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  • Visiting Friends and Relatives

    Statistics via Tourism KwaZulu-Natal indicate that some 21% of our overseas and Africa based visitors and a staggering 53% of domestic visitors to our province use Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) as the reason for their going to a destination.

    VFR has some interesting guises all of which contribute towards a tourism economy. As a sampling, the family who visits somebody in prison (think of Kokstad), a loved one in hospital, a wedding, a funeral, those who are at some boarding school or university or those who are in a retirement complex.

    One can go further, school reunions and in the USA for example military reunions are huge business for local tourism- why?  To reunite family, comrades and friends.

    In Scotland, clan gatherings are massive especially when many of the “macs” from all over the world pout with tartan pride to the whirl of the bagpipes alongside some windswept loch, snow capped highland peak and a long ruined castle. This is not too different when locally, occasions are held within the extended family and tribal structures of our proud Nguni communities.

    VFR applies to our rural communities where often family members work away from their traditional family hearths and frequently return to cherish family ties and cultural occasions. This is a huge and often unquantifiable element of our tourism industry.

    For logistical, economic or even personal reasons many VFR visitors choose not to actually stay with their family and friends and as such, local hospitality establishments receive the spin off from these guests. This alternative use of hospitality takes place in both the informal and formal segments of our tourism industry.

    By actually staying with family or friends, there is usually a significant saving for the visitor- we hope that in saving on accommodation, our VFR guests will reallocate spend towards retail and entertainment which are important elements within the tourism value chain.

    I have a friend who happily received a visit from his son from the USA. Two years later the son is still in the home and without contribution draining the family coffers. The lesson for VFR guests thus has to be- do not overstay your welcome you may never get a re-invite again.

    Our South Coast is very much a family orientated destination so in essence we are all hosting ambassadors. To my way of thinking as many households as possible should have a copy of the Southern Explorer so that touring options for our VFR tourist are recommended to them.

    In so doing, a big slice of our tourism market can really savour the Greater South Coast.

    Full story

  • The Act of Giving

    For my sins and through the initiative of the Wild Coast Sun, I was part of a group of who slept outdoors in aid of a nationally orientated fund raising initiative (via Radio 702) for the homeless children in our country.

    Besides Sun International’s own generous contributions, our tourism community has also made much appreciated pledges towards this good cause- hence my rather uncomfortable night under the stars in close proximity to the repetitive rumbling of the waves.

    What is seriously impressive to me is how giving our South Coast tourism industry is. When we do promotions and campaigns, we often ask of our members for prizes, giveaways, trade and media hosting trips etc. all as a means of inducing consumer and publicity interest in our destination.

    Our marketing team informs me that this year alone over R500 000 in contribution value has come from our committed members. This in my opinion is phenomenal and certainly much appreciated. I often ask other destination areas to what extent they have similar support and their dejected response has been “People seem to do their own thing and do not see the bigger picture”.  When it is indicated to them what our experience is down here, they seem rather bleak and envious.

    Our members do not pay huge membership fees (R360 per annum) yet their own investment on joint advertising campaigns, being with us at promotions and making contributions mentioned above indicates to me that our area has a very special tourism community.

    Often it is the non members who derive income from tourism who offer glum critique of our tourism efforts. I really recommend that such persons get onto our energetic tourism bus- the benefits far outweigh the paradigm of passive negativity.

    Finally a big thanks to the Wild Coast Sun for arranging raising sleep out at their beautiful property and from which, local recruited funds will contribute towards some R25 million raised round the country.  I have no intention of being homeless in paradise- my aching back and baggy eyes bear testimony to that. Next time a younger colleague will be press ganged into sleeping rough.

    In the act of giving we can collectively say with pride that our tourism sector is a very giving one- long may this last.

    Tonight I look forward to the comfort of my home with more gratitude than ever.

    Have a great Sardine Festival time – the whales are certainly celebrating their presence on our coast.

