Entries tagged with “leisure tourism”.


It is shocking to see how Cape Town Tourism publishes meaningless media statements, especially during winter, to attempt to deceive the tourism industry about the state of business.  Every tourism business owner and manager is aware how poor the current winter business is on a daily basis.  Last week the predictable media release once again was sent out, exaggerating the ‘state of the tourist nation’, when most in the industry are reporting that their current winter performance is even worse than 2011, which then was labelled as ‘a tourism crisis‘.

Cape Town Tourism conducts a survey amongst its members irregularly, and reported that the 83 members (out of at least 1000 – 1500 accommodation members making up the bulk of its membership, an embarrassingly poor response rate) had experienced unbelievable occupancy levels of 50 % and 39% in April and May, respectively.  Making the figures even more unbelievable is that Cape Town Tourism’s membership is no reflection of the average accommodation establishment in Cape Town, many leading guest houses having elected to no longer be members of the Cape Town tourism body.

It is no surprise that Seasonality is mentioned as tourism’s biggest threat, and blamed for the poor tourism performance, the winter weather being a deterrent for local tourists to visit the city, and the ‘over-reliance on leisure tourism’ leading to mainly summer tourist visitors, it is written. Surprising is that Cape Town Tourism has been tasked with promoting leisure tourism specifically, and just cannot crack the ‘Seasonality’ nut. Last year the tourism body bragged at its AGM how it would promote tourism during the winter season, but its winter advertising activity has been poorly executed, and has resulted in no impact to date!

Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold is quoted in the media release as saying: “If we cannot establish a year-round demand for Cape Town as leisure, business and events destination the industry will remain threatened and we will not be able to grow the sector. This is a critical issue for an industry that employs more than 300 000 people and is the second largest contributor to the Western Cape’s GDP.”  The tourism body does not have a mandate to promote business tourism, even though it tried to expand its advertising campaign with the slogan ‘You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town’ to include conferencing, and setting up businesses locally.  The business application of the campaign has not been visible since the launch.

The media release also records the ‘modest‘ increases in passenger arrivals (it is not qualified if the arrivals were international or local) compared to 2011, a year all in the tourism industry know was the worst winter in years.

The media release is shocking in its poor quality information, in stating that the Pick ‘n Pay Cape Argus Cycle tour and the Cape Town International Jazz Festival took place in April, when in fact they were held in March! We have seen the poor writing quality by Cape Town in the past, but these factual errors are unforgivable!

The shocking conclusion to the release is Mrs Helmbold’s admission that Seasonality is out of control of her organisation, with a waffled identification of what is needed to fix the problem, which the industry is told year in and year out: “The need for a year-round brand positioning and demand-generation strategy to fill beds during the quieter months has been recognised, but seasonality and destination marketing are not one organisation’s concern. We can only solve Cape Town’s seasonality challenges and create year-round demand through partnerships and through understanding the changing needs and travel habits of potential visitors, whether business or leisure. We need collaboration within the industry, innovation, new experiences to promote, joint mobilisation within niche sectors on unusual projects, value-for-money travel packages and convenient access to the destination. We need an exciting calendar of events all year round and we need to cultivate tourism sectors such as food and wine, family travel, extreme adventure and sport”.

It is time that some new thinking is demonstrated at Cape Town Tourism.  The organisation’s strategic and marketing skills clearly are lacking, and even its CEO appears to no longer have the respect she once had, and seems severely taxed by her domestic challenges. She should take responsibility for the poor quality media information which her Communications department is issuing. It is time for new blood at Cape Town Tourism, to save Cape Town’s tourism industry from drowning!

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

Marthinus van Schalkwyk, national Minister of Tourism, returned from a marketing trip to Australia last week, where he promoted South Africa as the ideal leisure and business tourism destination. Australia ranks sixth in long-haul source markets, and its tourism numbers to South Africa grew by 39 % between 2005 and 2010, to reach 107000 visitors.

Minister van Schalkwyk is looking to grow the Australian market: “We are aiming to achieve and exceed the target of 120000 Australian tourist arrivals in the next two years. We actively need to work at improving seasonality by exposing and promoting South Africa’s all-year, easy-to-do and value-for-money experiences”. The Minister said that Australian tourists look for ‘unique, memorable destinations with amazing wildlife, incredible beaches and coastlines, urban centres and warm, friendly people‘.

SA Tourism opened an office in Sydney nine years ago, and has invited the travel trade on familiarisation trips to South Africa, and has conducted joint roadshows and workshops with the travel trade in Australia. Business Tourism to South Africa was marketed too, the Minister referring to the successful lnternational Olympic Committee and COP17 Climate Change conferences held in Durban last year.  The Minister visited the Asia-Pacific Incentives and Meetings Expo, at which our country was promoted as a ‘highly accessible and value-for-money destination’, and its successes since hosting the 2010 World Cup were highlighted.

The Australian tourism market is attractive, with its visitors staying 15 days and spending R11800 per person per trip on average.  It has a strong word-of-mouth communication network with so many former South Africans living in Australia, although not all of them are positively predisposed to their former homeland.

