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CEO Blog

  • Taking Things for Granted

    The other day I had a meeting with a couple of media practitioners at the Shelly Beach Ski Boat Club and just sitting there as the clean sea lapped against the shoreline just a few metres away reminded me that in the past five years I have only twice swam in the sea.
    In discussing this, the media practitioner stated that he had only swum less than five times in 20 years! I think we can own up to the fact that we have been guilty of taking things for granted and not really taking in our great recreational assets right on our doorstep.
    Quite simply I should have been in the surf more regularly to enjoy the refreshing aspects of our beautiful coastline- especially at this sunny time of year. I am doubly guilty when it comes to golf because I have only played golf about 7 times since 2013 and I love golf and we have 11 courses on which to enjoy the sport.
    Maybe the time consuming aspects of my job are partly to blame but there is no excuse when it comes to using leisure time to fully embrace the vast array of natural features and attractions we have here at the South Coast.
    In Cape Town for example ask residents how many times they have been up Table Mountain.  Many have been up this iconic feature only a few times. It is only when one visits other destinations that one realises on return how valuable our home space in fact is. 
    Maybe when my term is up and I return to the Midlands I will regret not spending more time and in a leisurely manner reap the benefits our many visitors enjoy when they holiday down here. 
    Oh well I’ll just have to return as a tourist and soak in all the recreational wonders this great destination offers. This is why and contrary to popular belief the South Coast remains the most non metro beach destination in KZN.
    If well can rekindle a collective appreciation of our tourism assets, I have no doubt that even with recent setbacks over water, the consumer will re-establish a regular relationship with the South Coast and there will be a resumption of visitor growth going forward.
    In the mean time I had better have more dips in the sea and head more often to the golf course.

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  • Going For Gold

    Out of the blue there has been a recent rush towards Harding at the announcement that a possible gold deposit exists at a nearby village. Naturally we await the outcome of tests to determine if it is the Real McCoy or just slim pickings.

    Industrial Tourism is sometimes an under- valued aspect of our industry. The stereotype we perceive are visitors togged up in their newly acquired holiday garments setting off to the beach or inland with cameras or binoculars as large as silos. This is not always the case.

    Industrial tourism hinges around some or other primary (e.g. gold) or secondary activity whereby specialists, construction teams, engineers and value chain providers converge on a hub or area of industrial development. Here I think of the former Ellisras where tourism and property prices have boomed exponentially – all due to a power station being constructed.

    Even if the hype around Harding comes to nought, there are other initiatives within Operation Phakisa that can be construed as value for tourism in an industrial sense. We have proposed boat building clusters, fish farming, agri- initiatives in the macadamia sector and development of new light industrial hubs in the pipeline. Let’s hope they all come through because in a diversified tourism market this is good news for our sector.

    Given we have excellent Marine Protected Areas, I am ambivalent about possible off shore exploration for oil. It is seldom that industry and nature based tourism fit hand in glove so the sourcing of inward investment has to be considerate of our environment and the ecosystems that give our tourism industry credibility.

    We pride ourselves in offering visitors a usually healthy environment in which to enjoy leisure pastimes. In chasing that ever tempting pot of gold we should ensure that we do not choke that leisure goose that lays that you know what.

    Having said that I am hopeful that rural Harding does strike it lucky- the communities there need an injection of opportunity.

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  • TOURISM 360

    So For Sardine Season

    No sooner has the Easter season come and gone than the Sardine Season is on us.
    Up and down that coast and inland too,  communities, organisations, sports clubs and the sea faring enthusiasts have been working diligently to put together a calendar of events that not only act as drawcards for people to visit but also provide value adding aspects of the winter programme for people coming here in any case and our locals.
    Whether the little fellas come here on the Sardine Run is always up for speculation but if they do what a bonus it will be- after all it is an internationally recognised natural phenomenon.
    Either way the South Coast is forever ready to maximise the things to enjoy aspect for those who shrink away from the chilly climate of the Highveld and like the Sardines migrate to our warmer waters.
    Ugu South Coast Tourism has put together a promotional campaign to motivate our potential visitors to come stay and play during the school holidays so let’s all encourage family and friends to join in.
    I recently spoke to a local resident who said that they host have a number of their family consistently each holiday-  a must attend gathering with the matriarchs and patriarchs of their close knit “clan”. 
    At least 35-40 people come from KZN and Gauteng with kids in tow and stay the full duration of each holiday- you know how many bed night spend that translates into? And that it just one family!
    So whether up north in sunny Scottburgh, at lights up Margate,  South at the hospitable Umtamvuna or anywhere in between, let’s look forward to what is just around the corner.
    Here’s to a splendid Sardine Season – please consult our website www.tourismsouthcoast.co.za for an updated what’s on this mid-year.

