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  • Philanthropy and Tourism

    Last week I had the privilege of visiting the impressive Enxlolobeni Primary School at Oribi Gorge.

    The purpose of the visit was in support of a wonderful initiative through the Bury Stander Foundation which has provided the school with a number of MTB cycles and future assistance as a means of encouraging cycling activity in what is an ideal area for off road cycling and events. Who knows another MTB Champion may emanate from this initiative?

    MTB Events are springing up all over the place and we see merit in support to grow participation through our sports tourism programmes. The philanthropy shown by the foundation will I believe assist in developing people, the sport and our destination as a must visit place for the ultra energetic.

    Our role at the school was to provide each learner with re-usable reflector wrist bands as a safety item when they walk along the country roads. Naturally we briefed the well turned out children on the importance of looking after our visitors and cyclists/excursionists who often traverse the scenic, undulating and landscapes that abound at Oribi Gorge.

    What also impressed me was that some of our hospitality members have become involved with the school and this is an indication of the goodwill segments of our tourism industry have towards their local communities.

    For me this was a feel good day because it is clear that people from sport and tourism are doing their bit for our youth at schools that may not have the resources to the extent that many urban schools have.

    So if you see some local boys and girls enthusiastically riding MTB’s near Lake Eland, we can thank the Stander family (and their supporters) for their commitment to encouraging rural children to get involved in this increasingly popular pastime.

    Surely paradise for people pushing the pedal?

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  • Trendy Versus Chilled

    A few weeks ago, I spent a Friday evening in Umhlanga Rocks and their impressive central boulevard was teeming with after work socialisers at a number of trendy bars and restaurants. The place was really buzzing.

    Part of that vibe has to do with the reality that many corporate head and regional offices have located to Umhlanga Ridge and there is a large high net worth resident population- so after work where better to mingle and parade than the CBD of Umhlanga. Furthermore, with the abundance of fashionable hotels in the vicinity, tourists add to the volumes of people that oozed in and out of the competently managed venues. The indoor and al fresco look and feel had an almost French Riviera atmosphere.

    The healthy looking gym conditioned patrons were mostly attired in the latest branded outfits, designer watches and sunglasses- the purchase of which one would need to mortgage a house. This was glam Friday, the place to be and Umhlanga was relishing in the sound of cash tills ticking over with supreme consistency.

    Being an inquisitive fellow, I started asking people about this vibrant city chic scenario and their response was that the area was safe, convenient to get to, has a welcoming ambience, there is choice in the quality of hospitality- and they did not have to drive long distances (drink and drive factor) to get home.

    I asked them if they were a potential tourist would they holiday there. Their responses were mostly in the negative because an urban vibe dominated so when they subsequently take a proper break, they seek to relax and chill with family and friends in a more evident natural environment.

    A lot said that they regularly go to the South Coast! Their reasons being that our beaches are much better than the North Coast, one can feel leisurely in an understated way and collectively there is a much wider element of choice for things to do whilst on holiday. A few have their holiday homes here and at every chance, they are here de-stressing and getting away from hectic metro life.

    Now here is the rub. Most of these folk are successful professionals who can afford many pairs of sunglasses yet one of their pluses about our destination is that when they get home, their wallets are not drained to the point that beloved Johnnie or Thandi has to leave their expensive private school for one or other less costly option.

    Ok we may not be the St. Tropez of South Africa but in many respects urban based South Africans prefer it that way- they really wish to relax and savour our beautiful basket of leisure and outdoor options.

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  • The Commonwealth Games and Us

    With Durban jumping with glee in securing the Commonwealth Games for 2022, the question arises- What is in it for tourism our district?

    I am led to believe that for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, many local hospitality providers committed their bed nights to the official accommodation agents and at the last minute due to less demand than expected, the agents released bed stocks back to the registered providers which effectively left many in the lurch.

    I suppose this experience could cause our hospitality sector to becoming cautious and once again allocate bed nights to the official agents for 2022. This is understandable unless the games have a different approach in securing local service providers.

    I am certain that there is scope for us to benefit from the games and I would advise that the tourism fraternity take early strides towards the packaging of group experiences over and above simple shuttle, accommodation and event ticket options. There will be many visitors who would also like to take in our diving, golfing, adventure, eco and cultural experiences whilst here.

    Many South Coast residents have hundreds of family members and friends who now live and work in commonwealth and other countries who would like to spectate at the games and visit loved ones at the same time.
    This could be an excellent opportunity to have more feet down here at the time the event kicks off.

    Finally and from our side, we will try and secure use of our local sports and outdoor venues as training sites for the incoming teams. With teams come the media and supporters and as such, our hosting volumes could increase at that time.

    One has to note however that the games commence in July 2022 (our mid-year season) and I would suggest that we should market (at sensible rates) to our traditional South African markets in Gauteng and KZN- with the games sell as a tag on element.

    The combination of normal mid-year family holiday with the bonus of seeing some exciting world class sports competition is a more prudent way to go. In having this approach, we will reduce the risks mentioned at the outset of this article and accommodate our bread and butter markets who are usually loyal to our destination.

    At that time of year, there is ample accommodation stock to host both our loyal clients and those who come here from abroad to witness this sports spectacle.

    Some may say the event is seven years away. Our position is that the deals and opportunities will be presenting shortly so we will be keeping our eye open for them and convey them to the practitioners in our tourism sector (i.e. Ugu South Coast Tourism members). Let the fun and games begin.

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  • Demand Led Tourism

    This last weekend we were promoting the greater South Coast at the Getaway Show in Johannesburg. Before the show started, I was interested to find out from the public and the tourism trade about visitor trends and what consumer preferences presently are.

    The show certainly exceeded our expectations in terms of attendance but what was patently clear from exhibitors who were there is that the economic squeeze has induced them to be very creative in the packaging and incentives they offer and to be demand (what the visitor wants) focused.

    One of our members who took an additional stand at the show focused for example on packages relating to school groups and he reported that he anticipates a large number of learners coming down to his resort near Port Edward in the year ahead.

    In speaking to enquirers at our stand, it became patently clear that the potential visitor is really shopping around for suitably priced family holidays. There also seems to be increased interest in camping and caravan destinations- it could be that expensive self catering and formal accommodation may for economic reasons be steering South African holidaymakers to the camp sites within our destination.

    Visitors expect ease of comfort where they take their trip and when we explained our Sunny and Safe campaign to prospects, there seemed to be appreciation that we are doing something about the importance of visitor satisfaction.

    We also plugged the Blue Flag and quality of our beaches and amenities to the public- what a pity it was that the water quality issue at Margate spewed into the media at the same time. We will be carefully monitoring this situation so that some sort of publicity can be attempted to convince doubters when the water quality is back at suitable levels.

    There was definitely more interest in adventure and activity orientated experiences so certainly there could be more drive outs to rural areas for thrill seeking. This aspect of our tourism sell did lock in interest from the nationally respected leisure publication houses with whom we met and are going to do features on our district in the future.

    Somebody asked “Does attendance at consumer shows work?” My response is an emphatic yes in that tourists are constantly reminded of our strong brand, provided with updated information about our attractions, products, services and experiences. They also act as a means of attracting new niches of visitors (e.g. motor sport fans to the Dezzi South Coast Raceway) to our area.

    If one is not there, one is soon forgotten- we will not be a shrinking violet when it comes to presenting our wonderful tourism assets to the markets.

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  • How Adventurous Are We?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Support for Hinterland Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Road Safety and Tourism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • It’s Time for Backbone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • What’s In An Event?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Every Picture Tells A Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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