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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

  • 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

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