November 20, 2015
Already the first signs of our new summer season are becoming evident and soon, droves of visitors from Gauteng and KZN will be with us. Young and old, families, students, honeymooners and our local day visitors will be converging down here at the coast or out to our adventure filled hinterland and captivating rural communities.
We obviously would wish for all to have a sunny and safe stay here so what can we as a hosting populace do to assist in that process? Here are a few pointers.
Be extra friendly to our visitors in all areas they visit- we want them to return year after year and if people are in distress ensure that they have the presence and help of responsible persons who will look after their well being.
Have police, emergency and essential services numbers handy to render immediate assistance and added to this, report suspicious and criminal behaviour/acts to law enforcement agencies.
Treat our beaches, public areas and all natural environs with respect and avoid and discourage noisy and unruly behaviour in all public spaces.
Encourage visitor use of respected and registered hospitality establishments, attractions and local businesses- I suggest get a copy of the Southern Explorer from one of our Tourist Information Centres (or website) www.tourismsouthcoast.co.za or www.southernexplorer.co.za.
Speak of our area with pride and passion as visitors respond well to a positive vibe and respect people’s rights to privacy and enjoyment of our wonderful Greater South Coast.
Continually get people to follow the rules of the road and discourage drinking and driving- we want as a few accidents as possible so that tragedy does not mar what should be a season of responsible togetherness and joy.
One of the biggest draw cards for people to return year after year is how the host area’s people treat their guests. I know that the Irish are famed for their open and warm hospitality and when I was in Malawi a few years ago, on more than one occasion locals came to me to say hi, welcome to their country and would I like a beer on them- so why not us?
2015 Has for many been a stressful year so what better advert for our destination if the thousands of visitors who can go back home refreshed, safe and utterly fulfilled. Every small gesture and kindness to all and sundry can make all the difference.
Then we can rightly claim to be the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom.
November 13, 2015
A fortnight ago I attended a function at the ICC in Durban to celebrate the launch of a new and direct air service from Europe/Middle East to King Shaka International Airport.
Unbeknown to me, Turkish Airlines flies to more destinations than any other airline in the world so its connectivity benefit for our overseas markets in Europe and the Middle East becomes all the more evident.
Here on the South Coast our long haul market is relatively small (10-15%) in comparison to our domestic scenarios however I am of the opinion that this new ease of access directly to the Zulu Kingdom will grow our province’s and localised visitor base from abroad.
Besides visitors from the EU, the Balkan states and the Slavic speaking nations, the Turkish market does have immense potential. Some years ago whilst researching for an island development off the northern coast of Mozambique I was amazed to find the highest incidence of billionaires within the study area of Africa/Middle East emanated from Turkey. This presents opportunity for mid to high end spenders to come to KwaZulu-Natal.
In Turkey there has been a massive upsurge in the construction of golf courses and participation in the sport. In the years ahead, I am sure that these “new” golfers will seek destinations like ours to enjoy their sport and take in our eco and cultural tourism attractions along the way.
Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and partners such as the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) are looking at ways to increase the number of international airlines to this province. This as a means of establishing King Shaka International Airport as a true hub for inter and intra continental routes.
Should they succeed, the opportunities for inbound foreign tourists will increase and we as an organisation will be monitoring developments to ascertain opportunities in terms of packaging and promotion of our Ugu District.
A little bit of Turkish delight has whetted the appetite for our tourism industry to seek a slice of this new market potential from historic Istanbul and beyond.
November 13, 2015
Last week I returned from a conference by air from Johannesburg to Margate and the low level flight gave me the shock of all shocks.
The normally lush landscapes of the midlands and down towards our coast are in many instances in dire straits. The thirsty sub soils are peering through what should be a veneer of greened vegetation, dams are severely depleted of water and the normally healthy rivers and waterfalls are a mere trickle of their former selves. My observations were that is was more like the Karoo than the normally flourishing hydrology of our province.
The messages on this water crisis being sent out by our local authority and organs of state are not hollow methods used to cover up service delivery issues- this is a severe drought and the ramifications for our tourism are all too evident.
Our busiest season of the year is only a matter of weeks away and all we can do under the circumstances is to strongly advise that all water users become disciplined when it comes to consumption. The application of water saving actions should also be conveyed to our guests without undue disruption to their stay.
