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CEO Blog

  • Indaba Insights

    Last weekend was Indaba 2016 Africa’s primary tourism trade show at the ICC in Durban and at which we promoted our destination.

    The economy, new advances in internet based communications, the presentation of the World Travel Market Africa in Cape Town a few weeks ago and possibly the very foul weather seem to have resulted in a less congested event this year albeit there were a number of enquiries relating to adventure, ocean and golf related experiences we have on offer.

    Interestingly there were a number of bloggers scurrying around looking for new story angles and possible visits here to highlight our broad and interesting set of tourism and leisure assets. The writing of good bloggers is proving to be a major publicity tool due to a potential following that can run into the many thousands.

    Whilst we will retain our destination marketing presence at the major trade shows it is my belief that the bulk of our efforts should remain focused on the tourism consumer and for this reason we will be doing a number of shopping mall and consumer activations during the next financial year.

    I also attended the launch of a new TV initiative geared towards profiling major African centres using traditional cuisine as the primary interest anchor. This project will be aired on no less than 25 channels so I hope my discussions with the producer may end up with some shoots taking place down here.

    Our team also had discussions with the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism as a means of strengthening tourist flow links between their visitors and ours, there is no doubt that the northern parts of that province seem more aligned to our area and with the new road coming through from Umtata, we need to gear up for new influxes in self-drive and possibly coach travellers.

    Being a golfer and fully aware of our golf sell potential, I have initiated with a representative from the North Coast the establishment of  a golf marketing initiative whereby we jointly sell our coast as Africa’s best golf tourism option and through this we anticipate promoting our courses at the world’s largest golf tourism expo in Spain later this year.

    The programme will need to collective input from all our golf clubs and courses and to this end we will host a golf workshop to map a way forward.

    Was Indaba 2016 a success? In terms of keeping our brand and product presence yes but more importantly it acts as a vital platform for us to engage with the media, decision makers, other tourism bodies, new technology providers and inbound operators keen to familiarise themselves with our destination.

    Full story

  • Tourism’s Economic Indicators

    The initial draft of a study by Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN) has provided us with some interesting economic indicators for our tourism sector here.

    According to TKZN the South Coast hosted in the region of 1.172 million domestic visitor trips and about 61.4 thousand international tourists. Of economic importance is that the overall impact is suggested as about R4.4 billion and is about 16.2% of the total tourism economy of our province.

    My own assessment pegged our tourism economy in the region of R3 billion so it comes as a pleasant surprise that the TKZN research team have calculated a more positive figure.

    The majority of domestic trips (54%) are to visit friends and relatives (VFR) and 37% visit for holiday purposes.

    Of the total trips made by international and domestic visitors, the VFR spend ranges between R777.6 million and R1.01 billion. A significant number of such visitors can be ascribed to VFR in our rural areas as well.

    The holiday related spend is in the region of between R506.6 million and R1.01 billion albeit that many VFR visitors can also ascribe their visit as part holiday as well. We cannot underestimate business tourism value which is collectively indicated as having a value of R446 million.

    These are not trivial indicators for our local economy and as such we as an organisation will strive to assist in the growth of our tourism sector albeit we are living in pressured economic times.

    We can also utilise these indicators in providing prospective investors with information to assist them in their decision making. More investment will translate into more jobs in the tourism and leisure sector.

    If one takes the rough calculation that there are about 6 jobs for every R1 million spend, then in terms of direct, indirect and induced spend, some 26 000 jobs rely directly and indirectly on the tourism and leisure sector.

    The tourism economy is a vital cog in the multi layered economy down here and as such it is incumbent on all of us to retain its reputation and integrity amongst our tourists and visitors.

    The TKZN figures suggest we are a bigger economy than anticipated and that tourism and business taxes and related rates are also an important contributor towards the state coffers as well- tourism is thus a very important element of our economic value chain.

    Full story

  • When a Town Lost Its Tourism

    A few years ago, a seaside town on the South East Coast of England hosted an annual festival which to all intents and purposes kept the town’s tourism profile and economy intact and in the summer months, the town retained its seasonal popularity.

