When I was in my final year at the University of Pretoria studying Law I was faced with the reality of an unplanned pregnancy. As with most young people growing up, I had very definite ideas of what I perceived to be right and wrong (in this case “the right to life” issue). When asked for an opinion on which route to follow, I vigorously campaigned in favour of what I thought was right. That was until I was placed in a position where choosing, what until then was entirely unacceptable in theory, was practically-speaking a very attractive solution.
My point is that we often criticize and view matters in isolation, as viewed from our ivory towers without consideration of other viewpoints, until we are faced with the reality of the alternative.
We all think we know what is logical, reasonable and obvious but does this make provision for the immeasurable emotional attachment to issues. The reality in most circumstances – and I find this particularly true in public/private sector partnerships where social and capitalistic natures clash – is that neither party has a true appreciation for the goals and objectives the other is trying to achieve.
As South Africans we have a unique but not insurmountable challenge of trying to build a prosperous economy, based on business principals whilst readdressing a mountain of social injustices.
The public sector representing tourism is about job creation, training and spreading the benefits to all parties while the private sector is faced with the realities of cost cutting (in some cases retrenching staff when necessary) and revenue generation.
Seemingly opposite objectives and totally different mind sets, but there are, however, some universal truths – no one believes in wasting money, no one believes in wasting precious time and energy and everyone wants to be acknowledged for their role in making a difference. I believe this can be achieved when people humble themselves sufficiently to communicate their needs and desires without fear of derision or consequence.
When looking at other countries’ tourism promotional material there is little to differentiate ourselves – most boast beautiful scenery, a plethora of activities, world class infrastructure, etc. But the one truly definitive, competitive advantage our country enjoys over any other is our nation’s ability to amicably resolve mind-bogglingly difficult circumstances.
What will it take to get tourism stakeholders from the various sectors into one room to come up with a shared plan for the City that has far reaching benefits for the region and its people? I use the word plan and not vision because I think we know what we want to achieve, but we need to set up partnerships where we collectively roll up our sleeves, creates joint projects that are measurable, and commit ourselves and our budgets to these.
From where I sit, I believe the only ones benefiting from the continued duplication in effort are the publishing houses, exhibition builders, advertising agencies, printers and support partners who provide material for each. Our planet desperately requires changed attitudes towards waste reduction and in a society where we are constantly inundated with information, isn’t the old adage of less is more relevant?
Another subject close to my heart and one that it’s hard for me not be biased about, since I represent a tourism attraction, is that a destination is only as desirable as the sum of its attractions.
People visit a city based on the experiences it offers and the tie-in these have with their value systems. Yet time and again it is the one sector that is often overlooked in terms of funding, marketing support, inclusion in research and development. As businesses they are left to their own devices.
Here’s an example: I have just returned from a short holiday to Montagu Springs. The town of Montagu must certainly attribute at least half if not more of its economic sustainability to this resort with its hot baths – so much so that when the November 2008 floods forced its closure for most of this year, the businesses in town suffered… YET the resort is expected to market and develop itself, at its own cost to the benefit of all.
Would it not be more beneficial for the businesses together with the regional marketing body to identify this resort as a key driver of success and invest marketing intelligence, management experience and budget into its success which in turn would lead to the spin-off benefits for all?
Since no one should get a free meal, in exchange for this support the business should be tasked with challenges of job creation, investment in CSI projects to uplift the area and spreading the benefits to all.
I look at the newspaper articles on the “demise” of Robben Island Museum, the plethora of environmental issues faced and the problems with the new ferry and admittedly sit back and shake my head making judgments but I do nothing. Why is it that when an ambulance approaches with its sirens blaring, we all co-operate and pull off the road to assist, but a product stumbles and we sit back and watch?
If two mighty ocean currents with completely different make ups can meet and harmoniously support a diversity of life off the Cape Coastline why is it not possible for us landlubbers to follow suit?
Jillian Grindley-Ferris: “I would sum myself up as a law graduate who stumbled into tourism because it was an attractive temporary position, exchanging taxation for visitation and cases with marketing wonderful places. Thirteen years later, I am the Brand & Business Manager of the Two Oceans Aquarium having worked my way through the company from an assistant to the Visitor Services Manager to the Events Co-ordinator and into senior management.”