Indaba 2009

I haven’t been a regular visitor to Indaba for several years so this year I saw it with new eyes.  Yes, it’s grown and yes, most of the products are spell-binding.  It’s a marketers’ dream because I doubt that any other destination in the world can offer as much variety… coupled to unsurpassed professionalism in so many cases.

SA Tourism have also matured and their side of the organisation has become very slick. (The only exception was, on responding to an invitation to interview CEO Didi Moyle, Monde Mateza never responded to my request.)

At the start of this blog I said that I’m a typical Capetonian who believes that the Western Cape is more blessed than almost anywhere else on earth. Well, I still believe that to a certain extent, but my travels have shown me people, products and places that really do excite me. More than ever, I realise that Southern Africa as a whole has the potential to beat all other regional destinations… if we just change some mindsets.

So, after three months away from home, it was with no lack of eagerness that I set off to find the Cape Town and Western Cape area at Indaba first. It took some effort because the organisers had signposted the direction incorrectly. And then, at the tail-end of the whole Indaba complex, I found an anonymous tent.

Cape Town & Western Cape's No-Name Brand - the entrance to the Western Cape's pavilion

For South Africa’s leading city brand to be presented in this way was just not good enough; I was astounded. I was embarrassed as a Capetonian.

Was I being over-critical? I spoke to Cape Town Tourism’s Mariette du Toit-Helmbold and learned that the usual tent had been commandeered for Jacob Zuma’s coronation and their banner couldn’t be accommodated in the new tent. I greeted CTRU’s Dave Fransen (responsible for the Western Cape pavilion) several times but he seemed to make a point of avoiding me.

I spoke to Peter Bacon, CTRU’s chair, and he agreed that it was unacceptable and needed a serious rethink.

I spoke to Nils Heckscher, MD of Winchester Mansions Hotel and CTT board member, who always shoots from the cuff. He agreed it wasn’t as good as it should be and said that maybe the Province was resting on its laurels. He added that things will be different next year with the new alignment of provincial and city politics.

I spoke to Rema from Fedhasa Cape, based in the main ICC at Fedhasa Natal’s stand. She felt that the Western Cape area lacked its usual vibe and buzz: “and it reinforces the typical view of Cape Town… that we want to be apart from the rest.”

I bumped into an old friend, Di Campbell (now Dagh), as we looked at the CTT stand. “Is that Cape Town Tourism?” she asked incredulously, “I thought it was Cape Point Routes!” Great for Cape Point Routes, bad Cape Town branding.

Free State's position was centrestage and their external branding was excellent.

Mpmalanga's stand in the Durban Exhibition Centre displayed pure branding professionalism.

Cape Town Tourism's area... come on guys, you can do much better.

The vast empty spaces in the Western Cape tent just emphasized a feeling that it was not as well attended as other destinations.

CTRU will say they had a large banner at the one end of the tent (see right hand side).  Yes, and it was a stunning photograph of an unusual view of Table Mountain and the 12 Apostles.  But to anyone not familiar with the mountain, it's almost meaningless.  To use it for branding is just muddled.

The promise of the Free State pavilion outside wasn’t carried through inside, where strong brands (like Clarens) fought with geo-political districts.  And what on earth was the Limpopo Treasury doing with a stand at Indaba?  Now that’s an example of misguided efforts (and budgets)!

While I am seeking out the best of the best in people and products during these Travels, what interests me most are destinations and destination brands, and it’s here that the SA tourism product doesn’t fare well at all.

World Travel Awards
A highlight at Indaba was the presentation for the World Travel Awards. We publish the list for Africa and South Africa in full.

Africa’s Leading…
Airline South African Airways
Airport Tambo International Airport, South Africa
Boutique Hotel Saxon Boutique Hotel & Spa, South Africa
Boutique Hotel Brand Mantis Collection
Budget/Low Cost Carrier 1time
Business Car Rental Co. Avis
Business Hotel Sandton Sun
Business Travel Agency Travel with Flair
Car Hire Europcar
Casino Resort The Palace of the Lost City, South Africa
City Tourist Board Johannesburg Tourism Company
Conference Centre International Convention Centre Durban, South Africa
Conference Hotel Kempinski Hotel Djibouti
Conservation Company Shamwari Game Reserve, South Africa
Cruise Line Silversea Cruises
Destination Cape Town
Family Resort Sun City Resort, South Africa
Game Reserve Brand Mantis Collection
Golf Resort Fancourt Hotel & Country Club, South Africa
Green Hotel Nairobi Serena Hotel, Kenya
Hotel Mount Nelson Hotel, South Africa
Hotel Brand Starwood Hotels
Luxury Hotel Arabella Western Cape Hotel & Spa
Luxury Lodge Thanda Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Luxury Train The Blue Train
Marketing Campaign South Africa Tourism, It’s Possible
Port Cape Town (Port)
Resort Sun City Resort, South Africa
Responsible Tourism Co. Nkwichi Lodge
Safari Lodge Shamwari Game Reserve
Spa Resort Fordoun Spa, Hotel & Restaurant, South Africa
Sports Resort Zimbali Lodge & Country Club – South Africa
Suite Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite, Saxon Boutique Hotel & Spa
Tourism Dev. Project Legend Golf & Safari Resort
Tourist Board South Africa Tourism
Town House Hotel Shamwari Town House
Travel Agency Club Travel, South Africa
Travel Exhibition INDABA
Travel Management Co. Travel with Flair South Africa
Villa Queen Cleopatra Villa, Savoy Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
South Africa’s Leading…
Beach Hotel The Long Beach, Cape Town
Boutique Hotel Saxon Boutique Hotel & Spa
Business Hotel Sandton Sun
Game Reserve Brand Mantis Collection
Golf Resort Fancourt Hotel & Country Club
Hotel Mount Nelson Hotel
Resort Sun City Resort
Spa Resort Fordoun Spa, Hotel & Restaurant
Travel Management Co. Travel with Flair
Villa Ellerman Villa

For some, Indaba is a chance to get out of the office and party; for some it’s a rare opportunity for networking or checking out the opposition; and for some — like Horst Frehse and Rick Taylor who I repeatedly tried to say hello to — it’s a time to really work hard!

One response to “Indaba 2009”

  1. Carl hi…About non-branding of Cape Town by Cape Town Tourism and other Cape Town related marketing organisations..I agree 150%…

    When the “TP” (as it was then called)(tented precint) first surfaced in 2004, I mentioned BRANDING, BRANDING, BRANDING at the exhibitors briefing that year (at MTN Centre) and, of course, directional signage from registration in the main foyer to the new location.

    I suggested that organisers create a pathway with those huge luminous green mats (shaped as feet) silkscreened with the words “Follow ME to the Tee-Pee” … Of course, my suggestion was simply glossed over, as is usual… and so, five years down the line, problems prevalent at the outset, still rage…

    During set-up this year, rain came pelting down, resulting in the marquee roof collapsing and stand exhibits being damaged.

    Non-branding of Cape Town, or for that matter, South Africa, is a major recurring never-ending problem. The South African stand at ITB 2005 was a total disaster. It seems that there are no guide lines in place nor anyone who knows and understands the complexities of effect branding.

    Thanku for this excellent overview and your thoughts … Take care and speak soon … Uschi

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