Events as catalyst for tourism growth

Fireworks over the V&A Waterfront, a joyous tide of Cape Minstrels marching through the Bo-Kaap and celebrations on our beaches are as much part of the Mother City’s cultural fibre and the lure that it holds for visitors as that of Table Mountain, a jazz safari or cycling through the Somerset West winelands.

The National Department of Tourism (NDT) drafted a National Tourism Sector Strategy in 2011 to guide the responsible growth of the South African tourism industry and establish our country as one of the world’s top 20 destinations by 2020. The development of business and events tourism was identified as a key priority for the strategy with a final draft National Events Strategy, recently released for stakeholder comment. Implementation and action plans for the strategy will be developed during the fourth quarter of the 2011/12 financial year. 

There are certain factors critical to the success of a framework designed to optimise the potential of events tourism. Elizabeth Kruger and Prof. Ernie Heath of the University of Pretoria¹ outlined the stakeholder’s perspective on leveraging events very well at the Sports and Events Tourism Exchange 2011 that took place in Cape Town during July 2011. Events first and foremost need to be addressed as a strategic destination priority, the event marketing strategy then needs to be well aligned with the overall destination marketing strategy, the roles of broader stakeholders need to be defined, the resources of the destination managed and environmental issues proactively addressed for sustainable growth.

The proposed National Events Strategy in its current state places an emphasis on sustainable tourism and pro-poor tourism development to spread the benefits to rural areas, the coordination between three spheres of government and very importantly, it is focused solely on domestic tourism with South African Tourism’s Conventions and Events Bureau retaining their focus on attracting and supporting large-scale international and regional events. The way forward for the strategy is paved with three key recommendations: developing a national events calendar, establishing a national events committee and selecting events in each province that will receive the NDT’s support.

The City of Cape Town, along with stakeholders, is currently working on an event strategy for Cape Town. Event tourism is seen as an opportunity to maximize direct and substantial benefits that support the city’s strategic objectives². To this end the City have embarked on a process of examining regional and national event policies and strategies in South Africa, best practice examples internationally and how such a strategy would align with existing City policies and bylaws relating to events.  The approach is a sustainable one that promotes partnerships aimed at bringing benefits to Cape Town, its residents, businesses and visitors while promoting growth and development. This will complement the Integrated Event Strategy for the Western Cape drafted by the Provincial Government of the Western Cape and successfully submitted to cabinet for approval in 2011.

The economic benefits that events hold are well recorded: the Volvo Ocean Race is estimated to have contributed close to R308 million³ to our city’s economy in 2008 and the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon R223 million in 2010 ⁴. The infrastructural development that accompanies mega-events, like the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, improves to the livability of a city for its residents and enhances the appeal that it holds for visitors. The experiential nature of events – they draw our visitors into the city as participants – sets the stage for inspiration to be found in Cape Town and visitors to return to our city again and again.

¹ Kruger, E. and Heath, E. (2011) Building sport tourism and event portfolio’s – Key Success Factors. Sports and Events Tourism Exchange, Cape Town. 
² The City of Cape Town and Kamilla-SA Sport and Tourism Consulting. (2010). Alternative Niche Tourism Markets: Event Tourism, Niche Market Study, pp. 111 – 115.
³ Pollack, M.  (2011) Volvo Ocean Race a boost for Cape Town. Online. Available:   [29 Dec 2011]
⁴ Kruger, M., Saayman, M., Saayman, A. and Rossouw, R. (2011) A marketing analysis and economic impact of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. Institute for Tourism and Leisure Studies, Potchefstroom.

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