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

Jonty Rhodes, former South African cricketer and now coach for the Indian Premier League, has been appointed as a tourism ambassador for South Africa in India, reports Business Line. The announcement comes as part of a high level tourism delegation currently visiting five Indian cities to bat for tourism business.   Tourism from India to South Africa grew by 18% to 85000 in 2011, and the target is 100000 Indian tourists in 2014, reports Southern African Tourism Update.

SA Tourism Country Head for SA Tourism in India, Hanneli Slabber, is largely responsible for the great success achieved in the Indian market, with her enthusiastic marketing programmes, having got to know this market well in the short time that she has been based in India.  Market research has shown that Indian tourists to our country are more likely to come from Mumbai and Delhi, but visitors from cities such as Chennai, Ahmedabad, and Bangalore are above average holiday spenders.  The SA Tourism advertising budget in India grew by 50 % last year, and is expected to grow by another 50 % this year.

Cape Town Routes Unlimited appears to be one of only few Cape representative attending the India road show, with Cape Town Tourism visible by its absence.  The 132 South African tourism product and service representatives of 62 products has doubled in one year, and includes Spier, Pepper Club Luxury Hotel & Spa, Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, Montagu Country Hotel, Grootbos Nature Reserve, hotel and safari lodge groups, and tour operators, visiting Mumbai, New Dehli, Bangalore, Pune, and Chennai. Indian tour operators representing MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) as well as leisure tourism product owners and managers are attending the road show events. ‘Learn South Africa’ training programs have been hosted for 1500 travel agents throughout India in the past two years, and top operators have been flown to South Africa to show them the country.

Even national Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, is attending the India road show.  Given the size of the Indian population, and that it is expected to be one of the three largest global economies by 2050, this emerging tourism market is of great importance for South Africa, the Minister said.  For our country, India is the 7th largest source market, and marketing in India focuses on fashion, food, sport, film, and wine.  Nine direct flights from Johannesburg to India are available per week. In November 1000 delegates will attend the Travel Agents Federation of India Convention in Durban, a huge boost for the city and country to win this bid.

Provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde said he is confident that the Western Cape and Cape Town would be top of mind in the presentations about South African in India, one of the BRICS markets being targeted by Cape Town Routes Unlimited. Ms Slabber added that South Africa has become a popular tourism destination for the Indian market. Not only do the road shows expose the diversity of the tourism products of our country, but they also help to attain “market insights for future product development.  With the burgeoning development, increasing purchasing power and flourishing travel aspirations of Indians, we wish to expand our reach in these promising markets through our road shows and advertising and marketing campaigns. We will continue to invest strongly in our marketing efforts and initiatives to promote South Africa across various consumer segments”, she said. Cape Town Routes Unlimited CEO Calvyn Gilfellan praised the friendly reception to the Western Cape representatives from the Indian travel agents, who are ‘really selling Cape Town and the Western Cape vigorously’.

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

Cape Town Tourism has been conducting a series of ‘Brand Cape Town’ workshops since late last year, to share with its members as well as bloggers and other stakeholders what the outcome has been of a brainstorming session to find a positioning for Cape Town and what it can/should be, and to focus its marketing activities, not only from a Tourism perspective, but also from a general Business approach. 

Scanning the external environment, it identified threats such as the economic crisis, global urbanisation, and a greater consciousness about the impact of flying on the environment and climate change.  It also faced the reality that the seasonality in Cape Town’s tourism industry, unique to our city compared to others in the country, reflects that Cape Town does not have enough business tourism, being the result perhaps of too large a focus on Leisure Tourism in the past, and too little on attracting businesspersons to have their meetings, events and conferences in Cape Town.  Comparing the positioning of major world cities, e.g. Paris is Romance, New York is Energy, London is Tradition, it has historically been Beauty for Cape Town. Through its analysis, it was identified that the positioning of Inspiration is an overarching one that can position Cape Town beyond its more narrow tourism focus, to a broader one, reflecting the strengths of the City in respect of beauty, freedom, innovation, hope, creativity, diversity, dreams, ideas, and solutions to problems.

We have been critical about what we have seen in print about the Brand Cape Town workshops, but a completely different picture emerged in the presentation, which I was invited to attend last week, the last in the process of sharing the outcome of the brainstorm, and in obtaining input to the content of the branding and marketing debate.  To justify the positioning of Inspiration, Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold took the attendees through the various ways in which Cape Town inspires its citizens, its local visitors, and its international tourists.  It was an inspiring presentation, and afterwards I felt proudly Capetonian in having learnt a lot more about the achievements of our city and its people.  The following were some of the Inspiration highlights identified for Cape Town in the presentation:

*   Nelson Mandela took his first steps of freedom in Cape Town, and Cape Town should own this historic moment

*   quality education facilities, with four top class universities in Cape Town and Stellenbosch.  Stanford has set up a satellite campus in the city, and Harvard is said to follow suit.   UCT had been voted top university in Africa, and best value for Money MBA in world in a Financial Times survey

