We survived the Ebola panic; we survived the Visa fiasco (and hopefully South Africa will still catch up with Ethopia in making visas easily obtainable). Now government is taking steps which threaten to damage tourism from the inside, showing a complete lack of understanding for how the industry works.
Plettenberg Bay Tourism on the Garden Route has been phenomenally successful. So successful that the Bitou Municipality wants to take over its roles. You can read the Municipality’s official notice here. Nowhere does it provide for any future for the membership-based organisation… nor does the Municipality have the skills to take on the tasks. Is it just accessing a bigger budget to hand out to friends?
Plett Tourism states: “It contains many clauses with which we disagree, and is silent on many critical issues which need to be covered. Mostly, we oppose the principle of the destination marketing function being under municipal control, and the apparent termination of Plett Tourism’s role, with no reasons being given nor with any regard to what has been achieved over the past five years and to the ongoing work in progress.”
Provincial tourism minister Alan Winde disagrees with Bitou Municipality’s moves and supports the partnership models. And he went on to say, “It’s a big issue and the Auditor General is not helping. The AG wants tourism funding to be put out on tender and not transferred to the Tourism Board/private sector cluster bodies.” Welcome to tenderpreneur-land!
The Western Cape Government is taking the Auditor General (AG) to court on this issue with regard to funding for representative agricultural organisations. The AG’s steps are a response to the Estina dairy debacle in the Free State, but they are throwing the baby out with the bath water.
The strength of tourism in the Western Cape has a lot to do with the strength of private sector, membership-based, representative Destination Marketing Organisations. Cape Town Tourism is a shining example. When their current contract with the City of Cape Town ends, it’s highly likely that this contract will be put out to tender.
Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism says: “Having independent DMOs under a public private agreement allows for tourism to align to local government economic development goals and enables faster response to shifting market demands, which is the flexibility private sector has over government. Tourism needs to remain apolitical.”
Other municipalities have started thinking about taking tourism in house — Knysna and Stellenbosch are just two we’ve been told about.
Tourism is one area where national, provincial and local government each have their own roles, and the higher tiers cannot tell municipalities what to do — creating an ideal breeding ground for incompetence and corruption. But there are carrots and sticks which haven’t been explored yet. CapeInfo will be meeting with national tourism minister, Derek Hanekom, in the next few weeks to discuss this.
Tourism is a business which many onlookers believe they are competent to manage. They are not! Look at the mess our municipalities are in… the City of Cape Town included. Tourism provides access to new budgets to hand over to friends, which our politicians are so adept at doing. Tenders notwithstanding.
As our history shows, politicians cannot be trusted. And party politics at municipal level has proven to be an unmitigated disaster.