Cape Town Tourism - Table Mountain

Message from the CEO

Welcome to our new industry website. As the launch of this site coincides with our Annual General Meeting, the first of my monthly entries takes a look back at the past year.

Whilst issues around climate dominated the agenda in 2008, 2009 has been overshadowed by debate on the impact of the economic crisis on the travel and tourism industry. Whatever the reason – climate or economy – one thing is evident: the tourism and travel world is changing fundamentally, for good.

Many experts congregate in boardrooms, at trade fairs and in cafés, where they blog and debate about the best solutions to manage change and recover as fast and painlessly as possible. We cannot manage, control or prevent change, but we can lead. Creativity and excellence await us on the brink of what we perceive as chaos.

Change forces innovation and does away with mediocrity. It allows the maverick and the creative to shine, the extraordinary to thrive. It is an opportunity to unleash our instinctive curiosity and creativity, allowing us to recognise and use rare windows of opportunity.

The tourism industry is well positioned to lead change and turn challenges into opportunity. It is not bail-outs that are needed. We need government to take tourism seriously, placing tourism and travel at the core of stimulus packages and the “Green New Deal”.

Taleb Rifai, United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary-General ad interim, underscores that “tourism means trade, jobs, development, cultural sustainability, peace and the fulfilment of human aspirations. If ever there was a time to get this message out loud and clear, it is now, as we face overriding global uncertainty, but also immense possibilities.”

Coupled to the economic crisis are the long-term systemic imperatives of climate-change response, job creation and poverty alleviation. This situation puts unrelenting pressure on our customers, our employees and our markets, driving us to radically alter the way we operate.

This is not the time to retract and retrench. It is not about crisis management, but rather opportunity management.

We must continue investing in marketing, but not marketing in the traditional sense of the word. These extraordinary times call for extraordinary ideas and action. We must convince decision-makers and governments that spending on tourism promotion can pay massive returns across entire economies.

We must be at the forefront of innovation and of real solutions to the challenges that face our fragile world.

So, whilst some are hoping for a speedy recovery, I argue that it is change and, with that, growth rather than recovery that is needed. It would be detrimental to our sector’s future well-being if we returned to the comfortable and now irrelevant past. We need to shape a new destiny and a new road map through bold leadership and innovation. The solutions to current challenges and the key to future success do not lie in our past; they lie in our ability to see the window of opportunity staring us in the face today. Cape Town is well positioned to lead the way to a new dawn, but then we must embrace and harness radical change!

Along our journeys, Cape Town Tourism has learned that leading the way is not safe. Michael Schrage says in his book, Serious Play: “Those who are willing to invest in and test unproven ideas, based on a hunch or a gut reaction, are likely to find their noses bloodied, routinely. But, by the act, they increase the odds, dramatically, of joining the small set of true world beaters who shape tomorrow’s extraordinary contours.”

I believe that 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.

Our team is committed to leadership, to being relevant and remarkable.

We hope you find this website a convenient source of information on how you can partner with us. We will put you in contact with other members of the tourism industry, support your company and create platforms and opportunities to generate valuable business connections, better access to market and helpful strategic business direction.

I look forward to working with you.

Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold
CEO of Cape Town Tourism

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