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CEO Blog

  • Of Burrowers and Builders

    Last week we promoted the greater South Coast at the Beeld Holiday Show which was noticeably smaller than previous years- a sign of belt tightening times.

    Part of our mission was to ascertain if certain marketing, publicity and advertising campaigns could be established with some of the tourism and leisure players at the show. Well this provided us with a revealing polarity in corporate attitude.

    One motor home company we spoke to sat us down and within minutes we realised that their head in the sand “we have been doing it this way forever” attitude really showed how inflexible some companies can be in an era of rapid change in communications and marketing approaches.

    We quickly and dare is say it tongue in cheek thanked them for their “co-operation” and moved off almost wishing that they did not sell a single unit during the show. Their closed and go way attitude smacked of a business looking down the barrel of a gun.

    About 20 minutes later we had a meeting with the marketing manager of a national chain of outdoor and leisure outlets and within a very short time she got what our approach was all about and quickly the principles of a future project were cemented. How refreshing in comparison to the dinosaur mentality at the previous meeting.

    My belief is that if we (and that includes our organisation) do not have an open minded approach to marketing and communications, that funnelled paradigm will eventually blind our business perspective and that that will drive company perspective down- the burrower aspect.

    On the upside, enterprises that seek new and somewhat unconventional approaches have a dynamism that captures the attention of eager feed me markets. I remember that great Tourism Australia initiative then they advertised “the best job in the world” and a communicator was appointed to live on an island paradise for a period- that brought huge worldwide print and online exposure for Australia. Such approaches reflect what could be called the builder thinking.

    I would like to believe that our marketing team has that builder approach and certainly we meet with all sorts of interesting people and companies who bounce their ideas and concepts off us. Being a builder is a more refreshing approach because at the end of the day one sees the completed result of one’s efforts- the burrower sadly stays in the dark.

    Lets seek bricks in paradise.

    Full story

  • Its Promo Season Again

    During the 2014/2015 financial year we undertook 25 consumer and/or promotions in South Africa and abroad and this year we are on track to achieve that target again.

    Post summer season is the start of many domestic tourism promotion events and ober the next few months we will be busy selling the district to the public, the tourism trade and the media.

    Next week we are attending Meetings Africa in Johannesburg to promote the destination as a business and conferencing location and to speak to Professional Conference Organisers (PCOs) to refer their clients to our sunny shores and captivating hinterland.

    Following this event we immediately attend the Beeld Holiday Show in Midrand to lock in to our leisure and adventure markets. We like this show because most attendees come from our traditional markets and our desired emerging professional/family markets.

    Some of our members will also be in attendance to promote their products and services which does bear fruit because many potential visitors do like to meet their prospective hosts face to face rather than looking through marketing material and the internet.

    By the time we attend the Cape Getaway Show in April we should be presenting the new edition of our popular Southern Explorer Route Guide. We have found that during the winter months, Cape residents do prefer to tour places with warmer climes and we certainly tick that box- especially during our event filled Sardine Season.

    In May we meet with the travel media and tour operators at Indaba in Durban as a means of securing more support from the travel trade in terms of packages and event related tourism. Based on research feedback we have had, our last season was encouraging given the economic downturn and we will reiterate our value proposition for our tourists at these promotional events.

    All this goes on whilst we continue with our advertising/internet based campaigns in various media formats that align to our key markets and interest niches.

    The premise we base this activity on is that once a tourist decides on us as a destination of choice, they can determine which product or service they will support- so in essence we create the platform and the product seals the business deal through the consumer-purchase process.

    In the mean time how about our residents inviting family and friends here for the forthcoming long weekends and school holiday break?- it is all tourism at the end of the day.

    Full story

  • Getting Involved Locally

    Over the past few weeks, I have been attending the Annual General Meetings of our 11 local tourism Area Committees throughout the Ugu District.

    The principle of community based tourism is enshrined in the workings of these committees who comprise of our private sector members, local councillors and municipal officials.

    Each year the committees formulate a tourism related plan in order to enhance the local tourism product base, certain infrastructure and possible new attractions. We have also encouraged the committees to establish strategic alliances with other community organisations such as conservancy groups in order to maximise the destination value of each area.

