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CEO Blog

  • How Green Are Our Valleys?

    Presently Ugu South Coast Tourism in conjunction with the Ugu South Coast Development Agency is working on new trail concept called the Umzumbe River Trail which we anticipate could become akin to the famed Otter Trail in the Cape.
    This eco-cultural project will when launched will provide approximately 65km of trail linking the coast to the hinterland and utilising locally managed properties in traditional areas as hosted overnight stops for hikers.
    Howard Kelly who sits on our Board recently jumped into a helicopter in order to take visuals and geo-plot key elements of the proposed trail and his initial observations indicate our inland areas have pockets of outstanding cultural, natural and scenic value.
    It appears that part of the trail area in the valley system involves some really impressive and precipitous river gorges with waterfalls and vegetated landscapes which in due course can be presented to our outdoor markets and have a great educational value as well.
    So often when one lives in areas that have outstanding tourism assets (in our case the beaches and ocean) one can lose sight of the richness of other terrestrial and heritage orientated assets inland. Recently at our Port Shepstone Member’s Meet and Greet, local environmentalist Paddy Norman did a brief presentation of some of our unheralded green assets and astonishingly he indicated that there are over 35 conservation properties on public and private land that have immense nature based tourism potential.
    Yes we all know about the iconic Oribi Gorge, Umtamvuna River complex, Impenjati, Ingeli (the second largest indigenous forest in KZN) and the Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve near Umzinto but as pointed out by Paddy there are a multitude of almost unknown gems (some larger than 2 000 hectares) that can be visited by arrangement or through conservancy groups (and we have a number of committed groups of people up and down the coast). Even in built up areas such as Uvongo (Skyline Nature Reserve) and Southport there are little green treasure chests that will surprise and impress. There is an ever increasing interest in activities like birding, flora and fauna excursions and just healthy exercise in places of natural beauty. Indeed sites in which to rejuvenate and appreciate.
    I guess it’s time to drag out those dusty veldskoens, don the faded rugby socks, not so trendy khaki gear then load up the old canvass rucksack and head for the hills- we all I am sure may get an even greater appreciation of what our greater South Coast has to offer.
    Our green tourism is the way.

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  • Bits and Bobs

    In a recent edition of Time Magazine I noted that the projected number of domestic air passengers in the USA between June and August is a staggering 234 million! Another statistic I recently read was that one attraction in Paris (the Louvre) gets in excess of 9 million visitors each year- more than the entire foreign visitation to South Africa.
    This indicates how relatively small our tourism as an industry in fact is- Africa gets less than 3% of the world market so there is a case to really try and access the foreign markets and in our case mainly the ocean adventure and golfing markets. This is why we are selling our destination as a premier ocean safari destination and a great place to have multiple rounds of golf (amongst a large basket of other niche offerings).
    This being said a recent Stats SA report on SA tourism indicated that our sector contributes some 3.1% to the country’s economy with about 1 in every 22 employed being involved in the tourism and leisure sector. Tourism is now larger than mining in terms of numbers employed. Our own local economy relies heavily on our tourism revenue yields and besides an aggressive local marketing programme we are looking at constructive ways to bring long haul visitors from the northern hemisphere to our shores here in KZN.
    Between 2014 and 2016 there has been a drop off of some 500 000 foreign visitors to South Africa however we believe that the South Coast can offer new year round experiences over and above the normal go to places such as the Western Cape and Kruger National Park. Our team is engaging with SA Tourism to get us more profile within their international marketing efforts so that in due course longer stay visitors will see us as a clear touring option.
    With the recession on us and market sensitivities being what they are our commitment to be market and marketing focused will remain resolute- our destination is that good to promote.
    In conclusion, we wait with baited (sorry about the pun) breath for an arrival of the sardines so let’s hope they come our way in time for our busy mid-year Sardine Season (we have created a great events programme to coincide with this time of year).
    Either way we are able and ready to happily host our many visitors during the forthcoming holiday period.

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  • Helping the Youth

    Last week USCT signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the local Esayidi TVET College at Gamalakhe which is intended to cement a relationship with the tertiary institution and the youth studying tourism at their campus and also expose them to more than tourism theory during their studies.
    Part of our role has been to set up an on-site simulated Visitor Information Centre so that students can undertake role play exercises in tourism information services and methods to deal with tourism and leisure related enquiries.
    We will also avail ourselves to present some lectures on tourism management and share real life experiences we have in servicing tourism sector and public needs. From time to time we will also empower students to carry our certain research projects and improve their analysis of tourism trends and consumer behaviour.
    Tours of the destination and to trade shows like Tourism Indaba will be arranged for them and those with the highest potential will be afforded remunerated internships with our organisation for a period of eighteen months.
    Key to our assistance will be to ensure that young people from our district studying tourism are given preference with their work experience and possible placements- after all if we look after those in our area their income will help alleviate joblessness and poverty. Tourism certainly has the ability to fast track the transition from being unemployed to being an earner and a bread winner.
    Something like 60% of our population is under the age of 35 so it is critical that career paths be established for the youth to get onto. It is our submission that creation of a relationship with the TVET College is a step in the right direction and as such we look forward to their alumni making big strides in the tourism sector.
    In conclusion our existing interns conclude their time with us in August so if there are enterprises seeking to employ very competent young people please contact us on 039 6827944 and we can make some recommendations for possible employment.
    Have a great and fulfilling week.

