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CEO Blog

  • Bike Fest in 2017

    I guess this is a heads up - our replacement event for the departed Africa Bike Week which is to be branded and known as The South Coast Bike Fest will be hosted mainly from Margate from 27-30 April 2017.

    The immense injection of tourism revenue yield from previous events has prompted us to ensure that an event of this nature needs to be sustained here in Paradise. We have become synonymous with an event of this type.

    The South Coast Bike Fest will encapsulate all the positive retail and entertainment ingredients of the past and on a larger and more diverse scale- we anticipate that with the event being more than one bike brand focused, more bikers and the public will come here for that long weekend to enjoy fellowship, our glorious seaside and hinterland and for a short time forget all the woes that may go with daily living.

    The event programmes will be considerate of various musical tastes and retail preferences – all within a friendly, freedom filled, safe carnival atmosphere with street entertainment, displays and lots of colourful ambience.

    Some have questioned why we are hosting the event at the same time as another biker event in East London. We conducted a competitive analysis and in all spheres of comparison we came out well ahead – especially when it comes to distance for bikers to travel for a favourite weekend away from their home areas of Gauteng and KZN itself.

    The principle of intervening opportunity for the response markets has afforded us the edge and with a great proposed music line up there is valid reason why bikers and the public will support the event.

    We on the South Coast do however need to show strong unity to ensure that version 1 of the South Coast Bike Fest is a resounding success so if you use any form of  media and communications tell the world that a great event vibe awaits at the end of April next year.

    We all need to be positive in our outlook and present a hospitable, welcoming case for thousands to come here at that time- where we can all be “Pals in Paradise” and really profile the multiple pluses our destination provides for our visitors.

    It’s time to grow that tradition and rev up the energies for the South Coast Bike Fest 2017.

    Full story

  • Days in Blue

    Last week the Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom was down here to announce the National 2016/2017 Blue Flag Beaches and given this is the second time in three years that the South Coast has hosted this important event, the day at Marina Beach was something special.

    Not only was the Minister here but in attendance was the KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs and the CEO of Tourism KZN so in having tourism’s bug guns down here it was important for us so we could impress them and the attendant media with our tourism assets and developmental programmes.

    Needless to say the with 7 of our beaches announced South Coast once again came out tops. The Ray Nkonyeni Municipality not only has the highest number of Blue Flag beaches in KwaZulu-Natal but has the highest number of permanently managed Blue Flag beaches in South Africa!

    The bench marks set by the Blue Flag programme aligns our beaches with the best in the world and for us as Ugu South Coast Tourism this affords us a great opportunity within our destination sell.

    For this reason, part of our branding not only includes our strong South Coast brand but we also incorporate the Blue Flag logo in our promotional collateral.

    It was interesting that the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa who drive the Blue Flag programme are soon to introduce another brand geared towards the hospitality industry. Called the Green Key Programme, this initiative will set standards for the accommodation providers to have environmentally acceptable operations and properties which in my opinion is the way to go.

    So as summer hits our shores with our blue seas beckoning and beach flags flying it is an optimistic start towards our busiest season of the year. Feeling blue has a far more positive connotation here in the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom.

    Full story

  • On Being a Culture Vulture

    In tourism, cultural heritage is an integral part of a marketing and product mix and our South Coast and environs is no exception.

    With September month having a heritage month I recently attended the Amakhono Cultural event out towards Nyandzulu which just inland from Shelley Beach. What a wonderful experience it was.

    The local community, representatives from the traditional leadership, the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality, local tourism committees, media and the community itself were entertained within a festive and welcoming atmosphere amidst the lush rolling hills and proud homesteads that overlooked the marquee venue erected on a riverside sports field.

    Children of all ages were joyous in their bouncing on jumping castles and the entertainment from a happy clown. In the marquee, adults and youth were impressed with the diverse local musical talent that ranged from the traditional, gospel to the modern.

    Being amongst this welcoming community was humbling and decidedly refreshing. I have been fortunate to have worked in many parts of rural South Africa and other neighbouring nations and never have I had any reason to doubt the sincere welcome one can enjoy in such places. One needs to dispel the myth that rural areas are not welcoming and safe.

