Tourism industry think tank discusses the way forward

“The real work around doubling the economic impact of tourism in Cape Town by 2020 begins now,” says Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, “and consultative, co-operative partnerships between Cape Town’s tourism players are essential for establishing a strong brand and positioning statement for Cape Town”

Du Toit-Helmbold told an audience of 200 people that everything her organisation did around the World Cup was designed “to leverage the event for the years ahead. Cape Town Tourism’s focus had never been on the short term.”

She was speaking at a crucial tourism industry think tank, at Cape Town Tourism’s Joint Association Members’ Meeting Session (JAMMS) at Century City on Wednesday, September 15, 2010. JAMMS brings industry leaders and key tourism stakeholders in the city together to chart the way forward for tourism.

The recent JAMMS was attended by members of Cape Town Tourism, the Cape branch of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA), and the Western Cape branch of the South African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) and Western Cape branch of the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA). 

The CEO said the way in which Cape Town welcomed the world was one of the biggest success factors of the World Cup and one of the most important legacies to build upon going forward. Tourism had found itself “in a bit of a vacuum” after the World Cup and it was important, as a destination, to decide on a positioning statement with which to market Cape Town, with one voice, to the world, she argued.

“We are going to be putting together a workshop and a strategy, around a post World Cup brand for Cape Town. Cape Town Tourism will drive this initiative very strongly over the next two months and involve the industry in the process,” she said.

Post-recession economics linger but airline capacity was also identified as a critical factor limiting access to the destination. It was also clear that visitors were not discovering the region’s communities, staying instead in “well-established tourist nodes”. It was very important to navigate people, and give them a 360-degree view of the destination, said Du Toit-Helmbold.

The accommodation sector in Cape Town had seen a 45% increase in capacity over the past five years.


Shifting seasonality

A key contributor to sustained growth is the move to combat seasonality. Seventy percent of World Cup fans found Cape Town’s winter much better than expected, presenting a huge opportunity to build a really strong winter brand.

In this regard, South African Tourism (SAT) has been given a mandate to investigate the setting up of a new national convention bureau, which would strengthen the country’s international tourism operations more than ever before. Such an initiative would combine mega sporting events and mega conventions under one bureau.

South African Tourism’s Global Manager for Business Tourism Nomasonto Ndlovu said that it was vital that the industry worked together, going forward, “With the World Cup, we were forced to work together. Now we need to choose to work together,” she said.

Value for money

It was vital that Cape Town ensures that it offeres good value, Du Toit-Helmbod said: “We do not want to become a cheap destination, but we have to make sure that the word is out there that Cape Town offers a fabulous, unforgettable, value-for-money experience.”

South African Tourism’s Nomasonto Ndlovu said tourism in South Africa had continued to out-perform other countries, with growth figures of 3.6%, compared to global figures that showed a decline of 4.3%. The Western Cape and Gauteng were by far the provinces most visited by foreign tourists.

There is no time like now to visit South Africa, Ndlovu argued: “We now have another reason to believe. The successful hosting of the World Cup has provided further evidence that we can deliver. SAT has invested R88-million in a brand awareness campaign, to help keep alive the positive image of South Africa portrayed during the World Cup.”

The domestic market is often overlooked, she added. Her message to the tourism industry was “to take the domestic market very seriously”. This was the bread-and-butter market, she argued, and Cape Town lagged behind other destinations in this regard.

Input from Cape Town Routes Unlimited

Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) CEO Calvyn Gilfellan, told the gathering that, against all odds, South Africa had “astonished the world” in its successful hosting of the World Cup.

“The challenge for us now is in how we capitalise on this. We have a window of opportunity, but the longer we wait, the smaller the window will become. Eventually it will become an air vent,” he said.

He said he had detected “a bit of a lull” on the local tourism front and, as tourism was the major beneficiary and driver of the World Cup, it was up to those involved in the industry to plan the way forward.

Gilfellan said it was vital to improve air access to Cape Town and that CTRU, in conjunction with the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA), had been tasked with developing an “airlift strategy” to get more direct and chartered flights into the city.

Comments from FEDHASA

Dirk Elzinga, Chairman of FEDHASA in the Cape, told the gathering it was important to look at how international events organisers were being treated in South Africa.

“For example, they are unable to reclaim VAT in South Africa, while they do have that possibility when organising events in other countries. Also, we have learned that approximately 25% of participants in international events, such as congresses, return with their families on holiday.  What marketing are we doing, directed at international participants of events, while they are in Cape Town, to encourage them to return to our destination?” he asked.

On the question of seasonality, Elzinga said that in many people from Middle Eastern countries people wanted to escape from the extreme summer heat and visit places like Cape Town during winter.

“We could offer tourists from the Middle East a great outdoor holiday experience, perhaps even with a rain guarantee!” he suggested.

Key issues going forward

It was clear from the discussions that tourism in Cape Town faces several challenges.

Arthur Gillis, managing director and CEO of the Protea Hotel Group, weighed in on the discussion regarding the lack of airline arrivals in the Mother City. He said he would do “whatever it takes” to ensure that this issue was addressed soon. This critical issue has been tasked to CTRU, in partnership with ACSA, and the matter would be attended to as a priority.

The importance of a growing and diverse tourism product offering, attracting more domestic tourists, focussing on business and event tourism, as well as aligning tourism strategies at regional, provincial and national level were identified as crucial areas that needed to be addressed if Cape Town is to achiee a sustainable, year-round tourism economy.

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