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  • Just a Little Touch

    I was recently at a meeting in Margate and near our table was a young couple from Gauteng who with their toddler son were enjoying some refreshments whilst overlooking the tranquil sea on what was a perfectly warm Autumn Day.
    One of our group asked the husband if they were on holiday and how they were enjoying their stay. All was positive and during the discussion the visitor asked where one could have some sushi for supper. Immediately the Margate resident picked up the phone and made a few enquiries and within a flash a table was booked for the meal at a restaurant at St Michaels Beach. Into the bargain was the fact that on that day the restaurant was having a half price on sushi meals. Bonanza!
    I was watching the reaction of the couple to this unsolicited assistance from what was ostensibly a total stranger and as they wondered off to enjoy Japanese cuisine, their gratitude was apparent.
    Word of mouth is still the most influential aspect for people to express their like or dislike of their leisure time away from home. This is especially true with the huge impact social media has these days.
    I have no doubt that this small gesture has gone a long way towards this young family leaving our shores with a positive reflection of their stay and a strong likelihood that they will return again.
    One often underestimates the massive value those small touches have – most cost nothing yet the effect is substantial.
    I am often given visitor feedback and thankfully most is positive and increasingly the information reinforces the fact that here at South Coast and surrounds, people generally have that welcoming how can I help attitude.
    I know that the Du Plessis family from over the escarpment can vouch for that.

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  • Highs and Lows

    Last week saw us promoting at the Tourism Indaba 2017 during which it was announced that Durban won the bid to host this big event for another five years.
    This is good news for us because we are then afforded the opportunity to host tourism trade and media tours either before or after the event- and costs to promote locally are way less than attending the show in say Cape Town or Johannesburg.
    It was interesting to note that there was some interest in our area from agents from potential source markets such as China, Italy and Switzerland which previously had not cropped up on our international radar. Most of our long haul visitors originate from the United Kingdom and Germany so any expansion into new markets will be superb.
    On the domestic front we also managed to get free air time on SAFM which gained us national coverage and the opportunity to plug our excellent tourism attributes including our dive tourism which was of interest to enquirers at the show.
    On a low note the passing of John Rudling in a flying accident last weekend is a sad loss to our tourism community. John was previously a bed and breakfast owner and as a helicopter pilot he was generous in taking media and some of our personnel on the odd flight as a means of awareness of our destination and his services to visitors.
    In 1980s Pietermaritzburg, I had the pleasure of teaching he and brother Bruce at high school so on my arrival here in 2013 it was great meeting up with him after so many years and from time to time having pint or two together after golf or at the Margate Flying Club.
    To John’s family we extend our sincere condolences – he was a popular fellow in the tourism and aviation circles and will be missed by many.

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  • Mobilise For Margate

    Last Wednesday Margate was announced as a national finalist (and KZN’s winner) for the Kwela Dorp Van Die Jaar 2017 competition. This is great news for our premier resort town which is aspiring to reignite its magic and put it at the forefront of our tourism sell.
    Corrie Wernick and her proactive colleagues and members at the Margate Business Association (MBA) lit the candle to get Margate into the finals and now the ball to win is rolling and we should all be part of this great opportunity because should Margate win, the town will receive something like a million Rands of media exposure as part of award. This will certainly add not only status to the town but also translate into great PR and more people visiting and spending down here during their leisure breaks, business conferences and attending events.
    Tourism KwaZulu-Natal recently reported a 15% drop off in Easter Holiday tourism in our province- we can certainly be resilient to this trend by being part of the MBA initiative to vote for Margate. At the Tourism Indaba this week we will be plugging this opportunity big time.
    So to anybody and everybody from 8.30 pm from 24 May until 12.00 on 30 May please send an SMS vote to 33157 and type in Margate and encourage all contacts to do the same.
    Margate deserves to have its sparkler aflame so that the magic illuminates our tourism landscape. The recent South Coast Bike Fest created some media audited R13 million in publicity for Margate and our area so it will be great if we can keep the momentum going through this competition- what a grand day it will be if Margate comes out trumps and becomes the SA’s top town.
    Much akin to that famous (or infamous if one considers the tragedy of that war) WW1 poster of Lord Kitchener that says “Your Country Needs You”, I suggest that we should all assist the MBA, mobilise for Margate and universally encourage votes to pull the rabbit out of the hat (winning the competition) – “Margate Needs You”.
    These are indeed exciting times.

