With tourism being the mainstay of our region’s economy and adding so many different layers to life on the Cape Whale Coast, the tourism team made the trip to Durban last week to learn and engage with the rest of South Africa’s travel trade at the World Travel Market and Tourism Indaba.
These are Africa’s biggest tourism and travel trade shows, providing a space for the industry to network, learn and sign new business. Indaba hosted 1 747 buyers from all over the world and 1 120 exhibitors representing 22 African countries and 80 countries globally. Add a 460- strong media contingent and you had a great mix.
There was a big emphasis on Nelson Mandela, the founder of a democratic South Africa, as this year marks the centenary of his birth. South Africans are encouraged to celebrate Mandela and our nation’s journey under the theme ‘be the legacy’, which was seen throughout Indaba. It is important to find links to national tourism campaigns, especially when it involves such a widely recognised icon as Madiba.
And there are indeed links between the life of Nelson Mandela and the people of the Overstrand. Not only did Madiba present Gregoire Boonzaier with the Order for Meritorious Service in 1999 – he travelled to Vermont to visit the artist at his home. Another connection is Christo Brand, who was Mandela’s prison warden on Robben Island. Christo was born on a farm near Stanford and he will be telling his story on Sunday 10 June during Hermanus FynArts.
We need to find the many stories of the Cape Whale Coast and share them with our visitors. Today’s tourists want to experience a place and not just be informed of the hard facts. We have many good storytellers in our area and now is the time for the younger generation to help document the new stories and share them in a compelling and visual way. We should go beyond the stereotypes and acknowledge that not all stories are good stories; that ours is a complicated one with many issues, but that we are dealing with them. As Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said at Indaba: “We should tell our stories to the whole world.”
Other hot topics included optimising economic transformation and growing domestic tourism. Despite the fact that women are in the majority in South Africa they generally rank lowest in skills and are mostly employed in menial jobs. Morongoe Ramphele of the South African Department of Tourism emphasised that transformation cannot happen without the participation of women. The department runs many projects, in some of which the Overstrand participates, such as the National Youth Chefs Training Programme.
This initiative saw South African Deputy Minister of Tourism Elizabeth Thabethe visiting Hermanus earlier this year and meeting some of our local chefs in training at Warwick’s Chef School. Suggestions for responding to the slow transformation process include skills development, skills transfer and mentoring. Both Government and the private sector need to collaborate to make this happen.
Domestic tourism is down in South Africa. When we talk tourism growth we need to realise that charity begins at home. We need to make our locals explore beyond their comfort zones. We need to get the message across that travel is not just for the rich. Taking a walk along the Cliff Path, appreciating the FynArts Sculptures on the Cliff and then having a coffee or ice cream at on of the local shops – that’s also tourism.
As a destination we need to show how we stand out and what we offer that others don’t. To say that we have really good Pinot Noir is not enough – we need to tell the stories of the people on the wine farms who have been picking the grapes for many years, we need to offer barrel tastings with the winemaker and guided walks through the fynbos…
The new traveller is armed with a smart phone and they know where they are going. They don’t walk around with maps anymore and WiFi is considered a basic human right today. Offering free, fast WiFi is the best application of a marketing budget a business will ever make.
At Indaba I spoke with the people of uMhlanga Urban Improvement Precinct and will share this approach to development with Hermanus Business Chamber members at the networking event at Benguela Cove on Wednesday.
Of particular importance is the way in which the uMhlanga Central Business District responded to a new shopping mall in close proximity. It was insightful to see how uMhlanga and Amanzimtoti are both seaside villages and how their different reactions to the development of a shopping mall have impacted on the economy of these villages.
This slots in with the concept of place-making which stretches beyond destination marketing and will be one of our focus areas in the near future.
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