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March 20, 2009

ITB report: key learnings and successes for Cape Town

19 March 2009

The world’s top travel show, ITB Berlin 2009, has come to an end and the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is sticking to its end-January 2009 forecast that international tourist arrivals could drop by up to 2% this year.

A sense of realistic optimism prevails, however. “This is not a tourism crisis. It’s an economic crisis which spills over into tourism,” said Taleb Rifai, secretary-general ad interim. Tourism is linked to many economic sectors.

Europe’s tourism industry will likely see the largest drop in visitors, but small countries dependent on foreign spending might suffer most, Rifai said. He also said that Europeans and Americans were likely to keep to their plans to travel abroad. “In the past 20 years, travel has become more of a right,” he said. “The right to move around and the right to relax.”

The UNWTO hosted the second meeting of its Tourism Resilience Committee at ITB, aiming to send a message to world leaders that they should put travel and tourism at the centre of their stimulus packages.

“We believe that if tourism is supported by governments and handled correctly, it can help to stimulate economic recovery,” Rifai said. “When they think of tourism, we want governments to think of incentives, not taxes,” he added.


City tours are a great way to see the Mother City, photo courtesy David Hearle aka etravelguide

In my opinion some of the key points of learning for Cape Town are:

• Those destinations and organisations that can adapt through innovation and effective public-private partnerships will come out stronger to lead the way to a new era in tourism.
• We should investigate new models, rethink traditional spending and place more emphasis on strategic partnerships and networks.
• We should continue investing in marketing, but in an extraordinary way, and allow for no wastage.
• We should think global, but act local.
• We should identify our window of opportunity and activate it effectively and creatively.
• Government must give tourism the space to play as a serious economic stimulus. It is not about bail-outs, but rather about creating an enabling environment.
• As a destination, we must develop a price strategy and manage it. We must focus on creating more value and retain high standards. It is impossible to recover from a “cheap” image.
• We must collaborate and invest in joint marketing efforts.

As a member of the UNWTO International Destination Council, I was asked to present Cape Town’s position and resilience strategy in relation to the economic and climate challenges to an audience of global tourism and travel leaders at ITB.

I used the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Green Economy (with emphasis on the 2010 Green Goal and Cape Town’s Responsible Tourism Plan) as well as Cape Town’s remarkable value-for-money offering to illustrate the window of opportunity amid tough global times. The new tactics identified within Cape Town Tourism’s marketing strategy are in line with the UNWTO Roadmap for Recovery and “new marketing innovation”. 

The Council commended Cape Town Tourism’s bold use of e-marketing and technology, innovative and best practice visitor services and the empowerment of citizens and the tourism industry as brand evangelists for Cape Town in the run up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The fact that Cape Town was selected from hundreds of other destinations as a best practice example of visitor services and marketing innovation in the current global tourism environment is a huge vote of confidence from the international sector.

The rest of the Cape Town Tourism team engaged with hundreds of delegates, members of the media and consumers at the Cape Town stand.

Two key ways of generating brand awareness for Cape Town as a 2010 FIFA World Cup host city were a web-based competition using the official 2010 mascot, Zakumi, and collaboration with one of Germany’s largest PR companies, Hansman PR Travel Talk.

Trade, media and the general public were encouraged to have their pictures taken with Zakumi and then advised to go to www.capetown.travel/itb to find their picture, add a creative comment about Cape Town and stand the chance of winning two tickets to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, including accommodation and transport.

More than 200 images were uploaded to the ITB gallery and, for the duration of the ITB web campaign, Germany jumped from tenth to fourth place in the number of unique visits to www.capetown.travel, after South Africa, the USA and UK. The average length of stay on the site for users from Germany over this time was 09:17 minutes, up from the global average 03:48 minutes. Also, German visitors visited 5.67 pages on average, compared to the site average of 3.11 pages. Overall, individual pages containing ITB-related content, have already been viewed about 2000 times.

All competition entrants have been added to Cape Town Tourism’s visitor database for future e-marketing campaigns.

Cape Town Tourism partnered with Hansman PR, a well-established German tourism and sports PR agency, to engage with specific media. Nicole Moody, PR and Communications Manager, attended the special two-hour “Travel Talk” event and met more than 15 members of the media individually. The focus of discussions was the 2010 FIFA World Cup and Cape Town’s readiness as a host city. Other topics included wellness tourism, golf and spa tourism and cultural tourism. 


The 2010 FIFA World Cup mascot, Zakumi, was very popular at ITB Berlin 2009

Some direct results of “Travel Talk” are:
• An agreement for a series of radio slots on a leading German radio station, Multicult20, for the rest of 2009, focused on Cape Town and its offerings
• A presentation on Cape Town using Cape Town Tourism’s marketing toolkit by Dr Michael R Kaiser from News Corporation Germany, to 350 members of the German Press Club
• A two-page feature on Cape Town in the Sud-Afrika magazine before June 9 at no cost
• A press trip for German journalists writing for two of Germany’s major newspapers
• A feature on Cape Town as a premier golf and spa destination in the widely distributed German 1 Golf bi-annual publication at no charge.

These are some of Cape Town’s many successes at ITB:

• Cape Town Tourism engaged with and secured a database of more than120 combined trade and media contacts. We also engaged with more than 100 consumers on visiting Cape Town.
• Online campaign secured with Expedia to the value of R1 000 000, focused on driving the UK market to Cape Town during our off-peak period.
• Educational campaign secured with FTI, Germany’s third-largest tour operator, for all their agents.
• Two campaigns secured with Myriad Marketing Solutions focused on the US trade and in particular the gay traveller market to the value of R500 000.
• Joint marketing agreement concluded with Tripadvisor to the value of R500 000.
• Joint marketing agreement concluded with Google.
• Agreement reached with Triplib, a German social networking site focused on travel, to run competitions based on user-generated content, to the value of R500 000.
• Joint marketing agreement reached with BBC World News to market Cape Town online.
• Agreement reached with SAA Frankfurt to cover the cost of flights for German media and trade trips to Cape Town.
• Cape Town Tourism to assist Peter den Hartogh with the official documentary on 2010 FIFA World Cup to be screened worldwide during 2010 – arranging all aspects of filming, including preferred locations.
• Agreement reached with Petit Fute, leading French guide book series, to develop a French guide book specifically for Cape Town.

The team reflected that:

• Trade, media and public interest for Cape Town remains very high.
• Mainstream packages are less popular than requests for tailor-made itineraries with both the public and the trade.
• Authentic experiences are important.
• Luxury experiences are in demand.
• Personal safety and health considerations come first.
• German travellers have a renewed interest in travel to the US (since the election of Barack Obama) and we will be vying for their loyalty – German travel to the US increased by 19.4% and decreased to SA by 6% in the period January-November 2008.
• The well-travelled 60+ generation is less likely to be affected by the economic crisis, thanks to their conservative investments, and should be actively pursued.

See part one and part two of Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold’s ITB report.

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