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  • How Adventurous Are We?

    I recently read a research document compiled by Dirty Boots an adventure tourism publication in which we usually advertise. The results of their survey has proved to be interesting reading in that the adventure tourism industry with a market size of about some 11 million adventurers is projected to generate some R5 billion into South Africa’s tourism economy this year.

    About 45% of our international visitors will indulge in one or other adventure activity which supports our approach to glean international visitors at expositions like Das Boot in Germany which hosts about 230 000 attendees each January.

    Adventure tourism locks in almost equal participation of men and women who are on average within the 35-40 age bands.  One assumes that in most cases there are young families associated with this cohort and this is ideal for our district which can offer adventure and family experiences.

    The highest income generating activities were suggested as shark cage diving, zipline tours, boat excursions, tandem skydiving and boat based whale watching most of which is offered here within our destination.

    This niche form of tourism in South Africa employs about 14 000 full time and 11 000 part time personnel so it is clear that adventure activities are significant contributors towards sustaining livelihoods in often non urban areas.

    Of the 38 activity types in which companies operate, I tallied that 28 are on offer here on the ocean and within our coastal and rural areas- this suggests we are in fact an adventure tourism hub in that about 74% of adventurer options could be selected right here on our doorstep.

    It is for this reason we attend consumer shows like Getaway (Cape and Johannesburg), Das Boot and the Beeld Holiday Show. We blend the sell for seas and adventure so that those with yearning for adrenalin rush can also chose pure relaxation and other attractions for that special family component.

    It amazes me how many people are prepared to push themselves to the physical and psychological edge so we should I guess be thrilled that our landscapes offer so much to those intrepid visitors who take the roads and challenges less travelled.

    I once did a bungy jumpy on the coast of Queensland and can attest to the heart thumping thrill of it all. Since then I have had preference for terra firma and am happy to leave the “get the sweat” activities to those more brazen than I.

    In conclusion, the new Southern Explorer is available from our Visitor Information Offices so one can source the sort of adventure that tickles one’s fancy.

    Full story

  • Support for Hinterland Events

    Ugu South Coast Tourism recently supported the annual Maidens Ceremony at Kwa Nyuswa in the Ezinqoleni area. For this event we placed advertisements in the media, provided website information and invited our tourism sector/ their guests to join our staff in convoy go to this traditional gathering in our hinterland.

    Needless to say only a handful of people and visitors from the coast attended albeit numerous locals from the rural area celebrated the occasion. Some Dutch tourists were in attendance and reported that they were “blown away” by the memorable experience.

    I believe that there are a number of rural events that are presented that should receive greater support from residents and tourists alike. Our inland areas do have reason to be endearing to people going on drives out and being at away from the coast events.

    As a sampling, we support cycling races in the magnificent Ingeli Forest near Harding, endurance events at Lake Eland, Time Travel outings in Umzumbe and with them many Zulu/English speaking tour guides with sound knowledge of the area are on hand to reinforce each experience.

    I have found that more often than not it is our overseas tourists that really wish to immerse themselves in our rich African culture and feel the authentic essence of communities. South Africans tend to be somewhat blasé when it comes to seeing what is on our rural doorstep.

    On a number of occasions I have ventured into such areas, had home stays with local families, learnt of their way of life and fascinating traditions, listened to some magnificent church services and outstanding choirs and returned home refreshed at the moving uniqueness of the experience.  

    In the near future, events in our inland areas are on the cards to include the Amakhono Arts Festival at Nyandazulu (19 September) and the Harding/Ingeli Show (19-20 September and the Ugu Film Festival at various venues (11-13 September).

    We really urge the public to not only attend themselves but also recommend them to Information in this regard can be accessed from our website www.tourismsouthcoast.co.za.

    In supporting these occasions, part of our tourism spend should accrue to the communities within which they are being held and that is an important geographic component of the diffusion of our visitor spend. As Spring approaches, there is no better time than heading for the hills to enjoy the variety of offerings in our District. Local is in fact lekker.

