I’ve learnt something interesting in Limpopo. Most accommodation establishments in this province aren’t really part of tourism at all — in fact, about 70% of all bednights spent in the province have very little to do with tourism.
I define tourists as discretionary spenders — they have a choice and decide where they want to go. They are attracted by environments, leisure options, shopping, a stimulating place for meetings, etc. They have a choice.
Now that 70% certainly doesn’t service a tourist market as defined by discretionary spenders — they have a captive market that mainly services the mines and other industries in their towns. They cater for the commercial travellers that have to visit a certain town.
So why is this important? These establishments don’t need to participate in destination marketing, they just need to make their products known and a good relationship with the mines or whatever is usually sufficient. They don’t demand quality, stimulating and competitive environments because all they sell is shelter — a bed for the night rather than a compelling place to visit.
Now this has a big impact on destination marketing and is one of the reasons that Limpopo is so badly marketed — 70% of the product owners have different needs. This also shows in the priority which municipalities give to tourism and destination marketing. It shows in the attention given in major towns to quality environments conducive to tourism.
Two exceptions I’ve come across on Mopani’s Route 71 are neighbouring Tzaneen and Phalaborwa, where there seems to be a battle going on for South Africa’s national Cleanest Town of the Year Award. They are trying, but are they taking it far enough?
Probably not but then tourism product owners who are part of the destination marketing effort haven’t banded together sufficiently, investing in destination marketing and demanding that their local municipalities do the same. Businesses that participate in their local destination marketing should be recognised, and Limpopo Tourism should accredit effective local tourist offices’s and encourage them with funding.
Limpopo Tourism should not be running the local Tzaneen Info office! It is the local municipality’s legislated function and this only encourages them to abrogate their responsibility.
What’s the most important difference between commercial travellers and real tourists? Real tourists spend more money and, if the enjoy their stay, they come back to invest in the area. They invest in property and businesses, but frequently they are also moved to help improve local communities.
Limpopo Provincial Government and Limpopo Tourism & Parks have provided little discernable leadership to date. There is no tourism legislation as exists in the Western Cape. There is no tourism business plan except for what’s in someone’s head (more on this in another post). It’s mind boggling that taxpayers funds can be allocated in the absence of an approved business plan!
If I sound harsh on Limpopo Tourism, there appears to be some light. I met Morris Mabada (their new regional manager for Mopani) briefly yesterday. He impressed me!