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CEO Blog

  • Peaking Down to the Sea

    It is not common knowledge but the shortest road route to and from Cape Town from the KZN coast is via the R56 in the Eastern Cape Highlands and cross country through the vast expanses of the Karoo.
    Because of this I recently engaged with the local authorities and tourism stakeholders in the Eastern Cape to cement some kind of tourism linkage whereby visitor flows utilise our district as a base or conduit for those using this route involving the Cape provinces. This trip also included delivering many copies of our Southern Explorer Route guide at many tourism offices on the way.
    It is clear that the combination of a mountain experience (Rhodes for example has a snow ski resort nearby) and the warmer coastal tourism options here makes sense in that “Berg to Beach” principle and we as gateway to KZN want to capture that stopover factor for those coming here or en route to the provinces west of us.
    This principle also applies to cross border flows to and from Lesotho and entering South Africa via the Eastern Cape border posts. Imagine a tourist on one day snow skiing all wrapped up in winter woollies and shortly thereafter bathing comfortably on one of our brilliant beaches and soaking up the warm sun. Another scenario could be that anglers can one day reel in large trout from a pristine mountain stream and then come here and catch a massive game fish along our popular coastline.
    Great choices thus emerge if we fuse our year round offering with those in the mountain areas of KZN and the Eastern Cape which lie only a few hours away from us.
    Tourism does not fit geopolitical boundaries so to us by melding our unique offerings with different options elsewhere makes sense.  This is being done to draw in tourists who would extend their stays, travel around a broader geographic region and take in various permutations of attractions and experiences at the same time.
    Oh and by the way the drive from the Eastern Cape Highlands to our district is exceptionally beautiful and a spectacular reminder as to how vista and variety filled our lovely country in fact is.
    Such delights are on our doorstep and worthy of exploration and recommendation. It’s the journey that counts as well.

    Full story

  • The Kids Are Swinging Into Town

    From 28 August until 1 September the Junior Africa Challenge golf event takes place at our beautiful San Lameer Golf Course near Marina Beach.
    Hosted by the SA Kids Golf organisation, golfers from the continent will converge on the South Coast to compete for invitations to participate in events in the USA and garner valuable ranking points in their chosen sport.
    The ages range for SA Kids Golf is from 5 to 18 so it will be really special seeing these young (and probably very little) golfers tackling one of our best and certainly picturesque courses.
    What’s this to do with tourism?
    To start with if hundreds of young golfers come to the South Coast and play a variety of courses and have a jolly holly at the same time they may well get a great impression of our destination and return when older to play their favourite courses and spend leisure time here as well.
    Secondly children away from home usually are accompanied by their parents or guardians so a golf event of this nature brings in a valuable out of season spend by participants, supporters and officials.
    Finally this tournament will realise publicity online and in the print media so our destination enjoys in free promotion not only for our golf tourism but the South Coast in general.
    It is great that the youth can have such wonderful opportunity to go places from such an early age and we are fortunate that the golfing powers that be have chosen our district to host this internationally orientated competition.
    Who knows the next Speith, Woods or Little may be lurking amongst the diminutive players who will be here at month end.
    In short and to quote an up country visitor from Pretoria I recently chatted to when he said “hell man its blerry lekker playing golf down here- you ous are flippin lucky to live here”.
    I would like to believe that all visiting golfers have the same sentiment – that’s why we are traditionally one of the most popular golf destinations in South Africa.

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  • Keeping on Track

    Last week Ugu South Coast Tourism conducted a review of the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) which in essence guides national, provincial and local tourism management strategies and rationales for action.
    The NTSS strategies cover five pillars namely marketing, access, visitor experience, destination management practices and broad based benefits.
    Nationally SA Tourism is responsible for both overseas and domestic marketing programmes however there has been a tendency for the national agency to promote the iconic places like Cape Town and Kruger National Park and have great destinations like ours somewhat a bit in the background. We have recommended that the South Coast gets a higher profile to the core and desired markets but in the mean time we will continue to apply our own marketing and promotional campaigns here in South Africa (80% of our market) and abroad.
    Visitor access can have many dimensions as it covers physical access via modes of transport and access to communications and information. Naturally we continue to influence decision makers to improve road and air travel infrastructure to and from our district and keep abreast with the latest social media trends to maximise suitable provision of information for our consumers.
    Visitor experiences and destination management often go hand in glove and the degree of visitor satisfaction is largely dependent on the quality of service equated to the experiential promise. Generally our visitors do go home with a high level of satisfaction. Destination management concerns decision making and maintenance of public amenities and tourism support infrastructure. Here, surveys show that there is a constant need to keep amenities in a good condition and regularly upgrade facilities where needed. Where gaps occur we encourage the authorities to attend to the issues at hand so that we can present the recreational promise with some measure of confidence.
    Broad based benefits essentially are those that sustain livelihoods especially in rural and deprived areas. Through our development personnel we are actively working towards the creation of more interesting great drives out into our interior so that enterprises there can glean income from visitors. Our latest version of the Southern Explorer Route Guide now includes the first batch of such experiences.
    In comparing our Tourism Strategy 2017-2021 with the NTSS I am pleased that we are on the right track towards keeping the tourism pillars upright and to this end our operational, marketing and development objectives are clear and target orientated.
    Our 2016/17 financial year has just concluded and based on initial indicators, we have managed to meet or exceed all our objectives and targets.
    Sticking to the plan works it seems.

