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CEO Blog

  • Whether the Dynamic of Change

    Tourism like many aspects of our lives is prone to both gradual and episodic change and the recent disconcerting, unexpected and disruptive water issue is no exception. The fall out of this has wobbled the tourism boat and has also frustrated a number of the broader resident and business communities.

    We as an organisation recognise this and see ourselves as a provider of constructive input that will be needed by the authorities to avoid a repeat of what had to be endured by many over the last season.

    If one thinks of conflict, political turmoil and horrific acts of terrorism (Nice and Paris events) , natural disasters (the Tsunami that took 250 000 people’s lives in a flash in the Far East) and what a devastating effect they have had on tourism, one wonders how one recovers and re-builds.

    No matter how expansive the media coverage or the echo chamber effect of negative e-speak and the number of internet messages that act sometimes like destructive and mushrooming nuclear clouds, at some juncture rational thinkers/doers and those in positions of responsibility eventually get round a table and map out common sense solutions to the issues at hand. Wrongs are righted for large issues by numerically less yet influential numbers of key stakeholders.

    We are part of that process and certainly in having a marketing responsibility we put into place certain communication and promotional strategies to negate any ad hoc reputation fall out in order to grow the consumer confidences our destination richly deserves.

    Tourism destinations that have been disrupted adapt to the omnipresent dynamics of change. The Far East is back and flourishing and France remains the number 1 destination in Europe. With commitment, foresight and resourced planning for change destinations do regenerate and reinvent themselves. This is why we, our institutional funders and the tourism sector are in the process of gearing tourism management strategies and actions up to 2021.

    Change institutes innovation and motivation for action and we look forward to embracing it.

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  • Insights of the Season

    To begin with to the community of our district, best wishes for 2017.

    This season has been one of peaks and the worrisome and unexpected water situation early into the holiday season. When the water situation loomed, we as a tourism organisation immediately conveyed our concerns to the District Municipality who under extreme duress did all in their power to avoid what could have been a much bigger setback for our industry.

    That been said and despite the water situation, initial feedback has been encouraging in that within most tourism areas available accommodation stock was invariably non-existent or in extremely short supply and generally beach activations went off smoothly for the benefit of residents and visitors alike.

    Furthermore the very congested public holidays appear to have been better managed by the local and law enforcement authorities than in the past. The national high density beach attendance trend is always a challenge for everybody concerned and each year better crowd control and influx management systems here are becoming more effective.

    Out Visitor Information Centres have indicated that the number of complaints was noticeably down from previous years and here at our Head Office we can report the same. Our tourism sector and community at large can be congratulated in doing all things possible to ensure that our customers were suitably hosted with minimal disruption.

    Had the water situation not arisen I would have no fear of contradiction in stating that since my taking up office it would have been by far the best year end season in three years.

    Going forward, we will continue to aggressively drive our promotional and publicity efforts and to encourage further investment in tourism product and tourism support infrastructure so that by early 2018 we can with conviction claim that our wonderful basket of attractions have realised a bumper response from consumers.

    To this end, we will soon be introducing our next five year strategy as a roadmap towards ensuring that our tourism and leisure sector realises growth and associated benefit for our entire community.

    As they say in one or other script- “It is always more energising greeting a sunrise than saying farewell to a sunset”. May 2017 be rewarding to us all.

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  • Life is a Beach

    On SA Tourism’s website our national destination marketing agency cites 6 South Coast’s beaches in the top 10 for KwaZulu-Natal. I am not surprised.

    Our easily accessible beaches are more user friendly than most and are ideal for restful recreation and entertainment. We have 7 Blue Flag beaches which meet with the highest international standards and with our sub tropical climate we really have that 365 day destination offering. We remain committed to the sea sell as a pivotal part of our promotional mandate.

    Ugu South Coast Tourism has supported the National Surf Rescue Institute (NSRI) at Port Edward with some of their gear to ensure that visitor safety is paramount and as incident free as possible. Furthermore, we have assisted the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (Wessa) in training beach stewards at our Blue Flag beaches to enhance the leisure experience for our visitors and residents.

    Our investment in seasonal beach activations continues with many event days lined up throughout the district.

    There are those who like to have that really all over el natural tan so they slip off to Mpenjati- so in most respects we cater for all sorts of sun and sea preferences.

    Most of the world’s tourism takes place at or near the coast so we are blessed that South Africans are very loyal in taking their breaks to the South Coast and also sample the numerous eco cultural and nature based experiences inland.

    So we have it all- spot on weather, great beaches from active family ones to tranquil coves and languid lagoons and out to sea responsible diving and fishing abounds. There is so much vibe and variety in that spirit of rainbow relaxation.

    So when our stressed out lives prompts us to feel that life is a b..ch, that rejuvenation and rescue of the soul lies here on our sea step and around us.

    There is more than a grain of truth when a Gauteng visitor said to me last festive season "Coming here reminds me to retire early and have my batteries better charged for the rest of my life". No wonder so many people have second or retirement homes from Scottburgh right down to Port Edward.

    I suppose that’s why Tourism KwaZulu-Natal gave us that title "Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom."

    Sunny and Safe days to everybody- we’ll chat again in 2017.

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  • Service and Smiles

    As the up country vehicles roll into town, our hospitality and retail enterprises are going to be inundated with customers seeking the best possible service.

    I know from personal experience how aggravating it is when an internationally recognised retail brand (I think due to some bean counter watching the pennies instead of thinking of the paying customer) has understaffed till and service areas and one has to endure long lines when all one really wants to do is clear out of the centre and get to the peace and tranquillity of one’s home or relaxing holiday spot.

    The easy and efficient processing of consumer needs is paramount for a tourism destination like ours. Astute businesses gear up with competent staff for busy seasons to ensure that each customer has a strong likelihood of returning to transact. Those that do not merely add stress for our visitors and give our destination a dizzy reputation.

    Every element of the tourism value chain is vital in securing visitor satisfaction and if one link in that chain is flawed, the holiday experience can be compromised. I guess this is somewhat of a plea that all our enterprises and local services commit to unabated excellence.

    On the internet there is a site called Trip Advisor which gives the consumer a platform to indicate their approval or disdain for their holiday experience. It would be great if on that site, reference to service here on the South Coast is laden with compliments.

    Let’s have smiles all round this season.

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  • Being Event Filled

    This summer season a number of event practitioners will be presenting all sorts of beach and other activations up and down the coast- too many to reference here but available from our website www.tourismsouthcoast.co.za , our Visitor Information Centres and from the supplements we have placed in the media.

    There is plenty of fun and entertainment variety to keep our holiday makers and their families occupied for days on end- that is the tourism essence we on the South Coast are famed for.

    Like all destinations worldwide when one has congested holiday periods and events there is the need to ensure that all have a comfortable time and that a harmonious time is enjoyed by plenty.

    We thus urge our host community and visitors to strive for a sunny and safe season by being ever considerate of people and places and be respectful of our environment and our glorious beach and country landscapes.

    We have a number of staff at our Visitor Information Offices working extra hours to ensure that everybody is well informed about attractions, experiences, events and services throughout our district so please use their services- they are a great and friendly group of colleagues.

    This is pleasure in leisure time which after a hectic 2016 is much needed by everyone so it would be wonderful if all and sundry, local and holidaymaker can say in 2017 that their break down on the South Coast was phenomenal then there will be much for us to be proud about.

    Have an event and fellowship filled season here in the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom.

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  • 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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