This will have to be a team effort if our visitors are to return home after their holiday with a positive take on this destination. If our residents and businesses report leaking pipes etc. to the Ugu District Municipality I am sure each rectification will add to the prospect of better supply during a peak use period.
Given that the economy is under stress and the water crisis exists, this could be a “perfect storm” in a challenging sense. My plea is therefore for everybody to be very conscious of water usage and make every effort to conserve this precious commodity- the success of our holiday season will depend on this.
November 06, 2015
Our industry is recognised as one of the sectors that can fast track people into trained for and employed positions which in these stressed times is noteworthy especially when many of our youth are desperate for jobs and a reasonable remuneration.
Many of our young people who study at non university tertiary institutions are on completion of their studies ideally positioned to be absorbed into the main stream tourism economy however there is a trend that seems to be a buffer to this.
A number of our professionally qualified university graduates cannot find careers in their chosen field and as a result many filtrate the selling of their abilities down into some levels of tourism and hospitality that could well be taken up by non university qualified people.
The net result is many over qualified people are taking up positions (usually until they get jobs in accordance with their qualification) and adequately qualified people for entry level tourism jobs have additional competition for vacancies.
For employers having a graduate employee may be a bit of a bonus however on one hand it is possible that the graduate sees the job as an interim opportunity whereas those who have chosen to go specifically into tourism and hospitality have a longer term desire to stay and grow in the sector.
We at Ugu South Coast Tourism have an annual strategy whereby individuals with specific tourism, leisure and hospitality skills provide us with their Curriculum Vitae which we then offer to our tourism industry should vacancies arise.
I am also of the opinion that there are a number of tourism aligned businesses who may wish to source suitably skilled people who have qualified from one or other of our local institutions. Our bank of CVs is available should the public wish to select possible candidates for employment.
If we can train and employ local, our tourism industry will be doing a great deal to alleviate the frustration that our young people endure on a daily basis- the recent sagas at some of our universities is testimony of that.
With the busy festive season looming, it would be great if enterprises could take on extra staff from our local surrounds. Even on a temporary basis work experience counts for anybody seeking permanent positions in the future.
We have over a dozen interns working for us and when their term concludes I am sure they will have a better chance of employment than those who have no experience at all. Any takers out there?
October 30, 2015
If one travels the country lanes of England, there are numerous eating houses and pubs that have very much an individualistic charm, character and usually run by a proud proprietor.
What is noticeable at these quaint centuries old establishments is that the over bearing presence of liquor and refreshment company brands is kept to a minimum and as a result the specialness of the “pub” becomes almost a destination in its own right.
In many respects here in South Africa the opposite is true. It seems that the representatives from the drinks companies have inundated the interior and exterior features of many wining and dining spots to the extent that the essence of the place is compromised.
If one looks at signage all over the place, it seems that we have been flooded with brand presence that one tourism practitioner was recently promoted to comment “Do we live on the Cola Coast?”. His comment does have a ring of truth and I am certainly adverse to what can only be termed saturation signage.
We all know that such branding is just one (saving on signage cost to the owner) ploy used by the selling companies to ensure regular business but I am convinced that patrons may think differently.
Many prefer (as long as the food and service are also great) to socialise at places that have decor that fits a theme and the ambience within their establishment’s name. When there is a disjoint between the two and tacky furniture and an over presence of one or other drink brand exists, I feel that is somewhat of a turn off.
There is no doubt that the aesthetic presentation of any tourism enterprise is a major element towards that comfort for people being there. A characterless property does nothing to instil a wish to be there in the first place. I am not advocating that proprietors rip up their places and at great cost refurbish from scratch but a well presented establishment is a worthy notion.
We won’t be selling our destination as the Cola Coast but I will be consistent in having preference for venues that have that personalised look and feel about them.
In closing, I have noticed that a number of owners have been painting their buildings and sprucing up for the forthcoming season. Would it not be great if more would do the same- this aspect of pride will do wonders in giving our visitors a great impression of our lovely part of the world.
October 30, 2015
On the eve of Heritage Day and as part of Tourism Month we hosted our annual Tourism Awards function at Umthunzi Lodge.
The purpose of the fancy dress event was to give recognition to members of our tourism fraternity, municipalities, organs of state and the stakeholder public for their contribution to our tourism sector, its management, development and promotion.