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  • Do the VFR

    ot many realise this but Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) represents between 50-60 percent of our tourism market. This high volume market segment can be sporadic in terms of specific events (e.g. funerals) and special occasions or fairly regular when city dwellers go home to their loved ones and traditional hearths usually around month end.
    In most cases VFR tourists do not stay in hotels and the likes but they do spend on consumables, retail, entertainment and entry to tourist attractions and although their per capita per spend is less than those who stay is paid accommodation, the sheer volume of this segment makes VFR a very important contributor to a tourism and leisure based economy like ours.
    Can you imagine that in order to make some savings in a depressed economy the majority of local South Coast residents decided not to travel elsewhere at year end and to host family and friends here? I know of many people who have loved ones abroad who come here for their annual Xmas homecoming and would not miss it for the world.
    If this was to occur one would be surprised at the pleasing outcome would be for our tourism industry. An adequate season could end up being pretty much a bumper one.
    We all know that not all families and socially connected groups get on blissfully well over (I think here of one large family reunion we had in Mossel Bay and after only a few days I could not wait to get out onto the golf course to catch a breather!).
    This being said and on the assumption that most do gel pretty well then where better to celebrate good memories and great leisure times than at the South Coast?
    We have such a diversity of sites, experiences and attractions on offer that any family dynamic can be accommodated from young to old and that is the beauty of our product spectrum. So if son-in-law is getting a little itchy with ma-in-law he can get on his snazzy over priced bike and pedal the lovely rural byways whilst dear ma-in-law buys generous portions of ice cream for his appreciative offspring on one of our glorious beaches. A win-win eh?
    So South Coasters how about it? Why not make 2017/2018 summer season the one that you bring family here or invite good friends long not seen to our lovely destination?
    If the thought seems daunting your local chemist may have some medication to pull you through.

    Full story

  • Those Unexpected Things

    During the weekend of the 8th of July I hosted friends who were en route to the Wild Coast to do some fishing.
    Wishing to show them some of the South Coast’s holiday vibe I thought I would take them to a fund raiser called the Fish and Music Festival which was being hosted up amongst the rich farmlands at Rocky Ridge a few kilometres inland of Ramsgate.
    It was the first time I had been to the venue and what a pleasant surprise evening it turned out to be.
    The full moon hung over the sea seemingly commanding the still evening and set the tone for excellent local musicians to heartily entertain the large throng of people who were clearly in the mood for festivity and dancing- all set in a lush sub tropical garden. Strangers shared tables were all chatty to each other and mirth was patently evident.
    Everybody was oblivious of the daily stresses we often have to endure and for those fun filled hours a very happy atmosphere prevailed. I have no doubt that all who attended this light hearted evening woke the next day (condition unknown) with a sense that their evening was really well worth it.
    Had I not seen a poster announcing the festival we would not have had the pleasure of being there and in this lies a message.
    We at Ugu South Coast Tourism regularly update our events calendar to present on the web, inform the media and notify our members.  These events could be of great interest to our visitors and locals. Such events often add value to the tourist’s stay (Ok I was not a tourist but I certainly had a value adding evening).
    We truly urge members of the public and organisations who host and present events to please bring these occasions to our attention so that we can include them in our calendar. In or out of season there may be many people looking to support and enjoy our local events and our famed hospitality whilst here.
    So if anybody is going to have an event that could broaden and add value to our events calendar please send advance details. Our contact email address is eventing@tourismsouthcoast.co.za
    I know that my friends left for the Hole in the Wall with appreciation of their unexpected and jolly evening up in the hills. They must have been a bit disorientated when they left at dawn because lots of their provisions for their bumpy trip still reside in my fridge!
    South Coast hospitality is very much alive and well thanks to those who present feel good events in interesting and conducive places.