    In the Nyanadzulu area a cultural and hospitality experience has been packaged which I highly recommend- how better to really absorb the authenticity of our Zulu culture. Last year during Africa Bike Week, up country bikers stayed in the area and were blown away by the warm hospitality received.

    They had decided to something different and at the end of their stay, they rode away with a different yet better opinion of our informal way of life and how we host our visitors. There are a number of cultural and other entertainment events that occur in our district and I really recommend that South Africans and our overseas visitors attend them.

    This is why our annual Tourism Awards evening last Friday had a cultural dress and heritage theme. Many arrived in very expressive outfits and fun was had all round. This area is rich in talent and diversity and in celebrating it this way we can appreciate the essence of our communities.

    A wise person once said “a picture cannot boast a beautiful story unless it has all the entwined radiances and nuances of colour and texture- humanity should do the same.”

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  • The Taxman and Others Cometh

    For many years and throughout South Africa, some people who own second or third homes in one or other popular destination have on an ad hoc basis hired out their properties usually during peak season and at peak prices.

    They see this as a means of not only realising a nice income but also to offset things like rates, levies and maintenance costs. When the income generating weeks have come and gone, these owners have the luxury of their paid for getaways for the rest of the year.

    Some would say that this is a prudent way to own holiday homes but unfortunately these unethical part time tourism practitioners do not always declare their rental incomes so in essence are in transgression of our tax regimen.

    Furthermore it is likely that the said properties are not on the municipal books as a form of commercial enterprise which has ramifications in terms of rates and local authorisations etc. I guess that municipalities are losing significant rates and other revenues as a result of non disclosure of commercial activity by owners keeping under the radar.

    In our hospitality industry and amongst our membership there are very committed owners and proprietors who ensure that they are compliant with all government and SARS requirements so it is a great pity that their honest operations can be undermined by certain unscrupulous people earning the proverbial buck by bucking the system.

    It is grossly unfair that properties that do comply, pay taxes, advertise and register with all sorts of tourism organisations (all at cost) are from time to time faced with competition on an uneven playing field.

    I know that the authorities are looking into this so that all income deriving properties are properly registered with SARS, local authorities and tourism organisations and that letting agencies are compelled to ensure that properties are compliant in this regard.

    It won’t be long before some sort of inspector goes knocking on doors armed with a mandate to fine or intention to prosecute.

    Before the busy summer season comes around, I really urge those who are contemplating cashing in on tourism’s sacred cow to make sure that they have all the right registrations in place- we have a Membership Officer who can assist.

    So if you see somebody beneath a deerstalker, tweed attired, stooping over a magnifying glass and being towed by a saliva spewing bloodhound, it could be the day that the authorities decided to act firmly against those who are not playing ball. They are coming.

    Full story

  • Countryside and Celebs

    This weekend sees the hosting of the annual Ingeli Country Show at the Harding Country Club which is always an enjoyable occasion which gives visitors the opportunity to have lots of entertainment and things to do with the hospitable farming and timber folk of the area.

    Many people who have taken the scenic drive out to our picturesque hinterland usually come back with bargain buys of country produce and craft – KZN does not have many country shows anymore why not head out to the hills of Harding to enjoy the weekend.

    Years ago I was involved in the sports/personality management business and when getting to know our celebrity clients it became apparent that when they were not in the sporting limelight their best form of relaxation would be to go to places where they would not be hounded for photos, autographs and long winded discussions with knowing enthusiasts. They just wanted to chill and enjoy their leisure pastimes.

    It is for this reason that so many famous people visit or have holiday homes on this lovely stretch of coastline. I am told that internationally recognised musicians like Jack Johnson and the group Metallica have been surfing the waves up and down the coast and Roger Taylor of Queen fame visits family here.

    When film stars are doing shoots or if royalty comes to town (yes Princes William and Harry have been social near Port Edward) quite simply the unpretentious people of paradise leave them be and if anything just offer a quick  “enjoy the stay.”  In many instances we don’t know that they have come and gone- that’s how low key we are when having the famous amongst us.

    Artists, authors (think the Ramsgate Literary Fest on the 24th of September) stage personalities, tycoons and sports stars (Jonty Rhodes loves a good surf here) come and go and come back again thanks to their being able to just be for a short while be without the burden of uninvited attention.