    Full story

  • Road Safety and Tourism

    Each year when we attend the Cape Getaway Show many prospective tourists ask about road safety particularly involving the N2 thoroughfare between East London and Kokstad in the Eastern Cape.

    This link is recognised as one of the most dangerous in South Africa and this reputation can act as a deterrent for visitors seeking to have holidays away from the Western and Cape.

    Thankfully we can offer enquirers the hassle free option to take the Karoo and scenic R56 option via the Eastern Cape Highlands to Kokstad and then on to the coast. Not many people know this but it is in fact the shortest route from Cape Town to the South Coast.

    I have driven the R56 many times and can say that the roads are excellent, not congested with cars, public transport, heavy duty trucks, people and livestock and certainly one of the most beautiful and safe routes one can take.

    What is clear is that a route to and roads within a destination that have a poor safety reputation can get the consumers asking questions and heading off to less daunting places to have their holidays.

    In local media reports, it appears that there have been an unacceptable number of unfortunate and serious accidents which may be ascribed to speed, non roadworthy vehicles, alcohol, carelessness or a combination of it all. This is a worry.

    We are committed to all and sundry having a “Sunny and Safe” experience down here. Besides the need for drivers to continually act in a law abiding manner, a zero tolerance approach by the authorities will also induce the motoring public to be more responsible on our roads.

    I have been told by visitors that it is very encouraging when there is strong evidence of law enforcement. Their presence provides comfort to the motorist in that attention to road safety is being lent and that transgressions are being curbed.

    One of the buzz terms in our industry is referred to as “Responsible Tourism” and I would say that attention to road safety by the public and the enforcement entities fits into that holistic approach.

    In 1976 I spent five weeks travelling throughout the United Kingdom and in all that time I did not see evidence of a single accident (minor or major). I was amazed and impressed as would our visitors if they went home with a similar view of our district.

    We can turn negatives into positives, tragedy into triumph – it just takes a collective effort. Please be safety conscious on our roads.

    Full story

  • It’s Time for Backbone

    SA Tourism Update recently published some startling news. Comparison between the first quarter 2014 and 2015 suggest that international tourism to SA has dropped by some 7% whereas globally it has increased by 4%. Our Consumer Confidence Index is the lowest for 14 years and there are indications that our province’s domestic tourism market share is under pressure.

    South Africans are feeling the financial pinch with the result that families either take fewer holiday breaks or even none at all and that sends us a challenge we all have to meet.

    Business gurus have over the decades reported that when the financial chips are down many companies and brand managers reduce their marketing and promotional spend- much to their peril. They advocate that products and services should sustain or even grow their marketing presence that to come through lulled economic periods.

    Tourism is a highly competitive business not only between hospitality and service providers but destinations themselves. We are no exception and when there is shrinkage in market size (due to personal and family budget curbs) the battle for the tourism Rand really intensifies.

    We at Ugu South Coast Tourism are not shying away from our marketing and promotional mandate. Our approach in these lean times is to show backbone and aggressively advertise and promote our district. In fact initial indicators are that we have exceeded our promotional, media and publicity targets for this year- and we will continue to invest in such programmes for the benefit of our local economy.

    In development curricula, there is the model that speaks of the spiral towards poverty. If we talk and act within the confines of negativity, that disconcerting spiral comes into play. I would like to think that our tourism sector has every intention of breaking up any signs of that regression.

    Part of the mitigation process lies in extended destination marketing and promotion, common belief in the merits of our destination, hyped up and creative own business marketing, broadening access to new market segments and the principle of meeting or bettering the experiential promise.

    Tourism consultants often suggest a marketing spend for existing businesses of between 7-9% of targeted turnover (for start up businesses approximately 12-15%). I wonder how many tourism enterprises do that - especially when the chase for the consumer buck is during these pressured times very much a la “dog eat dog”.

    We believe in the fill the glass principle (not half anything) and will strive to ensure that our great destination has the spine to successfully meet challenge and greet our markets.

