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CEO Blog

  • Do Yourself a Flavour

    Last week we hosted a local media tour group to see some of our agri-tourism products and what worthwhile tours they were.

    Some visitors due to the weather and the desire to see something new look for those unique outings that will interest them and their families. We were expertly hosted on the local coffee plantation near Port Edward and the banana farm at Southbroom – both tours were extremely informative, interesting and at tour conclusion, sampling of the tasty products was on offer.

    Sometimes we take for granted what we consume after purchase from one or other retail outlet but it is really educational to hear and see what farming, production and distribution processes occur before we can have that savoured sip or munch.

    We only sampled two types of agriculture- if we factor in sugar cane, macadamia nut and timber production it becomes apparent that our destination can provide visitors with brilliant examples of pleasant things to do on our farms. The Western Cape has grown its viticulture into a multi-billion Rand tourism related industry through its numerous wine routes so there is no reason why farm tours here cannot take root as well.

    So when the wind is a bit iffy and the seas a bit choppy or at any time for that matter, why not trek out and book a farm tour. Our tourism office personnel will gladly assist in making a booking on your behalf. They will also facilitate tours to any of the three reptile “farms” we have down here.

    So after writing this article I am off to make a good brew of local coffee- bought of course after our tour. There are so many fun flavours to enjoy here in our Paradise.

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  • How Important is Africa’s Tourism

    At the recent RETOSA conference in Johannesburg, a number of panellists at the event highlighted the importance of continental and regional tourism.

    In the global context, Africa realises less than 4% of the world’s tourism receipts which suggests that in the greater scheme of things our continent has some way to go before it can become a major tourism player.

    Regionally we seem to experience about 3.5% growth in the sector with South Africa reporting an interesting 12% growth in long haul visitation (I guess this is due to higher arrivals from a lower base when the visa problem did damage to our stats).

    Although Africa is in the minor league, this does not say as a country and the South Coast as a sub destination we are not important. Nationally SA is a major centre for business and trade and down here we are undoubtedly one of the region’s favourite beach and leisure destinations.

    Besides the ex-pats who come each year to stay in their holiday homes, we host between 60-100 000 foreign visitors and it appears that those numbers are growing because we are a year round destination and that Euro, Pound or Dollar goes a very long way.

    Domestically we still host in excess of 700 000 locals during various times of the year and this season I have a good feeling that the season will make amends for some prior drop off because of the country’s economic situation- after all we do need one good holiday each year.

    The holiday trickle has begun and over the next few weeks there will be a big flow to the coast so let’s all wish everybody a sunny and safe time during the festive season.

    Let’s hope the present spring rains give a little leeway and allow for brilliant days and nights here in the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom.

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  • Sustaining Tourism on the South Coast

    This week I am attending the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa’s (RETOSA) conference on sustainable tourism in Johannesburg which I expect will be very informative with a number of SADC case studies in community based tourism being presented to highlight gains, pitfalls and practical recommendations.

    Here in the Ugu District we have been involved in programmes geared towards community orientated rural projects which in due course will become prominent features within our diverse and rich tourism landscape.

    Already the Nyandezulu initiative is up and running and the Wild 2 South Coast Walk has within its offering inclusion of the KwaNzimakwe area which we anticipate will become a stand- alone sub destination in our hinterland. In a peri-urban context, there are moves to establish the Gamalakhe Heritage Park which if fused to other experiences, offerings and tours in the immediate area will provide our visitors with excellent insights into our cultural heritage and contemporary satellite town lifestyle.

    The Kwa Xolo Caves initiative, once clear in terms of its ownership and business model will be a value adding element to the strong beach sell we enjoy.

    Further from the coast at Mount Nebo near Harding, there are plans to expand on the excellent entertainment centre there to include adventure and adrenaline experiences within a forest and agri- eco tourism context. Feasibilities are being conducted and hopefully early in 2017 the attraction will have a clear way forward in its development.

    In the longer term the proposed Umzumbe River Trail will provide outdoor enthusiasts with a unique trail with an authentic Zulu hosting element along about a 65 km route from the coast and inland to the rolling hills of Umzumbe.

    The intention of all these initiatives is to establish product platforms from which direct economic benefit can accrue to local residents and entrepreneurs.

    Gone are the days of extended subsidies for product development initiatives and as such, Ugu South Coast Tourism will ensure that responsible operational models are put in place to back the objectives of sustainable tourism and afford people opportunity to derive appropriate livelihoods from our tourism and leisure sector.

    So going forward, the magnetism of our beaches and ocean will remain our primary draw card however the programmes away from the coast will reinforce the need to diversify our appeal to meet a much broader set of market niches and needs that are emerging.

    Once this has been achieved then I am confident that our wonderful destination can be as complete as possible.

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  • Meeting the Millennials

    Towards the end of this year we will be conducting the review of our tourism strategy and mapping a new promotional way forward for the next five years.

    At a conference last week there was much discussion regarding the future market being those who were born post 2000 and those now in their early twenties- in essence our main and future markets.