    Then a few unfortunate things came into play. Firstly the local and younger populace with a propensity for larger than acceptable appetites for lager sought fit to behave rather badly during one festival.

    Then the ever present online whiners in their terraced houses and similar mentality added their often unsubstantiated opinions on the internet and the town was being talked down by the very people whose local economy depended a great deal on tourism.

    Unfortunately for the town, the marketing executives representing the principal event sponsor whilst scouring the internet to assess the publicity value of the festival also noted the negativity emanating from its locals.

    The rest is history, the sponsors took their money to the west of the UK, the event did not manage to secure confidence from new sponsors, was canned and the tourist decided to go have beach holidays in other parts of Kent, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. Needless to say the town has since struggled to get back on its tourism feet.

    It just goes to show how easily locals can through ill-conceived comment on the internet shoot their town and in the economic foot -and that costs jobs.

    If a host community constructively addresses its shortcomings but at the same time talks up the merits of their destination at all times, there is a recipe for success in leisure and tourism.

    In the USA they have numerous Spring Break festivals for thousands of exuberant students and through tough enforcement and controls have turned many destinations into multi-million dollar recipients of tourism revenues which revert to the local businesses.

    One seldom sees a seaside town in Florida being assassinated on the internet by its locals- they see the value, join hands with the authorities and adopt a positive approach to their event programmes. Their winning approach is the way to go because the big sponsors see their towns as places to do business with and promote in.

    Even in the good old RSA event successes abound- why? Because of a can do want to do approach and it is catchy. We on the South Coast are an ideal events destination so I guess the US way is the only approach we should embrace for our paradise.

    Full story

  • Tyres and Takkies

    This week and weekend our area will be a hive of activity mainly around things vehicular or involving running shoes.

    On Wednesday the Hibiscus Coast Challenge at the Ugu Sports and Leisure Centre was hosted and off course this weekend the ever popular Africa Bike Week saturates greater Margate with the omnipresence of bike mad visitors enjoying our warm autumn hospitality and variety of entertainment.

    On the 30th April the exhausting Joburg 2 C cycle race concludes at Scottburgh and the scenic Ingeli Forest near Harding is the venue of the ever growing Sky Run. We will be promoting our destination at all these events which for this time of year, is an added bonus for our tourism and leisure sector.

    It is amazing how over the past decade or so, the participation in cycle and feet related events have contributed to a massive activity culture in this country. If one looks at the number of events throughout the year and all over the place I get a sense that we are rapidly getting to a point the there could be an over saturation of events and this overload will impact on the entrant.

    Going forward, the event tourist will become more selective and based on the quality of event management, the experience of the destination, cost of travel and hospitality choices. I believe that this part of South Africa will tick all those selection preferences and in due course, our events will get the required support.

    Lets welcome all our leather clad or vest and shorts brigades to our district and may they return home fulfilled in their having come here to enjoy their passion for pastimes in paradise.

    Full story

  • A Feel Good Story

    A friend of mine is the owner of a well known confectionery and energy bar manufacturing company which a few years ago was the brand sponsor of a canoeing event in the Eastern Cape.

    Once the event was over, his inflatable finishing arch worth some R17 000 fell off the returning truck and was to all intents and purposes was lost in rural Eastern Cape. In fact this was not to be the case.

    An elderly Xhosa woman found the large bundle and for about two years could not locate the owners of the item until her grandson who had a laptop helped via use of the internet. Once she had the contact details for the company she contacted them to inform them that their arch was safe and sound and in her lounge.

    Much relieved the owners sent a vehicle to collect the inflatable. They also took along a substantial gratuity for the lady in appreciation of her finding their lost asset and facilitating its collection.

    Now here is the good part- this lady had previously established a running and fitness group for elderly women in her impoverished area and when the company found this out, a whole new door was opened.

    Today this company today sponsors this out of the way running outfit for “gogos” and assists them in getting to events for seniors- it just goes to show honesty reaps its own rewards.

    Tourism is no different. Visitor property if lost, taken or left behind and returned to the rightful owners does wonders for peoples’ perceptions of places and products they support. Going that extra mile with sincere attention to people’s needs makes such a difference.