    We provide annual grants towards the costs of implementing initiatives in each area and where possible, we seek cooperation from the local municipalities in expediting authorisations or improvements to amenities etc.

    Without these valuable forums, tourism management in our destination would be all the more onerous and as such we fully appreciate the valuable time and inputs people give towards local tourism matters.

    We really encourage local businesses and individuals to get involved in these structures so that really effective outcomes can occur. Apathy can be the death knell of some community tourism organisations and this is something we down here wish to avoid at all costs.

    I believe that with passion and commitment fully representative area committees can do wonders but they cannot do it all on their own- hence this appeal for the commercial sector and those deriving revenues via leisure and tourism to join our organisation and participate in local tourism committees and their activities.

    Have a wonderful week in Paradise.

    Full story

  • Where Does Our Market Future Lie?

    If one consults the demographic indicators from our National Census, it is very apparent that we have a population pyramid decidedly weighted towards the younger generations. Furthermore, there is a continued influx of people to our urban areas.

    Most demographic cohorts are predominantly aligned to what we would term our emerging markets and I believe that our domestic prospects for market growth should be sourced from this segment.

    This new market for us would be the urban working professional and managerial achiever who is either in the 25-45 age group, has medium to high levels of disposable income and is probably family focused.

    We believe that in capturing this responsible market with massive potential, we will sustain and grow our visitor volumes and make strides in becoming KZN’s most visited non metro destination and this is our stated tourism vision.

    Furthermore we will be looking into growing our tertiary student visitation because it is they who translate into the adult market we have identified. It is for this reason we promote at Midrand and later on in the year at the Soweto Wine Festival- both are areas where many of our potential higher level spenders will emanate.

    The domestic South African market is our tourism economy’s bread and butter and if our focus is towards the family and leisure markets and niches, we will be positively transforming our market mix and ensuring longer term stability of our industry.

    During the last season I chatted in Margate to a husband and wife from Meadowlands in Johannesburg. It was clear that they were somewhat affluent and discerning and it was their first visit to this part of the province.

    Both were impressed in what was on offer and has decided to take up next year’s timeshare allocation down here.

    This is our future market without ignoring the importance of our existing loyal markets.

    Have a stunning week in paradise.

    Full story

  • Love is in the Air

    With Valentine’s Day looming in February- you know that time of year when people known or unknown go gaga and express their undying love and admiration for their ideal partner, it is amazing how love translates into a major tourism money spinner.

    In the weddings domain, certain parts of South Africa do a roaring trade by virtue of their romantic sell for weddings. Many millions of Rands are spent each year on venues, hospitality, travel, catering, entertainment, retail and consumables. I am convinced that the Greater South Coast ideally positioned to become a foremost weddings and ceremonies destination in South Africa.

    If one realises that we have some of the most romantic beach settings around as well as glorious rivers, gorges and valleys and beautiful forested cultural hinterlands, prospective couples have an abundance of choice for that memorable occasion.

    Our hospitality providers are very proficient in meeting every client’s needs so there is no reason why the thousands of couples going into their state of matrimonial bliss should not be here for the “big day”.

    I recently spoke to a friend (now with a very thin wallet) about his daughter’s wedding in the Cape Winelands and in hindsight he regrets not having the celebration here. Quite simply we can more than compete in terms of price and value against what I feel are often overpriced wedding destinations.

    What is interesting is that besides what can be termed the glitzy wedding event, our area also hosts numerous traditional weddings be they based on religious belief systems or cultural protocols. It is clear that the entire weddings spectrum can be hosted in this district.

    It is for this reason why we promote our magnificent destination for the weddings and functions niches. These events keep on filling our hospitality sector’s coffers between and during our holiday seasons- after all because of our weather, we are a 365 day destination.

    So to those who are involved in a forthcoming wedding, host it here and convince others from farther afield to do likewise. With the exchange rate being what it is, there is no reason why ex pats or foreigners should not wed on our sunny shores.

    Our paradise has it all to impress the excited couples and their guests.

    I must go shopping for some February roses.

    Full story

  • Chance Takers in Tourism

    We have recently had to deal with situation whereby a “letting agent” did not produce the goods in terms of a visitor expectation.

    This “letting agent” was not registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) and as such can only be construed as a chance taker trying to capitalise on our peak holiday season.