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  • Two Kinds of Welcome

    The other evening the Umtamvuna Area Committee near Port Edward hosted a well attended Meet and Greet for members at the picturesque Umtamvuna River Lodge. The evening was a relaxed affair with a happy mix of fine dining, music, entertainers, lucky draws and speeches by local product owners and stakeholders. In all this was a welcoming and hospitable occasion that represented the hosting persona that tourism community has down towards our border with the Eastern Cape. A few days before this function we were in another part of the district and called in at a popular venue only to be informed in a somewhat matter of fact and not very polite way that the property was closed for the day and basically clear off. A principle within the tourism industry is that as a point of departure one must have a welcoming approach to customers and visitors and if for whatever reason one cannot meet their requirements one makes a plan or communicates the situation in an inoffensive manner. Most business deserving owners and managers realise that an accommodating open approach to customers is far better for business than having an “It’s my way or no way” or a “Take it or leave it” approach. Thankfully here on the South Coast most product owners go that extra mile for our visitors however those who do not can elicit negative perceptions of the tourism industry as a whole and this is something we have to guard against. This is why we have local Area Committees who aspire to have their areas well known for their outstanding service and friendly disposition. This approach always betters the alternative form of “welcome” which is really not one at all. I always look forward to going down to the lower South Coast - their enjoyable Meet and Greet functions represent what their visitors experience- being very welcomed and where better to experience this than in and around Port Edward and that eco-activity hub along the mighty and beautiful Umtamvuna River.

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  • Chasing the Bucks

    About two years ago I submitted to our tourism stakeholders that tough economic times were looming and I suppose the recent announcement that RSA is in a recession is a culmination of those symptoms.
    Although our value for money destination has generally sustained in these tough times we have to acknowledge the economic realities that exist and how that does or could impact on our tourism economy.
    Recent figures consulted from TKZN and SA Tourism and relating to comparative years 2015 to 2016 do not present a rosy picture for our province which like us relies very heavily on domestic tourism. Domestically, KZN market share dropped 23.7%, and consumer spend (2016- R3.96 billion) some 28%.
    Analysis of tourism related businesses indicated some shrinkage in enterprises such as accommodation establishments, tour operators, car hire companies, and restaurants.
    Whilst hotel occupancy is resilient (average of 66%) it is clear that the proprietor driven enterprises like B and Bs/ self catering, eateries and retail are feeling the pinch.
    Quite clearly the economy is biting and biting hard and we need to really chase the consumer purse in that very narrow band of affordability. People quite simply are taking fewer holidays or not at all to ensure that more urgent household obligations can be met.
    Often enterprises address tight times by cost cutting and invest less in their marketing and promotion. One marketing guru once stated “cutting promotion means market demotion” and I concur with this principle.
    Our greater South Coast has a very marketable product base and strong brand to which we are committed and aggressively market and promote.  As they say however in a competitive world “you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink”.
    Value of stay is in our opinion the primary straw that will have the visitor take that spending sip and in so doing I believe we will going forward buck the economic status quo.
    All being said, our team is looking forward to promoting this great part of the world in Durban at the KZN Travel & Adventure Show from June 30 until 9 July and to our mid- year visitors have a jolly and leisure filled Sardine Season in our Paradise.

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  • How Green Are Our Valleys?