*   safe CBD

*   excellent and modern infrastructure, including the airport, the IRT bus system, the station, highways, and the Cape Town Stadium

*   ‘cosmopolitan entry point into South Africa and Africa’

*   Focus on Biodiversity, with the smallest but most bountiful floral kingdom.  Kirstenbosch has won gold or silver for the past 33 years at the Chelsea Flower Show in London

*   Excellent healthcare facilities, with pioneering medical leadership, including Dr Christiaan Barnard’s heart transplant world first

*   One of best value guest house and B&B cities, offering not only 5-star accommodation

*   An historic port city

*   The V&A is South Africa’s leading tourist destination, and has further development plans

*   The Green Point Urban Park

*   A living heritage in the Castle, the oldest building in South Africa

*   A historic showcase of creativity at the Iziko museums and galleries

*   Living contemporary culture with African and European roots, which is not gumboot dancing!

*   Rich music tradition, in goema and Cape Minstrel music, but also current, with Goldfish, Jack Parow, Freshly Ground, Kyle Shepherd, Locnville, Die Antwoord, and Abdullah Ibrahim.  The Cape Town International Jazz Festival has become a world event.

*   Sporting tradition, in hosting the world’s largest timed Argus Cycle race, and the Volvo Ocean Race includes Cape Town, and sportspersons such as Para-Olympic star Natalie du Toit, and the development of the paddleyak

*   A theatre tradition, with Athol Fugard receiving a Lifetime Achievement award at the Tony’s for his plays

*   Africa’s first billionaire and space traveller Mark Shuttleworth, and his Shuttleworth Foundation, supporting IT development.  Development of Silicon Cape.

*   Sustainability Institute of the University of Stellenbosch

*   The Cape Town International Convention Centre is the leading convention centre in Africa

*   The leading builder of twin-hull catamarans

*  The favourite film and photography location, because of the beauty of and good light in the city, and the potential of a James Bond movie being shot in the city

*  Nobel Peace Prize winners such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Past President FW de Klerk

*   Table Mountain, which is a finalist for the New7Wonders of the World

*   Visits by magnificent Southern Right whales, home to penguins

*   Environmentally-friendly Green Cabs, and the opening up of cycle and pedestrian routes in the city 

*   Leading environmental and sustainable city, with all new low-cost housing built with solar geyser panels, and wind-farming in Darling.  ‘Smart Living Handbook’ for sustainability written by City of Cape Town 

*   Three wine routes within Cape Town and 16 on the city’s doorstep, with many boutique wine farms

*   Beer tourism is a new segment, with 40 micro breweries within a 2-hour drive of Cape Town.  Inspiring new BOS ice-tea 

*   Fresh produce markets, with organic foods, outstanding restaurants such as The Test Kitchen and Mzoli’s Meat define Cape Town, and the plan is to develop a Master Chefs Cape Town series.   Having Justin Bonello showcase South African food is a boost for the city.  Charly’s Bakery is a passionate, all-women team, who baked a cake representing Cape Town for the Design Indaba.

*   Cape Town is one of three finalists for World Design Capital 2014, with Bilbao and Dublin, spearheaded by the Cape Town Partnership.  The judges will be in Cape Town from 24 – 27 July, and the winning city will be announced on 26 October. The Design Indaba is a design highlight for the country, with its annual conference and exhibition.  At the last exhibition, attendees were asked to write in support of the city’s bid – this comment summarised what Cape Town stands for: “Cape Town’s people are her most beautiful landscape”.

*    Cape Town has a vibrant fashion scene, designer Dion Chang saying that “The tip of Africa is the tipping point”.

*   Cape Town is at the center of the magazine publishing industry.

*   The city has excellent furniture designers

*   The Joule electric car is being built in Cape Town, the first in Africa.

*   Cape Town has more Social Media users than any other part of the country 

 During her presentation, Mrs Helmbold made a number of statements about our city:

*   Economy based on tourism, finance, infrastructure, food and wine, logistics, and creative industries.

*   Cape Town is at the tipping point, either sinking into oblivion, or living up to the accolades it is reaping

*   Cape Town has been in a brand vacuum since the World Cup – not spending money on marketing the city will lead us to the example of Sydney, which is seeing a steady decline in visitors as it decided to not market the city after the 2000 Olympics

*   A destination is not just a slogan or a logo

*   Cape Town is a city of contrasts, of haves and have-nots

*   Brand Cape Town’s strength is Tourism (Visit), it is neutral on its education and residential facilities (Live and Learn), and weak on its potential as a centre of employment and investment (Work and Invest).

*   Cape Town underperforms in domestic tourism, mainly relative to Durban

*   Conversion of holidaymakers into business tourists is needed for Cape Town, and business visitors must be encouraged to return as holidaymakers, as Cape Town is weak as a Business Brand

*   Cape Town is a ‘challenger brand’ which does not have a long-established history, and stands for freedom, freshness and transformation, attractive to a world that has got tired of visiting boring places. “Challenger brands harness the power of authenticity, locals first, emotional pull, storytelling (Word of Mouse)”.