    Full story

  • What’s In An Event?

    We often receive a number of funding enquiries from throughout our district and in many instances we provide sponsorships within certain key criteria.

    Our job is to attract as many visitors as possible to the Greater South Coast so if an event locks in many and mostly overnight paying tourists that is a good indicator for support.

    Secondly if an event has the potential to secure extensive media (electronic and hard copy) with a quantifiable value of exposure, the publicity worth is also factored into the funding mix.

    If a sports, cultural, lifestyle arts/entertainment occasion creates an element of value adding for visitors during their stay, we believe that the enhancement of visitor experience is critical in impressing our markets and securing repeat visitations. It is for this reason that we fund seasonal campaigns and add on events around our busiest holiday periods.

    Funding cannot be on a never-never basis and as such, events have to show some sort of trend towards sustainability. We usually reduce funding over the short term which then releases budget allocations towards new event initiatives. This approach I believe results in our destination having one of the busiest event calendars around.

    One of the difficulties we face is the assessment of applicant budgets which are not as definitive as we would expect. One poor budget plan can blow the event profitability out of the water. We assist where we can but if we are not convinced that an event has financial legs we cannot render support.

    There is the ever present assumption that government departments, municipalities and organisations like us are a treasure trove for grant funding and our concern is that a lot of event promoters are too ready to tap into tax payer monies as opposed to going the private/corporate sector.

    Some iconic events (e.g. Sani 2 C and Splashy Fen (in the Drakensberg) evolved from an idea that was then pursued with passion and then the sponsors came knocking. Today those events do not require government funds and yet they are great success stories.

    We would like to think the private sector drive coupled with some input from us and substantive support from corporate sponsors is an ideal meld for event success.

    We are an eventing paradise so I am all ears to hear from those with a dream, the drive and the wherewithal to make things happen- it all benefits our tourism at the end of the day.

    Full story

  • Every Picture Tells A Story

    As part of our publicity alignment programmes, I often purchase and review travel and leisure publications to ascertain the topics and themes journalists write about and then determine if we can win the publication over to do a feature or item on the greater South Coast.

    What is interesting is that nearly all the respected publications do have sections dedicated to photography. Invariably they print reader submissions of classic shots and in many instances they offer some great prizes for selected or winning photographs.

    This thus presents an amazing publicity opportunity. I have no doubt that in our district we have many outstanding amateur and professional photographers who have or want to have a brilliant portfolio of photographs of our wonderful ocean and terrestrial landscapes and within which a variety of human and natural studies can be undertaken.

    We are not in a position to enter photographic competitions as described above as it is the photographer who needs all the credit and accolades that accrue. What we do suggest is that our passionate photographers contemplate submitting their shots of our destination to the various publications. Each published photograph is often worth hundreds of words.

    Our coastal and rural environs are full of photographic bounty and there is no doubt that that photos submitted to publications and even posted on the internet can go a long way in selling the assets of our area.
    We also have a photographic library for possible use in our marketing tools so if any photographer would like to donate their favourite South Coast photos to us (we will acknowledge them in publications) we will be grateful.

    In closing, imagine the publicity value Great Britain and in particular London received through photographer postings of those millions of synthetic red poppies surrounding the iconic Tower of London to commemorate the devastating World War 1. On the home front how photographed and story lined was that fly over by a Boeing at the Rugby World Cup Final in 1995?

    It is clear that an image in time can illicit huge interest in an event, a moment in history, that special occasion and a place. We are a photographer’s paradise so I guess this is a bit of an invitation for all photographic junkies and the public in general to positively portray our destination using publications and the modern communication avenues.

    I had better get clicking on my somewhat outdated mobile phone- who knows I could end up winning some inconceivably expensive camera in the process.

    Full story

  • Visiting Friends and Relatives

    Statistics via Tourism KwaZulu-Natal indicate that some 21% of our overseas and Africa based visitors and a staggering 53% of domestic visitors to our province use Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) as the reason for their going to a destination.

