A moral based decision, valuable for the environment
South Africa has been hit by a severe drought that the authorities recently declared a national disaster. The situation in Cape Town is particularly harsh. But South Africa Tourism says the government has taken steps to mitigate the impact on residents and tourists alike.
Faced with a severe drought, that has been classified as one in 1,000-year occurrence, tourism related establishments across South Africa and notably Cape Town, in collaboration with the authorities, have put in place a number of preventive initiatives to ensure adequate water supply for residents as well as tourists’ essential daily needs.
“The tourism sector supports approximately 300 000 jobs across the Western Cape and it is vital to preserve these jobs. During peak season (November – January), international tourists only add 1% to the population of the Western Cape. Majority of tourism establishments have rolled out measures to ensure their water usage is controlled, while many have developed plans for alternative supplies,’’ says Kim Emmanuel, Communication Officer at the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association.
The drought has been due to insufficient rainfall which led to a severe drop in the water stored in the dams. The South African Tourism officials say that due to extensive media coverage of the drought, there are several fears amongst the tourists, but which are completely misplaced. Most of the travellers worry about the ‘Day 0’, concretely the date when Cape Town’s taps are expected to run dry. Currently, Cape Town is fed by six dams catering to its 4 million inhabitants.
Among the steps taken by the hotels and civic authorities in Cape Town is the advice to limit shower time and not use bath. But the decision is moral based and is valuable for the environment, Hanneli Slabber, Regional General Manager, Asia/Australasia/Middle East, South African Tourism, told India Outbound at a recent event in New Delhi. “South Africa and Cape Town are open for business. Tourism activities are happening. There are certain things we need to be competitive on, and there are certain things that are a moral duty. And even if it rains buckets, we are still going to tell people to be more responsible when it comes to usage of water !’’ she added.
“The need of the moment”
In the past few years, South Africa has emerged as the preferred destination for Indian tourists in Africa. Indian leisure visitors numbers to South Africa surged 21.7% last year to close at an arrivals total of 95 377 and 42% of the total tourist arrival from India is return.
“While our guests have expressed concern regarding the water situation in Cape Town, they do understand that water is a very precious resource and must be used with thought and care. Since water scarcity is a global issue the situation in Cape Town brings it to the forefront and hopefully, encourages people to be more aware and governments to be proactive in taking corrective measures,’’ added Smita Srivastava, Director of Chalo South Africa, a TO based in Delhi, adding that the drought has had practically no impact on the tourism traffic from India to South Africa.
South Africa is not an isolated case in terms of facing water scarcity. California, Australia and Sao Paulo have faced similar issues. “We are learning from them. As citizens of planet earth, this is the need of the moment,’’ added Slabber.
Perhaps very appropriately, Cape Town is hosting, in May this year, the world’s largest water loss conference where 500 participants, from more than 50 countries are expected. Innovation and good practices should come out from the global meeting. By then, the locals hope that the rain gods would have showered their blessings on the city as it heads into the winter.
South African Tourism’s new chief marketing officer, Margie Whitehouse, is warm, passionate and a nurturer of people who is excited about the ‘sense of purpose’ her position offers.
An experienced brand specialist (she says she ‘grew up in Unilever – a great brand finishing school’), Whitehouse has been consulting for the past few years, and working a little less than she will be in her new position at the helm of South African Tourism’s efforts to market the country domestically and internationally.
I consider it an absolute privilege. South Africa is a great passion of mine. – Margie Whitehouse, South African Tourism CMO
Whitehouse, who is a graduate of the University of Cape Town and an old girl of St Andrew’s School for Girls in Johannesburg, has a 16-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter, who, she laughs, ‘are big enough now to not want me around as much’.
She says of her new role: ‘I consider it an absolute privilege. South Africa is a great passion of mine.’
She adds, ‘I’ve been involved in South African government for some time.’ Whitehouse previously served on the Board of South African Airways and worked with the Department of Trade and Industry, helping set up its marketing environment.
She also worked in fashion for a number of years, and more recently with smaller and emerging brands. For example, she recently helped with the positioning of Soweto TV.
Another passion is golf, which she got involved in through her son, who has played golf for South Africa. ‘My family have always been golfers,’ she says, though claims she is no good herself (which is hard to believe). Whitehouse is chair of the Women’s Professional Golf Association in South Africa, where her focus has been on inspiring girls to play and excel at golf, and on corporate governance, which she’s also deeply interested in. All her involvement in golf is on a pro bono basis.
‘I’m passionate about South Africa at the end of the day,’ she says, and for her, being the chief marketing officer of South African Tourism ‘is a dream job’.
Now just a few days into her new job, she says, ‘I’m trying to take in as much as possible, spending time with my team and getting them to onboard me. One of the things I love is to build a team and that will be a big focus for me. One of the things about working on my own is I’ve missed having my own team – I’m a nurturer.’
She adds, ‘I don’t think corporate South Africa could have enticed me back. For me, what’s extra special about this position is the sense of purpose.’
Image: © South African Tourism
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Michelle Grant, travel and tourism manager at Euromonitor International, looks at the impact of Ebola on Africa‘s tourist industry.
Since the outbreak of Ebola was declared a global health threat by the World Health Organization in August, the outbreak in West Africa, mainly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, has had a disproportionate impact on international tourism to Africa. Tourism declines have been noted in countries thoughts of miles away and without the virus. However, the Ebola outbreak in the hardest hit countries seems to be improving and some scientists are optimistic about containment within a year. Once containment happens and is well known, Africa can start the process of rebuilding its tourism industry.
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone account for less than 1% of international tourism arrivals to Sub-Saharan countries according to Euromonitor International, but fears about the virus are impacting countries thousands of miles away from the epicenter and have no cases of Ebola. A Safaribookings.com poll of 500 tour operators in Africa found that 50% of operators experienced cancellations due to fears about the virus and 69% said that they’ve experience noticeable declines in their future bookings.
The Hotels Association of Tanzania noted in October 2014 that business had declined by 30% to 40% compared to the pervious year and that bookings for 2015 were down by 50%. South African tourism players, One&Only and Go2Africa, have also discussed declines in their business due to fears of Ebola.
There may be hope for a turnaround in the near term, though. According to the WHO’s Ebola situation report from 10 December 2014, Ebola incidence is decreasing in Liberia, increasing or stable in Sierra Leone and slightly increase in Guinea. The race is on for vaccines and anti-viral medications while tests are being done on blood from survivors—all in hopes of containing the virus. Some scientists think that the Ebola virus can be contained within a year.
Once containment happens, it is likely that the positive news will be widespread, alleviating fears about the virus in Africa. It is during this time that private and public players in Africa should work together to promote Africa as a destination to international tourists, who are much more likely to come once the threat of the virus, is contained.
How has Ebola affected your tourism business? Tell us here.
24 June 2015.
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