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CEO Blog

  • Blue Flags and Reputation

    Last week it was announced that the South Coast had achieved Blue Flag status for seven of our beaches- good news indeed!
    Given that KZN got only 9 Blue Flag beaches for the next year, 78% of our province’s Blue Flag beaches are in fact right here. This is an indication that not only is the management of these beaches is in accordance with exacting international standards but also we have a reputation as having of the best holiday and leisure beach sites in the country.
    Reputation does however go beyond the realms of just having renowned Blue Flag beaches.
    Research shows that by far the most influential element in keeping or gaining tourist markets is via word of mouth (reputation) and with the modern communications tools at people’s disposal this in my opinion is going to become more prominent when it comes to destination marketing.
    The quality of service within the hospitality sector, value adding experiences, holiday season beach activations and community attention to having a welcoming mind set are part of that diverse reputation platform.
    Equally, public safety, the condition of public amenities and access infrastructure plays a vital role in this mix. The water supply issues that we experience are of pivotal importance and that is why we make direct representations to the various organs of state to encourage results driven outcomes.
    The public frustration that emerges from disruptive issues is shared by us - after all we in support of the tourism industry invest significant resources (financial and human) into the promotion of this great destination so when setbacks occur we have to counter market reticence with a great deal of media and publicity work.
    We do not have overalls, relevant technical skills or equipment to fix roads, signage and other infrastructure (including water pipes) but we do engage with local authorities to ensure that there is the minimisation or preferably eradication of incidents and degradation of infrastructure.
    One observer once said “good reputation is best served by those who enthusiastically see that radiating prize and not those who look down at their soiled shoes with a sigh”.
    It takes committed rolling up of sleeves by many to keep our tourism reputation in a good place – we invite our communities and individuals to be part of the journey.

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  • Snippets in Tourism

    Based on a variety of activities and meetings attended, Ugu South Coast Tourism has been proactive in a number of initiatives which may interest readers.
    The National Department of Tourism is facilitating the establishment of the Indi-Atlantic Tourism Route which is somewhat vast in that it covers our entire coast. We will however ensure that when the initial scoping has been completed, our invaluable Southern Explorer Route is retained as our primary access tool for our district.
    The next MEC’s Provincial Tourism and Investment Committee meeting in November is to be hosted via the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality which is an opportunity for the key stakeholders in government to come to the district and see what is happening here on the South Coast and in our rural areas. We also anticipate the provincial launch of the Summer Season to take place down here.
    The recent launch of the sea front timeshare resort called Saints View with its Mozambique style restaurant is a valued new product for Uvongo. It is great that investors recognise our destination as being ripe for new tourism and leisure impetus.
    Our development team recently took learners from the St Martens de Porres School on a tour of the area. These children with auditory challenges, loved the experience and we are glad we continue to factor in the youth in what we do.
    The very popular TV show Uthando Nesithembu which is filmed here and involves the reality of polygamy has resulted in the public wishing to visit the homestead of the Mseleku family in the Madlala Traditional Area. This we are facilitating via an appointment only visitation programme- it amazing how reality TV can influence tourism as well. Celebrity tourism et al!
    The new plans for the Boulevard Precinct in Margate is also good news which when associated with the Panama Parade upgrade will certainly add much value to the Margate is Magic objectives presently being undertaken by various stakeholders.
    Much going on much to look forward to.

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  • Tourism Awards Time

    Tomorrow Ugu South Coast Tourism will be hosting our annual Tourism Awards Evening as part of Tourism/Heritage Month.
    The purpose of the evening is to recognise individuals, communities and enterprises who have assisted us in the realisation of our strategic objectives for the 2016/2017 year.
    This informal and fun evening (this year attendees dress as tourists or in heritage outfits) differs from nomination type awards (like the recently held Lillizela Awards) in that our personnel make recommendations within a variety of categories- hence it is our own recognition of those who make a positive difference to our tourism and leisure sector through working with us.
    Talking of the Lillizela Awards, two of our own products namely The Gorge Private Nature Reserve and Spa and Days at Sea won the KZN leg of the competition and we trust they may win at a national level as well.
    We believe that in recognising our stakeholders, who go the extra mile we can sustain an element of sector vibrancy and commitment even when socio-economic hurdles still need to be negotiated.
    We often have to submit reports on what our tourism sector is doing and at the latest Provincial Tourism Forum TKZN stated that of the reports received we certainly have a number of development and promotional actions and projects going that are worthy of their praise.
    Something in the recipe of tourism management appears to be working and to those who have that positive commitment to our tourism and leisure we salute you- even though you may not be an award winner this year.
    All hands to the wheel as they say. Without partnerships our vibrant tourism mix would be all the more difficult to keep at the levels we have collectively managed to attain.
    Thanks to all and sundry who have made all the difference.

