The second day of the Overstrand Tourism indaba started with a packed auditorium on Thursday, 7 September in Hermanus.
The event formed part of the Overstrand Municipality’s drive to develop a tourism strategy that speaks to what the industry wants and not what the Municipality considers to be priorities.
Addressing the audience, Councillor Clinton Lerm, Mayoral Committee Member for Investment, Infrastructure and Tourism, spoke about the planned role and vision of the Overstrand Tourism Department.
He planted the seed to rename Overstrand as Cape Whale Coast or Whale Coast as a more appropriate destination brand that resonates with visitors and includes all the villages and towns along the route to the benefit of all. A public participation process will be followed. Councillor Lerm also mentioned the impact of social media and made a call of action that people should hold back on negative comments on social media as the resulting reputational damage for our region is difficult to recover from. Tourism should tap into local icons such as the Hermanus Whale Crier and explore the spectacular Clarence Drive.
In closing, the councillor said the Municipality’s focus for next year will be the Travel Indaba in Durban and a winter campaign to mitigate the slow season. He introduced Alec Hog, founder of BizNews.com, as facilitator for the day’s panel discussions.
The first panel focused on why sustainability matters, with Wilfred Chivell (Marine Dynamics and Dyer Island Conservation), Catherine Nyqvist (Panthera Africa), Clayton Niemand (Grootbos Private Nature Reserve) and Jessica Smit (White Shark Projects). They discussed the increased importance of sustainable tourism practices. Travellers feel connected to an area and tourism product if they contribute to the welfare of the animals and people. Sustainable tourism is about more than environmentally friendly practices such as recycling and water savings.
Online booking platforms and its workings were unpacked by Theresa Emerick of NightsBrige and ActivityBridge. She provided a comprehensive and informative presentation on the importance of an online presence and how accommodation establishments can be more visible. She confirmed that online bookings have surpassed pre-pandemic 2019 figures and said 2024 looks to be a phenomenal year.
A lively discussion by Trevor Hewett (African Pride Tours), Martina Barth (The Liz McGrath Collection), and Ali Abdullah (Thompsons Africa) gave insight into source markets. They concurred that collaboration is key in moving forward. A few pointers included: an increase in travel from African countries – especially East Africa where no visas for visiting South Africa are required, Chinese travellers are activity orientated, Halaal and vegan tourism are increasing, the Indian market enjoys activities and require access to kitchen as they travel with their own chef to cater for dietary requirements.
Overstrand Municipality Property Administration Manager, Anja le Roux, spoke to the municipal requirements for accommodation, events, and restaurants.
Next was Professor Jayne Rogerson of the University of Johannesburg and Daleen Fouche of South African National Space Agency (SANSA) who shared details about travel trends. Professor Jayne reminded attendees that the therapeutic spaces offered in the Overstrand has attracted visitors who wished to feed their soul. Glamping – luxury camping in nature – is also in demand and the UNESCO acknowledgement as a Creative City of Gastronomy – the only one in Africa – is an aspect that needs to be used more. SANSA is open every Wednesday at 11:00 for a free educational and informative tour of the facility.
Addressing marketing, Ross Kata of The Perfections Group, encouraged tourism role players to follow the money. Consider where the main sources of business income originate from and concentrate efforts on these sources. Ross singled out the US market as a market that has money, direct flights to South Africa and an exchange rate that favours them. Service orientation should be paramount and staff working in the tourism sector need to sharpen their skills.
The final panel discussion explored the value of day trippers as they have meals and buy curios, and if the experience is memorable, they return for longer stays. They also share the good memories with other friends bound to travel to South Africa.
Cindy Schalkwyk of EarthStompers and Barry O’Donoghue of Cape Xtreme Adventure Tours said that the more attractive the destination is for a tour operator to stop with visitors, the more busses will arrive. The lack of parking for coach tour buses and minibuses is a concern and our area and towns need to be more user friendly for the buses.
Packages should be offered to visitors with a combination of an activity, gastronomy and arts and culture experience. US travellers enjoy visiting farmers markets and are looking for something real. When it comes to itineraries there should not be a focus on town names but rather a focus on the products.
The Indaba succeeded in sharing relevant information and in giving the sector the necessary guidance on how to take their business forward. Networking helped with new relations and new contacts to build a stronger local industry. The Indaba laid the foundation for a visionary strategy for Overstrand Tourism.