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  • Go Great Drives Out

    In 2016 we initiated the profiling of rural tourism product which has subsequently evolved in our developing the Great Drives Out brand which now involves four sub routes within the nine Southern Explorer routes.

    At Indaba 2018 in early May, we formally launched the brand to the media, tourism trade and senior representatives from Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and what a launch it was!

    In attendance was the South Coast TV celebrity family of Musa Mseleku of Uthando Nes’Thembu fame and what a draw card their presence was. There was a massive frenzy of people who graduated to our stand to take photographs of and with the family. In addition, TV media from Limpopo interviewed them with the ever presence of our tourism branding as backdrop.

    The Mseleku family are very much part of our tourism community. Not only have they opened up their rural homestead at Madlala for tours but they also own the popular Umdlalo Lodge at Umtentweni.

    The Board Chairman of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal Sithembiso Madlala addressed the packed area and was full of praise at what has rapidly been done to address the need to sustain livelihoods in our hinterland. In fact the organisation wants us to share our method and approach with other districts that seem to be lagging behind.

    After Indaba, we hosted a media tour and the feedback we have received for this experience and initiative has been very positive. We just need to sustain interest and ensure that regular flow of locals and visitors along the routes occurs.

    We really urge the public to obtain a copy of our latest Southern Explorer Route Guide (also available off our website www.tourismsouthcoast.co.za) and in which the touring options are profiled.

    For each sub route, there are listed local guides who can assist should visitors prefer to have the comfort of hosted journeys.

    So go Great Drives Out. I have done so a number of times and each experience never fails to enrich.

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  • Some Feel Good Things

    During South Coast Bike Fest 2018, part of the substantial entertainment programme involved a walk through performance by our local band of Scottish pipers. All togged up in their kilts and clan regalia they shrilled their way along the congested boulevard and then came to a stop.

    At roadside was the Msenti Cultural Group which we assist in their artistic endeavours. There Victor Jaca and his drummers were playing their style akin to the Zulu culture. Then all of a sudden a Euro-centric and Nguni musical meld commenced- the two groups began jamming much to the pleasure of the crowd around them.

    The sombre shrilled sounds of the Glens vibed up to the enthusiastic beats from the Kwa Nzimakwe valleys and it added such a great touch to the already festive ambience of the day.

    After this, Victor informed me that his group and the Caledonian lads plan to do some musical collaboration which I hope bears good musical fruit. Their fusion exemplified what we wanted out of the event - a celebration of togetherness in the context of festivity.

    I have been looking at many photographs of the festival and it is clear that the people that were there had left their daily hassles at home and were in the moment and thoroughly enjoying it.

    It was a pity the strong wind and rain at times influenced some of the programme but everybody seemed to accept this and made the most of their time in Margate. I made a point of going out to outlying hospitality areas and noted that many bikes were parked at these places- after all once bikers have been to the event precinct they then ride out to their favourite pubs and carry on the fun there.

    Finally to the SAPS and law enforcement officers as well as services personnel from Ray Nkonyeni Municipality- a big thanks for the support to ensure that the event was presented as efficiently as possible.

    Roll on South Coast Bike Fest 2019!

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  • Africa Travel Indaba 2018

    South Coast Bike Fest is concluded and we at Ugu South Coast Tourism are onto the next promotion- the Africa Travel Indaba in Durban from 8-10 May.

    This exposition is the pinnacle destination and tourism trade event at which tour operators, buyers, travel media, bloggers and other influencers are exposed to countries, regions and areas like the South Coast.

    Most of the stands comprise of tourism products ever eager to sign up business and negotiate deals. Naturally government agencies responsible for tourism will be there so there is a large amalgam of private and public sector in attendance.