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  • Local Is Lekker

    Recently I did an evaluation of Umhlanga Rocks and Ballito Bay to assess what is happening in tourism up there.
    It was clear that after work and during weekends local corporate and residents regularly take outings to some or other restaurant or watering hole to socialise and that regular influx of paying feet in fact props up the local hospitality sector more reliably and consistently than the seasonal holiday makers.
    We on the South Coast have such a variety of well appointed places to socialise- many of which are situated on arguably some of the best beach and countryside locations in Southern Africa.
    My feeling is that we need to take example of the towns mentioned and establish a strong culture whereby individuals and families regularly get out of the house, de- hibernate, support our local proprietors and thoroughly enjoy the experience.
    I often to go St Michaels after work and it’s so pleasing to see some families bringing their families to the beach for a swim or surf and a bite to eat then paddle off home. We have such an advantage here in that one does not have to travel far to get to a number of great places between Scottburgh and Port Edward to unwind and spend leisure time.
    My contention is that if we support local and often, we not only enjoy many pleasant outings but also make a valuable contribution towards the viability of enterprises. We have a host of really welcoming proprietors and managers and they certainly deserve public support. After all it is our locals who regularly make recommendations to visitors- how best to inform them than actually knowing a property first hand.
    Spring has announced itself here in this beautiful part of KZN- it’s time to get out of DSTV paralysis and spend our recreational time at our local spots of interest, dining and entertainment.
    Local is lekker after all.

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  • Little Ones and Leisure

    The other day whilst in Margate I was wondering why so many taxis were stopping outside a well known eatery near the palm lined beach.
    Then the doors opened and out popped literally dozens of little school children (no older than 7 or 8) and who were heading for their post excursion meal and cold drink before heading off home.
    It was clear that these ebullient learners had had a wonderful day in that they exuded much joy in being able to be at the beach and see the sights and sounds of bustling Margate. Their smile filled excitement was very evident.
    This got me thinking that the more we can impress children about our holiday and leisure assets, the more we could realise their return in the years ahead. That’s why we lay on beach activations during each holiday season.
    Camp Anerley comes to mind as does the wonderful work the Hibberdene Children’s Home does for the youth and needy. I have no doubt the lasting childhood memories one has when down here does germinate the seed that brings one back in later years.
    As a child we used to stay at the old rondawels at Banana Beach. We spent days fishing, playing beach sports and body surfing (very poorly) on the seemingly large waves. Those good times left their mark and as an older person, I would return on cricket or golf tours, party in Margate, gamble a bit or water ski (also poorly) on the Umtamvuna River.
    The South Coast makes the sort of impression that induces leisure and adventure lovers to return time and time again. When we see our little folk and youth in our midst, spare a thought that they are our future customers and their present pleasures are as important as those a lot older.
    “Please mommy and daddy wont you take us to the South Coast” (apologies to Jeremy Taylor of the famed “Ag Please Daddy” song) is the sort of nag we really want to create.
    It’s almost school holidays again- here they come!

