Poor Johannesburg!

In the Western Cape, we see tourism marketing being depoliticised in efforts to make it more efficient and focused (see here), while Cape Town Tourism ups the bar to be more relevant and represent the interests of the industry and its members more effectively.

In Johannesburg — the country’s largest city and the main gateway to South Africa — we see the Johannesburg Tourism Company (JTC) being disbanded and incorporated into the municipality, with an apparent scant regard for the industry’s interests.

I asked them some questions:

When will restructuring be completed?
“The process of integrating the JTC into the City of Johannesburg has begun and should be completed by the end of the financial year in June.”

What benefits does this restructuring offer?
“To ensure that the City of Johannesburg reaches its goal of a being a world class African city, the City announced that it is undergoing an Institutional Review Process (IRP).

“The IRP aims to align the activities of the city to the Growth and Development Strategy (GDS) – Joburg 2040 – which will result in an effective and modern system that will strengthen accountability, oversight, transparency and corporate governance.

“Changes to the institutional arrangements are prompted by the City’s quest to continually enhance service delivery; overall governance; and to respond to emerging needs of its communities. In recent times, some areas of duplication, span of control, clarity of lines of accountability, opportunities for economies of scale, efficiency and effectiveness have been identified, and needed to be addressed.”

Now that sounds like a load of bureaucratic hogwash to me!

Will Johannesburg’s tourism authority be more or will it be less accountable to the industry it serves; will it’s ties to the B&Bs and everybody else be closer or even more hidden in the bureaucratic maze of reports and processes?

Will they understand their customers — the tourists — better or are tourists the last thing on their minds, other than as statistics which they’ve played little role in growing?

I’ve been to the JTC offices several times and it gave the impression of a very elegant morgue.  Was it buzzing with tourists (…supposedly their bread and butter)?  No, I never saw a single tourist and the receptionist cast a lonely and bored sight.

Will tourism in Johannesburg be led by political agendas rather than the bottom line that sees everybody prosper?

In 2009, JTC hosted the Miss World pageant at a reported cost of R90 million.  What sort of return on the investment have they seen, or is this sort of detail unimportant in their, and the city’s, scheme of things?

At the tourism Indaba in Durban last year, Johannesurg, Durban and Cape Town announced that they would be working together on joint city marketing — urban tourism is the growth sector!  Since then, Johannesburg has pulled out.  Durban & Cape Town are going ahead with a joint campaign through National Geographic.

JTC’s response:  “The campaign with National Geographic will be relooked in the future following the full integration of the JTC into the City in light of the bigger City marketing and promotional strategies.

“The JTC has a multi pronged marketing and promotional strategy. Therefore, its non participation in the National Geographic initiative would not negatively impact tourism in the city.

Is that convincing?  It sounds like more hogwash to me.

None of the tourism stakeholders I spoke to had any praise for JTC.  Not one!  None had any faith that the City of Johannesburg will do any better.  JTC was, after all, their creation with a board of directors they appointed.

Destination marketing requires shared ownership and participation by public & private sectors, and communities.

Yet Johannesburg has such potential as a tourist city which JTC has never capitalised upon… because it would have meant sharing or handing over control?  Johannesburg’s strength lies in the character of the different suburbs — effective destination marketing will only happen when there are effective public/private partnerships at regional levels.

Looking at the City of Johannesburg’s website, it’s impossible to find out which member of the executive committee is responsible for tourism.  It’s as though it doesn’t exist.

A search does show an undated, unattributed Tourism Strategy document.  It’s certainly no action plan for Johannesburg and could have been written by someone in Berlin or Bangkok!  Is this municipality a competent custodian of tourism?

Johannesburg needs a strong and independent destination marketing agency.

One wonders where representative bodies like Fedhasa and SATSA stand in all of this.  This is happening on their watch and they seem to be asleep, and certainly not representing the interests of their members.  (If municipal & provincial changes are a never-ending yawn, sometimes it is the private sector’s job to force the issue.  As Simon Anholt said, the only remaining superpower is public opinion.)  But please do comment and tell us if we’re wrong.

There’s also a poll to see what you think… please click here to vote!

One response to “Poor Johannesburg!”

  1. I have been involved in the Johannesburg Inner City urban renewal programme for many years and in that capacity have worked closely with the City politicians and officials. Pre 1994 a joint city/business tourism company had been established but it was funded by the city. It had a somewhat mixed reputation but generally did a fairly competent job.After 1994 the politicians disbanded it in favour of an in-house department which was a disaster. Around 2001/2 it was re-established as “an independent company” (its directors, chairman and funding coming from the council!). It chose to relocate itself to Rosebank in snazzy offices that appeared to be almost always empty except for its staff and was generally ineffectual. It’s CEO left under what I believe were corruption charges. Since then it appeared to improve to an extent but its ties to the Council left it little if any independence of thought or action. Returning directly to within the highly politicised folds of the Council itself will finally stifle it completely.

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