    VFR has some interesting guises all of which contribute towards a tourism economy. As a sampling, the family who visits somebody in prison (think of Kokstad), a loved one in hospital, a wedding, a funeral, those who are at some boarding school or university or those who are in a retirement complex.

    One can go further, school reunions and in the USA for example military reunions are huge business for local tourism- why?  To reunite family, comrades and friends.

    In Scotland, clan gatherings are massive especially when many of the “macs” from all over the world pout with tartan pride to the whirl of the bagpipes alongside some windswept loch, snow capped highland peak and a long ruined castle. This is not too different when locally, occasions are held within the extended family and tribal structures of our proud Nguni communities.

    VFR applies to our rural communities where often family members work away from their traditional family hearths and frequently return to cherish family ties and cultural occasions. This is a huge and often unquantifiable element of our tourism industry.

    For logistical, economic or even personal reasons many VFR visitors choose not to actually stay with their family and friends and as such, local hospitality establishments receive the spin off from these guests. This alternative use of hospitality takes place in both the informal and formal segments of our tourism industry.

    By actually staying with family or friends, there is usually a significant saving for the visitor- we hope that in saving on accommodation, our VFR guests will reallocate spend towards retail and entertainment which are important elements within the tourism value chain.

    I have a friend who happily received a visit from his son from the USA. Two years later the son is still in the home and without contribution draining the family coffers. The lesson for VFR guests thus has to be- do not overstay your welcome you may never get a re-invite again.

    Our South Coast is very much a family orientated destination so in essence we are all hosting ambassadors. To my way of thinking as many households as possible should have a copy of the Southern Explorer so that touring options for our VFR tourist are recommended to them.

    In so doing, a big slice of our tourism market can really savour the Greater South Coast.

    Full story

  • The Act of Giving

    For my sins and through the initiative of the Wild Coast Sun, I was part of a group of who slept outdoors in aid of a nationally orientated fund raising initiative (via Radio 702) for the homeless children in our country.

    Besides Sun International’s own generous contributions, our tourism community has also made much appreciated pledges towards this good cause- hence my rather uncomfortable night under the stars in close proximity to the repetitive rumbling of the waves.

    What is seriously impressive to me is how giving our South Coast tourism industry is. When we do promotions and campaigns, we often ask of our members for prizes, giveaways, trade and media hosting trips etc. all as a means of inducing consumer and publicity interest in our destination.

    Our marketing team informs me that this year alone over R500 000 in contribution value has come from our committed members. This in my opinion is phenomenal and certainly much appreciated. I often ask other destination areas to what extent they have similar support and their dejected response has been “People seem to do their own thing and do not see the bigger picture”.  When it is indicated to them what our experience is down here, they seem rather bleak and envious.

    Our members do not pay huge membership fees (R360 per annum) yet their own investment on joint advertising campaigns, being with us at promotions and making contributions mentioned above indicates to me that our area has a very special tourism community.

    Often it is the non members who derive income from tourism who offer glum critique of our tourism efforts. I really recommend that such persons get onto our energetic tourism bus- the benefits far outweigh the paradigm of passive negativity.

    Finally a big thanks to the Wild Coast Sun for arranging raising sleep out at their beautiful property and from which, local recruited funds will contribute towards some R25 million raised round the country.  I have no intention of being homeless in paradise- my aching back and baggy eyes bear testimony to that. Next time a younger colleague will be press ganged into sleeping rough.

    In the act of giving we can collectively say with pride that our tourism sector is a very giving one- long may this last.

    Tonight I look forward to the comfort of my home with more gratitude than ever.

    Have a great Sardine Festival time – the whales are certainly celebrating their presence on our coast.

    Full story

  • Going to the Future

    In an article presented in the online Tourism Update, I was interested to see what Dutch futurist Albert Postma had to say about tourism trends for our continent.

    The article suggested that in forward planning, destinations (including ours) need to bear in mind some provoking considerations.