*   The pillars of Cape Town are Robben Island; its cultural diversity; the food and wine industry; Biodiversity; Table Mountain; Cape of Good Hope; hubs of innovation, creativity, enterprise and government; higher education and skills training; Sports and MICE; and Colour and Light.  

Cape Town Tourism is to assist business-related bodies in the city to market the city with a ‘brand box’.   It has worked with Accelerate, Cape Town Routes Unlimited, Wesgro, Cape Town Partnership, and the City of Cape Town in developing the new positioning for Cape Town, to establish it as ‘one of the top world cities to live, work, invest, learn and visit, in order to drive inclusive economic growth and social transformation in Cape Town’.  The presentation we attended was the last, and the implementation phase will now commence, Mrs Helmbold said.  In question time, FEDHASA Cape chairman Dirk Elzinga stated that great things are happening in Cape Town, but ‘we are not telling the world’, he said.

Mel Miller, former ad agency owner and creative director, and ex Cape Town Tourism Board member, is very critical of Cape Town’s new ‘Inspirational’ positioning, saying that it has been used by Edinburgh (‘Inspiring Capital’) already.  Miller points out that a previous tourism strategy consultant to Cape Town Tourism comes from Edinburgh! 

Mrs Helmbold showed a video presentation by Silver Bullet meant to represent Cape Town.  It was certainly not one of a beautiful Cape Town, but one of a very cloudy looking Cape Town, with a lot of focus on clouds billowing over Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles, and what appeared as a fast-speed race through Cape Town.  I was NOT inspired by it, and it did not represent any of the Inspiration that Mrs Helmbold had presented to the audience.

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

Today the World Cup 2010 started a year ago.  While many may remember the wonderful 30-day period nostalgically, the hard reality of this largest world event is attracting criticism in its impact on the hospitality and tourism industry, which has reached its lowest low, something other mega-event cities have experienced before.  The event was commemorated yesterday with the launch of a new coffee table book ‘CapeAbility: Stories and Successes from the 2010 FIFA World Cup’.

The infrastructure benefits of the World Cup cannot be denied : Cape Town has a renewed station building, a world-class airport, and far improved access into and from the city on its N1 and N2 highways. It has a beautiful Cape Town Stadium, which has become a tourist icon for the city in itself.  It has a most wonderful Green Point Park, which was developed next to the Stadium, as well as a general upliftment of the Green Point and Mouille Point area.  It led to the roll-out of the recently completed and far improved public transport MyCiti service.  It added more international hotel brands to the city’s five-star hotel portfolio.  It created an Ubuntu amongst Capetonians and the city’s visitors, on its festive flag-decorated Fan Walks.  It positioned Cape Town, and South Africa with it, as a safer country than had been perceived before.

But the downside appears to outweigh the benefits a year down the line: there is no operator for the Cape Town Stadium since SAIL Stade de France reneged on its contract with the City of Cape Town.  Cape Town ratepayers will have to carry the cost of operating the Stadium, not making ends meet with the few events that have been hosted in the venue since July last year.   The tourism industry suffered poor pre- and post-event bookings last year, and  was led to believe that it would benefit from a tourism boom that would last for years to come.   The industry was conned by MATCH, the FIFA accommodation booking agency, with massive cancellations just days before the start of the Wold Cup.  Surprisingly, the industry is experiencing its worst ever year, and even more surprisingly, Cape Town Tourism told its members yesterday that it was to have been expected, given the Sydney experience – a 5-year slump after the 2000 Olympic Games, largely because the city tourism authorities assumed that no marketing was required after the widely publicised event.  Cape Town appears to have made the same mistake, an error which is compounded by the poor UK economy, the largest tourism source market for the city, the strong Rand, and high airfares.

Not unsurprisingly, tourism consultants Grant Thornton, who badly overestimated the World Cup tourism numbers, praised the R40 billion national capital expenditure on the World Cup, the consultancy’s Gillian Saunders saying it was money “well spent, with some areas still to be leveraged”, reports the Cape Times. She states that the infrastructure benefit had ‘significant legacy value leading to a better quality of life and provided long-term valuable assets’.  She admitted that the slow recovery from the global recession was responsible for the lack of the tourism boom which had been predicted.  Yet she said that “a large number of tourism businesses would not have survived the economic slump if it weren’t for the event”.  She reminded the industry that R3,6 billion revenue had been generated and that just more than 100000 tourists had visited the Western Cape, and just more than double this number visited Gauteng.

Cape Town Tourism has blamed SA Tourism for focusing too much on wildlife and the natural beauty of the country, and too little on its cities, in its marketing of the country.  The World Cup had created a greater city focus, but this has not been sustained by SA Tourism in its post-World Cup marketing, Cape Town Tourism says.  To strengthen brand Cape Town, Cape Town Tourism proposes that the “city’s urban identity, innovative outlook, entrepreneurial spirit, academic excellence and pioneering medical and science sectors must be added to the brand palette in order for it to effectively compete in the domestic and global market”, in addition to its leisure tourism positioning, it is reported in BizCommunity.com.