    An honest act has an amazing effect on how people recommend places. Simple goodnesses are worth far more than one can imagine. Sadly the converse is also true so we as an organisation strive to ensure that our standards driven members act in an ethical manner towards our visitors and the public in general.

    I like hearing stories like this as it inculcates a faith in the human spirit. Honesty and integrity can be the backbone of how we conduct our lives and in the case of tourism our business.

    Happy days here in paradise and let’s enjoy a busy Africa Bike Week next weekend.

    Full story

  • A Drop Here and There

    Early this week I attended an awards breakfast at Umtentweni at which I was reminded of a chance meeting I had with some jolly executives from our national brewer.

    This group was celebrating that their area (based in Port Shepstone) had of all the areas under their company, shown the highest growth in sales throughout South Africa.

    My well below Einstein status brain said to me that either people in this area have suddenly become ultra thirsty (water shortages?) or we have had successful influxes of visitors in comparison to previous years.

    It reminds one of those lines from the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner- “water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink”.

    Maybe it is a combination of the two but in research parlance maybe cohort analysis of liquor consumption (like traffic counts) could be an indicator of consumer (leisure and holiday visitor) influxes.

    According to the Liquor Board there are some 800 plus liquor licence holders down on the greater South Coast. This too can be an indicator of certain local and incoming demand characteristics- no wonder some people refer to us as the “Suip-Kus”.

    Long may the brewer and other refreshment companies have business success down here- albeit we and they encourage responsible drinking of alcohol.

    In closing off, I am amazed at what a glorious time of year this is- warm, sunny gentle breezes and an inviting blue ocean- all good reasons why all and sundry should drop in here for their getaway and vacation.

    Full story

  • Getting Our Value Right

    Last week I went on a recce of the North Coast to ascertain how busy the tourism sector was up there in comparison to our neck of the woods.

    Based on my observations, the huge malls and beachfront hospitality properties in night time Ballito were very quiet whereas the evening before in Margate, there was much more of a mid week holiday vibe. In some instances restaurants in the aforementioned malls were not even open and it was still school holiday time!

    I then went to one or two recognisable accommodation establishments whose offering is similar to here on the South Coast. One had the audacity to suggest an overnight rate of R2 000 whereas down here the rate would be R1 000 or less. I was not staying overnight but nonetheless I felt that our hospitality industry here has got its pricing at suitable levels and in the medium term, the consumer will make booking choices based on the value for money factor.

    Family beach activations up north did not appear to have the sort of value adding entertainment and variety of programmes that were evident down here and my impression is that our holistic approach towards meeting customer demand is on the right track.

    A few weeks back, a friend of mine whose son lives in the mother city has selected a property near Port Edward for his river and lagoon side wedding. Asked why this choice and the answer was logical- good chance of fine weather, beautiful setting and the bank balance will not be amputated. More and more I am hearing this sentiment from the public.

    This aspect of our sell will be very evident when we attend Tourism Indaba 2016- during which we will be staying at an Inn in Durban at a R550 per person per night- we too are watching our pennies in a time of austerity.

    As the Sardine Season looms, I feel that we are ideally positioned to garner a hefty slice of the holiday market eager to have their Rand go a little further than it would at some of the more expensive destinations around the country.

    Let’s look forward to Africa Bike Week at month end.

    Full story

  • Tourism Out There

    Last week we concluded our rural workshop series for people wishing to host events in our district. The venue was Mount Nebo just off the N2 about 15 kms towards Port Shepstone from Harding.

    Well I was impressed that this venue in a really rural area was operational and catering for mainly weddings and entertainment occasions from a site in the woods that has stages, seating areas and a fully catered for arena and Papillion.

    On enquiring how events were presented there the directors also indicated their plans for multi activity adventure offerings as part of their growth plan- whoever said that our rural areas can be a tourism back water? Here is just one example of many in our district whereby rural entrepreneurs are just cracking on and successfully developing their enterprises.

    In this case we have been offering business planning advice to assist in developing sustainable livelihoods in our hinterland.

    But tourism is in fact an active economy in these areas albeit that it is difficult to quantify. Tourism KwaZulu-Natal agrees with us because weekend family visits from cities, weddings, funerals, celebrations, religious, political and cultural events etc. all bring in people and their spend and this is in fact tourism.

