This Tourism Week: 12 April 2012

This week:

Must-have new guide to the succulents of Southern Africa

Book now for Uthando’s annual benefit concert – you could find some exciting new talent who’ll add value to your tourism products

Is it too early to knock the Western Cape’s new DMO?

Is it too early to knock the Western Cape’s new DMO?

It finally happened: the Western Cape’s destination marketing organisation – known inexplicably as Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) – has effectively been closed down, and its functions have been taken over by WESGRO – a body with a far broader mandate. As the media release of 8 April put it: “Tourism industry stakeholders in the Western Cape were given official notice yesterday that destination marketing, investment and trade promotion for the province would now be done by a single, ramped up executing agency to increase the province’s national and global competitiveness as a business and leisure destination.”

And if you’ve been following the story, already the criticism has begun.

I held no brief for CTRU: while I personally get on very well with all the people who worked there, I always wondered how effective the business model really was. From its name downwards, I think it was a misguided, misinformed, and misdirected organisation that spent more time marketing itself than marketing the Province – its one, single client. I mean, what were *they* thinking when they called it Cape Town Routes Unlimited?

What about the rest of the Province?

But no matter. It is no more.

Still, as a resident of the Garden Route, I’ve watched the dramatic fall in tourism numbers in our region over the last few years – and listened while they tell us that they’re packing them in in Cape Town.

Does this have anything to do with the fact that CTRU brought the  marketing of the Garden Route to an abrupt stop at some point? They’ll deny it, but I’ve seen it – the Garden Route dropped off CTRU’s radar. As a DMO it seemed to prefer Cape Town, with a few sops to Route 62, and maybe the West Coast.

But no matter. It is no more.

A few things about the new situation, though.

The combined DMO is now running under the WESGRO banner (“the official Investment and Trade Promotion Agency for the Western Cape, located in Cape Town” – and this makes sense to me.

Why? Well, because it’s time to stop marketing tourism in a vacuum, and rather to market the destination as a whole – a Province that offers fantastic opportunities in tourism, film making, agriculture, ICT, fashion, manufacturing, education, medicine, and, and, and…

We’re grown ups, now. We should have learned to play with the other kids long ago.


I’m very concerned that WESGRO should not make the same mistakes that CTRU made, by (a) marketing itself rather than the destination, and (b) forgetting that the *Province* is the client – and not just that village under the mountain. You know, the one with the big Waterfront and (only a part of) our famous Wine Route?

Whether this is going to happen or not is still to be seen, but I note with concern that the media release quotes WESGRO CEO Nils Flaatten as saying, “WESGRO was currently investigating the process of integrating the and websites but said these would remain in place with all the relevant industry information until further notice. He encouraged tourism stakeholders to find the updated events calendar on”

This isn’t good enough. The destination needs a web site with the name Western Cape in the URL – not Cape Town, not WESGRO. Matterafact, I think we must demand it.

WESGRO cannot be allowed to market the bits of the Cape that it prefers, or feels comfortable with, as CTRU appeared to do.

Having said that, though, it’s far too early to ask whether or not the new arrangement will or won’t work – because *we* – the businesspeople of the Western Cape – must make it work.

So now my question is: how do we do this? How is WESGRO going to take its mandate to the tourism industry (and all the other industries in the Province), and how will our input be received?

If it’s with the same contempt with which most government departments and most South African political parties receive input from the citizens for whom they’re supposed to work, the whole exercise will indeed have proved another a waste of time.

But again: it’s far too early to say.

Book now for Uthando’s annual benefit concert – you could find some exciting new talent who’ll add value to your tourism products

James Fernie, the CEO of Uthando – – is passionate about introducing the performers and artists with whom he works to people in the tourism industry. Which is just one of the reasons why he organises his now famous annual benefit concerts.

I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for the 2011 event (it was held at the Table Bay Hotel, and to get an idea of what we both missed, you and I. watch the Amy Biehl Foundations Marimba Band in performance here).

After the show, Toni Shina, of The Backpackers in Cape Town, wrote “Wow! I was breathless… I was crying…. I met so many fantastic people… I was shocked at the high standard of performance (being so spoilt after 7 years of my daughter dancing and acting in competitions – I thought nothing could be better)… And actually I have never seen such a high level of performance – your show was electric.”

This year’s show will take place on the 16th of June (Youth Day, remember) at the Barnyard Theatre in Willowbridge in Cape Town, from 12.30 to 3.00 p.m.

It’s going to be a rare treat to watch Cape Town’s finest youth development projects – with Dance For All, the Amy Biehl Foundation, the Jikeleza Dance Project, the Hout Bay Music Project, the Cape Malay Choir Board, the Thokozani Brothers Choir, the Neighbourhood Old Age Homes Choir, the Happy Feet Gumboot Dancers, a youth Cape Minstrel Troupe, and others – performing one after the other.

It’s also going to be an inspiring and proudly South African experience – and if you’re a tour operator who’ll have guests in town on that day, you’ll be doing them a huge favour if you book their seats now.

And you should be there, too.

I’ve seen some of the performers in their practice rooms (Uthando – Helping Tourism To REALLY Make a Difference),  and I’m going to be doing my best to be in Cape Town for this year’s show because that gave me a tastelet of what they can do.

And, as I say, you should be there, too – especially if you’re looking to hire some of the most exciting acts coming out of the ever amazing disadvantaged suburbs of Cape Town. (Suburbs, OK? Following James’ suggestion, I’m never going to use the ‘T’ word again: it’s a hangover of Apartheid).

For more info, contact Uthando (Love) South Africa – on +27(0)21 683 8523 or

For on line bookings go to (the deep link is

Must-have new guide to the succulents of Southern Africa

Here’s a mistake you shouldn’t make: thinking that succulents (beautifully known in Afrikaans as ‘vetplante’ – fat plants) grow only in the dry desert areas of our diverse and bewildering sub-continent.

They grow everywhere. I see them when I’m walking along the Lagoon here in Knysna, when I’m driving in the Klein Karoo, in Durbs when I go to the Indaba, and…

And allthough I studied horticulture, I was still struggling to identify them easily – up until recently, when I found a new book by Gideon F. Smith and Neil R. Crouch.

But the “Guide to Succulents of Southern Africa” gave me something else, too: another reason to love living here: “an amazing 47% of the world’s known succulents” occur in this region.

If you’ve travelled a little, you’ll know at least some of them: the aloes, the nabooms (Euphorbias), and the ice plants (Delosperma, Aptenia, and Carpobrotus – the sour fig). But they’re just a few of the “240 of the region’s most interesting and commonly encountered succulents” described here.

Although the descriptions are a little technical (I’d say you’d need a bit of post-matric botany to understand them properly), the photos are particularly well made, and make for easy identification. And the fact that it’s a small (210 x 145 mm) soft cover book will make it easy to stash in your book bag next time you’re heading out on safari.

It’s published by Struik Nature, and it belongs in every collection of standard ID guides to the animals and plants of Southern Africa.

Buy it here.

Now go away on holiday – it’s in the economy’s best interests.
… And in the meantime… have a GREAT tourism week!

Martin Hatchuel
– BarefootWriter

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