The Cape Argus yesterday ‘shouted’ in a headline:”Post-World Cup tourism boom ‘non-existent’”, stating that the benefits have been the international performers who held concerts in the Stadium, the city’s improved infrastructure, and the survival of a number of tourism businesses.  It quotes Cape Town Tourism as saying that Cape Town is in a ‘brand vacuum’.  The annual operating cost of the Stadium is quoted as being R57 million.  Two concerts have been booked, and a further two are in the pipeline, according to the city’s new head of Tourism, Grant Pascoe.   Talks with Western Province rugby continue, he said.   He added that the city is receiving more event applications than it did prior to the World Cup. Developing the Fan Walk into a 24/7 facility is also being considered.  The oversupply of hotel accommodation can be attributed to nine new hotels with 1500 rooms in total, which were built for the World Cup, says Dirk Elzinga, Chairman of FEDHASA Cape.  He naively states that many hotels have already received repeat World Cup business, and that the ‘extremely low occupancies’ of some hotels ‘was normal for the off-season’!

Launched by Premier Helen Zille and Mayor Patricia de Lille, the ‘CapeAbility’ book documents the ‘planning, delivery and effect’ of the World Cup on the Western Cape, says BizCommunity.com.   The book “makes every effort to extract honest lessons to understand the hosting of such mega-events better.  It is designed therefore not as a memento of the event, but a review of what worked, what didn’t and what could be done better and become a guide to hosting future events”.   “The book is meant to play a marketing role and points out that it is crucial that opportunities, such as the World Cup, are converted into more than just short-term profits for a small tourism and events sector, but into huge brand building opportunities for a country”. 

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

It was depressing to read the article”The Business Case for Tourism and a strong brand for Cape Town” by Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, and published on the Cape Town Tourism Blog.  Oddly it has not been sent to its members.  The most disturbing prediction it contains is that the R14 billion Cape Town tourism industry, which employs just short of 300000 staff, will only recover in 2014, in getting back to the 2007 level, the last good year for tourism in Cape Town.  What is disappointing is that Mrs Helmbold does not provide any guidelines to her Cape Town Tourism members as to how businesses should survive the next three years of poor business, nor does she spell out what she and her organisation are doing to market Cape Town more visibly!

To set the scene, Mrs Helmbold writes that international arrivals to Cape Town as well as domestic arrivals have stagnated due to the ‘Global Financial Crisis’, as she calls it, and she estimates a total loss of R 1,5 billion for the Cape Town tourism industry between 2008 – 2014, with zero job creation as a result.  Unlike other provinces, Cape Town and the Western Cape has little Africa-business, with more than 80 % of its business coming from Europe (including the UK, one assumes) and the USA.  Cape Town is a small fish in a massive global tourism pond, with our city’s market share being 0,2 % of world tourism.  She blames SA Tourism by implication for doing too much marketing of wildlife, and too little of the cities in our country :”…many national campaigns are of a tactical nature, which do not necessarily build knowledge and esteem values of our cities”.  The marketing of Cape Town, which is the responsibility of Cape Town Tourism, does “not allow for Cape Town to be compellingly and relevantly portrayed to potential visitors”.  This sounds odd, as Mrs Helmbold is pointing at her own organisation, but she does not explain what constraints there are to marketing the city. She also states that Cape Town’s attributes of being “iconic, complex and multi-faceted” are not evident to tourists.

The rest of the five page document becomes a long and theoretical ramble about how Cape Town should be positioned and at whom it should be aimed: in summary, the marketing of Cape Town no longer should be focused on leisure tourism alone, by highlighting the beauty of Cape Town, but it should incorporate business, investment, academia, and the creative sectors too. All of this appears to have been written to justify to its funders, the City of Cape Town, that unnamed ‘partnerships’ (probably the writers of the document, given its theoretical nature and unusual style for Mrs Helmbold’s writing) are “waiting in the wings for public sector endorsement of Cape Town Tourism’s new 2011/2012 marketing strategy and for the brand execution plan”. 

Sydney is used as an example, in how the 2000 Olympic Games caused a five-year tourism slump to that city, mainly because they stopped marketing themselves, thinking that they had world exposure.  The key learning points for Cape Town Tourism are that cities do not market themselves, they need to be marketed; investment in infrastructure and hosting events create growth and ‘livability’, but may not be relevant to tourists: “lack of marketing induces invisibility and irrelevance, which in itself reduces demand”.

The conclusion of the article seems far too obvious, and one must question why Cape Town Tourism, custodians of brand Cape Town, have not been able to identify the poor tourism and resultant poor industry performance trends, and have not acted proactively to address these problems.  Mrs Helmbold concludes: “If we do not act decisively now our industry and the economic well being of our city and people are at great risk.  If we don’t proactively engage in a new marketing and branding strategy we run the risk of being positioned nonetheless by our competitors, our critics and the media, and most likely to our disadvantage”. The last sentence does not make sense in its wording, nor can one understand why Cape Town Tourism has not changed its marketing strategy to date, having been responsible for the city’s marketing for the past three years already.