    Our event management workshops were geared to inform the people involved in eventing to have better management and compliance knowledge in order to avoid pitfalls and have improved planning approaches.

    One thing we encouraged was the use of local service providers to encourage retention of event spend in a micro economy- a bigger local spread of opportunity and income gives often deprived communities some semblance of reasonable livelihood.

    These workshops were well attended which is an indication that people farther away from the sea know that there is opportunity in the tourism and leisure sector and long may this enthusiasm continue so that in due course the tourism spend broadens into less advantaged areas.

    By just being there and being directly involved I have a reinforced belief in our entire destination area- those rolling hills and valleys certainly add to our principle of being a paradise in KZN.

    Full story

  • How Durban Does It

    On December 16 last year (a public holiday) I was in Durban and was impressed how the Ethekwini Municipality applied its public management along their beachfront on that day.

    This prompted me with support of our Board to facilitate a fact finding mission with some municipal officials which we did last week.

    The advice and shared experiences as provided by the Senior Superintendant for the Metro Police Service was invaluable and going forward, the Metro has agreed to provide copies of their expansive beachfront management plan for the last peak season. This will be an invaluable resource for our local municipalities in their planning towards our high intensity use days down here.

    What was interesting is that over a 5 year period since such plans were put into place, the incidence of crime and transgression of bye laws has dropped by over 80%! My belief is that in taking from success stories like this we collectively can negate the real issues and perceptions that can distort the reputation of our tourism areas.

    It was clear from the meeting that their police service was strong on zero tolerance, application of bye laws and public information and with the latter, we may join hands with them in a public information campaign. Recently the Ethekwini Municipality adjusted their level of fines for all sorts of bye laws relating to beaches and in certain instances repeat offenders can be fined up to R40 000.

    Once we receive the FESMAC Plan from Durban, we will engage with the local municipalities in order to minimise the repeat of inconveniences and disruptions when our beach hot spots are over-subscribed- after all it is they who are the custodians of visitor well being on our shores.

    We are committed to our visitors having a Sunny and Safe time here and every brush stroke of effort will in the long term support our determination to retain our destination as truly the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom.
    Happy autumn holidays to everyone.

    Full story

  • Of Burrowers and Builders

    Last week we promoted the greater South Coast at the Beeld Holiday Show which was noticeably smaller than previous years- a sign of belt tightening times.

    Part of our mission was to ascertain if certain marketing, publicity and advertising campaigns could be established with some of the tourism and leisure players at the show. Well this provided us with a revealing polarity in corporate attitude.

    One motor home company we spoke to sat us down and within minutes we realised that their head in the sand “we have been doing it this way forever” attitude really showed how inflexible some companies can be in an era of rapid change in communications and marketing approaches.

    We quickly and dare is say it tongue in cheek thanked them for their “co-operation” and moved off almost wishing that they did not sell a single unit during the show. Their closed and go way attitude smacked of a business looking down the barrel of a gun.

    About 20 minutes later we had a meeting with the marketing manager of a national chain of outdoor and leisure outlets and within a very short time she got what our approach was all about and quickly the principles of a future project were cemented. How refreshing in comparison to the dinosaur mentality at the previous meeting.

    My belief is that if we (and that includes our organisation) do not have an open minded approach to marketing and communications, that funnelled paradigm will eventually blind our business perspective and that that will drive company perspective down- the burrower aspect.

    On the upside, enterprises that seek new and somewhat unconventional approaches have a dynamism that captures the attention of eager feed me markets. I remember that great Tourism Australia initiative then they advertised “the best job in the world” and a communicator was appointed to live on an island paradise for a period- that brought huge worldwide print and online exposure for Australia. Such approaches reflect what could be called the builder thinking.

    I would like to believe that our marketing team has that builder approach and certainly we meet with all sorts of interesting people and companies who bounce their ideas and concepts off us. Being a builder is a more refreshing approach because at the end of the day one sees the completed result of one’s efforts- the burrower sadly stays in the dark.

    Lets seek bricks in paradise.

    Full story

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