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  • Explore to the Full

    This week saw the launch of edition 20 of the Southern Explorer Route Guide which is the official tourism publication for our diverse and captivating destination.
    Besides the plethora of beach, adventure, activity, hospitality, retail and nature based options on the coast and inland, this year we have added some unique and innovative touring options.
    In the edition are newly incorporated and mapped experiences that can be had in Kwa Nzimakwe, Nyandzulu and the Wild 2 South Coast Walk. In addition, new Great Drives Out are leisurely loops that include one from Bushy vales to Shelly Beach via Izingolweni and another from Umzumbe to Batstones Drift via Kwa Dweshula.
    So often one tends to stick to the main tourist roads and we really encourage locals and visitors to get a copy of the “Explorer” and sample the sights and good peoples of our immediate rural areas. A number of committed local practitioners and welcoming emergent enterprises await your support and to host you. This section of the publication also highlights key cultural and entertainment events in the rural areas which are well worth attending.
    Talking of exploration, local charter operators C Freaks kindly took our tourism interns for a trip out to sea. Some of our future tourism ambassadors had never been off shore before so when one looks at their happy photos of the exciting outing there is no doubt that they will recommend this experience to all and sundry. Many thanks C Freaks.
    So on land and at sea a fruit bowl of options is here on our doorstep – please vitalise the spirit in exploring our superb destination to the full- it is ripe for the sampling. Our route guide is also downloadable off our website- www.tourismsouthcoast.co.za
    Happy outings in our Paradise.

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  • There’s Much More Than the Fest

    The South Coast Bike Fest has concluded (and what a weekend it was). Margate and surrounds were very busy over the long weekend but there has been a great deal more going on beyond the fest that really spiced up our tourism at month end and for early May.
    In Scottburgh the iconic Joberg 2 C cycle race ended in Umdoni and on Monday the South Coast Striders held their marathon which is a qualifier for the Comrades Marathon. Many athletes came from other parts of KZN and beyond to sweat their stuff.
    Last week a fortnight of Inter Provincial and National Pool Championships commenced at the Ugu Sport and Leisure Centre. It has been reported that each of the 800 participants will have spent a minimum of a week here which translates to 5 600 bed nights as well as the important daily spend in our restaurants, pubs and retail. I have spoken to participants who have come here from as far away as the West Coast in the Cape that’s how passionate these players are for their indoor sport.
    To cap it all the ever popular bowls week in Margate started this week and hundreds of bowlers have congregated to enjoy their matches in our glorious autumn sunshine.
    We have supported these events all of which add to the tourism economy of our district – busy times indeed as we prepare for the promotion of our mid-year Sardine Season 2017.
    In conclusion during the South Coast Bike Fest I spoke to literally hundreds of up country folk and they were very complimentary about their visit and experience- well done South Coasters you the great weather and worthy events made for wonderful time for our valued visitors.

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  • Enjoy the Rides

    The South Coast Bike Fest is upon us and besides the day to day ebb and flow of bikers up and down the coast, Margate and surrounds will be captured in celebration of the motorsport and excellent entertainment.
    One other enjoyable fest aspect will be the annual mass Parade from Shelly Beach along the R620 during which long lines of bikers proudly convoy themselves with the Mayor to the main event boulevard in Margate.
    Traditionally this has been a time when South Coasters select their favourite spot next to the road and watch this impressive cavalcade. It’s a really fun and friendly part of the event and the bikers certainly appreciate the turnout of our locals to wish them well as they cruise by on their polished and dare I say it expensive machines.
    So from 10.30 on 30 April 2017 it will be special if as many people as possible can support this tradition along the R620. It is advised that one should get their earlier to ensure suitable parking and a good viewing spot.
    Furthermore during the event on April 29th there is a Festival of Speed at Dezzie’s South Coast Raceway at Oslo Beach and those who pre- registered for the South Coast Bike Fest on display of their arm bands will have free entry to this racing day. Non pre-registration band holders will need to pay the normal public entry fee.
    Other than the mega activity scheduled for Margate, visitors and residents can embrace a number of other event options within the full programme- see southcoastbikefest.co.za
    Here’s to a super fest this weekend and let’s be Sunny (happy) and Safe.

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  • South Coast Bike Fest 2017

    The South Coast Bike Fest is being presented from Margate from 27-30 April and we anticipate a large influx of visitors to over that long weekend.
    Like most events we want to ensure that all attendees have a safe and enjoyable experience and to this end the organiser has put into place considerable security plans and entertainment programmes along the main boulevard as well as the main beach stage area.
    We advise people to ensure that they pre-register (please keep your registration confirmation handy to avoid waiting at the entrances) for their free access to the boulevard zone with its retail, hospitality and entertainment and to purchase their tickets for the main beach entertainment area by going to www.southcoastbikefest.co.za.
    Law enforcement has indicated that there will be avoidance of over congestion and as such preference for the pre-registered will be given and that controls in terms of liquor abuse in public will also be in place.
    We want the event to be a rainbow celebration of fellowship, fun and entertainment so that our main resort town of Margate can re-confirm itself as a major events venue worthy of substantial visitation throughout the year.
    Part of this event’s recipe towards success will be how we as a committed community host our visitors- if all and sundry put their best hats on and hospitably embrace the presence of our many visitors, I feel that mega PR for our destination will accrue- after all it is word of mouth that give places a good reputation.
    All this can do only good rather than otherwise. So here’s to hosting many Pals (visitors) to our Paradise during this premier event at month end.

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