Cape Town Tourism: Being future-fit for tourism

Dear tourism friends and colleagues

Cape Town Tourism is one of the largest voluntary industry associations in the world with more than 2 000 members and our visitor strategy is recognised by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation for global best practice. In the past five years, Cape Town Tourism’s focus has expanded to include destination marketing, managing the perception of Cape Town and ensuring the successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ to maximise economic benefits and promotion for Cape Town.

Today we face a new set of challenges.

The world economy has faltered – with long-haul travel hard hit – and there is more competition than ever before between destinations. The way people travel has also been transformed irreversibly by technology. We have to accept that there is no going back. If we are to sustain tourism into the future, we need to redefine ourselves as a destination and an organisation.

With more than a billion people now having access to the internet, online activity has become habitual. Across the board we are seeing how travellers are relying more on the opinions of friends and fellow consumers when planning and booking a holiday. For the past three years travel has been the best-selling online commodity internationally. Over 70% of both domestic and international travellers cite the internet as their primary source of information about destinations, hotels and attractions prior to and during their travels. Some 48% of tourists are making their travel bookings online, often with far less planning or lead time than was the norm.

In a recent report by The Communication Group, Cities: The Destination Identity, they warn that in these times of great global challenges and opportunity, cities that rely on the same tried and tested marketing techniques will lose out to nimbler rivals that use creative, innovative techniques to present themselves to the outside world.

In a world bombarded with compelling marketing messages and offers, our work is cut out for us. We have to reassess our strategies, go beyond the traditional or what has become the norm, challenge our thinking and innovate. To remain relevant we have to become future-fit. It is not only about being comfortable with change, but leading change. Tough choices lie ahead.

How can we define and strengthen our brand positioning in an increasingly competitive and economically strained post-World Cup phase of destination marketing, and how will this help us to stand apart?

We are not London, Paris or New York. Rather, Cape Town is a challenger brand. We are one of the emerging players, up there with Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona. We are among the cities that present possibility, inspiration, freedom, freshness, transformation and a vision for the future rooted in an interesting and imperfect past.

The new traveller is not looking for the traditional experience. As people search for authenticity and meaningful experiences, the web and social media have made it possible for challenger destinations like Cape Town to compete head on with established destinations, compelling global citizens to choose emerging rather than traditional destinations.

As a destination marketing, visitor and industry services organisation, Cape Town Tourism has to be future-fit to ensure our relevance and effectiveness in light of the way the world has changed. We need to build on our reputation as an industry champion, marketing innovator and thought leader, and we need to embrace the latest technology and systems. At the same time, we have to ensure a highly productive and sustainable organisation where there is no duplication or wastage.

Cape Town Tourism has always measured itself against international best practice, but within a distinctively local context – we are committed to being a dynamic organisation, able to act decisively and adapt quickly to changing circumstances and pressing needs. As leaders, we have had to make difficult decisions in the past, and we are again faced with the need to intensively re-evaluate our organisational processes and systems in our quest to remain relevant, future-fit and sustainable.

Over the last few months we have looked critically at every aspect of our business. It has become apparent that there is a need to move away from a decentralised operating model, a legacy of past local tourism structures, to a centralised, techno-savvy operating model.

The Board and executive team of Cape Town Tourism have identified specific interventions that will ensure not only a more sustainable future for Cape Town Tourism, but position Cape Town Tourism as a leading destination marketing, industry and visitor services organisation. Some of these include:

  • A radical overhaul of Cape Town Tourism’s systems and technology. This includes a new centralised online booking system, called VMMS, which will enable much enhanced data management and online real-time bookability. Cape Town Tourism has partnered with NightsBridge to offer members a subsidised real-time booking system.
  • A new point-of-sale system across our network of Visitor Information Centres (VICs), in support of our new retail and commercial strategy.
  • A sophisticated financial management software programme SYSPRO is currently being phased in. This will eliminate duplication, streamline operational processes and increase efficiency.
  • A revision of our membership programme, with the aim of delivering a greater variety of offerings and benefits, tailored to the needs of various sectors. We are also working with the City of Cape Town to provide a lower entry level for business through a basic affiliation, so that more businesses can be represented and supported.
  • A business model that will see the marketing and membership departments work in a more integrated way, strengthening the crucial link between product development and marketing.
  • Further reduce our reliance on public funding by increasingly operating as a business and generating income. Forging partnerships with industry and the private sector to do collaborative marketing is also a key focus area. (Revenue generation is critical to our industry’s ability to sustain a year-round tourism employment foundation).
  • Re-evaluating the footprint of our VICs in Cape Town. We will consult international best practice and emerging visitor trends to ensure that our VIC model remains sustainable and relevant and is enhanced by the latest technology.

We have to remain vigilant, especially in challenging times. We must stay ahead of trends and use some of these trends to our advantage. The future of tourism is being created now and Cape Town Tourism will remain at the forefront of change. We will continue to update you on developments at Cape Town Tourism and, as always, we welcome your feedback and ideas. You are welcome to contact me on futurefit@capetown.travel with your comments.

Kind regards,
Mariette du Toit-Helmbold
Cape Town Tourism CEO

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