    Presently Ugu South Coast Tourism in conjunction with the Ugu South Coast Development Agency is working on new trail concept called the Umzumbe River Trail which we anticipate could become akin to the famed Otter Trail in the Cape.
    This eco-cultural project will when launched will provide approximately 65km of trail linking the coast to the hinterland and utilising locally managed properties in traditional areas as hosted overnight stops for hikers.
    Howard Kelly who sits on our Board recently jumped into a helicopter in order to take visuals and geo-plot key elements of the proposed trail and his initial observations indicate our inland areas have pockets of outstanding cultural, natural and scenic value.
    It appears that part of the trail area in the valley system involves some really impressive and precipitous river gorges with waterfalls and vegetated landscapes which in due course can be presented to our outdoor markets and have a great educational value as well.
    So often when one lives in areas that have outstanding tourism assets (in our case the beaches and ocean) one can lose sight of the richness of other terrestrial and heritage orientated assets inland. Recently at our Port Shepstone Member’s Meet and Greet, local environmentalist Paddy Norman did a brief presentation of some of our unheralded green assets and astonishingly he indicated that there are over 35 conservation properties on public and private land that have immense nature based tourism potential.
    Yes we all know about the iconic Oribi Gorge, Umtamvuna River complex, Impenjati, Ingeli (the second largest indigenous forest in KZN) and the Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve near Umzinto but as pointed out by Paddy there are a multitude of almost unknown gems (some larger than 2 000 hectares) that can be visited by arrangement or through conservancy groups (and we have a number of committed groups of people up and down the coast). Even in built up areas such as Uvongo (Skyline Nature Reserve) and Southport there are little green treasure chests that will surprise and impress. There is an ever increasing interest in activities like birding, flora and fauna excursions and just healthy exercise in places of natural beauty. Indeed sites in which to rejuvenate and appreciate.
    I guess it’s time to drag out those dusty veldskoens, don the faded rugby socks, not so trendy khaki gear then load up the old canvass rucksack and head for the hills- we all I am sure may get an even greater appreciation of what our greater South Coast has to offer.
    Our green tourism is the way.

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  • Bits and Bobs

    In a recent edition of Time Magazine I noted that the projected number of domestic air passengers in the USA between June and August is a staggering 234 million! Another statistic I recently read was that one attraction in Paris (the Louvre) gets in excess of 9 million visitors each year- more than the entire foreign visitation to South Africa.
    This indicates how relatively small our tourism as an industry in fact is- Africa gets less than 3% of the world market so there is a case to really try and access the foreign markets and in our case mainly the ocean adventure and golfing markets. This is why we are selling our destination as a premier ocean safari destination and a great place to have multiple rounds of golf (amongst a large basket of other niche offerings).
    This being said a recent Stats SA report on SA tourism indicated that our sector contributes some 3.1% to the country’s economy with about 1 in every 22 employed being involved in the tourism and leisure sector. Tourism is now larger than mining in terms of numbers employed. Our own local economy relies heavily on our tourism revenue yields and besides an aggressive local marketing programme we are looking at constructive ways to bring long haul visitors from the northern hemisphere to our shores here in KZN.
    Between 2014 and 2016 there has been a drop off of some 500 000 foreign visitors to South Africa however we believe that the South Coast can offer new year round experiences over and above the normal go to places such as the Western Cape and Kruger National Park. Our team is engaging with SA Tourism to get us more profile within their international marketing efforts so that in due course longer stay visitors will see us as a clear touring option.
    With the recession on us and market sensitivities being what they are our commitment to be market and marketing focused will remain resolute- our destination is that good to promote.
    In conclusion, we wait with baited (sorry about the pun) breath for an arrival of the sardines so let’s hope they come our way in time for our busy mid-year Sardine Season (we have created a great events programme to coincide with this time of year).
    Either way we are able and ready to happily host our many visitors during the forthcoming holiday period.

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  • Helping the Youth

    Last week USCT signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the local Esayidi TVET College at Gamalakhe which is intended to cement a relationship with the tertiary institution and the youth studying tourism at their campus and also expose them to more than tourism theory during their studies.
    Part of our role has been to set up an on-site simulated Visitor Information Centre so that students can undertake role play exercises in tourism information services and methods to deal with tourism and leisure related enquiries.
    We will also avail ourselves to present some lectures on tourism management and share real life experiences we have in servicing tourism sector and public needs. From time to time we will also empower students to carry our certain research projects and improve their analysis of tourism trends and consumer behaviour.
    Tours of the destination and to trade shows like Tourism Indaba will be arranged for them and those with the highest potential will be afforded remunerated internships with our organisation for a period of eighteen months.
    Key to our assistance will be to ensure that young people from our district studying tourism are given preference with their work experience and possible placements- after all if we look after those in our area their income will help alleviate joblessness and poverty. Tourism certainly has the ability to fast track the transition from being unemployed to being an earner and a bread winner.
    Something like 60% of our population is under the age of 35 so it is critical that career paths be established for the youth to get onto. It is our submission that creation of a relationship with the TVET College is a step in the right direction and as such we look forward to their alumni making big strides in the tourism sector.
    In conclusion our existing interns conclude their time with us in August so if there are enterprises seeking to employ very competent young people please contact us on 039 6827944 and we can make some recommendations for possible employment.
    Have a great and fulfilling week.

    Full story

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