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CEO Blog

  • Sunset After 5

    After five years with Ugu South Coast Tourism, I decided last year that I would not be seeking a further term of office when my contract ended at the end of July. Having spent about 70% of my time away from my Midlands home and being in my 60s, the time is right to do the things that have been lingering on the back burner whilst I have been on the South Coast. 
    My stint here has been one of more pluses than minuses in that I have found that there are a number of people really committed to making things tourism happen in their local communities. It is they who have kept our enthusiasm going when applying our extensive tourism strategy and seeking to meet or better our many performance targets.
    On my arrival here in 2013, I was familiar with certain parts of the destination and as I got to know more about it, I realised that there is far, far more to this Paradise than the great beaches and the warm seas. My challenge has been to consistently remind our publics of this fact and to inculcate a more positive mind set amongst those who at times are of the half empty ilk.
    I have always held that people make the difference and here the can do people far outweigh those who prefer to be oblivious of the good intent and work of many others. 
    Notwithstanding major setbacks like water issues and a severely dented economy, knowing the resilience of the tourism sector here, I am confident that in the words from the civil rights movement in the USA, “we (you) shall overcome”.
    Generally our media have been very supportive of our work- it has been a pleasure working with them as well as those proactive and committed members and staff at our organisation. 
    Credit to what we do or have done must also be directed to our municipal funders and our Board who over the years have been very supportive and have provided sound advice when it was required.
    In conclusion, huge appreciation in general to South Coasters for the opportunity to work for and with you- the experience I will cherish as I start ticking off those many and exciting things on my “ballies” bucket list.
    Before then it will be off to the UK, Switzerland (sorry no secret banks accounts there folks) and France for a family break.
    Tot siens and Siyabonga- next time I am here I will be a tourist which could be an interesting notion.

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  • Swinging Down South

    Golf is in the limelight with the inter-varsity golf championships taking place at Port Shepstone Country Club this week. It is the second time this important student competition is taking place on the South Coast and for all the right reasons.
    Firstly at this time of year the Highveld courses are frost parched and it can be bitterly cold up there even during the day and in the Cape, their winter rains can put a dampener on any prospect of a good weather week for golf.
    Here we even during our winter months have glorious warm weather and our superb golf courses are in pristine condition. This is why we are a 365 destination for all sorts of leisure land or ocean activity- including golf.
    If one adds that at times students like to get into social mode and enjoy some sort of holiday at the same time and where better than here at one of South Africa’s most popular coastal destinations.
    I know from my own varsity days that after a day’s play there was also scope for nocturnal jollification as well. Margate for example is an ideal place for a bit of youthful exuberance after the scorecards have been handed in.
    Besides some of the universities being a bit distant (e.g. UCT and Stellenbosch), most tertiary institutions are in fact located in our key source markets (Gauteng, Free State, North West and KZN). From an access point of view, the South Coast is ideal for the teams to come here and compete.
    Our team will be handing each student a copy of our Southern Explorer Route Guide so that they can consider returning here to vacate and/or play the other fine courses we have. 
    Not only that, if they enjoy their stay, when they go back to campus they can spread the good word about our destination and who knows more batches of sea, sun and sip seeking students may return year after year.
    What to some may seem as being just a week-long event for future graduates, we see them as welcome guests and future customers.
    May they also graduate from the tee boxes, fairways and greens to becoming loyal South Coast visitors during the years ahead. Cum laude nog al!