    In a new era nutshell, the indications are that these segments are addicted to the new social communication platforms with some 75% posting messages, photos and comment at least once a day. They are materialistic, like to be seen at the must go to events, have high standards of dress and precise expectations as to where they stay, eat and socialise. They also follow all sorts of people on Facebook, Twitter and the likes.

    As we know our population pyramid is heavily weighted towards those younger than 30 and so tourism planning has to be considerate of the profiles, needs and interests of this massive emerging market. After all, the young translate into new family units with their own set of expectations for their holidays. It is thus important that we capture the interest of the younger set to come and be forever smitten by our wonderful destination.

    So what or should we offer? In short I believe that our main urban areas such as Scottburgh and Margate should look at the provision of trendy eating and entertainment spots and events should be geared towards entertainment by artists who have a massive following. We want the young responders.

    Just last weekend the FNB Stadium (the third largest in the world) was full during a concert featuring three of SAs top contemporary artists. Social media went viral with the concept “Lets fill FNB” and they did. The power of social communication prevailed.

    The reach of new communications in the new markets is incredible- some tourism bloggers for example have over 400 000 followers- hence the concept of influencer publicity and tourism marketing is responding to it.

    At the recent SETE conference, it was made clear that tourism destinations must involve the social communities. If we could make our destination “trendy” for interest groups and their role as communicative ambassadors on the web, I feel the millennials and those a little older will become our new captive market.

    The importance of the grey beards like me is still evident but the future lies in those different in their lifestyle choices and their pace of doing things. So exotic cocktails may well replace Klippies- who cares if the Rands keep pouring in our tourism economy scores.

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  • The Sniff of the Season

    Before we know it the annual migration of excited summer visitors will be all too evident and we are confident that it will be a very busy and rewarding season. From sunny Scottburgh to pretty Port Edward and inland to our great Oribi Gorge and the incredible Ingeli Forest there are a plethora of attractions and wonderful experiences to take in.

    I would like to think that we may after our season’s research be able to report that the 2016/2017 holidays have been one of the best. There is certainly much in our year-end events programme to keep all and sundry favourably occupied and leisure filled.

    We all know this year has been weighty on the wallet so in order to encourage maximum visitation here we all can do our bit. One aspect is to focus on the Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) market. Instead of South Coasters going to other parts of the country to see loved ones, why not have them come to our popular paradise?

    The VFR market is arguably the largest segment within the tourism industry so if more families here invite their friends and relatives there will be a major economic spin off in terms of retail and hospitality.

    It is well known that many VFR visitors (and here I think of the retirees) like places so much and want to be close to those they love so they buy into property and retirement estates. I know that a new estate is earmarked in the Umtentweni area so I guess the estate agencies will be going flat out to sell in what can be very much a buyer’s market down here. That is why we are very much a value driven destination.

    Sellers will no doubt be sprucing up their properties to get the price they are looking for but it goes beyond their intent. The look and feel of a destination like ours is critical so it is important that hospitality practitioners and businesses present their properties in an aesthetically appealing fashion. That good old lick of paint and beautifully landscaped gardens before season can go some way in making the right impression.

    So as the busiest season of the year is in the wind, we trust that readers will share our optimism in a spirit of all round goodwill- something that the South Coast has showered on our visitors for decades.

    Roll on Summer!

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  • The Events Conundrum

    This item is written from the Sport and Events Tourism Exchange in Pretoria. This gathering of eventers, government and tourism organisations covers many aspects of eventing within the context of destinations and tourism beneficiation.

    One of the interesting discussion points here is the role of government agencies and entities in the presentation and funding of events and to what extent events could or should be funded from state coffers.

    The easy aspect of this discussion is that if an event brings in hundreds and preferably thousands of overnight visitors into our area then more direct tourism benefit will accrue.

    The scale of funding from organisations such as Ugu South Coast Tourism is dependent on the measure of tourist spend that accrues to the local economy- this is why we have re-invested in the new South Coast Bike Fest in 2017.

    The present government rationale is that events should within three or so years should be self-sustaining with further investment being sourced from the private rather than the public sector.

    This principle does have certain merit however a well-resourced event with continued injection of public funds should be an open consideration- especially if the tourist spend ends up being anything above 20 times that of the investment from the public purse.

    The other consideration is that many events such as our seasonal beach activations may not necessarily be a singular drawcard but they are a distinct value adding aspect for visitors and their families enjoying a holiday stay here on the South Coast.

    A good all round experience with lots to do and participate in gives visitors much choice and pricks a variety of leisure and sporting interests. This is why we will continue to support this type of event. Sports and leisure codes will however need to be aware that funding of what we could term micro events will diminish and as such, eventers must source other investment and sponsorship spheres and be more commercially orientated.

    This will allow us to attempt to present major drawcard events which should have sound indication of very high attendance levels and larger swathes of revenue flow.

    During this exchange, I will be having meetings with other eventers too assess new event potentials for our beautiful destination. I am hopeful that some new and creative event options will emerge.

