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CEO Blog

  • Modernising Our Tourism Paradigm

    Recently our marketing team held a think tank based on a concept called “Operation V.I.B.E” which stands for Very Important Booster Exercise. The purpose of the session was to have a good hard look at modern trends in our tourism sector and in particular the bulk of our market- South Africans, their needs and expectations.

    Based on demographic realities the vast majority of our population are within the younger and mainly urban cohort groups and for us to strategise for existing and future markets we need to get into these consumer profiles before our competitors do.

    Certain market segments within a new paradigm include New Horizon Families, High Life Enthusiasts and To Do Mzanzi Families who more often than not have high levels of disposable income and who respond to trendy products, brands and lifestyle experiences.

    This growing set of visitors has great expectation in terms of cuisine, hospitality and to be seen places and to this end if we are to meet with that demand, tourism enterprises need to consider modernity in the presentation of their properties and how they entertain and host. Towns like Margate I believe have immense potential to establish themselves as Sandton- on- Sea destinations for these big spend markets.

    Added to this our beach amenities, commercial concessions and urban design features will also need to match any expectation of standards from such visitors. Durban and Cape Town have made huge strides in doing this and we need to follow suit albeit on a smaller scale.

    Bob Dylan’s words “The Times They Are A Changing” ring true and our tourism has to embrace this reality because it is better to secure responsible new main markets than allowing things to slowly slip under the waves and end up as a bejewelled must go to place that was. Modernity of place and attitude is the key.

    Luckily our diverse geography still allows us to successfully accommodate the broader set of our traditional markets which still has a rightful place in our visitor mix but I believe that in attending to things that have worked for many years and opening ourselves to meeting contemporary leisure and social preferences we can create a win-win for our tourism sector.

    These are challenging but exciting times so we look forward to taking those roads often and less travelled to ensure that vibrant consumer focussed tourism is the outcome for the decades ahead.

    Full story

  • Being at the Top

    Last week it was announced that one of our home grown companies The Beekman Group won the tourism category at the KZN Top Business Awards which is an outstanding accolade for the Port Shepstone based company.

    Some time ago in the media somebody questioned the impressiveness of our tourism sector and whether or not we are a top class tourism destination. I suppose all one can do is look at the facts.

    Besides the Beekman Group achievement, our hospitality and adventure services sector has recently won global and national awards and we await the latest announcements for the competitive Lillizela Awards for which a number of properties have been put forward for recognition.

    We have two of the world’s top 10 dives sites and with the Marine Protected Areas coming on stream we will become one of the continents more environmentally conscious destinations. Our 7 Blue Flag Beaches are the highest number of permanently managed in South Africa and these beaches meet with exacting international standards.

    Adventure and endurance activity locations on the coast and inland are rapidly gaining status as ideal places to train and compete and this is an excellent platform from which to bring regional, national and international events to the area.

    The coast’s surfing beaches are recognised as being of the best in the Southern Hemisphere and our golf courses regularly host top notch events for both professional and amateur golfer.

    Our South Coast Dezzie Raceway is now firmly on the motorsport calendar and from a film tourism perspective, our destination has been the location for nearly a dozen movies in the last year or so.

    If one links the above to the fact that SafariNow considers the South Coast as South Africa’s most popular value for money family destination. It is clear that there is a great deal we can be proud of and certainly we promote these pluses at every opportunity.

    We aspire to be at the top in as many tourism and leisure spheres as possible and as such working closely with the private sector’s positive strivers is part of that proactive approach.

    As one season has ended, we are now focusing on our end of year seasons and pushing our pluses at the consumer shows we will be attending.

    Full story

  • Golf in Our Tourism Value Chain

    A friend of mine recently called to say that he had been mandated to arrange for two golf trips to the South Coast and would I recommend certain logistical options for his trips.

    This got me contemplating what spend 24 golfers could contribute towards our local economy within the tourism value chain when the lads come down over four days.

    To begin with, some 96 bed nights at say R600 per person per night calculates to R57 600 and then if one adds the cost of four rounds of golf with cart at say R400 that is another R38 400.

    Further to this they could spend on half way house and post golf drinks another R19 200 and this is before they venture off for supper and further jollification. The latter outlay could result in spend of another R28 800.

