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CEO Blog

  • 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.

     

     

    Full story

  • Hosting as a Community

    Already the first signs of our new summer season are becoming evident and soon, droves of visitors from Gauteng and KZN will be with us. Young and old, families, students, honeymooners and our local day visitors will be converging down here at the coast or out to our adventure filled hinterland and captivating rural communities.

    We obviously would wish for all to have a sunny and safe stay here so what can we as a hosting populace do to assist in that process? Here are a few pointers.

    Be extra friendly to our visitors in all areas they visit- we want them to return year after year and if people are in distress ensure that they have the presence and help of responsible persons who will look after their well being.

    Have police, emergency and essential services numbers handy to render immediate assistance and added to this, report suspicious and criminal behaviour/acts to law enforcement agencies.

    Treat our beaches, public areas and all natural environs with respect and avoid and discourage noisy and unruly behaviour in all public spaces.

    Encourage visitor use of respected and registered hospitality establishments, attractions and local businesses- I suggest get a copy of the Southern Explorer from one of our Tourist Information Centres (or website) www.tourismsouthcoast.co.za or www.southernexplorer.co.za.

    Speak of our area with pride and passion as visitors respond well to a positive vibe and respect people’s rights to privacy and enjoyment of our wonderful Greater South Coast.

    Continually get people to follow the rules of the road and discourage drinking and driving- we want as a few accidents as possible so that tragedy does not mar what should be a season of responsible togetherness and joy.

    One of the biggest draw cards for people to return year after year is how the host area’s people treat their guests. I know that the Irish are famed for their open and warm hospitality and when I was in Malawi a few years ago, on more than one occasion locals came to me to say hi, welcome to their country and would I like a beer on them- so why not us?

    2015 Has for many been a stressful year so what better advert for our destination if the thousands of visitors who can go back home refreshed, safe and utterly fulfilled. Every small gesture and kindness to all and sundry can make all the difference.

    Then we can rightly claim to be the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom.

    Full story

  • Up The Turks

    A fortnight ago I attended a function at the ICC in Durban to celebrate the launch of a new and direct air service from Europe/Middle East to King Shaka International Airport.

    Unbeknown to me, Turkish Airlines flies to more destinations than any other airline in the world so its connectivity benefit for our overseas markets in Europe and the Middle East becomes all the more evident.

    Here on the South Coast our long haul market is relatively small (10-15%) in comparison to our domestic scenarios however I am of the opinion that this new ease of access directly to the Zulu Kingdom will grow our province’s and localised visitor base from abroad.

    Besides visitors from the EU, the Balkan states and the Slavic speaking nations, the Turkish market does have immense potential. Some years ago whilst researching for an island development off the northern coast of Mozambique I was amazed to find the highest incidence of billionaires within the study area of Africa/Middle East emanated from Turkey. This presents opportunity for mid to high end spenders to come to KwaZulu-Natal.

    In Turkey there has been a massive upsurge in the construction of golf courses and participation in the sport. In the years ahead, I am sure that these “new” golfers will seek destinations like ours to enjoy their sport and take in our eco and cultural tourism attractions along the way.

    Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and partners such as the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) are looking at ways to increase the number of international airlines to this province. This as a means of establishing King Shaka International Airport as a true hub for inter and intra continental routes.

    Should they succeed, the opportunities for inbound foreign tourists will increase and we as an organisation will be monitoring developments to ascertain opportunities in terms of packaging and promotion of our Ugu District.

    A little bit of Turkish delight has whetted the appetite for our tourism industry to seek a slice of this new market potential from historic Istanbul and beyond.

    Full story

  • Water and Our Holiday Season

    Last week I returned from a conference by air from Johannesburg to Margate and the low level flight gave me the shock of all shocks.

    The normally lush landscapes of the midlands and down towards our coast are in many instances in dire straits. The thirsty sub soils are peering through what should be a veneer of greened vegetation, dams are severely depleted of water and the normally healthy rivers and waterfalls are a mere trickle of their former selves. My observations were that is was more like the Karoo than the normally flourishing hydrology of our province.

    The messages on this water crisis being sent out by our local authority and organs of state are not hollow methods used to cover up service delivery issues- this is a severe drought and the ramifications for our tourism are all too evident.

    Our busiest season of the year is only a matter of weeks away and all we can do under the circumstances is to strongly advise that all water users become disciplined when it comes to consumption. The application of water saving actions should also be conveyed to our guests without undue disruption to their stay.

    This will have to be a team effort if our visitors are to return home after their holiday with a positive take on this destination. If our residents and businesses report leaking pipes etc. to the Ugu District Municipality I am sure each rectification will add to the prospect of better supply during a peak use period.

    Given that the economy is under stress and the water crisis exists, this could be a “perfect storm” in a challenging sense. My plea is therefore for everybody to be very conscious of water usage and make every effort to conserve this precious commodity- the success of our holiday season will depend on this.

    Full story

  • Tourism as an Entry Level Employer

    Our industry is recognised as one of the sectors that can fast track people into trained for and employed positions which in these stressed times is noteworthy especially when many of our youth are desperate for jobs and a reasonable remuneration.

    Many of our young people who study at non university tertiary institutions are on completion of their studies ideally positioned to be absorbed into the main stream tourism economy however there is a trend that seems to be a buffer to this.

    A number of our professionally qualified university graduates cannot find careers in their chosen field and as a result many filtrate the selling of their abilities down into some levels of tourism and hospitality that could well be taken up by non university qualified people.

    The net result is many over qualified people are taking up positions (usually until they get jobs in accordance with their qualification) and adequately qualified people for entry level tourism jobs have additional competition for vacancies.

    For employers having a graduate employee may be a bit of a bonus however on one hand it is possible that the graduate sees the job as an interim opportunity whereas those who have chosen to go specifically into tourism and hospitality have a longer term desire to stay and grow in the sector.

    We at Ugu South Coast Tourism have an annual strategy whereby individuals with specific tourism, leisure and hospitality skills provide us with their Curriculum Vitae which we then offer to our tourism industry should vacancies arise.

    I am also of the opinion that there are a number of tourism aligned businesses who may wish to source suitably skilled people who have qualified from one or other of our local institutions. Our bank of CVs is available should the public wish to select possible candidates for employment.

    If we can train and employ local, our tourism industry will be doing a great deal to alleviate the frustration that our young people endure on a daily basis- the recent sagas at some of our universities is testimony of that.

    With the busy festive season looming, it would be great if enterprises could take on extra staff from our local surrounds. Even on a temporary basis work experience counts for anybody seeking permanent positions in the future.

    We have over a dozen interns working for us and when their term concludes I am sure they will have a better chance of employment than those who have no experience at all. Any takers out there?

    Full story

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