In the interest of tourism…

From a blog by Peter Carruthers, a South African marketer living in Norway and obviously on holiday in Cape Town now. Circulate to the moaners and anyone dealing with tourism / tourists. Forwarded… In the interest of tourism to South Africa

Sell what you have now…

Each time I return to SA I am stunned. It is so much better than the publicity leads one to expect.

The newspapers do a fine job of unravelling all the dirt in SA, and sharing it with the rest of us. And we, over a braai or twelve, have no shortage of doom stories. From the outside SA looks close to the Apocalypse. But tourists don’t care about our fears for the future (and we have always had them). They just want a good time, and SA offers tourists that in abundance.

I think that most folk in SA don’t realise quite how tough it is to make a living anywhere else.

I have been a marketer all my life. For me Marketing Rule #1: Sell what you have now.

SA scenery is, of course, wonderful. But not unique. You’d battle to compete with Norwegian fjords, Mauritian beaches, English castles, anywhere in Tasmania, or the road from Vancouver to Whistler – all of which are gorgeous.

But…

Right now, SA has superb, world class airports. Right now, the air connections are superb, cheap, and friendly. Right now, the roads – at least those that tourists like me use – are better than most in the world. Right now, all the accommodation establishments are superb value for money. Right now, where else on earth can you get an award winning 2006 Shiraz for less than £5?

(Hint: Nowhere that I have found, but right now Mooiberg farm stall on the R44 between Stellenbosch and Somerset West has a bunch of them, as well as a ton of great wines for less than £2.)

Right now, the restaurants are not just superb, but very cheap compared to any of the countries I have visited. And, wait for this, people actually serve you at restaurants. My Norwegian wife swoons.

My personal chef (as I have come to think of him) at the new Gateway Hotel in Umhlanga, for instance, crafts a chilli, bacon and cheese omelette with so much care you’d think his life was at stake. After that first ‘Durban mild’ version, my life was, but fortunately I managed to lose three kilograms by lunchtime.

We’ve since agreed that the best way to add chilli to an omelette is to grasp one slice firmly with a tweezer, wave it gently across the top of the pan above the simmering contents so that the fumes mingle, and whisper a Zen type prayer before putting it back in the bowl with its family. And that’s plenty hot for this Cape Town gent.

That’s the great stuff you sell if you want buyers. They’re not interested in why it works, or how it works, or what the experience next year will be. They don’t want to know that the waiter dropped some food in the kitchen or that the receptionist is building a R16 million home in Verulam on her R5213 per month salary.

They want to know if the R150,000 they are investing in a three week family break in November is going to be better value than anywhere else. (It will be if they come. It won’t if they don’t arrive because our fears for the future send them to Cyprus, Crete, Spain, Australia, Canada, or any one of 120 other not so nice destinations.)

Cape Town over the last 15 winter days was warm enough to be a heat wave in Oslo, and on each day the temp has been higher than Oslo which is in mid-summer.  Yet each person I spoke to warned of the looming storm because such fine weather could not last. When we hear tourists wax lyrical about the joys of the country we feel the need to balance their happiness with our own view of reality.

As I see it, tourism can bring immense amounts of money into SA. This is money that is already being spent elsewhere. It is simply a matter of guiding it here. And you won’t do that by selling the problems. No one cares when they are on holiday.

Sell the hope. And sell what you have now. Worry about next year when it comes. And if enough tourists come, next year will be a lot better than you expected.

Cape Point Route thanks Peter Carruthers for a wonderful reminder of how fabulous we are! If you want to come on holiday then do come to Cape Town  – we’d love to share our thoughts and ideas and our fabulous city with you.

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