Different makes the difference

2015-05-28 06:00

LAST week Ugu South Coast Tourism, in collaboration with South African Tourism (SAT), hosted a well attended and informative tourism packaging workshop in Margate.

SAT presenters showed us statistics and trends involving our foreign and domestic markets as an insight into achieving market penetration. In looking at the figures, I was reminded of how small fry our tourism is in terms of international and domestic visitor volumes abroad.

In 2013, South Africa received some 9.62 million foreign tourists yet in the U.S., Lake Mead (of Nevada’s Hoover Dam fame) hosted some nine million recreationalists and sight-seers - one lake in a desert region hosting an equivalent number of visitors as the whole of South Africa’s foreign visitation­.

Our response to the competitive challenge is to establish our destination sell by being different and as unique as possible - mundane does not work in tourism.

In the Netherlands there is a property­ called the Hans Brinker Budget­ Hotel which sells itself as the worst hotel in the world. Its marketing and sell is based on poor service and questionable hospitality offerings. Their advertising and slogans are quirky, off the wall and at times insane, yet this uniqueness has resulted in it being fully booked all year round. For entertainment, Google this fascinating place.

I am not advocating that the South Coast aspire to being the worst of anything, but being different makes a difference­. If we have exceptional service, the largest, highest, rarest, best and most of, and the like, then we can establish a base of unique selling propositions (USP), for example, our two top 10 dives sites in the world or the world’s southern- most coffee plantation or South Africa’s largest privately owned astro- nomy­ collection and planetarium – then we have hooks we can utilise to capture the imagination of our tourists.

Given that we compete with a plethora of coastal destinations in South Africa and abroad, it is this collective of USPs that will win over our tourism clients. We have adopted this approach in our marketing and advertising campaigns, which it appears, seem to be bearing fruit.

Many of our members report higher influxes of overseas visitors than expected and retailers are reporting increased turnover over what have been normally rough periods in our calendar year.

So in conclusion, while I may not venture to one day staying at the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel, I believe that the professional creativity of both the private sector and ourselves, backed with solid attention to excellence, can make the sort of difference towards tourism growth - our paradise with a capital P

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