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  • Tourism By Association

    This week the National Convention Bureau (a division of SA Tourism) held an event bid workshop in Durban which I found to be very informative and of relevance to our tourism here on the South Coast.
    Usually it is our big cities that seem to attract the headline conferences that have hundreds if not thousands of delegates streaming in from all over Africa and the world. There is however scope for destinations like ours to not only be very much part of pre and post conference itineraries out of our metros but also to actually be the host destination itself.
    A window of opportunity does exist for conferences up to about 1 000 delegates- particularly in the sphere of what is termed Association Meetings. Associations are usually a collective of constituted businesses, professions and organisations that have membership within a country and often affiliated to international bodies as well.
    These associations usually have annual general meetings and at times secure an international conference of a rotational basis and this is where the tourism opportunity lies. If Africa alone there are some 770 registered associations and in SA about 178 and their annual gatherings can range from less than 50 to many hundreds.
    In South Africa the MICE (Meetings Incentives Conferences and Events) niche has over 211 000 meetings and as far as Association Meetings are concerned, 17% of delegates are accompanied by a partner. If an Association Meeting is international in flavour that percentage is higher and many delegates before or after the meeting take leisure time out to see South Africa before returning to their home country.
    The per capita spend of Association Meeting attendees is suggested at R6 400 per person per day which is significantly higher than the daily average for our domestic tourist who usually stay with family and friends.
    The beauty of this form of tourism is that most meetings take place outside peak holiday season thus providing a good spread of year round economic benefit for our hospitality industry.
    Here on the beautiful South Coast I believe we have scope to lock into the Association Meeting market especially when we have great venues, an efficient air service to and from Johannesburg and Cape Town and excellent road access from Durban.
    To this end we have established a working relationship with our provincial convention bureau and are in a position to assist associations and tourism practitioners in securing hosting rights via a well presented bid process.

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  • Adding to Events

    At the recent Ingeli Show in Harding a pleasing aspect of the event was the hosting of a leg of the National Off-road Motor Bike Championships.
    The area around Harding is ideal for off the beaten track competition like this and many participants came from all over South Africa to garner much needed ranking points and to enjoy the country hospitality in the Umuziwabantu area.
    For events that have limited budgets and less pulling power than mega events I often encourage promoters to have “piggy back” sub events that can lock in more feet on site and also add publicity for a certain area.
    In Harding there was already set up support infrastructure which is certainly of interest to sport and adventure event hosts wishing to keep their own budgets to reasonable levels and not duplicate costs.
    People are wary of the “same old-same old” so innovation and inclusion of new draw cards (such as regional or national competition) affords events more scope to satisfy their exhibitors, sponsors, attendees and media. Conferences specific to an event type can also reinforce the appeal of the occasion.
    This I guess is why the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over the l past few games have been accommodating new sport codes and post games the Para Olympics are held in the same city.
    There are literally hundreds of lesser known sport and leisure codes that have many hundreds of active participants at their national competitions and we are looking at sourcing these organisations to prop up our out of season tourism and to assist certain local events in gleaning a stronger presence and value adding for our visitors and locals.
    There is that cliché “Thinking Out of the Box” and certainly events that constantly re-invent themselves or harvest value adding elements to their programmes have a much better chance of sustaining and remaining of interest.
    Our Ugu District is an ideal platform for year round events – after all our tourism relies heavily on them.

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  • Peaking Down to the Sea

    It is not common knowledge but the shortest road route to and from Cape Town from the KZN coast is via the R56 in the Eastern Cape Highlands and cross country through the vast expanses of the Karoo.
    Because of this I recently engaged with the local authorities and tourism stakeholders in the Eastern Cape to cement some kind of tourism linkage whereby visitor flows utilise our district as a base or conduit for those using this route involving the Cape provinces. This trip also included delivering many copies of our Southern Explorer Route guide at many tourism offices on the way.
    It is clear that the combination of a mountain experience (Rhodes for example has a snow ski resort nearby) and the warmer coastal tourism options here makes sense in that “Berg to Beach” principle and we as gateway to KZN want to capture that stopover factor for those coming here or en route to the provinces west of us.
    This principle also applies to cross border flows to and from Lesotho and entering South Africa via the Eastern Cape border posts. Imagine a tourist on one day snow skiing all wrapped up in winter woollies and shortly thereafter bathing comfortably on one of our brilliant beaches and soaking up the warm sun. Another scenario could be that anglers can one day reel in large trout from a pristine mountain stream and then come here and catch a massive game fish along our popular coastline.
    Great choices thus emerge if we fuse our year round offering with those in the mountain areas of KZN and the Eastern Cape which lie only a few hours away from us.
    Tourism does not fit geopolitical boundaries so to us by melding our unique offerings with different options elsewhere makes sense.  This is being done to draw in tourists who would extend their stays, travel around a broader geographic region and take in various permutations of attractions and experiences at the same time.
    Oh and by the way the drive from the Eastern Cape Highlands to our district is exceptionally beautiful and a spectacular reminder as to how vista and variety filled our lovely country in fact is.
    Such delights are on our doorstep and worthy of exploration and recommendation. It’s the journey that counts as well.