    So as a basic outlay 24 golfers could over four days spend as much as R144 000 before additional expenses such as petrol, hangover medication, items from a pro shop, gifts for family back home and caddies come into play. This is not chicken feed in anyone’s business language.

    I have always advocated that fifty percent of nothing is better than one hundred percent of nothing so these small scale sports and leisure interest groups for activities like fishing, scuba, hiking, birding etc. are equally as important as the big influxes of major market segments such as our biker friends and conference attendees.

    Many of these groups come here out of season which in turn assists in supporting tourism dependent enterprises during quieter business periods.

    Golf is just one of many sporting options we offer one the South Coast and it is for this reason why we pursue sport and niche interest tourism as well as our main stream segments.

    So if you see a few jolly golfers from the Midlands doing their “tour” stuff please make them feel welcome them as we should all our visitors. I know that most if not all of them are pretty successful fellows so if they really enjoy their trip, they will spend generously, be back and also recommend our golf coast to their networks around the country.

    We are blessed with some classic golf courses here so going forward we intend to do more overseas marketing to golf tour specialists and the per capita spend for international visitors far exceeds that within our domestic consumer.

    So let them play in paradise- we have the right venues 365 days a year.

    Full story

  • Safety at Sea

    Ugu South Coast Tourism recently made a financial contribution to Port Edward’s National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) station.

    Some may ask “what such a contribution has to do with tourism?” The answer is pretty simple really- if our residents and visitors are as sea safe as possible, the reputation of our coastline is enhanced and our tourism gets the thumbs up.

    The excellent work done by the NSRI on the South Coast has over the years saved many lives and afforded ocean users a respectful confidence that somebody is on hand if the unexpected arises. The NSRI is made up of local volunteers who dedicate their time and often put their own lives on the line for others.

    In 2015 we presented our local NSRI stations with an award recognising what the organisation does to provide the public and our tourism industry with a much valued service- if our beaches and seas were left minus a rescue service beyond that also provided by our many lifeguards from shore, there could be a drastic lack of user comfort in using the sea for leisure and commercial purposes.

    The added comfort exists that in the event of a medical emergency from a sea incident there are a number of quality medical facilities down here that can provide the right care at the right time.

    The sea can be a pleasure provider and a deceitful danger so without the services of organisations like the NSRI we would be hard pressed to sustain the good seaside safety reputation that does prevail.

    I am aware that the NSRI does have ongoing need for financial support to ensure that their rescue equipment and technology are capable in dealing with any eventuality so I would urge our public and companies to support their work and fund raising endeavours.                   

    Years ago I watched live BBC coverage of sea rescue boats trying to save stricken sailors from a sinking vessel off the treacherous Cornish coast and what struck me was the unrelenting bravery of the rescuers to reach the very distressed seamen.

    The NSRI is represented by similarly committ ed people wanting nothing more than safe times at the coast and at sea.

    We trust that the past holiday period was just that and that we can similarly look forward to a situation free summer season in a few months time.

    Full story

  • That Brighter Outlook

    Last week I attended a two day workshop with the National Department of Tourism, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and a number of municipal officials to unpack the maritime and coastal tourism potentials and projects along our province’s coastline.

    On analysis of inputs from stakeholders for our South Coast it became apparent that there appears to be more reason for optimism than otherwise.

    Towns like Port Shepstone, Scottburgh and Margate are earmarked for urban renewal programmes, beach amenity upgrades are continuing, a marina concept is brewing for Port Shepstone and the proposed Amazon Valley Water Park at Kelso is still very much alive.

    Strides have been made for our Margate Airport to receive developmental attention and in our rural areas the first implementation phase of the multi trails programme has been activated. The new Maritime Museum in Port Shepstone is under construction and designs for a new Portuguese Mariners Monument at Port Edward have been completed.

    The small craft harbour concept along with the proposed multi billion Rand Music City still have legs and the Umzumbe Municipality is some way down the line to develop a new leisure and retail precinct at Turton Beach.

    So collectively and all things being equal, there seems to be far more reason for optimism than one could imagine.

    Of all international visitors coming to South Africa about 25% utilise our coastline for their trip- this percentage is even higher if one discounts our SADC visitors who are mainly here for retail and business purposes.

    Understandably our domestic market really gravitates to the coast for leisure and holidays and presently the tourism authorities in KZN are targeting a 4% growth in coastal tourism over the next few years.