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  • Going to the Future

    In an article presented in the online Tourism Update, I was interested to see what Dutch futurist Albert Postma had to say about tourism trends for our continent.

    The article suggested that in forward planning, destinations (including ours) need to bear in mind some provoking considerations.

    Going to the future we need to recognise the importance of the more mature (age wise) traveller and plan for their interests and expectations. In planning one also has to recognise economic disparity within society and gear the tourism sell towards the various Living Standards Measure profiles recognising that many simply do not have the means to travel.

    Modern urbanites seek authentic experiences through an element of nostalgia and given our cultural heritage assets, this has to be important. I am reminded of a trip to Australia where I attended a “show” on the Aboriginal culture near Cairns in Queensland. I really felt that the depth of that amazingly rich culture was not adequately presented and the in and out of coaches and many camera clicking Japanese tourists like a cattle parade was the contrived and insincere intention.

    Today’s tourist does shop around for online price benefit and our industry has to be realistic in how we cost our services. I have been told that during Africa Bike Week some hospitality providers pumped up their prices to unreasonable levels- my belief is that if we are consistent and appropriate in our pricing there are much better longer term prospects for the Greater South Coast. The Western Cape for example has in many instances priced its hospitality towards the Pound, Euro or Dollar based spender with the result that part of our domestic market has swung towards more value for money places for a holiday. We cannot fall into the risky trap of overpricing.

    The other day I was at a world famous fast food outlet in Umhlanga Rocks and a sign in the outside area read “No Meetings- Seating for Eating Customers Only”. Depending on how you read it, the patron either enjoys their meal or becomes the meal. If one equates that to pricing in our industry, the same principle applies.

    There is scope for new markets stemming from Brazil, Russia, India and China and I know SA Tourism and Tourism KwaZulu Natal have recognised this opportunity. Another trend is for extended families to hold reunions. Many of our families are dotted all over the world and it is this “come together tourism” that could be an option for us.

    The mobile phone culture is here to stay and is being found across all age groups- hence our industry’s need to keep up to speed in terms of apps, Facebook, Twitter etc. Word of mouth – now word of screen is THE most significant form of reputation marketing so if we get the experience right, our clients will do a further sell for us.

    Here in Paradise if we use that gadget called the mobile phone to spread a positive word about our destination we all contribute towards that magnetic vibe to bring people down here.

    It was great that the sardines came to visit – let us hope others (like holidaymakers) will follow suit during the event filled mid year period we fondly refer to as Sardine Festival time.

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  • Visas and Visitors

    The tourism industry as well as Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, have expressed deep concern relating to the visa requirements for foreign nationals coming to South Africa. Although yet to be fully implemented our, visa requirements have been slated as being onerous and impractical to the extent that foreign visitation to our country could reduce as opposed to actually growing.

    Based on Tourism KwaZulu-Natal’s Statistics of Our Tourism Sector 2014, nationally we hosted some 9.62 foreign visitors and about 12 million domestic travellers (25.2 million trips). What is interesting is that the figures indicate that the per capita spend per day for foreigners is suggested at R870 per day in comparison to R210 per day for South Africans- the latter amount being as a result of very high numbers staying with family and friends.

    On the basis of the above it is clear that the tourism revenue yield (direct spend of R70.3 billion) from our foreign markets is very significant and any stringent visa regulations could dent the “export” earnings derived from our foreign guests.

    In the Western Cape this is of particular concern as that province has a juicy slice of our foreign market. When one is very reliant on overseas visitation an element of risk exists- visa obstructions, crime related publicity, a global catastrophe and war all create market reticence for long haul travel.

    Here on the South Coast, I have always held the belief that if we look after and market for our domestic tourist (who is a more resilient traveller) we will sustain our bread and butter tourism economy. Overseas visitors (about 10-15% of our market) are in truth the valued cherry on top.

    Our marketing ventures are geared to retain and grow our South Africa visitor and strategically target special interest niches from abroad. We are fortunate that we are not overly challenged by this visa saga – certainly and understandably the Western Cape is going all out to ensure that the regulations are amended.