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  • Bike Fest in 2017

    I guess this is a heads up - our replacement event for the departed Africa Bike Week which is to be branded and known as The South Coast Bike Fest will be hosted mainly from Margate from 27-30 April 2017.

    The immense injection of tourism revenue yield from previous events has prompted us to ensure that an event of this nature needs to be sustained here in Paradise. We have become synonymous with an event of this type.

    The South Coast Bike Fest will encapsulate all the positive retail and entertainment ingredients of the past and on a larger and more diverse scale- we anticipate that with the event being more than one bike brand focused, more bikers and the public will come here for that long weekend to enjoy fellowship, our glorious seaside and hinterland and for a short time forget all the woes that may go with daily living.

    The event programmes will be considerate of various musical tastes and retail preferences – all within a friendly, freedom filled, safe carnival atmosphere with street entertainment, displays and lots of colourful ambience.

    Some have questioned why we are hosting the event at the same time as another biker event in East London. We conducted a competitive analysis and in all spheres of comparison we came out well ahead – especially when it comes to distance for bikers to travel for a favourite weekend away from their home areas of Gauteng and KZN itself.

    The principle of intervening opportunity for the response markets has afforded us the edge and with a great proposed music line up there is valid reason why bikers and the public will support the event.

    We on the South Coast do however need to show strong unity to ensure that version 1 of the South Coast Bike Fest is a resounding success so if you use any form of  media and communications tell the world that a great event vibe awaits at the end of April next year.

    We all need to be positive in our outlook and present a hospitable, welcoming case for thousands to come here at that time- where we can all be “Pals in Paradise” and really profile the multiple pluses our destination provides for our visitors.

    It’s time to grow that tradition and rev up the energies for the South Coast Bike Fest 2017.

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  • Days in Blue

    Last week the Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom was down here to announce the National 2016/2017 Blue Flag Beaches and given this is the second time in three years that the South Coast has hosted this important event, the day at Marina Beach was something special.

    Not only was the Minister here but in attendance was the KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs and the CEO of Tourism KZN so in having tourism’s bug guns down here it was important for us so we could impress them and the attendant media with our tourism assets and developmental programmes.

    Needless to say the with 7 of our beaches announced South Coast once again came out tops. The Ray Nkonyeni Municipality not only has the highest number of Blue Flag beaches in KwaZulu-Natal but has the highest number of permanently managed Blue Flag beaches in South Africa!

    The bench marks set by the Blue Flag programme aligns our beaches with the best in the world and for us as Ugu South Coast Tourism this affords us a great opportunity within our destination sell.

    For this reason, part of our branding not only includes our strong South Coast brand but we also incorporate the Blue Flag logo in our promotional collateral.

    It was interesting that the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa who drive the Blue Flag programme are soon to introduce another brand geared towards the hospitality industry. Called the Green Key Programme, this initiative will set standards for the accommodation providers to have environmentally acceptable operations and properties which in my opinion is the way to go.

    So as summer hits our shores with our blue seas beckoning and beach flags flying it is an optimistic start towards our busiest season of the year. Feeling blue has a far more positive connotation here in the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom.

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  • On Being a Culture Vulture

    In tourism, cultural heritage is an integral part of a marketing and product mix and our South Coast and environs is no exception.

    With September month having a heritage month I recently attended the Amakhono Cultural event out towards Nyandzulu which just inland from Shelley Beach. What a wonderful experience it was.

    The local community, representatives from the traditional leadership, the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality, local tourism committees, media and the community itself were entertained within a festive and welcoming atmosphere amidst the lush rolling hills and proud homesteads that overlooked the marquee venue erected on a riverside sports field.

    Children of all ages were joyous in their bouncing on jumping castles and the entertainment from a happy clown. In the marquee, adults and youth were impressed with the diverse local musical talent that ranged from the traditional, gospel to the modern.

    Being amongst this welcoming community was humbling and decidedly refreshing. I have been fortunate to have worked in many parts of rural South Africa and other neighbouring nations and never have I had any reason to doubt the sincere welcome one can enjoy in such places. One needs to dispel the myth that rural areas are not welcoming and safe.

    In the Nyanadzulu area a cultural and hospitality experience has been packaged which I highly recommend- how better to really absorb the authenticity of our Zulu culture. Last year during Africa Bike Week, up country bikers stayed in the area and were blown away by the warm hospitality received.

    They had decided to something different and at the end of their stay, they rode away with a different yet better opinion of our informal way of life and how we host our visitors. There are a number of cultural and other entertainment events that occur in our district and I really recommend that South Africans and our overseas visitors attend them.

    This is why our annual Tourism Awards evening last Friday had a cultural dress and heritage theme. Many arrived in very expressive outfits and fun was had all round. This area is rich in talent and diversity and in celebrating it this way we can appreciate the essence of our communities.

    A wise person once said “a picture cannot boast a beautiful story unless it has all the entwined radiances and nuances of colour and texture- humanity should do the same.”

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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.

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