As we have pointed out on this Blog, the recent TripAdvisor accolade of Cape Town being ranked in first place as its Travellers’ Choice Top Destination, has seen no tourism benefit at all, and this is echoed by Ms Helmbold: “Although we are considered as one of the new cities to watch for 2020 and continue to rake in travel accolades, it is no guarantee for success or economic growth”.

One must question whether Cape Town Tourism is capable of driving such an important campaign, influencing the revenue of almost all the city’s businesses, all directly or indirectly influenced by tourism, and of its population, dependent on jobs.  Cape Town Tourism’s Marketing Manager until recently was Lianne Burton, a journalist, and not a marketer.  Her departure from the organisation has been kept low-key.  Ms Burton has not been replaced to date.  Mrs Helmbold and her PR Manager Skye Grove are very active on Twitter, but this is rarely about tourism, and far more about their social life. We must question why their time during working hours is not focused on their work and the marketing challenges of our city !  A further concern is the information that we have received that the highly respected PR company that Cape Town Tourism had appointed in Germany, KPRN, no longer does the PR for Cape Town.  There appears to be no visible benefit to tourism in Cape Town of the appointment by Cape Town Tourism of PR agencies in Holland, Germany and the UK.

We wrote to Mrs Helmbold, and asked her some questionsaboutthemarketing of Cape Town.  The first question related to the replacement of Ms Burton.  It appears that Ms Burton left some time ago, but is assisting Cape Town Tourism in a “consultative role” until the end of this month.  A new Executive Manager: Marketing should start on 1 July, she wrote.  Of concern is that Cape Town Tourism also does not appear to have an eMarketing Manager, with a job advertisement posted on Careers24 yesterday, and requiring the person to start on 1 July, not giving anyone time to work out their notice!   We asked about the international PR companies that had been appointed, but Mrs Helmbold was only detailed in respect of the non-renewal of the contract with Kleber Public Relations Network, which has worked with SA Tourism for years.  The company has been replaced by Akomasa Creative Connection in Germany.  Mrs Helmbold did not provide information about the success of the PR campaigns overseas, other than to say that information about it has been presented at workshops, which not all Cape Town Tourism members can attend.  One hopes that Cape Town Tourism can justify its international spend by sending members a detailed report of their international activities to obtain exposure for Cape Town. 

In reply to our question:”What is Cape Town Tourism doing to prevent a bloodbath of restaurant, hotel and other accommodation closures due to poor forward bookings?”, Mrs Helmbold was generalist and vague, and she does not appear to understand that a solution must be found NOW, and not in months to come! This was her disappointing response:

“As I explained in the Paper done on the Business Case for Tourism, the global financial crisis and the subsequent consumer behavioural change has had a significant adverse effect on the tourism industry; demand has diminished, visitor spends have steadied and costs have increased. Our over-reliance on traditional source markets, worse hit by the GFC, places us at further risk. There is not a quick-fix for this problem and no one could anticipate the extend (sic) of the impact of the GFC, of which we are really only now experiencing the magnitude of the impact. This is of course exaggerated by seasonality and as I said before our over-reliance on international leisure visitors from mainly Europe and the US.  

Investing in a strong, multi-dimensional brand is critical. We are pursuing private partners for a few significant brand platforms like international TV productions (BBC, National Geographic), events and campaigns, focusing on our unique strengths as a destination i.e. food and wine. We are focusing our efforts and resources on the “dream” and “conversion” part of the customer journey – assuming that the choice to come to Cape Town is not an obvious one and expensive to get here. We have to reinforce the awareness created during the World Cup, but move to conversion with good value for money offers. From an eMarketing perspective we are adding bookabilitytoourweb-platforms by July this year, starting with accommodation and then introducing it for tours and activities as soon as the new module is built. Through the new marketing alliance with Joburg and Durban we should be able to leverage some of SAT’s marketing spend, this will be a key focus for us in the next 4 months.

Whilst we continue our investment and reinforce our presence in traditional international leisure markets, we are investing in domestic tourism, using mainly some key events as draw-cards and working with the business sector to start changing negative perceptions around our business brand. Both the domestic and business markets are complex issues and will take a long-term approach to turn the tide against seasonality.

We are hosting a series of product workshops within the next few months on value, price, packaging and marketing alignment aimed to assist the industry to become more competitive and mitigate some of the risks faced within these tough economic times.

We will all have to work very hard together, under a powerful and united destination brand, to change the current trends and grow tourism into a more sustainable, year-round industry with a more healthy balance between international leisure, business and domestic tourism.

We are making a few significant changes to our marketing strategy and as soon as the plan is finalised and partners confirmed we will share it with the industry.”

We call for a heavyweight Marketing professional to be appointed, to drive Cape Town Tourism’s marketing of Cape Town. Ms Helmboldhasbeen running “Brand Cape Town” workshops for the past three years, and she is still asking workshops what Cape Town stands for.  Surely by now she and her team should have decided on a unique positioning for Cape Town that would be universally applicable in communication with all the sectors it wishes to attract to Cape Town.  Ms Helmbold’s article sounds like a city marketing organisation that is overwhelmed by the problems its tourism industry is facing, and that does not know the way forward – a very scary situation indeed!