    Ease of access to a destination is one of the most critical elements in determining where a tourist decides to go- I trust that our authorities will consider the tourism sector’s submissions and find a win-win situation for our industry and country.

    So in the mean time, Paradise of open for business- no visa (for SA folk) required.

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  • Different Makes The Difference

    Last week Ugu South Coast Tourism in collaboration with South African Tourism (SAT) hosted a very well attended and informative tourism packaging workshop in Margate.

    The SAT presenters showed us statistics and trends involving our foreign and domestic markets as an insight into achieving market penetration. In looking at the figures, I was reminded of how small fry our tourism is in terms of international and domestic visitor volumes abroad.

    In 2013, South Africa received some 9.62 foreign tourists yet in the USA, Lake Mead (of Nevada’s Hoover Dam fame) hosted some 9 million recreationalists and sightseers- one lake in a desert region hosting an equivalent number of visitors as the whole of South Africa’s foreign visitation!

    Our response the competitive challenge is to establish our destination sell by being different and as unique as possible- mundane does not work in tourism.

    In the Netherlands there is a property called the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel which sells itself as the worst hotel in the world. Its marketing and sell is based on really poor service and questionable hospitality offerings.

    Their advertising and slogans are quirky, off the wall and at times insane- yet this uniqueness has resulted in it being fully booked all year round. For entertainment, google this fascinating place.

    I am not advocating that the South Coast aspire to being the worst of anything but in being different does make a difference. If we have exceptional service, the largest, highest, rarest, best and most of and the likes then we can establish a base of Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) (e.g. our two top 10 dives sites in the world or the world’s southern most coffee plantation or South Africa’s largest privately owned astronomy collection and planetarium) – then we have hooks we can utilise to capture the imagination of our tourists.

    Given that we compete with a plethora of coastal destinations in South Africa and abroad, it is this collective of USPs that will win over our tourism clients. We have adopted this approach in our marketing and advertising campaigns which it appears seem to be bearing fruit.

    Many of our members report higher influxes of overseas visitors than expected and retailers are reporting increased turnover over what have been normally trough periods in our calendar year.

    So in conclusion, whilst I may not venture to one day staying at the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel, I do believe that the professional creativity of both the private sector and ourselves backed up with solid attention to excellence can make the sort of difference towards tourism growth- our Paradise with a capital P.

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  • Letting The Side Down

    A fortnight ago, our team attended the Tourism Indaba South Africa’s tourism showpiece held each year in Durban. Not only is this a major opportunity for our country and province to sell its tourism attributes but also for Durban to do likewise.

    To put it bluntly however, the mid range beachfront hotel we stayed in let the proverbial tourism team down.

    Firstly, on arrival one of my colleague’s bed linen had not been properly laundered which resulted in her preference to check out and stay with a family member. The corridors smelt as if carpets had been steam cleaned but had not properly dried and in my unit, cockroaches thought it was a good time of year to holiday in Durban.

    To compound it all, two of the three rickety lifts broke down on day 2 which resulted in much up and down stairs which was an inconvenience which by the time we left had not been rectified.

    I have no doubt that the hotel had other guests who were either exhibitors and/or buyers at Indaba 2015 and if their experience was anything similar to what we had to endure, they will be rather reluctant to praise the hospitality in our gateway city.

    What is clear that one poorly managed hotel can spoil things for our sector as well as a destination. We in the Ugu District are not immune to the vagaries in the presentation of our hospitality and its allied services as one rotten fruit does spoil the basket.

    For this reason, our membership personnel do their utmost to ensure that standards are continually aspired to and when the side is being let down every effort is made to rectify the situation.

    We as a policy do not recommend any establishment that is not a member of ours and if there are “fly by nights” out there, we encourage them to join so that we can assist them in being a team player when it comes to the reputation of our Paradise.