    We have a number of credible, registered and highly professional letting agents on our coast who do us proud in delivering excellent service to our visitors but it is the fly by night opportunists that let the side down.

    In two instances, the complaints we have received have also brought in the media who if they publicise or broadcast the matter, paints our destination in a bad light and we as a tourism community will not tolerate this.

    We will take very strong steps to report these illegal agents to the EAAB, SARS and if fraud may be involved, support any SAPS charges laid by a complainant. Furthermore we will delist any such enterprises from any formal links to our tourism sector and report their details to the provincial tourism authority as well.

    We continually remind tourist prospects to support agents with the proper credentials and those listed with us but season after season visitors have decided otherwise and have been taken for a ride on the internet or through the actions of supposed agents on the ground.

    My advice to any persons or enterprises that do unlawful letting activity- things will catch up on you. The authorities will bite and there will be no sympathy from the law abiding and legally compliant tourism sector.

    Dealing with such issues takes up our valuable time and resources and we will do our utmost to stamp out this type of thing so that we can focus on the more productive side of our tourism management mandate.

    If we all remain vigilant against these things I believe our district can unite against these sorts of issue and give the best possible service to our very welcome Rand spending guests.

    Full story

  • Heading for the Hills

    At the invitation of tourism stakeholders in the Eastern Cape Highlands I and my media team and possibly some of our product owners will be shortly embarking on a promotional and information tour of that beautiful part of our country.

    Some may ask why?

    People living and farming in those areas are prospective tourists in that besides the Wild and Sunshine coasts in the Eastern Cape, we are the closest beach destination for them so this is a market for growth.

    Secondly, the product owners in those areas have a number of foreign and domestic visitors who seek to get to KZN after their stay so in effect these product owners can once fully informed make recommendations to come to our province (and in particular the South Coast) via the R56 and the N2.

    This principle also applies to visitors to Lesotho who exit that country into the Eastern Cape Highlands.

    Thirdly the R56- Karoo road is the shortest route to KZN from the Western Cape so once again we wish to tap into those market prospects as well rather than them going to Durban via the Midlands of KZN.

    We will also be seek local publicity as a means of creating more interest in our destination and to deliver our popular Southern Explorer at as many tourism offices as possible.

    It is important to us to create a tourism flow from the mountains to the sea and to highlight our hinterland tourism assets (e.g. Oribi Gorge) in between. The secret being slowing the tourist down to spend extra days over a larger geographic area and thus broadening and keeping the revenue yields in our local economy. Hey that snow/slope to surf option could be of appeal to many.

    Finally, we will be looking at ways of possible collaboration with the tourism bodies in that part of the Eastern Cape in terms of joint promotions and collaboration.

    Later on in the year, we will do a similar exercise in the Southern Drakensberg and the Midlands- after all if people are in KZN why not get them to our area at the same time.

    We have to nurture and grow our domestic markets and what better way than having alliances with the tourism sector in the areas where our markets lie.

    In heading for the hills, I am convinced our efforts will bear fruit

    Full story

  • Days of Blue

    We all know the dire water situation our country is experiencing and that good rains are in desperate need however during this summer season there are pluses to be gained as well.

    Our wonderful beaches are greeted with a sea that is are a brilliant blue and not discoloured from river outwash after heavy rains. Furthermore, with rains seemingly avoiding our coastline and open skies prevailing, the chances of great beach and rural excursion weather may well be a bonus for all our visitors.

    The other day I took a mini tour of some of our beaches and the combination of sun, golden sands, sub tropical flora and clear seas just confirmed what we as a destination are famed for- we could be an African equivalent of the Caribbean.

    Talking of oceans, in January 2016 we are to promote our oceanic tourism attractions and services at Das Boot in Germany when some 230 000 people from the tourism trade, media and interested tourists attend.
    We anticipate that as a result of this show more EU interest on our shores will emanate and translate in their coming to the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom.

    On that aquatic theme, let’s not forget about our two beautiful rivers the Umzimkhulu and Umtamvuna both of which offer great opportunities for things boating, recreation fishing and hospitality. What better than a gentle cruise up stream to take in the natural environs of these eco tourism assets.

    Finally please spare a respectful thought to the men and women in blue who are doing their utmost to ensure that our visitors have a wholesome stay and are as safe as possible on our roads. Many have had leave cancelled to meet the law enforcement demands over this period.