Without going into each award category, thought I would highlight some of the recipients who have gone the extra mile for leisure and tourism.
Our coastline is of the best in Southern Africa and with our Blue Flag beaches can claim to be of the best presented yet when mishaps at sea do occur the often unheralded National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) at Shelly Beach and Port Edward and their dedicated volunteers jump to the task and often save the day. Without them our beach and ocean sell could be in jeopardy and for their unselfish work we acknowledged with much appreciation the tireless work they do for all of us.
I am a big believer in the good work done by our local conservancies. They are committed to enhancing and protecting the natural environs at strategic and sensitive spots in our district. This year the Ramsgate Conservancy received an award for their work in developing and managing the wonderful Whale deck site. Soon they are to revamp an old toilet block into a small tourism information centre. The deck site was also host area for the first Ramsgate Literary Festival held last weekend- where better a place to listen to experts on the written word whilst the seas lap the shoreline?
We also recognised the magnificent efforts of emergent tourism practitioners in our rural and peri-urban areas and Sfundo Zuma (Gamalakhe Flea Market) and Dudu Malinga (Amakhona Arts Festival) received awards.
Ugu District Municipality as our primary funders and Hibiscus Coast Municipality (beach improvements and news making) were recognised from an institutional perspective. It is often underappreciated how much financial and tourism support infrastructure is in fact provided through our municipalities.
What was gratifying that the awardees came from various parts of our district and going forward we will continue to encourage tourism practitioners to be active within our public/private sector “family” in tourism/leisure down here.
The presence of key media, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and the KZN Film Commission at our event is an indication that our awards are being noticed outside our destination and that in having a fun evening we in the tourism sector can for once actually do what our guests normally do.
October 23, 2015
One of our dedicated members who has been actively been involved in matters of safety and security, has brought to our attention a very important point regarding the securing of more police resources for an area.
Amongst various other categories, the logistical planners for SAPS also use the quantifiable number of registered tourism related business and enterprises to determine how many personnel, vehicles etc. should be allocated to ensure suitable policing within a destination.
I am of the opinion that here, there are many businesses trading yet do not have the necessary licenses from the local authority and/or are not registered with the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DEAT) and Ugu South Coast Tourism.
This being the case by not being on the relevant databases, these enterprises are in fact precluding the SAPS from allocating realistic resources for policing in our district- which is a critical element for the ease of comfort our tourism industry and guests demand.
In some respects, this is an appeal for enterprises that derive their income through tourism to obtain the necessary authorisations from the local municipality and register with DEAT and ourselves- this should then inform our law enforcement in their planning for the future of safety and security down here.
If we do not attend to the well being of our residents (who can praise or condemn our area in terms of policing) and our visitors (who can end up being the best ambassadors for our tourism) our efforts will fail in the quest to have a better reputation for this lovely part of our province.
The Spring break has just concluded and before we know it, the end of year holidays will be on us. We have a comprehensive events line up for our visitors which we believe will add to the sizzle of the year end’s festivities- all conducted within a sunny and safe environment.
In order for us to ensure the security of consumers in their booking of their holiday (there are dubious online “sellers” out there) we really urge readers to recommend the credible letting and booking agencies that are listed on our member’s database, our website and profiled on our Southern Explorer publication.
Enjoy the brief respite until the year end rush to Paradise.
October 16, 2015
Ugu South Coast Tourism along with practitioners from the tourism industry recently attended an information session presented by the National Department of Tourism (NDT) and the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (Deat).
The purpose of the gathering was to highlight a tourism related incentive through the NDT’s International Marketing Access Support Programme which is geared to support through subsidies tourism enterprises wishing to attend international exhibitions and road shows.
Although most of our tourism market is South Africa based there may be a number of tourism businesses that wish to source overseas markets and to this end, the incentives (ranging from 100% of capped value) can provide promotional savings which given the exchange rates is a blessing.
Generally, the incentives support outlays for return economy airfares, accommodation, exhibition and participation costs.
To be considered for this scheme, applicants need to have a majority South African ownership, be registered as a business and have an annual turnover of no more than R35 million. Naturally, the business has to be compliant in terms of the Tourism B-BBEE codes and up to date with SARS.
In the application forms there is reference to membership of organisations such as tourism associations like Ugu South Coast Tourism which is also a compulsory requirement as part of Deat’s registration criteria.