    Other than that, being at Indaba 2015 presented us with a number of exciting promotional avenues as well as us being able to expand on our already large contact network within the tourism trade.

    Hopefully next year we will have better accommodation- otherwise I may graduate to camping in Albert Park!

    Generally we can be justifiably proud of our hospitality offerings- long may it last to the benefit of our tourism reputation.

    Full story

  • Towards Our Mid Year Season

    Now that Harleyville (Margate) has said its fond farewells to the biking community, it won’t be long before the mid-year school break is on us with all the trappings of families, surfboards, braais, shisa nyama, MTBs and fishing rods.

    I am loathe to call June and July our winter season because there are so few days that one even contemplates wearing a jersey! This is Sardine Festival time and Ugu South Coast Tourism’s events team in conjunction with other event practitioners is in the process of creating an impressive season of events.

    Naturally we will be using the media and other communications avenues to convey to our markets and the public what will be happening during the festival. I would suggest that in advance of our event schedules it may be an idea for our South Coasters to invite friends and family down here during the next school holidays.

    After all who wants to be on the Highveld during their winter?

    During our ‘winter’ months our seas are stunningly blue with great surfing waves and our days moderate and sunny. As an alternative to the hectic summer season, we should also be encouraging the customer to come down during the Sardine Festival which has a broad set of event options over a large geographic area.

    The other day some Area Committee members and our personnel conducted a beach tour from Scottburgh to Port Edward. Expecting to find many of our beach facilities in dire straits I am pleased to say that within the Hibiscus Coast Municipal (HCM) area, there have been a number of improvements since our 2014 tour- congratulations to HCM for those facilities that have been upgraded and/or repaired.

    If this impetus can be sustained, I am sure we will soon be the envy of our competitor destinations.

    During Africa Bike Week, I sat with visitors to ask their impressions of the South Coast and their opinion is that it is the best motor bike event of its type in South Africa- the reason being that besides the bikers gloating at thousands of machines, there was well managed entertainment, great places for out rides and if you wanted to, many places to just chill.

    During our key holiday and even based periods it is that combination of true leisure mixed with entertainment for all tastes (e.g. Ugu Jazz Festival) that will sustain our reputation as being a favourite destination amongst all South Africans.

    Let’s pray that the Sardines paddle up the coast and do their duty this year.

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  • The South Coast Is Revving Up

    This weekend the South Coast and inland will be cacophony of sound by virtue of thousands of bikers attending the 2015 version of Africa Bike Week which is probably the single most important event for our area.

    We welcome all our visitors to this prestigious showcase to which we are a part funder along with the Hibiscus Coast and Ugu District Municipalities.

    Bike Week is great for our tourism economy albeit it lasts a few days. Down here there is another motor sport related initiative that to my mind also has future significance for our leisure and tourism industry.

    The upgrade and formal introduction of Dezzies Raceway to the South African racing calendar is a huge boost for motor sport in our province.

    Centuries ago when I was a boy, I thrilled at watching Graham Hill and Jim Clarke do battle at the then Westmead circuit in Pinetown and when my older brother raced Formula Ford, we would join thousands of enthusiasts at the Roy Hesketh circuit in Pietermaritzburg to watch the famous Dicky Dale Trophy for motor bikes, the formula one championship series and the three hour endurance races.

    Then for decades motor racing in KZN went dead. Now and with foresight, our own Desmond Gutziet has put his hand up (and his resources) and blessed us with South Africa’s newest racing venue at Oslo Beach.

    We understand that this year, some 25 events are scheduled for this circuit which is good news for our destination. Race entrants, their teams and family will join armies of media and spectators on race days and with them comes the spend on hospitality, consumables, accommodation, retail and leisure preferences.

    I believe that we should support this new entrant to our tourism and leisure offering by encouraging more and more people to support events at the raceway. I have no doubt that if we do, race promoters, sponsors and the motor industry will realise that we have a gem of a facility and assist towards its success.