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  • The Kids Are Swinging Into Town

    From 28 August until 1 September the Junior Africa Challenge golf event takes place at our beautiful San Lameer Golf Course near Marina Beach.
    Hosted by the SA Kids Golf organisation, golfers from the continent will converge on the South Coast to compete for invitations to participate in events in the USA and garner valuable ranking points in their chosen sport.
    The ages range for SA Kids Golf is from 5 to 18 so it will be really special seeing these young (and probably very little) golfers tackling one of our best and certainly picturesque courses.
    What’s this to do with tourism?
    To start with if hundreds of young golfers come to the South Coast and play a variety of courses and have a jolly holly at the same time they may well get a great impression of our destination and return when older to play their favourite courses and spend leisure time here as well.
    Secondly children away from home usually are accompanied by their parents or guardians so a golf event of this nature brings in a valuable out of season spend by participants, supporters and officials.
    Finally this tournament will realise publicity online and in the print media so our destination enjoys in free promotion not only for our golf tourism but the South Coast in general.
    It is great that the youth can have such wonderful opportunity to go places from such an early age and we are fortunate that the golfing powers that be have chosen our district to host this internationally orientated competition.
    Who knows the next Speith, Woods or Little may be lurking amongst the diminutive players who will be here at month end.
    In short and to quote an up country visitor from Pretoria I recently chatted to when he said “hell man its blerry lekker playing golf down here- you ous are flippin lucky to live here”.
    I would like to believe that all visiting golfers have the same sentiment – that’s why we are traditionally one of the most popular golf destinations in South Africa.

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  • Keeping on Track

    Last week Ugu South Coast Tourism conducted a review of the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) which in essence guides national, provincial and local tourism management strategies and rationales for action.
    The NTSS strategies cover five pillars namely marketing, access, visitor experience, destination management practices and broad based benefits.
    Nationally SA Tourism is responsible for both overseas and domestic marketing programmes however there has been a tendency for the national agency to promote the iconic places like Cape Town and Kruger National Park and have great destinations like ours somewhat a bit in the background. We have recommended that the South Coast gets a higher profile to the core and desired markets but in the mean time we will continue to apply our own marketing and promotional campaigns here in South Africa (80% of our market) and abroad.
    Visitor access can have many dimensions as it covers physical access via modes of transport and access to communications and information. Naturally we continue to influence decision makers to improve road and air travel infrastructure to and from our district and keep abreast with the latest social media trends to maximise suitable provision of information for our consumers.
    Visitor experiences and destination management often go hand in glove and the degree of visitor satisfaction is largely dependent on the quality of service equated to the experiential promise. Generally our visitors do go home with a high level of satisfaction. Destination management concerns decision making and maintenance of public amenities and tourism support infrastructure. Here, surveys show that there is a constant need to keep amenities in a good condition and regularly upgrade facilities where needed. Where gaps occur we encourage the authorities to attend to the issues at hand so that we can present the recreational promise with some measure of confidence.
    Broad based benefits essentially are those that sustain livelihoods especially in rural and deprived areas. Through our development personnel we are actively working towards the creation of more interesting great drives out into our interior so that enterprises there can glean income from visitors. Our latest version of the Southern Explorer Route Guide now includes the first batch of such experiences.
    In comparing our Tourism Strategy 2017-2021 with the NTSS I am pleased that we are on the right track towards keeping the tourism pillars upright and to this end our operational, marketing and development objectives are clear and target orientated.
    Our 2016/17 financial year has just concluded and based on initial indicators, we have managed to meet or exceed all our objectives and targets.
    Sticking to the plan works it seems.

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