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  • What a Weekend

    After a week of meetings here and in Zululand, I returned to the South Coast last Saturday and it was refreshing to leave the drudgery of industrial Richards Bay (their waterfront is very good though) and the congestion of greater Durban behind and re-enter the more chilled South Coast at Scottburgh.
    The spirits were up as it was to be a weekend of activity down our way with the South Coast Lions Show and the Ugu Jazz Arts on the go. Many vehicles that passed me were from far and wide and ironically including NRB and NUF.
    I attended the South Coast Lions Show and am ever impressed at the work so many community organisations do for the needy without own reward.
    On Sunday I went to Margate for a bite to eat and write this article and lo and behold, yet more shoals of sardines were edging their way past with netters eagerly awaiting their landfall. 
    The post festival goers were filling up the eateries no doubt to negate any after effects of jollification and to enjoy another bright day at our holiday capital. Obviously month end is the time to host people and our visitors. In tight economic circumstances people are more prone to spend away from home when the bucks are in the bank.
    Later on I went back to see if in fact the sardines had obliged (they had not) but the revellers were in full daytime party swing- wine flowing within animated and ever happy conversation.
    We are not just a holiday time destination- we have all the great ingredients to make us the greatest weekend destination in KZN. Homecomings, reunions, city resident getaways, weekender packages, special events and off course our entertainment and hospitality venues can all reinforce that urban slicker and farmer desire to get to our Paradise.
    Is there a World Cup on the go? I hardly noticed as did the folk on leisure song this last weekend. 
    Jolly days indeed.

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  • Sardine Fever Grips

    After a few years of absence or only small shoals on the South Coast, this season has commenced with multiple shoals coming to shore up and down our glorious coast. 
    One journalist has asked why the use of the word “fever”. My interpretation is that when the thousands of fish swirl to shore there is a frenzy of activity from the people who swarm to the beach. There is almost a delirious scene on the sand but also from the predators at sea and the swooping gulls that dive into the dark mass under the water.
    From a tourism perspective this is good news because anglers, photographers, the media and inquisitive public come down to witness the spectacle or fish for the game fish that follow this living tide.
    One boat charter crew I spoke to on Sunday said that they took out 7 groups in just one day which is also good for the marine sport economy.  Reports indicate that the shoals are still lingering around Scottburgh and Umzumbe and who knows maybe more shoals are making their way to us from the colder waters of the Cape.
    The run is in my opinion as significant as the upstream salmon migrations that occur in places like Alaska and Washington State in the USA and the mass movement of Wildebeest and Zebra on the Serengeti in Tanzania.
    Like the expectation for Muslims to visit Mecca in their lifetime, here in South Africa, seeing the sardines run has to be on one’s bucket list. The South Coast has for decades been the primary landing area for this great phenomenon so let’s hold out for more shoals this year and in the years ahead.
    May everybody have a wonderful Sardine Season 2018.

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  • It’s About Time

    At last it seems that the National Department of Tourism (NDT) is going to take non-compliant, fly by night businesses in the sector to task.

    Last week I attended the Tourism Act revision session in Durban and from inputs from the floor it was very clear that businesses who go through all the hoops and loops to be legal and compliant as “gatvol” that many others do not. This includes taxi drivers masquerading as tour operators, underqualified tour guides, unscrupulous and fraudulent holiday letting. Uber and Air BNB was also a matter of contention.

    Given that national legislation has precedent over provincial tourism legislation, this session was a start to assist KZN in repealing or amending the Act here.

    My submission to NDT was to legislate that all tourism business categories must be a member of an accredited Community Tourism Association like Ugu South Coast Tourism. In so doing each CTO in conjunction with local municipalities can ensure that only legitimate businesses can have a fair bite at the tourism cherry.

    The present indication is that if the Act is passed, severe penalties for transgressors could include one or all of massive fines, forced closure and time in prison. I am in support of this move-its time the authorities acted against the chancers and supported those who do things by the book.

    Another encouraging development is the establishment of a Tourism Complaints Official at NDT who would take all the legal steps to ensure that issues are dealt with and including aspects of the Consumer Protection Act and tourism businesses that do not play ball.

    My view is that if businesses stay out of the CTO environment they should not expect assistance from us in matters tourism. Our allegiance is to our paid up members and we will act on their behalf when it comes to lobbying government, tourism organisations and local institutions.

    My advice is thus if you are a tourism, hospitality and leisure enterprise get fully legit. We have personnel who can assist you in this.