    Going to the future we need to recognise the importance of the more mature (age wise) traveller and plan for their interests and expectations. In planning one also has to recognise economic disparity within society and gear the tourism sell towards the various Living Standards Measure profiles recognising that many simply do not have the means to travel.

    Modern urbanites seek authentic experiences through an element of nostalgia and given our cultural heritage assets, this has to be important. I am reminded of a trip to Australia where I attended a “show” on the Aboriginal culture near Cairns in Queensland. I really felt that the depth of that amazingly rich culture was not adequately presented and the in and out of coaches and many camera clicking Japanese tourists like a cattle parade was the contrived and insincere intention.

    Today’s tourist does shop around for online price benefit and our industry has to be realistic in how we cost our services. I have been told that during Africa Bike Week some hospitality providers pumped up their prices to unreasonable levels- my belief is that if we are consistent and appropriate in our pricing there are much better longer term prospects for the Greater South Coast. The Western Cape for example has in many instances priced its hospitality towards the Pound, Euro or Dollar based spender with the result that part of our domestic market has swung towards more value for money places for a holiday. We cannot fall into the risky trap of overpricing.

    The other day I was at a world famous fast food outlet in Umhlanga Rocks and a sign in the outside area read “No Meetings- Seating for Eating Customers Only”. Depending on how you read it, the patron either enjoys their meal or becomes the meal. If one equates that to pricing in our industry, the same principle applies.

    There is scope for new markets stemming from Brazil, Russia, India and China and I know SA Tourism and Tourism KwaZulu Natal have recognised this opportunity. Another trend is for extended families to hold reunions. Many of our families are dotted all over the world and it is this “come together tourism” that could be an option for us.

    The mobile phone culture is here to stay and is being found across all age groups- hence our industry’s need to keep up to speed in terms of apps, Facebook, Twitter etc. Word of mouth – now word of screen is THE most significant form of reputation marketing so if we get the experience right, our clients will do a further sell for us.

    Here in Paradise if we use that gadget called the mobile phone to spread a positive word about our destination we all contribute towards that magnetic vibe to bring people down here.

    It was great that the sardines came to visit – let us hope others (like holidaymakers) will follow suit during the event filled mid year period we fondly refer to as Sardine Festival time.

    Full story

  • Visas and Visitors

    The tourism industry as well as Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, have expressed deep concern relating to the visa requirements for foreign nationals coming to South Africa. Although yet to be fully implemented our, visa requirements have been slated as being onerous and impractical to the extent that foreign visitation to our country could reduce as opposed to actually growing.

    Based on Tourism KwaZulu-Natal’s Statistics of Our Tourism Sector 2014, nationally we hosted some 9.62 foreign visitors and about 12 million domestic travellers (25.2 million trips). What is interesting is that the figures indicate that the per capita spend per day for foreigners is suggested at R870 per day in comparison to R210 per day for South Africans- the latter amount being as a result of very high numbers staying with family and friends.

    On the basis of the above it is clear that the tourism revenue yield (direct spend of R70.3 billion) from our foreign markets is very significant and any stringent visa regulations could dent the “export” earnings derived from our foreign guests.

    In the Western Cape this is of particular concern as that province has a juicy slice of our foreign market. When one is very reliant on overseas visitation an element of risk exists- visa obstructions, crime related publicity, a global catastrophe and war all create market reticence for long haul travel.

    Here on the South Coast, I have always held the belief that if we look after and market for our domestic tourist (who is a more resilient traveller) we will sustain our bread and butter tourism economy. Overseas visitors (about 10-15% of our market) are in truth the valued cherry on top.

    Our marketing ventures are geared to retain and grow our South Africa visitor and strategically target special interest niches from abroad. We are fortunate that we are not overly challenged by this visa saga – certainly and understandably the Western Cape is going all out to ensure that the regulations are amended.

    Ease of access to a destination is one of the most critical elements in determining where a tourist decides to go- I trust that our authorities will consider the tourism sector’s submissions and find a win-win situation for our industry and country.

    So in the mean time, Paradise of open for business- no visa (for SA folk) required.

    Full story

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