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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.

    Full story

  • 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.

    Full story

  • 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!

    Full story

  • 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.

    Full story

  • Being the Business

    This morning I write from the “Big Smoke” (Johannesburg) with a story of an experience that I hope motivates the South Coast’s tourism related businesses.

    Two nights ago, I had dinner at a nationally recognised eating franchise. I was astounded to realise that my burger and onion rings and nothing else would cost R85.

    Being hungry I did not change to another venue. I wish I had because the burger may well have been a doormat and the onion rings dog collars- it was a despicable attempt to feed someone and at a rip off price!

    This got me thinking as to the importance of proprietor driven businesses on the South Coast. Because most restaurants down our way are owner driven I feel that standard setting is closely monitored. I am yet to have a meal that equates to the misery I had to endure from the franchise (which thankfully does not have an operation on the South Coast).

    Furthermore, proprietor orientated businesses to not have to pay marketing/ franchise fees/percentage of turnover which can apply. As a result, monies do not generally leak from our local economy (to some franchise head office in another province) and the success of the SMME rolls out its financial success within the local community.

    Needless to say, to that cafe franchise, I have news for you- if your quality control of what you feed the customer is anything like what I had to chisel down my throat, please keep away from our destination. Our local restaurateurs (and including franchises that are on the South Coast) are light years ahead and long may our visitor enjoy personalised service with better quality tucker.

    At the conference I am attending, the importance of SMMEs in tourism is being driven home and it is the small to micro business that is in fact the backbone of our tourism sector.

    In our neck of the woods, many proprietors price their offerings on the customer sensitivities to cost and because of this, we can promote our destination as a true value proposition.

    I cannot wait to get onto the flight back to Margate- our paradise is preferable to this almost megalopolis- no wonder Gauteng yearns for the South Coast at holiday time and we will proudly welcome them all with open arms.

    Full story

  • Local Government and Tourism

    With our tourism being a major contributor towards the local economy it is thus appropriate that our district and local municipalities contribute via appreciated grants to the coffers of Ugu South Coast Tourism.
    Over 85% of our budget stems from this public sector funding which supports our marketing and development mandate within Service Level Agreements with them.

    At the end of the month I will be attending the Local Government Tourism Conference in Gauteng at which a number of key topics will be presented and discussed in lieu of municipal involvement in the tourism sector.
    Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom will open the conference with a programme that includes items relating to the promotion and transformation of local tourism, infrastructure requirements as a catalyst for stimulus of a local tourism economy and tourism development perspectives.

    Analysis of our tourism sector will also present insights involving the challenges facing our domestic tourism and the implications for tourism through integrated development (of people, product and place) planning.
    Destination marketing is key to tourism management and one topic I will be interested in relates to the marketing and branding of South Africa (presently too geo specific towards the Cape and our game parks in Mpumalanga) within the context of global competitiveness.

    Regarding tourism development, we are all challenged to ensure that new initiatives are sustainable, capable of changing lives and within the principles of ethical/responsible applications. The developmental discussions at conference will be very important to us for the application of programmes and projects mainly in our rural areas.

    In many parts of South Africa, local government has not invested heavily enough in the marketing and development of their particular region and as such, there has been a financial over burden on the private sector to attempt to be competitive.
    At present, in our district this is not the case because the authorities recognise that tourism is the pillar that props up the local economy and sustains many thousands of livelihoods in the process.

    The tourism management and funding model we utilise here is in my opinion a most appropriate one- especially for a tourism active destination like ours. Interestingly one of our “competitor” districts to the north of us has shown interest in our model and the KZN Community Tourism Association has asked us to present the model to delegates at their April meeting. Interesting times in Paradise.

    Full story

  • Speaking to Our Markets

    Over  the past few weeks. Ugu South Coast Tourism has been promoting in Gauteng (Beeld Holiday Show) and in the Western Cape (Cape Getaway Show) and from these two events, it is apparent that some of our source markets have such diverse characteristics

    Our Gauteng market is by far the most significant and it is the family orientated visitor who usually comes to the South Coast over peak holiday seasons.. Often they use self catering or their own holiday home as their choice of accommodation albeit many are from the caravan and camping fraternity.

    This market cohort is not restricted to the Afrikaans speaking South African and there is a trend that indicates huge potential for our emerging middle class visitors. For this reason we will soon be exhibiting our tourism sell at the Rand Easter Show which attracts many thousands of prospective tourists who have yet to find their destination of preference.

    The Cape market generally has a high per capita holiday spend and usually prefer to stay in up market establishments and often travel as couples as opposed to families. Because of distance to get to the eastern seaboard of KZN, they are less likely to take multiple trips and will probably have one longer holiday here and in other parts of the province.

    Interestingly (and that is why we promote at the Getaway Show) there were a number of foreign enquirers who live 3-5 months a year in the Cape- their interest in our destination was thorough and with a pastime preference for golf and hiking.