    May the forthcoming Xmas weekend be filled with enjoyment and family togetherness.

    Full story

  • Out on the Back Roads

    Being a bit of Robert Frost (the poet) fan I have a habit of going to places on roads and routes other than the most direct. Rarely have I managed to get myself in a pickle and have had to double back and more often than not each has been a refreshing alternative to the sights we normally see going quickly from A to B.

    Down here I have managed to take three such alternative routes into our hinterland and have enjoyed each. The first was from Port Edward to the N2 at Ezingolweni that goes past the rolling sugar cane, coffee and macadamia plantations and overlooks the stunning Umtamvuna River and the upper portions of its nature reserve. The transformation from the humid sub tropical coast to the more temperate uplands is pronounced and as one get closer to Ezingolweni, proud rural family residences are evident as is the friendliness of the local people. The roads are good- this is also exceptional cycling country.

    My next route was from Shelly Beach via Izotcha and on towards the N2 at Paddock with its quaint buildings from a bygone era, old railway facilities and an active farmers club– this little hamlet is in my opinion one of great potential for becoming an almost mini Clarens with hospitality arts, craft, rail heritage and unique retail related attractions. A small part of this journey is on a well maintained gravel road that also passes the Nyandazulu Waterfall. I often recommend this route as a cross country way of getting not only to the N2 but also to the ever popular Oribi Gorge.

    The third route I took was from the N2 at Hibberdene inland towards Umzumbe and using the old tarred road north to Pennington. Besides this route being a tranquil alternative and seeing some lovely forested valley and cliff landscapes, it also solved a mystery for me.

    Many, many years ago we used to holiday at Banana Beach and on one such journey we were informed at a point in a river valley that a Pinetown based psychic had predicted the location of a murdered woman whose body was in fact found in a culvert over which to we had driven. For decades (with the new road being constructed) I often wondered where that valley was as it was imprinted in my mind. Well my trip to Umzumbe did the trick- I recognised the site immediately and my conundrum was put to bed.

    All too often we forget that there are absolute gems along our country byways and it is really worthwhile taking a little extra time to go along them. At no stage have I felt unsafe and in just engaging in the other dimensions of our South Coast I certainly have felt enriched in the process.

    With a good map or our Southern Explorer Guide I really recommend such days out and don’t forget the camera these places are worthy of photo stops.

    Full story

  • Coming in Number One

    A Sunday Times report (25 November 2015) and based on research conducted by SafariNow (a respected online booking agency) cited Margate and environs as South Africa’s most popular, value for money, family friendly destination.

    This is an amazing accolade when one considers the extreme competition there is all over the place. I do however suggest that our entire destination can be considered in the same light. Take golf for example, surveys show that in general our excellent golf courses are very generously priced for our golfing tourists. When I shared the green and cart fees with a group of German tour operators who were at a trade event in Pretoria, they were amazed at the value proposition.

    When I first arrived here some two years ago, I mentioned to our tourism fraternity that the Greater South Coast was like an old dust covered trophy that needed polishing up.

    Well, since then our municipalities have paid attention to phased beach amenity upgrades, new and award winning hotels have come to the fore, investors are backing our destination, we have a new and well supported motor sport raceway, air flights to and from Johannesburg are popular, many films are being made here and our business tourism seems to have more impetus via the newly established South Coast Chapter of the South African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI).

    When one factors in these considerations, one has to suggest that not all is doom and gloom (although there is a lot more to achieve) and our “trophy” is being buffed up for the good.

    I have no doubt that if this positive trend continues we will achieve our stated vision for tourism as being “the most visited non metropolitan destination in Kwa Zulu-Natal”.

    Getting there is a collective effort between the tourism industry, organs of state, Ugu South Coast Tourism and the community at large. We certainly will work hard at our mandate to assist all and sundry rubbing at that piece of valuable silverware.

    The other evening I attended a Meet and Greet at Umtamvuna and one of the speakers from the local conservancy very aptly stated that we do live in a paradise if we consider the natural marine and land based assets we have. This is the playground that we have to nurture for the now and future generations.

    If all can be sustained in a price sensitive manner, we will as SafariNow indicated remain SA’s number 1.

     

     

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