    We have agreed to join hands with other coastal tourism practitioners further north to collectively introduce campaigns to encourage coastal and marine tourism which will by virtue of value adding expectation also filtrate into our inland areas. After all the rest of South Africa’s coastal tourism areas are also chasing the same buck locally and from abroad and we need to win them over to us rather than elsewhere.

    Maybe the sardines have this year been a bit bleak in announcing their arrival on our beaches however I believe in the medium to long term, there are tourism initiatives here we can be radiant about.

    I read once that a winner says “It may be difficult but it’s possible” and a loser says “It may be possible but it is too difficult”. I believe that there are enough winning people here for us to reach that brighter tourism and leisure horizon.

    Full story

  • Don’t Write Off “The Ballies”

    I recently read that by the year 2025, there will be globally about 800 million people over the age of 65 so we can forget that outdated adage of living for three score and ten.

    We live in a generation of mature mobiles where hundreds of thousands of elderly tourists pack their bags and wonder off to all sorts of exotic places and actively engage in a variety of sport and leisure pastimes.

    These folk generally have suitable financial resources and the time to spend longer periods in a destination and being free and independent travellers they often explore extensively in their quest for those memorable experiences.

    Here on the South Coast we have a hundreds of retirees that have once been tourists here, loved our leisure and lifestyle options and subsequently bought property and moved here.

    Besides continuing with certain sports, many of our “Ballies” have taken to interesting pastimes such as birding, hiking, botany, fishing, photography etc. and in most cases go out there and savour our wonderful coastal and rural environs in the process.

    It is clear that our senior citizens no longer have that curl up the toes and pass on attitude- on the contrary they are a vibrant, energetic, and an integral part our leisure and tourism mix.

    We are blessed that we can offer visitors of all ages with differing interests the sort of stay that will render our destination much to their satisfaction.

    Towards the end of the month, about 500 bowlers are coming to town for the All KZN Open and given that many will be over 60 the value of their stay (about 2 500 bed nights) is significant in the context of our mid-year season.

    To all those mature mobiles here as residents and visitors in Ugu District - happy days - we only have lovely sunrises here and no thoughts of the sunsets in life.

    Full story

  • Why are Many South Africans Not Tourists

    We on the South Coast are because of our excellent beach, activity and rural offerings very much a popular destination for the domestic South African market but in terms of nationally the tourism sector is in many respects just scratching the surface. The market potentials for our local consumers who generally do not travel are significant.

    Interestingly the SA Tourism Review 2015 conducted a survey as to why South Africans are not proactive tourists and the outcome of the study is quite informative.

    Some 41% indicated that the main reason why they do not travel is because quite simply they could not afford it.  We on the South Coast are recognised as a value for money destination so in many respects we need to convince the SA public who may be financially border line that they can in fact afford trips down here and should visit.

    About 21% of respondents indicated that they had no reason for taking a trip- our challenge during our promotional campaigns is to give them a reason to come by virtue of our product and experience diversity coupled with events that suit specific market niches and interests.

    Time constraints were cited by 19% of respondents which is a pity because recreation through travel is a healthy way of de-stressing and everybody needs a little time out. Funnily enough 9% said they dislike travel full stop. That is a tragedy in that being home bound can limit one’s perspective on life and tourism is a wonderful conduit for learning and seeing new and interesting things. My own sister was once upon a time a reluctant traveller and at the age of 37 took her first trip abroad. Needless to say she got the bug and now 67, regularly scurries around SA and if often off to Europe to not only work there but sample all sorts of diverse places at the same time.

    Sadly 7% indicated their state of unemployment precluded them from taking holidays- imagine how vibrant our tourism economy would be if more South Africans were employed and had disposable income to tour our beautiful country and in particular this wonderful part of this province.

    Domestic tourism is the lifeblood of our own tourism economy so we will continue to sell this destination to our key market segments and niches and try and win over those many thousands who to date are not active tourists- the potential is very evident.

    They say change is as good as a holiday- maybe a holiday down here is the change many South Africans need to charge the batteries and vitalise the soul.

    Full story

  • Supporting Our Mid Year Season Events

    This year even if the little silver fish and their hungry pursuers do not swim by our stunning shores there is a captivating set of district wide Sardine Season events that will be of interest to our visitors and residents.

