Opinion piece by James Vos MP – Shadow Minister of Tourism

 

The recent decline of the rand means that many South Africans have had to do sharp about-turns on their overseas travel plans, while those visiting from abroad can lick their lips at the affordable vacations that are theirs for the taking in SA.

 

Which makes this a good time for tourism officials to begin considering new and innovative marketing ideas. Large tourism communities often can afford specialized agencies to develop new marketing plans. The same is not true however for the smaller (or poorer) destinations. 

 

Often a single person or just a few people staff these tourism offices, businesses or convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs). These people are therefore faced with a great deal of multi-tasking and rarely have the time for innovative ideas. 

 

Even larger tourism businesses and tourism offices need to reinvigorate their marketing efforts. 

 

To help develop new marketing ideas, the Department of Tourism should consider the following:

• Think about the name of the campaign, town or region and what it says to the outside world. All too many tourism entities go for cute over clear. Use names that are clear, precise, and permit your visitors to know what you have, what you offer, and what they can expect. 

• Develop a brand and be creative. When developing a brand involve as many parts of the tourism industry as possible.  

• Make sure that the brand unifies the entire tourism product so that wherever a traveller or customer goes the brand is unconsciously connected with the location. Not only should the brand plus logo be on everything produced, but it should also appear on all material that the location produces.

 

The Department of Tourism website must be aligned with our brand and should be simple. The trend in tourism today is less flash and more elegant simplicity. Websites that are hard to read often turn visitors off rather than attract new clients. Remember that many people will now view the website on their smart phones. That means that the website has to accommodate a much smaller screen. 

 

Remember that tourism is all about the community. All too often members of the tourism industry forget that they are part of the local community. That means market not only to out of town or out of country guests but also to the local community. 

 

Visitors do not judge a community by the efficiency or productivity of a tourism office, but rather on their experiences in the community. Just as in the case of politics, all tourism is local! The best way then to market your location is to make sure that the people living in the community understands the tourism product and find benefit in it.

 

Develop a tourism calendar that unifies the entire tourism product. All too often smaller communities will hold festivals that fill hotels but fail to connect the festival with the local business community. Tourism is more than merely “heads in beds”. It is an economic generator that should both unify a community and make that community more prosperous. 

 

To accomplish such a task, local tourism officials, especially those in smaller communities, need to create coordinated efforts. For example an event that occurs when all of the local business are closed, may bring people to town but will not increase the community’s economic prosperity and may even harm it.

 

There bottom line is know how much tourism brings to your location in the form of goods and services, employment opportunities and adds to the local accommodation, restaurant and entertainment industries.

 

We fully understand that tourism is a creative industry that should not be suffocated by excessive government regulation. Government should play a largely facilitative role and create a framework and the conditions to build our destination’s competitiveness.  

 

SA Tourism is responsible for promoting and developing tourism both from other countries to South Africa, and within South Africa. It is important that those employed within this organization bring skill and expertise to drive tourism given the significance of this industry in creating jobs and economic opportunities for all South Africans.

 

Tourism has proved to be a highly labour intensive sector and continues to create a substantial number of direct and indirect jobs. 

 

Tourism should be seen as establishing contact between tourist and host, between different cultures, people and places. By breaking down the divisions between people, local communities need to be meaningfully involved to realize its benefits. 

 

The value of tourism and how this could benefit our country is clear in the following numbers: this tourism industry created 32 186 new jobs in 2015, raising the tourism workforce from 679 560 individuals in 2014 to a total of 711 746 individuals.

 

Currently, one in 22 employed people in South Africa work in the tourism industry, representing 4,5% of the total workforce.

Domestic tourism is the main contributor to total tourism spending, with local travellers having contributed R140,9 billion to the economy in 2015.

 

Here in the Western Cape we are working with industry to ensure that our province remains a destination of choice for travel and trade. 

 

In the past few years we have made great strides in getting our economy to work for the people of the Western Cape.

 

Our key focus in the coming year will be promotion. We need to export our goods to world markets and to draw even more investment and visitors to our region.

 

Our produce and our tourism industry are achieving international acclaim. Last year, the Groot Constantia wine farm produced a Chardonnay, which was named the best in the world. A few months ago voters on Tripadvisor again ranked Cape Town amongst the top ten visitor destinations. This shows that we are already doing a great job marketing our province. And last month the Cape Town International Airport welcomed a total of 10 million passengers for the year. I am sure that you will agree with me that these successes should not be limited to one province.

 

We know that tourism is our fastest-growing sector, employing over 200 000 people and generating R17bn for our province’s economy each year.

 

Through a dedicated Air Access strategy, the province is targeting the development and initiation of new direct routes from key strategic markets. Cape Town Air Access is a partnership between the Western Cape Government, the City of Cape Town, Wesgro, Airports Company of South Africa and Cape Town Tourism. To date, the team has secured six new routes and eight route expansions, resulting in over half a million more two-way direct seats coming into Cape Town. Since July last year, this additional capacity has generated roughly R3bn in additional tourism spend for the Western Cape.

 

Tourism is one of the best-performing sectors in our country’s economy. We have a strong competitive advantage in tourism; the exchange rate is in our favour and the global growth in outbound tourism presents us with a magnificent window of opportunity.

 

However, the realization of this growth potential does not just happen because conditions are favourable – we have to work together to make it happen.

 

Therefore it is critical to invest in infrastructure that makes business sense and drives demand. To mention a few examples: Upgrading of road networks to improve mobility of both goods and people, expansion of the Cape Town International Airport to increase airlift capacity, construction of a dedicated cruise terminal to promote cruise tourism and hotel precinct at the V&A Waterfront, and the building of new conference facilities at the Cape Town International Convention Center to accommodate growth in this sector. 

 

All of these projects are considered as game changers; because each one impacts on tourism.

 

For every R100 produced by the South African economy, R3,10 is as a result of tourism. 

 

The National Development Plan recognises tourism as one of the main drivers of the country’s economy and employment. The plan envisages promoting South Africa as a major tourist destination, with unique features, to boost tourist numbers and enable tourism to contribute to sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction.

 

Tourism can, without doubt, be used as an effective tool to create jobs, provide opportunities for small businesses, promote livelihoods for communities and bring South Africans together to share experiences. 

 

More specifically, tourism can be used as an effective tool to break down barriers in South Africa and open up this country to be explored by a large portion of the population who are currently excluded from enjoying this experience.

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