    Needless to say many Cape people could not differentiate between Zululand, North Coast and the South Coast so at times we had to emphasise the geography of our region and that we are the best entry point to KZN for land travellers from Cape Province.

    Not many people are aware that the shortest road route to and from Durban to Cape Town involves going via the South Coast (preferably with stop over), the Eastern Cape Highlands and cross country to the N1 in the Karoo. This aspect we plugged a great deal whilst at the show.

    By attending these regional shows and talking to people about the South Coast, one gets a perspective of their expectations and interests and at the same time be given an opportunity to impart to them on our attractions and experiences. Unless we do it in this way, a major part of our expansive marketing effort will be flawed.

    So whether from the Gauteng or Cape, we are satisfied that here in the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom we can host a broad spectrum of visitor needs and cater for their exacting interest niches.

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  • Through a Tourist’s Eyes

    The other evening, a tennis partner asked me what are my likes and dislikes are when on holiday.

    To begin with, even if one is in a questionable destination (Buffalo USA springs to mind) it is the people and their attitude to visitors that makes all the difference.

    It is that accommodation or restaurant proprietor who makes you feel as if you are their most valued customer. Where service staff actually pay attention to one’s needs and deliver in good time, their contribution is immense.

    It is the local who realises that you are not from their area and shows genuine interest in your stay and offers informed advice on what to do and where to go. I was once in Malawi and during a storm we were outdoors in a popular meeting place and with the rain teeming down a total stranger from Malawi turned to me and said “Welcome to Blantyre- let me buy you a “Green” (local lingo for their favourite beer).” It was the friendliest beer I have ever had.

    Polite and helpful law enforcement officials who are also well versed on their destination can really add comfort to the experience. Where attractions are busy and crowd control is effortless and efficient, the pain of waiting, barging and rowdy tour groups is averted.

    My major dislike is the proverbial rip off- when price paid does not meet expectation or if the price is way over the top in the first place. A financially abused visitor will tell the world- hence my conviction that the South Coast as a reasonably priced destination will sustain its tourism volumes- as long as quality matches the price promise.

    This brings me to the tourism environment- if it is safe, clean, well managed, aesthetically pleasing and friendly then it gets a big tick from visitors. Sometimes tourist areas that are or have been popular fall foul of that scourge called complacency and even here we need to be vigilant against this counter-productive scenario.

    In closing, last week I went to one of our popular beaches and was stunned when a car guard who I had never seen before (and I do not often go to that beach) addressed me by name. I asked him how he knew who I was. “I read The Fever” he said with a smile.

    Well if that guard also remembers the names of the regular clients at the nearby restaurant, his gratuity levels must go through the roof!  I was not after an ego massage but his attention as to who comes and who goes is worthy of praise- it does make a difference.

    In tourism the pundits say- “If all the little things are done all the time, with sincere attention to the client then the big rewards come through.” May we all work towards this ideal here in Paradise.

    Full story

  • Gearing Up For the Sardine Festival

    The Greater South Coast is renowned for presenting in any calendar year probably the highest number of KZN events outside Durban. There is no doubt that during our holiday periods, these occasions draw visitors in and add so much value to their stay.

    Ugu South Coast Tourism is gearing up for our mid year’s Sardine Festival (let’s hope that the little fellows come visiting this year) and we really want to maximise the number of events we can offer during 2015.

    From Scottburgh, all the way down to Port Edward and inland to the lush forests of Ingeli we would like to assist event promoters and hosts by adding their event to the annual basket of events for the festival.

    So if your event is sporting, lifestyle, entertainment, arts/culture and leisure we really encourage you to notify us for events that take place in June, July and August. On the assumption that there is a R1 000 per capita per day spend whilst here, for every 100 additional visitors that come here to enjoy our events and they stay for 4 days, that is an additional R400 000 growth injection into our local economy during that very short period. Focus Marketing research indicates that our festive season spend (direct, indirect and induced spend) is over R1 billion- that is how important tourism is to our economy.

    Our stats suggest we receive 790-800 000 people each year so if we realise a realistic 3% growth with the same assumptions (R1 000 per day x 4 days) then an added R96 million is added to the local coffers. That added spend can create some 6 new jobs per R1 million spend which translates into some 576 new jobs- just from a 3% increase in visitors.

    We use events as a value adding draw card for domestic and foreign tourists so the more we can offer the more likely we can swing their allegiances to our Paradise.

    This week we are promoting our lovely destination at the Beeld Holiday Show in Midrand- the very heart of one of our key source markets. At this show we believe we can illicit the return not only our traditional markets but also those of our emerging markets within the Living Standards Measure 6-10.

    Our promotions are intended to secure our customer loyalty, fill any gaps from some visitor drop off and source consumer purchase responses from new visitor prospects- then growth will occur.

    So as the Sardine Festival draws near, we look forward to working with all and sundry to muscle up the mid-year festival calendar. We really want to impress our visitors and be the envy of our competitors. Event enquiries should be directed to Vanessa on eventing@tourismsouthcoast.co.za

    Full story

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