POSTSCRIPT 10/6:  The only response from Cape Town Tourism is this sarcastic Tweet from its PR Manager Skye Grove:  @MariettedTHons le, sit, loop, rol rond op twitter.. tsk tsk.. mar (sic) ek belowe ek sal more bietjie werk.. @SoniaCabano1

POSTSCRIPT 10/6:  Yesterday Cape Town Routes Unlimited CEO Calvyn Gilfellan was reported on Eye Witness News to have urged ‘hotels and industry suppliers to reduce their rates to make travel more affordable for locals’.  He said “I think the industry must really wake up and make themselves more affordable if they want to remain competitive in a very cut-throat industry”. 

POSTSCRIPT 12/6: A business tourism event with a difference was the hosting of the global Playboy editors’ conference, which took place at the Mount Nelson Hotel earlier this week, reports the Weekend Argus .  The group of fifty met for three days.

POSTSCRIPT 13/6: The Bureau of Economic Research sent its results for the confidence in the Services industry today.  Of the service sectors surveyed, Accommodation has by far the lowest Business Confidence Index at only 25% (the next lowest is Real Estate at 41%).  Accommodation bookings are expected to decrease by 56% in the second quarter of 2011, relative to 2010, which was out of the ordinary for bookings due to the World Cup.  For the third quarter of this year, bookings are expected to be down by 23 %.  Trend information supplied showed that the last period of growth for the Accommodation industry was the fourth quarter of 2007.

POSTSCRIPT 13/6:  The provincial Minister of Tourism, Alan Winde, has announced that his plans to consolidate a number of marketing agencies for Western Cape businesses into an Economic Development Agency are back on track, and the Agency is expected to be launched in November, reports the Cape Argus today.  Perhaps this is the agency that can do the business marketing of Cape Town.  However, Cape Town Tourism is no longer on the Minister’s list of agencies which he wants to consolidate, his plans to do so originally causing a huge outcry.  The agencies to be consolidated include Wesgro, Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the Cape Craft and Design Institute, the Cape Film Commission, Calling the Cape, the Cape Town Boatbuilding and Technology Initiative, the Cape Music Industry Commission, the Cape Town Fashion Council, and ten others.    

POSTSCRIPT 14/6:  One company that is benefiting from the tourism slump is the Protea Hospitality Group, which is leasing and buying hotels that have ‘over-extended themselves and are now struggling to survive due to the current slump in the local hotel industry’, reports Southern African Tourism Update.  Protea’s CEO Arthur Gillis predicts that ‘many of South Africa’s 80 hotel brands will disappear’.  Gillissaid that he doubted whether there will be a tourism boom ‘unless it gets more bums on airline seats’. He suggests that SAA should fly routes in the interest of tourism, whether profitable or not.

POSTSCRIPT 14/6: Gillian Saunders of tourism consultancy Grant Thornton said about the tourism industry recently: “It’s really tough out there”.  She blamed this on the recession, the strong Rand, increased costs such as electricity and labour, and an oversupply of accommodation, reported the Cape Times.  City Lodge Hotels CEO Clifford Ross said: “It’s probably the worst I have known for 32 years”.  He added that no one “expected the drop-off after the World Cup to be so severe. There will be casualties in the market. Quite a few (hotels) are teetering on the brink”. 

POSTSCRIPT 17/6: Southern African Tourism Update  reports that the Minister is to have also said at the FEDHASA Cape AGM that local tourism authorities should not market internationally, as SA Tourism is doing so already, and that they should focus on local marketing instead.  He quoted the example of KZN Tourism, which has a marketing office in Gauteng.  Was he addressing Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited? 

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

The announcement by the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape province earlier this week that R 4,5 billion is to be invested in the expansion of the Cape Town International Convention Centre is welcome news for Cape Town, and its tourism industry, not just for leisure tourism, but for business tourism too.  This investment reflects the City’s recognition of the importance of Events as an important part of its economic development strategy, reports the Cape Times.

Commenting on the planned investment Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold wrote that “Cape Town’s brand position must encompass business, study and our contemporary, gritty and creative urbanism, amongst other things, in addition to simply leisure and beauty, which adds to our significant seasonality problem” (somehow this sentence from the Cape Town Tourism media release seems jumbled, and communicates exactly the opposite to what is intended, in my opinion).  Mrs Helmbold added that Cape Town’s 2014 Design Capital bid and the completion of the planned expansion of the Convention Centre in 2014 are ‘perfectly aligned’.

The expansion of the Convention Centre will include 10000 square meters of retail space, a new Netcare Chris Barnard Memorial hospital, an office tower, parking, and  a Founder’s Garden, which will stretch towards Artscape via a skywalk.  Custom’s House, which was previously rumoured to be part of the expansion of the Convention Centre, will not be part of the expansion.   The expansion of the Convention Centre is seen to ‘regenerate’ this city area closest to the harbour.   

