A Call For Greater Co-ordination In Product Development

2nd July 2010

Furthermore, a complete lack of co-ordination often leads to neighbouring municipalities and provinces developing very similar tourism experiences within their areas, without acknowledgement of the fact that joint efforts could lead to an improved product offering. Ultimately, neighbours can end up competing with one another as they attempt to market extremely similar tourism experiences.

The strategy also states that there are still a number of areas within South Africa that have the potential to be turned into tourism destinations but many are not being developed. One of the actions suggested is the identification, at a national level, of all existing and potential tourism experiences, based on geographical location.

Colin Fryer, Owner of Centre Stage Travel, says he believes this approach will work, as long as the key selling message of 'Destination southern Africa' is first established. "Product development goes hand in glove with the need for all stakeholders to realise that southern Africa is one destination in the eyes of the international inbound traveller. I would like to see the three tiers of government, through the NTSS, applying their collective mindset to understanding and supporting the private sector to develop our destination before product, with one clear message to pull both domestic and international travellers to southern Africa," he says.

Siva Pillay, CE of the Tourism Enterprise Partnership (TEP), says the traditional tourism packages of South Africa have in-built borders, whereas the new approach needs to be focused on the development of joint, borderless packages. "A good example would be to package the experience of South Africa's nine cultures in one package over a 15- to 20-day experience, mainly by coach."

Another issue addressed by the strategy is degradation of cultural and heritage attractions. The strategy states: "Often visitor experiences are brought down by poor quality, management and lack of maintenance." Fryer agrees that this is the case at some provincial and local government-run attractions. "A shortage of informed, experienced and trained management and staff and a lack of sustained funding has often laid excellent experiences to rest."

Pillay also says some attractions and heritage sites are in dire need of upgrading. "Quality is the cornerstone of a good tourism product and, regardless of how fantastic the total package is, if visitors are exposed to disorganised or unclean environments and unfriendly service, that is what they will remember."

One of the steps proposed to combat this is the development and implementation of a strategy to upgrade tourism attractions and heritage resources, such as museums and monuments, with the assistance of the Department of Arts and Culture working through local government and other government entitities.

If you have any views on this issue or how the sector's strategy needs to be changed, simply submit your comments to the National Department of Tourism at strategy@tourism.gov.za well ahead of the July 31 deadline.