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  • Taking Things for Granted

    The other day I had a meeting with a couple of media practitioners at the Shelly Beach Ski Boat Club and just sitting there as the clean sea lapped against the shoreline just a few metres away reminded me that in the past five years I have only twice swam in the sea.
    In discussing this, the media practitioner stated that he had only swum less than five times in 20 years! I think we can own up to the fact that we have been guilty of taking things for granted and not really taking in our great recreational assets right on our doorstep.
    Quite simply I should have been in the surf more regularly to enjoy the refreshing aspects of our beautiful coastline- especially at this sunny time of year. I am doubly guilty when it comes to golf because I have only played golf about 7 times since 2013 and I love golf and we have 11 courses on which to enjoy the sport.
    Maybe the time consuming aspects of my job are partly to blame but there is no excuse when it comes to using leisure time to fully embrace the vast array of natural features and attractions we have here at the South Coast.
    In Cape Town for example ask residents how many times they have been up Table Mountain.  Many have been up this iconic feature only a few times. It is only when one visits other destinations that one realises on return how valuable our home space in fact is. 
    Maybe when my term is up and I return to the Midlands I will regret not spending more time and in a leisurely manner reap the benefits our many visitors enjoy when they holiday down here. 
    Oh well I’ll just have to return as a tourist and soak in all the recreational wonders this great destination offers. This is why and contrary to popular belief the South Coast remains the most non metro beach destination in KZN.
    If well can rekindle a collective appreciation of our tourism assets, I have no doubt that even with recent setbacks over water, the consumer will re-establish a regular relationship with the South Coast and there will be a resumption of visitor growth going forward.
    In the mean time I had better have more dips in the sea and head more often to the golf course.

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  • Going For Gold

    Out of the blue there has been a recent rush towards Harding at the announcement that a possible gold deposit exists at a nearby village. Naturally we await the outcome of tests to determine if it is the Real McCoy or just slim pickings.

    Industrial Tourism is sometimes an under- valued aspect of our industry. The stereotype we perceive are visitors togged up in their newly acquired holiday garments setting off to the beach or inland with cameras or binoculars as large as silos. This is not always the case.

    Industrial tourism hinges around some or other primary (e.g. gold) or secondary activity whereby specialists, construction teams, engineers and value chain providers converge on a hub or area of industrial development. Here I think of the former Ellisras where tourism and property prices have boomed exponentially – all due to a power station being constructed.

    Even if the hype around Harding comes to nought, there are other initiatives within Operation Phakisa that can be construed as value for tourism in an industrial sense. We have proposed boat building clusters, fish farming, agri- initiatives in the macadamia sector and development of new light industrial hubs in the pipeline. Let’s hope they all come through because in a diversified tourism market this is good news for our sector.

    Given we have excellent Marine Protected Areas, I am ambivalent about possible off shore exploration for oil. It is seldom that industry and nature based tourism fit hand in glove so the sourcing of inward investment has to be considerate of our environment and the ecosystems that give our tourism industry credibility.

    We pride ourselves in offering visitors a usually healthy environment in which to enjoy leisure pastimes. In chasing that ever tempting pot of gold we should ensure that we do not choke that leisure goose that lays that you know what.

    Having said that I am hopeful that rural Harding does strike it lucky- the communities there need an injection of opportunity.