    The petrol head market is huge. Just think of the Indianapolis 500, the Isle of Man TT, Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix and one realises that tourism is the ultimate winner in terms of monetary injection into a local economy.

    Dezzies raceway gets our chequered flag and with it goes our congratulations and best wishes for future success to the Gutzeit family- Paradise is revving.

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  • Technology In Tourism

    In a recent article in the Southern African Tourism Update, Gillian Saunders from Grant Thornton International has made some interesting observations in terms of technology, apps and trends within a new hospitality environment.

    In the item it is suggested that tourists and visitors can from their i phones do pre- check in, select a room or unit of their choice and even pre order their drinks and meals before they step foot into a hotel or hospitality property.

    She reiterates the importance of using technology to provide meet precise customer need and demand without compromising the human element of hosting guests.

    Technology also allows for businesses to glean a great detail of information about an existing and potential client so that one can present a tourism experience that suits the profile of the tourist.

    In some instances guests can from afar pre programme their TV to a language of their choice and adjust the air conditioning to their comfort preferences- and the list goes on.

    Evidently some 46% of what is termed “millennials” have indicated that use of a mobile phone to expedite a great service from a property will induce them to stay at the property again. The question thus arises- how techno tuned is our tourism sector at present?

    It appears we in South Africa are lagging behind and that massive change in this sphere of service is looming. My opinion is that proactive tourism practitioners here on the South Coast have and will embrace this new wave of applications to enhance visitor satisfaction and their bottom line.

    For this reason, Ugu South Coast Tourism’s  marketing and communications personnel attend trade and consumer shows to identify possible new advances and opportunities that could be passed on to our members.

    At Getaway Show 2014, our marketing coordinator attended a day workshop specifically dedicated to new technology in tourism.

    We certainly will be checking out opportunities at Indaba 2015 (Durban) and World Travel Market Africa (Cape Town) both of which we will be attending.

    Till then and being a child of the 50’s I’ll keep on sending messages home by pigeon post.

    Have a great Sunny and Safe week in Paradise and remember that the rumble of bikes looms at the end of the month’s Africa Bike Week- and motor bikes are another impressive technology altogether!

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  • Positive Outlooks

    Whilst our economy is some way from recovery, it seems that once again the Greater South Coast has had another satisfactory Easter holiday season with many of our visitors enjoying our beach, sea and lovely rural attractions.

    What is very encouraging is that a number of new tourism initiatives have been earmarked for our destination which suggests that we are regaining status as the tourism place to be.

    To begin with, plans have been announced to develop South Africa’s largest water theme park at Kelso. The much vaunted Music City near Hibberdene is going through its planning phases and if the suggested R34bn investment comes to fruition, what a boost for the South Coast.

    Dezzies Raceway at Oslo Beach is rapidly becoming a very popular venue for motor sports enthusiasts with some 25 events planned for this year. I foresee that this facility will in due course become KZN’s premier racing venue.

    A new boutique hotel has opened up in Margate and is already a popular hospitality and social venue. Many of our hospitality establishments have received global and national accolades which indicate that a number of our practitioners are up there with the very best.

    Our golf courses regularly attain high national rankings and in so doing, continue to attract golfers from South Africa and abroad and a private narrow gauge train attraction at Paddock has been introduced.

    It is possible that Margate Airport will receive an upgrade and enhance our fly in capacity and appeal. More and more eventing companies and local promoters are seeing our destination as a great multi event venue which includes our distant areas like Harding and the impressive Ingeli Forest.

    The development of multi activity trails network will enhance our coast to country tourism activity and a cultural, craft and entertainment venue at the old Bird Sanctuary at Uvongo is already being created.

    Once again a major film production is to take place near Port Edward which reinforces our area as a fantastic location for film and television.

    Some of our estate agencies report positive movement of properties for sale which suggests that demand is re-emerging.

    So when the drown in their beer types express negative sentiments about our paradise, maybe they should reflect on the positive things that are being initiated by all sorts of organisations, local government and the community at large. Good days ahead.

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