A Trojan horse?

It is in the interests of the tourism industry and all visitors that Cape Town Tourism is raised above party politics and the circus that politics introduces.

Local government has shown, since the introduction of party politics, that it is an unreliable business partner.

It’s also shown that it doesn’t have a clue when it comes to destination marketing. The worst kind of client is an uninformed client – who dithers, blames its agency and has no clear vision or explicit road map.

CapeInfo has asked the City of Cape Town for its tourism vision for over a year. There is none. (Do look at the links under “Learning from others” in the right hand column.)

More recently, we asked for its brief to Cape Town Tourism for the city’s destination marketing. The reply was so weak we have to assume there is none. Like the R6 million City-managed branding fiasco that preceded CTRU, will it be written by the agency?

Less than a year ago, the City’s mayco was saying that destination marketing should not be a City-funded activity; today it is going to be funded again.

Destination marketing should have been part of CTT’s mandate from the outset, but it was the City that determined it was not. The mandate does need to be changed in CTT’s constitution, but CTT’s budget and business plan cannot report to two authorities:

6.2 Cape Town Tourism exercises all its powers and duties in accordance with a budget and business plan approved by the Board and the City of Cape Town by 1 April of each year.

Surely a Service Level Agreement is sufficient? If the City buys a fleet of Mercedes trucks, does it get to influence and approve DaimlerBenz’s business plan? What if there is disagreement between the CTT’s Board and the City? That has happened before with disastrous consequences.

Funding from the public purse needs to be ring-fenced for two reasons. Firstly, so that if it is ever withdrawn, CTT can continue to operate successfully as a membership-based organisation. Secondly, public funds should be spent on a project-by-project basis, which can be evaluated for their return on investment.

In an email to CapeInfo earlier this week, Ian Neilson, the City’s mayco member for finance, said, “As general principle, all our grant-in-aid funding must now be for an auditable outcome, i.e. in general, we will not simply grant money directly for salaries, travel costs, etc, but will rather fund projects where we can evaluate the result.”

The City has missed an opportunity to really address Brand Cape Town across tourism and investment promotion in one go.

If the City were to get its act together, it would probably do the following things:

  • Make the “Destination Cape Town” logo – no, there isn’t one – one of the most widely recognised destination logos in the world. Used on merchandise, it would gain long legs, travelling the world, while earning the City considerable trademark royalties.
  • It would identify more projects like CTICC which doesn’t need an extra annual marketing budget, but has added more value to Brand Cape Town than the R100 million the City has spent on destination marketing. (This makes one wonder why CTICC’s MD is not a permanent member of CTT’s board, international practice elsewhere in the world.)
  • It would stop talking about an events strategy and demonstrate a New Events plan – attracting more visitors throughout the year. The City’s funding of the Cycle Tour is R1 million a year. If the City spent R25 million on events like the Cycle Tour throughout the year, it could attract 1.3 million extra visitors with a direct impact on Cape Town’s GDP of R6.5bn each year. Now we’re talking business!

Worth noting:

  • Over R3-million in proceeds from the 2007 Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour was distributed to charities.
  • CTICC is expected to have paid over R3bn in taxes by 2012.

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