The previous post on this blog expressed our dismay with Wesgro. In our recent newsletter, we stated that Wesgro (Western Cape destination marketing agency) hadn’t delivered on the good news they promised (and noted key staff losses amid poor ongoing communication).
Judy Lain, Wesgro’s chief marketing officer, responded to the newsletter with the following email. We think it’s in the public interest to publish Judy’s email and our response. What do you think?
“I see Wesgro is still the only news you are reporting, if you would like an update to ensure that you report the facts please let me know I would gladly meet with you.
“In terms of our website, we have had some development issues so instead of launching a website that is not 100%, we have delayed it. This is not unusual in terms of web development. At present there is a website up.
“In terms of what Wesgro has been up to in the past few months.
– We are in the process of writing the 5 year strategy with DEDAT. We have presented this to each of the regions for feedback and are now in phase 2 of this
– We are in the process of writing the cycling strategy for the province in collaboration with private and public sector. We have put together a task team of private and public sector
– In total we would have attended over 6 international trade platforms promoting the province in our source and emerging markets
– We are holding individual workshops with our regions to help develop plans around driving domestic tourism
– We are doing weekly social media campaigns on our platforms
– We have produced 7 videos, one provincial and one for each region to be used on international and domestic platforms to help drive visitor numbers
– We have signed over 15 JMAs with media, tour operators and other partners to help drive tourism
– We have sponsored over 27 events in the province
– We have hosted over 300 tour operators from source and emerging markets in the Western Cape to help promote the region
– We have won 16 conference bids
– We have assisted with incentive groups and corporate meetings
– We have successfully launched on WeChat in China, their biggest social media platform
– We hold quarterly sessions with our regions to discuss plans going forward and collaboration
– We have done research in terms of Ebola effect on the Western Cape and engaged with over 3 000 outbound tour operators from our source and emerging markets in terms of this
So is Wesgro delivering? I believe we are if you just look at what we have done in the past few months.
We don’t do big advertising campaigns, like you use to do Carl. We don’t get the funding for it. So we work with partners that ensure high return on investment.
As I’ve said before, I am more than happy to meet with you if you have questions or issues with us to ensure that you do report on the facts.
I think defensiveness and lack of understanding and accuracy shine through in your email.
“Wesgro is still the only news you are reporting.” That’s an untruth. It wasn’t even the lead story in the last newsletter.
“We don’t do big advertising campaigns, like you use to do Carl.” Please name one big advertising campaign I’ve done, Judy. There isn’t one. If anything, I am known for doing more with less.
Keeping busy — as you are at pains to show — means nothing. What is the Return on Investment? What was achieved?
I keep thinking of the late Don Titmas’ comment when he opened the first fine-dining restaurant at the Waterfront: “People don’t understand that tourism and the hospitality industries are perishable industries. If you don’t sell a body in a bed, and bottoms on restaurant or bus or plane seats TODAY, it’s lost forever. You can’t sell it tomorrow.”
How many bodies in beds, bottoms on restaurant bus and plane seats did Wesgro realise? Now you’ll probably respond that it’s not your job to do the selling, so let me ask the question another way… what would happen if Wesgro wasn’t there? I think very little — it would be replaced, where necessity demands it, by more efficient and more effective private sector initiatives. And all Province needs is a shrewd investment analyser to allocate funding to the best initiatives.
Tourism doesn’t need endless strategies, plans and JMAs that achieve little. Wesgro has provided poor leadership to the Western Cape’s RTOs and LTOs and I think they are in the weakest position they’ve been in for years. In Stellenbosch and Robertson, the privately-funded Stellenbosch Wine Route and Robertson Wine Valley have taken the lead from their towns’ LTOs and they are doing far more. They “do” more than they talk and strategise!
But let’s come to the webite/s. You’ve been Wesgro’s chief marketing officer for over a year. You say that the existing site is too bad to be promoted; too bad to drive traffic to. In May, you said the destination marketing website was going to be launched in June. And it’s now September.
I’m sorry. I can’t take you seriously. A month away from a launch date and you were full of promise of how good the imminent site would be. And you haven’t been able to address the “development issues” in the ensuing three months? Come on! Trying fooling someone else!
It sounds like poor and maybe even incompetent project management.
I’m guessing, but I don’t think Wesgro has met its Service Level Agreement with Province on the website for the entire duration of your tenure. If I was the Provincial Treasury, I’d reduce Wesgro’s funding until it proves that it can manage a simple thing like developing a website.
Because, in spite of whatever spin you might try to put on it, websites are still a very important element of the marketing mix.
I would never place all blame at your door — because I think you have tremendous energy and enthusiasm — and I think your CEO, your board of directors, and the Provincial tourism department have contributed to the malaise. They are the ones who set direction and the tone of the corporate culture.
Is there anyone left at Wesgro with deep knowledge of and insight into the tourism industry? My experience in dealings with you is that you believe you have all the resources you need (extra funding excepted). Suggestions intended to be helpful are rebuffed. And I am luckier than most because some others don’t even get replies. (See a comment to the previous post.)
This is what happened at the old CTRU, Wesgro’s destination marketing predecessor, where the organisation even rebuffed its own board’s suggestions and requests. Does the same happen at Wesgro?
I am yet to discover a Wesgro fan club among industry leaders, and I do encounter more criticism than kudos. Maybe you need more collaboration where you listen more (and a JMA is not, per se, collaboration). Because, neither you nor the Provincial tourism department have all the answers.
PS. When will the marvellous new websites be launched?
But what does the wider industry think? Please have your say.