    I have a suspicion that if the Kardashians for some obscure reason came here they may be a bit disappointed because many would not pay them much attention and we know how much they magnetise to the media and the media to them.

    Some of the seriously special have contracts drawn up with the establishments at which they stay to ensure that their visit remains as private with a capital P. No need to have such things done down here- the South Coasters respect one’s own space anyway.

    If our neck of the woods can have the well known (and us normal beings) leave here rested and impressed then hats off to our destination- when Barack Obama is jobless from November maybe we should invite him around for some golf. He would love it.

    Full story

  • It’s Awards Time

    With September being Tourism and Heritage Month, the South Coast has not been immune to this initiative and events around it.

    To begin with, the National Department of Tourism has announced the provincial finalists for the coveted Lillizela Awards. I am pleased to say that 7 of our product owners or service providers have been nominated- we wish them every success to get to the National Finals and bring home the silverware.

    Later this month we at Ugu South Coast Tourism will be hosting our own Tourism Awards Evening during which we will be recognising the contributions made by the private and public sectors to our tourism and leisure industry. It should be a fun evening on 23 September.

    The Minister of Tourism will also be coming to the South Coast to announce South Africa’s Blue Flag Beaches for the next year. This event will be attended by media and officials from all the applicant municipalities wishing to hear if their application has been successful. Presently we are the destination that has the highest number of permanently managed Blue Flag Beaches in South Africa and this is a big selling point for our prospective visitors.

    Also in September the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs will be undertaking a South Coast based media and tourism industry focused Tourism and Heritage Month event to profile our province and our destination. Live television interviews and broadcast discussions will form part of the programme.

    After the event, we will be hosting about 20 influential media representatives for three days so that they can profile our tourism experiences via their media houses, publications and on the internet.
    These awards and events are over and above our normal leisure and cultural events programmes which will coincide with the school holidays.

    Who said things get quiet before the Summer Season rush? This is an important time for us to convince our loyal and new tourists to come here and for this reason on 23-25 September we with some of our members will be plugging the South Coast and environs at the Johannesburg Getaway Show which is a vital consumer show as part of our extensive promotional calendar.

    So with Spring in our steps, we look forward to a busy month and an even busier season towards year end.

    Full story

  • Cost and Service

    I have just finished a very enjoyable and humorous read called Ruinair by an Irish author by the name of Paul Kilduff who has a full dig at the pitfalls one could experience by using low cost airlines.

    Understanding how an airline could charge just one cent to travel short haul to some often wayward and isolated airports in Europe is intriguing to say the least- the airlines make all sorts of other revenues through creative charges over and above the base price. Some have even contemplated charges for on board use of the loo!

    Needless to say the airline in the book has been challenged in terms of their levels of service and staff motivation to meet the expectation of the flying customer. I being of Scottish descent like the idea of cheap anything however when it comes to tourism, no matter how inexpensive a service may be there is one overriding factor that will bring the customer back time and time again and that is whether the client felt satisfied with the deal.

    Kilduff sums it up well when he says “customer service is about warmth, amenability, compassion, flexibility, and fairness but most of all it’s about the people who deliver it”. I fully concur with his view and down here we have hospitality offerings that range from bespoke high end to economy and throughout this spectrum each customer wants people to have the endearing attitude that can meet their expectation. I know from experience that a host with a good approach is more likely to appease a concerned customer than one who is indifferent and couldn’t care-less. The latter usually gets exposed on the internet or on social media- bad for business.

    Backpacker establishments for example usually do not charge high prices and I am aware of one proprietor in the Drakensberg who regularly and without charge will drive guests over 40km to meet up with a lift or bus in Underberg. Such gestures go a huge distance in getting product and host community well respected and supported.

    Our local airline Cem Air is not a low cost carrier and their service is up there with the best because all personnel go that little bit further for the paying customer. I will send their CEO Miles ven der Molen a copy of the book- I am sure he will chuckle at the read and know that it is unlikely that a similar book will be ever written about his OR Tambo to Margate service.

    In the mean time I am stalking the internet for bargain prices for our 2017 holiday to the UK and France- with the exchange rate pretty heavy I think I will need to if I am to afford even a pie and a beer over there. It’s in my Gaelic blood you know.

    Full story

  • 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

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