    As sample, there will be a number of Sardine Beach Tour events at certain beaches from Scottburgh to Port Edward. There will also be golf, tennis, fishing and multiple MTB cycling events as well.

    On the cultural front the Maiden Ceremony at Kwa Nyuswa will captivate those wishing to experience the authenticity of our proud Zulu Culture. The Inkundla Theatre Festival at Port Shepstone, the Portuguese Festival at Port Edward and the German Festival at Izotsha should also whet the public’s appetite.

    Motor sport fans will also be able to watch supadrifting at the ever popular Dezzi South Coast Raceway at Oslo Beach.

    Family orientated events (most of our events are) will be the annual South Coast Lions Show at Port Shepstone, the South Coast Wedding Show at Izotsha and the new Teddy Bear’s Picnic in Scottburgh.

    As one can see from this selection there is a broad element of choice for the public and the list is longer than this. We suggest for full details of all the events at this time of year one should access our website www.tourismsouthcoast.co.za or contact any one of our Visitor Information Centres.

    A number of committed people and sports/charitable organisations are behind these events and we really recommend that all and sundry support and recommend the occasions so that we can have a truly value adding mid year season.

    After Durban we are considered the most pro-active event related destination in KZN and this can do wonders for our reputation our quality of life and for leisure and tourism.

    Please have an event-full, sunny and safe Sardine Season here in Paradise.

    Full story

  • Being a Strandloper

    The injection of the Afrikaans word for beach walker may not be linguistically consistent but that is precisely what a group of us did recently. We strolled the beautiful beaches of the South Coast.

    Area Committee members, some municipal officials and Ugu South Coast Tourism personnel conducted our annual beach tour where we did inspections of all the main beaches along our entire coastline.

    My report which will be circulated to the municipal managers of our coastal municipalities,  will be a mix of noticeable improvements in the presentation of a number of beach sites as well as a snag list for the authorities to attend to as soon as possible.

    Generally most identified snags such as paint jobs, tiling and plumbing requirements are doable and not massively cost consumptive so we anticipate continued upgrades going forward.

    What did impress the evaluation team was the number of sites where personnel were in fact placing a lot of pride in the neatness of public space precincts. There were of course pockets for concern but on the whole the amenities were better presented than we expected.

    In addition we also noted many sites that through SAPS and community involvement had security presence permanently on site- this can do wonders for our Sunny and Safe ambitions.

    As stated before, there is some way to go before our destination can claim high quality presentation levels for all beach sites but unless we conduct such tours, we will be remiss in our efforts to ensure that everybody has a good level of comfort when at leisure on our beaches.

    There is no doubt that our beaches are as a collective scenically the best in KZN and beach walking over the two day period was extremely therapeutic even though we were busying ourselves writing on clip boards and being sleuths.

    May everybody have a fantastic mid-year break. No wonder the inland folk from over the escarpment migrate here when their winter holidays are due. It is lovely here at this time of year.

    Full story

  • Sharks and Things Sardine

    I recently had the pleasure in having three live radio interviews that involved interesting aspects such as sharks, Marine Protected Areas, sardines and the South Coast.

    The gist of my discussions involved the importance of having a healthy population of sea life, hence a healthier planet and subsequently a healthy tourism economy. My approximation is that activities out at sea could contribute some 20-30% of our tourism revenue yields and as such that cannot be scoffed at.

    A local shark diving practitioner for example have indicated to me that some 80% of their clients (and they have many) are from overseas and this is a very important high per capita spend client for the South Coast.
    So the combination of Marine Protected Areas, well applied Coastal Management Plans and excellent land based coastal amenities and services should collectively establish firstly visitor appeal and secondly a suitable balance between users and environmental considerations.

    We all know that presently there is optimism that the sardines will run again this year and with them come thousands of all sorts of sea predators which provides us with one of the world’s most amazing natural spectacles.

    There is no doubt that our marine equivalent of the Serengeti migrations is a tourism draw card and for this reason we have built a number of events around the Sardine Season all in the interests of affording our mid-year visitors much value adding during their stay.

    Besides a few nippy days sent to us from the South this time of year remains mild to warm so I would recommend that all our locals who have family and friends living in our inland provinces encourage them to some here for their “winter” break and savour the season ahead.

    Full story

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