The Cape Town International Convention Centre, a city and provincial funded project in a partnership with business backers, has proven to be a success, and its operating and capital costs have been recovered.   It is financially independent of its original funders.  It has created more than 4000 jobs, and this will double by 2018.   Its contribution to the GDP is R 2,3 billion, and this is forecast to more than double to R5,1 billion after completion of the expansion.

Mrs Helmbold predicted that the Convention Centre expansion would “enhance Cape Town’s liveability (sic), workability and walkability – encouraging 24 hour utilisation of public spaces and buildings, and linking the IRT public transport system directly with the new convention centre and the arts and culture precinct around the Artscape Theatre Complex”.    

The Cape Town International Convention Centre is ranked 35th in the world, and top in Africa.   Cape Town is the leading convention and meetings destination in Africa.   The expansion program is aimed at establishing the Cape Town International Convention Centre as the best long-haul convention centre in the world.   Any increase in business tourism resulting from the expansion of the Convention Centre will be warmly applauded by the tourism industry of Cape Town and the Western Cape!

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

The best tourism news in a long time is the announcement by Frankfurt-based Kleber PR Network that it has been appointed to market Cape Town, reports DeinTouristNet.

Kleber PR Network has good experience of marketing South Africa in Germany for the past 15 years, having been the PR company in Germany for S A Tourism for many years, until the local national marketing body appointed Ogilvy as its new advertising agency, with an affiliated PR company, therefore relinquishing its relationship with Kleber.  

Whale Cottage has accommodated S A Tourism journalists over the years, and can vouch for the knowledge of and passion for Cape Town and the rest of South Africa of the Kleber PR Network executives. 

Hanna Kleber, CEO of Kleber PR Network, said: “Kapstadt hat jede Menge Potential und wir freuen uns darauf, die Stadt mit gezielten Maßnahmen weiter im Urlaubs- und Businessreise-Markt zu etablieren.   Mit seiner traumhaften Lage an zwei Weltmeeren, dem spannenden Mix aus Nationalitäten und Kulturen und einer landschaftlichen Vielfalt, die ihres gleichen sucht, hat sich Kapstadt in den letzten Jahren als eine der großen internationalen Lifestylemetropolen einen Namen gemacht. Im Zuge der FIFA Fussballweltmeisterschaft 2010 – wird die Stadt zudem als wichtige Austragungsstätte im Fokus der Öffentlichkeit stehen.” (Kleber PR will further enhance Cape Town’s presence in the leisure and business tourism markets, and will position the city as a lifestyle metropole, being very much in the focus for the 2010 World Cup.)

One wonders why Cape Town Tourism does not communicate such exciting news to its members.  WhaleTales recently criticised the lack of visible marketing by Cape Town Tourism and by Cape Town Routes Unlimited, but neither of the two bodies responded to this criticism.  

The appointment of a PR company to market South Africa’s top tourism asset is fantastic news, and would delight its members, especially at a time when membership renewals are due!

Communication with Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, has confirmed the appointment of the Kleber PR Network for the marketing of Cape Town in Germany, and she also communicated that a PR company has been appointed in the UK.  A similar appointment is expected in The Netherlands shortly.

Read the full report here

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

The Cape Town International Convention Centre has proven to be a powerful carrot for the local tourism industry, in attracting millions of delegates to Cape Town in its five years of operation.  Business tourists are known to extend their visits to add sight-seeing and leisure activities once they come to Cape Town, and also generate a higher spend per capita than do leisure visitors.

In the past twelve months more than half a million delegates attended conferences at the Convention Centre, and 325 banquets were hosted at the venue.    The current world economic crisis does not appear to have affected bookings, other than in a small reduction of delegates attending in the past month.

In the past year, the Convention Centre contributed R 2,7 billion to the economy of the Western Cape directly and indirectly, according to the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, reports Business Report.   This will grow to R 3,38 billion next year, and to R 5,67 billion in five years from now, it is estimated.  

The Convention Centre is a case study for a successful public/private partnership, with shares in the holding company Convenco owned by the City of Cape Town (50 %), the Western Cape province (25%) and SunWest International (25%).   This role model was unable to work for Cape Town Routes Unlimited, previously a joint venture between the City and the Province.  Now it is solely funded by the Western Cape government.

Future growth is constrained until the Convention Centre receives the go-ahead to extend onto the nearby Custom’s House site.   The planned extension would cost R 1,4 billion, and would be the ”greenest” and most technologically advanced building in the city.    It will use 40 % less energy and 95% less water and create 25 % less waste than the existing building, reports the Cape Argus.  Wind turbines will be used to generate electricity whilst ventilating the parking garage, and solar energy will be generated.   It will have a grey and black water treatment facility; with rainwater recycled; a seawater cooling system; and have a planted green roof, all designed to make the building environmentally responsible.   The new building has been described as “iconic” by Rashid Toeffy, the CEO of Convenco. 

Looking ahead, the Convention Centre already has 133 bookings for the next eight years.