Another programme presented was for lending financial support for hospitality establishments seeking to be graded via the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa. This programme offers rebates for grading assessment which range from 30% and increasing to 50% in subsequent years.
Whilst some of an application’s terms and conditions may on the surface seem onerous, I am amazed that tourism businesses to not take advantage of such support schemes. About 15 years ago I facilitated an application to government for a chemical company seeking to be more competitive. The outcome of this was a grant of R250 000 which went some way in growing the enterprise’s generic product base. If free money can help a business it is worth going for it.
Should tourism enterprises wish to obtain more information about these NDT programmes, enquiries must be made to firstname.lastname@example.org or by accessing their website www.tourism.gov.za. Nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say.
October 09, 2015
The global outcry about the unfortunate shooting of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe illustrates that the actions of one person and the power of today’s communication tools can be a double edged sword for the tourism industry.
No doubt the Zimbabwean and Southern African “ethical” hunting industry may experience major public relations and customer retention challenges in the months ahead.
In short, it can take one incident, an aggrieved party and massive exposure on the internet and the perception of a destination’s appeal can be altered for the worse.
I recently read in a Durban newspaper of a person who had a personal experience of crime on the lower South Coast. This is not good publicity and whilst many committed organisations, agencies and the tourism sector (our Sunny and Safe Campaign) are making a lauded difference we have a responsibility to address this national concern and utilise publicity in as positive a manner as possible.
There is a saying in tourism that for every downside story, one needs dozens of positive media angles to sustain consumer interest in an area. I do not subscribe to a head in the sand approach however we do need to continually inform our markets, the media, tourism trade and the public in general about what is working, happening and positive to the world out there.
Some short sighted observers say “any publicity is good publicity”- a statement that I do not totally agree with. It takes huge effort to right negative perceptions (correct or otherwise) then counteract them through managing the issue and then using communication campaigns to stabilise any imbalance.
It seems that internet based commentary is now not immune to legal action, defamation cases and all sorts of accusatory quagmires. I guess it boils down to individuals and organisations needing to be responsible for the accuracy of content and opinions before they inadvertently cause an untoward epidemic of misinformation.
Poor Cecil’s senseless demise may have been media manner from heaven for animal rights groups and environmentalists but the flipside is that Zimbabwe’s tourism may well have taken a knock in the process. That is how fine that line between positive and negative publicity can be.
We believe in addressing tourism related issues and at the same time aligning to the principle that good not any publicity is good publicity - and there is enough very good stuff here that can be communicated to the world.
October 02, 2015
For those long haul visitors who come from currency strong countries, South Africa has to be a destination that does not dent the pocket. To many observers this provides a marketing plus to entice Pound or Dollar spenders to our shores and certainly (silly Visa regulations aside) tourists will come and spend.
The downside is that our national marketing arm South African Tourism (SAT) has to spend its overseas marketing budgets in countries with stable currencies. This means that because of exchange rates, the marketing “Bang for Buck” can be whittled away to a possible damp squib which in turn could reduce the promotional impact to secure a greater long haul market share.
So in some respects our international market prospects could be in for tough times even though the vast majority of people who do actually come to this country return raving about South Africa.
So how does one counter this? My opinion is and this is certainly how we will approach things is to attend selective consumer and trade shows aboard, use General Selling Agents as productively as possible and more importantly grow our desire- ability within social communication networks. Furthermore we will creatively attain free overseas publicity in influential publications and on the internet.
Although we do collaborate with SAT and Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, we see merit in sourcing our own key media and market niches overseas in order to hive off some market share specifically for the greater South Coast.
These approaches are not cost overly consuming and as such, we consider our foreign market sourcing capable of realising results. Our blessing is that we rely mainly on our domestic markets for most of our tourism spend- we will not lose sight of that trend- even if local markets are financially hamstrung.
One thing I have noticed is that our destination is slowly getting more and more business tourism from both the private and public sector. To a large extent this is down to our price competitiveness. A few nights ago I spoke to a conference delegate from Gauteng and his conference for 800 attendees was for 3 nights- that’s 2 100 bed nights mid week and out of season- what a plus!
Certainly with our district’s hospitality industry signing up with the South African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) the penny is dropping that this market segment has to be tapped into- hence our close association with SAACI.
I feel that when the tourism chips appear down, there is ample scope for creative ways and means of fixing the leaks. Have a great week.