Tourism representatives must be accountable

Two dates in the Western Cape raise the need for the public to hold its tourism representatives to greater accountability.

September 30 is the deadline for your comments on tourism MEC Alan Winde’s plan for restructuring tourism marketing in the Western Cape.

Now CapeInfo’s readers have already voted – only 10 out of 170 votes think his proposal is a good start.  That’s a 5.9% approval rating!  That’s a BIG FAIL!

So just presenting the proposal shows that he and his advisors have not done their homework, or they are not up to the job.

This must be seen in the light that Winde has been tourism MEC for 15 months.  An abysmal plan is all he has to offer after all that time.

While in opposition, surely he should have been champing at the bit to get things right the moment his party swept to power?  Surely he should have known just what needs to be done?  Or do public representatives waste their time in the hallowed corridors of political power?

Apparently, some DA MPLs did want to start preparing for power while they were in opposition.  But Helen Zille told them to focus on winning elections rather than preparing plans to govern.

So we’re paying people for electioneering rather than representation?  That sounds a bit like the ANC’s dilemma where leaders are in a permanent state of electioneering.

15 months and still nothing to show

It’s as mind-boggling that Winde has also announced – after 15 months of tenure and after announcing a tourism restructuring plan – that he intends grouping all the Western Cape’s marketing agencies (including Cape Town Routes Unlimited – CTRU) into one Economic Development Agency (EDA).

Now when I asked him about this – it was a predecessor’s “Joint Marketing Inititiative” which was never carried through – in our May interview, he said there were no plans to pursue this.

This sounds seriously like “any plan is a good plan if you don’t have a plan.”

Winde refers to EDAs in London, New South Wales (Australia) and New York as shining examples of what the Western Cape wants to emulate.  EDA’s all over the UK are facing closure because of their cost.  London’s might survive primarily because of the 2012 Olympics. EDA’s in the UK have been effective when they have big budgets and focus on economic development and support.  Tourism marketing always remained the job of DMO’s.

Winde’s counterpart with the Transport portfolio, MEC Robin Carlisle, seems to be as bogged down.  If he is serious about making travel on the Western Cape’s roads safer, he would be going all out to encourage tourism traffic to follow Route 62 – bypassing the notoriously dangerous N1.  The tourism benefits would be incalculable.

But he and Helen Zille have ignored our open letter on this and the emails to them regarding this. So the Western Cape Provincial Government doesn’t score highly when it comes to the interests of the province’s most important industry over the past 15 months.

There is no doubt that a new structure is needed.

Winde has been naïve to expect leadership and buy-in for a new tourism structure in the Province from existing organisations, set on retaining their turf and status quo.  There is no doubt that a new structure is needed. Cape Town and the Western Cape competes at a disavantage with some other world regions and cities.  Sydney is one example. It’s going to take much more leadership from Winde.

Cape Town Tourism (CTT) AGM
October 7 is the date for Cape Town Tourism’s AGM.

The task team for restructuring tourism in the province has been a meaningless flop, clouded in secrecy, and pursued a single agenda which ignored CTT’s input.

Ian Bartes, CTT’s chair, represented the organisation on the task team and championed a policy of “quiet diplomacy”, which to all intents and purposes has failed.  He has recently resigned from the task team.

He spoke to CapeInfo about the difficulties of serving on the task team, the disputes with minutes, input which was ignored and the City following Province’s line – against Cape Town’s best interests.

It is CapeInfo’s view that Province has and is trying to railroad through what it wants, without thinking things through properly.  Province cannot fix their mess at CTRU so they want something new.

This is the tail wagging the dog.

This is the tail wagging the dog. CTT is SA’s largest tourism member organisation and has an enviable track record. City economies are the powerhouses that drive successful regions. By comparison, Winde and his tourism department have an abysmal track record.

In spite of the September 30 cut-off date for responses, a new consultant for the restructuring process has been appointed and has already prepared a new plan.  My guess is that it will be worse than the first.

CTT needs to get ready to do battle.  It needs an independent, strong, forceful and visionary chairperson.  One who will stand up to Province and the City, without fear or favour; one who will know that engaging respect is more important than being popular.

Over and over again, politicians and bureaucrats have shown that they cannot understand tourism – it’s about people, not processes.

  • CapeInfo has long been critical of CTRU but were reminded by Brian McDonald, vice-chair,  and Riedwaan Jacobs of Global Conferences, in comments to a previous blog post that “the Cape Town Convention Bureau is the envy of all the other cities in South Africa and they have done an excellent job.”  They are correct.

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