    Our role will be to profile our destination and its constituent areas and towns and to bring to the attention of enquirers the variety of touring options and experiences on land and at sea. Within this context, we can also highlight their preferences in terms of hospitality and services as offered by our members who are within our Southern Explorer Route Guide which has just been printed.

    This year Tourism KwaZulu-Natal will be focussing on the province’s tourism routes of which the Southern Explorer is one- we will also promote our hinterland Great Drives Out brand which is included in the 2018 edition. We intend to cement relationships with the media to secure positive publicity and have them personally visit the greater South Coast.

    Tour operators will also need to be briefed as to what sort of itineraries offered here will suit their customer expectations and again we will be inviting them to tour our district and source product partners in that process.

    After Indaba? We will be immediately activating our Sardine Season campaign as a means of boosting our mid- year tourism. One forgets that almost every 3 months we are into yet another season so the foot cannot release from the promotional pedal.

    There are signs that our Easter holiday period was much better than expected so let’s look forward to another during the forthcoming Sardine Season.

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  • Le Long Weekend

    At this month end it is another long weekend which for our visitors and hosts can provide no less than 5 days of relax and leisure time opportunity here on the South Coast.

    Tourism trends suggest that people prefer to have multiple mini breaks as opposed to a couple of longer breaks each year. In some respects this month end is an extension of our Easter Season which should provide additional tourism and leisure revenues for our hospitality providers and product owners.

    So what’s lined up for our ever welcome guests?

    The really big one is the South Coast Bike Fest (27-30 April) which is probably THE event to attend in KZN at this time. This year the programme has been designed to entertain families, bike enthusiasts and from young to old musical offerings that suit those restful or party like crazy preferences. See Southcoastbikefest.co.za.

    But there is more to this forthcoming “Le weekend”. For golfers there are competitions at Margate, Umdoni and Wild Coast courses (I am sure the others have as well). The Marlin Game Fish Classic at Port Edward seems to be the fishing draw card albeit that each of our launch sites will be busy with anglers going out to sea.

    At Scottburgh the challenging Joberg 2 C bike race finishes at the beach on the 28th and the popular Margate Bowls Week commences on the 30th. Some 350 bowlers for a week! I hope the liquor outlets are well stocked.

    We also cannot forget the weekly events such as the Park Runs (on Saturdays) at Umdoni Park and St Michaels Beach and the Uvongo Flea Market on Saturdays and Sundays.

    So even though the local school breaks are at an end, the South Coast has made ample provision to cater to our imminent visitors and residents. Hey and if you want to swim, surf, chill, wine and dine, dive, jump off cliffs, traverse cross country, sample local culture and cuisine, horse ride, bike ride, fish from the rocks, go to farms, check out nature or simply park off with loved ones, that is a given at any time. Information on all things we offer can be had from our Visitor Information Centres or off our website.

    At this point I also invite all organisers to submit their event details in advance of their event date so we can update our events calendar- contact Vanessa on eventing@tourismsouthcoast.co.za

    Have a lovely, safe, enjoyable and splendid South Coast weekend.

    Full story

  • Fillers at Spillers

    Some say that Port Shepstone lacks tourism attractions and in comparison to our other urban areas like Scottburgh and Margate the town is somewhat dull. I am not sure that is the case- especially when one nips down to the evergreen Umzimkhulu River.

    There the historic Spillers Wharf is in my opinion a little gem. It has an idyllic riverside setting with much for locals and visitors to enjoy. Besides a variety of retail and some accommodation the choice for dining is impressive- hospitable fish, curry and shisa nyama restaurants are there with their varied non pocket denting menus.

    On any given day, the wharf provides that chill as you fill ambience. On the day I went, people (and there were a lot) chatted away to their hearts content and the overflow from the verandas took up seats under the shady trees and sipped icy cocktails right next to the robust river. Down near the bridge, boats loaded up after a blue sky day at sea and all around us all sorts of birds (including the haunting Fish Eagle) winged their way along this lushly vegetated valley.

    On the far side on the ever popular golf course, players were finishing off their round no doubt keen to have their first sip of the good stuff and tell tales of their day and many other fine days on the fairways of the South Coast.