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  • TOURISM 360

    So For Sardine Season

    No sooner has the Easter season come and gone than the Sardine Season is on us.
    Up and down that coast and inland too,  communities, organisations, sports clubs and the sea faring enthusiasts have been working diligently to put together a calendar of events that not only act as drawcards for people to visit but also provide value adding aspects of the winter programme for people coming here in any case and our locals.
    Whether the little fellas come here on the Sardine Run is always up for speculation but if they do what a bonus it will be- after all it is an internationally recognised natural phenomenon.
    Either way the South Coast is forever ready to maximise the things to enjoy aspect for those who shrink away from the chilly climate of the Highveld and like the Sardines migrate to our warmer waters.
    Ugu South Coast Tourism has put together a promotional campaign to motivate our potential visitors to come stay and play during the school holidays so let’s all encourage family and friends to join in.
    I recently spoke to a local resident who said that they host have a number of their family consistently each holiday-  a must attend gathering with the matriarchs and patriarchs of their close knit “clan”. 
    At least 35-40 people come from KZN and Gauteng with kids in tow and stay the full duration of each holiday- you know how many bed night spend that translates into? And that it just one family!
    So whether up north in sunny Scottburgh, at lights up Margate,  South at the hospitable Umtamvuna or anywhere in between, let’s look forward to what is just around the corner.
    Here’s to a splendid Sardine Season – please consult our website www.tourismsouthcoast.co.za for an updated what’s on this mid-year.

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  • Go Great Drives Out

    In 2016 we initiated the profiling of rural tourism product which has subsequently evolved in our developing the Great Drives Out brand which now involves four sub routes within the nine Southern Explorer routes.

    At Indaba 2018 in early May, we formally launched the brand to the media, tourism trade and senior representatives from Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and what a launch it was!

    In attendance was the South Coast TV celebrity family of Musa Mseleku of Uthando Nes’Thembu fame and what a draw card their presence was. There was a massive frenzy of people who graduated to our stand to take photographs of and with the family. In addition, TV media from Limpopo interviewed them with the ever presence of our tourism branding as backdrop.

    The Mseleku family are very much part of our tourism community. Not only have they opened up their rural homestead at Madlala for tours but they also own the popular Umdlalo Lodge at Umtentweni.

    The Board Chairman of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal Sithembiso Madlala addressed the packed area and was full of praise at what has rapidly been done to address the need to sustain livelihoods in our hinterland. In fact the organisation wants us to share our method and approach with other districts that seem to be lagging behind.

    After Indaba, we hosted a media tour and the feedback we have received for this experience and initiative has been very positive. We just need to sustain interest and ensure that regular flow of locals and visitors along the routes occurs.

    We really urge the public to obtain a copy of our latest Southern Explorer Route Guide (also available off our website www.tourismsouthcoast.co.za) and in which the touring options are profiled.

    For each sub route, there are listed local guides who can assist should visitors prefer to have the comfort of hosted journeys.

    So go Great Drives Out. I have done so a number of times and each experience never fails to enrich.

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  • Some Feel Good Things

    During South Coast Bike Fest 2018, part of the substantial entertainment programme involved a walk through performance by our local band of Scottish pipers. All togged up in their kilts and clan regalia they shrilled their way along the congested boulevard and then came to a stop.

    At roadside was the Msenti Cultural Group which we assist in their artistic endeavours. There Victor Jaca and his drummers were playing their style akin to the Zulu culture. Then all of a sudden a Euro-centric and Nguni musical meld commenced- the two groups began jamming much to the pleasure of the crowd around them.

    The sombre shrilled sounds of the Glens vibed up to the enthusiastic beats from the Kwa Nzimakwe valleys and it added such a great touch to the already festive ambience of the day.

    After this, Victor informed me that his group and the Caledonian lads plan to do some musical collaboration which I hope bears good musical fruit. Their fusion exemplified what we wanted out of the event - a celebration of togetherness in the context of festivity.

    I have been looking at many photographs of the festival and it is clear that the people that were there had left their daily hassles at home and were in the moment and thoroughly enjoying it.

    It was a pity the strong wind and rain at times influenced some of the programme but everybody seemed to accept this and made the most of their time in Margate. I made a point of going out to outlying hospitality areas and noted that many bikes were parked at these places- after all once bikers have been to the event precinct they then ride out to their favourite pubs and carry on the fun there.

    Finally to the SAPS and law enforcement officers as well as services personnel from Ray Nkonyeni Municipality- a big thanks for the support to ensure that the event was presented as efficiently as possible.

    Roll on South Coast Bike Fest 2019!

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