate, yet lists a number of aspects about the current state of tourism in the Western Cape and South Africa that support exactly what the industry is saying: the tourism industry in the Cape is in crisis!:
* compared to 2008, the current winter performance ‘is perfectly normal’ – this is not supported by any occupancy statistics, and everyone in tourism says that it is the worst winter ever experienced
* there is 20 % more accommodation stock, causing lower occupancy
* the strong Rand makes it more expensive to come to Cape Town
* 70 % of international tourists coming to Cape Town are from ‘recessive economies’, explaining the decline
* Tourism is a ‘luxury item’, and ‘under recessionary economic conditions people tend not to travel’
* High airfares and airport taxes inhibit travel
* Bookings are last-minute, and stays are shorter
* the cost of running tourism businesses has increased, especially in respect of electricity, labour, food, and municipal costs.
* International tourist arrivals are at their highest in 10 years – this is a beauty, and everyone in tourism would disagree!
* SA Tourism statistics for the first three months of this year show growth, but with tourism ‘buy-down’, which is not explained
* ‘Domestic travel, which is very much dependent on the state of the local economy is on the decline; but fortunately we can and are doing something about it’.
Cape Town Routes Unlimited CEO Calvyn Gilfellan summarises patronisingly that all of the factors are ‘partially the product of international economic forces and a correction of supply and demand structure of our tourism industry. I remain optimistic that the tourism industry will begin to show an upward trend closer to the end of the year’! I do not think that any tourism player will take comfort in Gilfellan’s prediction, which is not explained nor justified, and contradicts that of our national Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, who said that things will get worse by the end of this year! Once again, the stakeholders are spoken to patronisingly, advising them to price our products ‘responsibly and competitively’, package experiences ‘in a creative and appealing way’, to add value to our tourists’ experiences, and ‘leverage existing partnerships’ (unexplained)! He supports some of what he writes by the greater presence of special offer advertising in print and on-line; and that the industry is marketing to the local market, as well as to Europe, the USA, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The key sentence, that contradicts everything else he writes is: “Everybody is doing their bit to counter the effects of the slump”. OK, so we have a ‘tourism slump’, and not a ‘tourism crisis’!
Reporting on the recent stakeholder Cape Town Routes Unlimited breakfast held at Sante Hotel, Southern African Tourism Update said that Gilfellan denied that the tourism industry in the Western Cape is in a ‘post-World Cup crisis. ‘It is serious but we should not be alarmist and call it a crisis’ he told the stakeholders. ‘There are people who are doing well and there are people who are struggling’, he added naively. He was reacting to COSATU Western Cape General Secretary and City of Cape Town Councillor Tony Ehrenreich’s recent criticism that the tourism industry is in crisis, as tourists are being overcharged. What is interesting in the report is that Gilfellan told the stakeholders that a slump was to have been expected after the World Cup, but the tourism industry was not told this, and new hotel operators were not warned about the ‘slump’ potential, given the experience of other cities hosting big events, such as ‘South Korea and Germany’. Gilfellan clearly was just grasping at straws, as Germany never suffered a post-World Cup slump! He also told the stakeholders that the government could not interfere in the ‘market-led correction of market forces’. Not mentioned in his stakeholder letter, but emphasised at the breakfast, was that twelve airlines are flying to South Africa this summer and he asked the audience:”Why would they invest if we were doing so badly? They know the situation will correct itself”!
Gilfellan focused the rest of his stakeholder letter on the newly planned Western Cape domestic campaign ‘esCape to the Cape whatever the weather’. We say it is too little, too late. We are in our last winter month. The campaign does not appear to have been launched yet, as the letter says its next edition will provide a ‘complete update on the campaign’. A number of the problems identified by Gilfellan should be addressed by a tourism body such as Cape Town Routes Unlimited: airport taxes (the Airports Company’s Cape Town International head sits on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board!), airfares, special deals for tourism players re municipal costs, and more accurate and realistic tourism arrival information!
Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold countered the recent Cape Argus front-page article about the Cape Tourism crisis, by denying that things were as bad as depicted, also playing with semantics. Interestingly, the Southern African Tourism Update article headline reporting on the new ‘strategic plan’ for Cape Town, ‘Cape Town Tourism meets slump head-on with new tourism drive’, uses the same ‘slump’ word as does Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and says that its proposed “brand positioning and destination marketing campaign…(will) counter the current slump that has already seen 118 tourism businesses in the Cape to close shop in the past two years and 18000 jobs lost due to lack of growth in the industry since 2007″ ! At the Cape Town Tourism ‘strategic plan’ presentation last week, its Australian strategy consultant Ian Macfarlane told Cape Town Tourism members that there is no correlation between the exchange rate and travel!
It is embarrassing to see Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited being so out of their depth that they are just throwing clichés and patronising platitudes at the industry, in an attempt to defend themselves against criticism that they should have predicted the ‘tourism crisis’, and done something proactive about it. It appears far too little too late right now! Cape Town Routes Unlimited continues to be seen as playing a meaningless role in the local tourism industry by most, and its most recent stakeholder letter confirms this perception! The defensive drivel by both Cape tourism bodies once again emphasis how divided they are, seemingly duplicating marketing actions, and what a waste it is to have two bodies marketing Cape Town!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Monday 15th August 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
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