    Port Shepstone has in effect a mini waterfront right on its doorstep. It is in itself a worthy destination. I know of a Midlands family who own a holiday home at Southport and regularly come down here. They make a trip to Spillers a compulsory part of their stay.

    During the day what could be easier for people working in the town to take their lunch at the river and return (in time I hope) to work with batteries re-charged. Who would think that not 500m behind them our administrative capital would be carrying on with its daily grind.

    During this Easter season, I went to a number of places up and down the coast so see how things were getting on. Nearly every location visited had a healthy number of people enjoying a sunny day out. Spillers Wharf was no exception which goes to show that within the South Coast there is truly a tiara of treasures and treats.

    This is autumn? Not by any stretch of the imagination- that’s why we can proudly call ourselves a definitive 365 destination. Champagne days indeed!

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  • Time to Go Caribbean

    The Margate beach promenade is an ideal venue for the upcoming South Coast Bike Fest 2018 from 27-30 April.

    The scenic seaside location of the varied retail areas the main stage and bar areas coupled with the colourful coming and going of the thousands of bikers and members of the public all set amongst palm groves and the blue sea creates an almost tropical island feel.

    With musical genres to suit all ears (including rock and reggae) within a comprehensive entertainment and bike activity programme the scene is set for a very festive time. Just an idea- what if locals dressed very beach cum Caribbean style to suit the ambience of the venue- now that would add spice to the vibe menu.

    I know of a lot of bikers who will be travelling many hundreds of kilometres to get here, listen to their preferred bands and socialise with fellow bikers and South Africans under the warm April skies. It is an opportunity for South Coasters to show their renowned hospitable personas and for everybody to really enjoy the magic that is Margate.

    With the new 2018 version of the Southern Explorer Route Guide now in our Visitor Information Centres attendees will be able to read up and travel all the 9 routes and Great Drives Out in this excellent publication. I know that there are a number of spots outside Margate that are ever popular with the biking fraternity- even as far down as lovely Port Edward. They just love to rev out and chill out on our beautiful coast and in the hilly areas inland.

    I’m looking for rasta headgear to get into the swing of things mon! Roll on (not a joint) South Coast Bike Fest - www.soutcoastbikefest.co.za

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  • The To and Fro of the Tides

    On Monday I was waiting to attend a meeting (some people from Durban was to do an event here) at St Michaels and had a few hours to kill. I watched the coming in of the tide as well as the flow of the hundreds of people who came and went as time moved on. It was a busy but not overcrowded beach day.
    The waves were rolling in as swimmers body surfed or just bobbed up and down as they thrust through each wave front. Nearby the inflatable water slide was ever busy (as were the nearby restaurants) and in the lagoon, people paddled peacefully upstream in their hired boats.
    Moms and dads accompanied their children whilst they fished or just explored the rocks and big logs that had been washed onshore. Couples sat quietly as the sun began to set having refreshments and a picnic on the grass banks or on the waterside rocks.
    Local vendors plied their trade and in one corner a Christian group with an oversized cross had gatherings whilst adherents to the Muslim faith relaxed happily nearby with their families.
    School and youth groups did their beach fun stuff as the ever vigilant lifeguards ensured that bathers kept between the beacons.
    The tide was coming in at a pace and people crossed the lagoon holding hands and in some cases allowed themselves to be washed by the surge into the lagoon.
    All ages, dimensions and origins were there and I could not help but appreciate how all and sundry were respectful of each other’s presence on the beach. People like the tide came and went- those with young children left early and were replaced to the sunset leisure strollers and dog walkers (off beach).
    Then at last the water slide gave a sigh of resignation as it was deflated- the boats were put to rest and then the beach was nigh empty whilst the restaurants hosted the last of their hungry and thirsty customers. In the apartments, guests sat on their balconies and bade farewell to a lovely warm day. The hotel lights provided lovely reflections on the still water as the evening closed in.
    This is the essence of what the South Coast is and that is why we do host people from afar even over long weekends. We are a place where external things can be put aside and true leisure prevails.
    It is not over yet- there is also the South Coast Bike Fest (www.southcoastbikefest.co.za) coming up at month end so let’s make this time of year somewhat special. 

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