SA Tourism is working hard at effective communication between itself, government, provincial tourism authorities and the private sector in order to ensure a unified message when promoting South Africa, says SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona.

“With a unified approach, one message gets communicated to the international travel trade and consumers and this will certainly help our cause in promoting South Africa as a tourist destination,” he says. “Collaboration and working together with the entire tourism stakeholder eco-system is vital in all facets of our industry. This goes for messaging as well. If we all speak as one voice around critical issues affecting our industry, this demonstrates to the world our unified intentions to promote tourism initiatives in our country. Mixed messaging does harm to our brand as a tourist destination.”

Ntshona was responding to Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom calling on the tourism industry to project a consolidated message to its markets abroad when dealing with tourism crises, such as the recent Western Cape water shortage or Ebola outbreaks in Africa.

Hanekom told the World Travel & Tourism Council Africa Leaders Forum in Stellenbosch recently that ‘Day Zero’ water crisis messaging had resulted in a 15% to 20% drop in tourism to the Western Cape; while international messaging around Ebola in Africa had caused a downturn in tourism to South Africa. “Ebola’s epicentre was closer to Europe than to South Africa and we did not have a single case of Ebola in South Africa, but Africa and Ebola became synonymous,” he said. Coming off a small base, there were massive opportunities to grow tourism in Africa, “if we do the right thing to harness that potential”, he said. 

Speaking at the same event, Cullinan Holdings CEO, Michael Tollman, said South Africa continued to lose tourism because its messaging around the drought, its visa regime and unabridged birth certificate regulations remained confusing. “The drought is over but how are we messaging this? How do we message that rules are changing re our visas and unabridged birth certificates? It’s a confusing message at the moment. Wesgro has launched a campaign, but we can all do a better job at messaging the end of the drought.”

Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris, said the agency had commissioned Grant Thornton to assess what could be learned from the drought crisis and its impact.  He agreed that it was critical to communicate a single message, something he said the Western Cape had achieved after all stakeholders formed a coalition, with an aligned strategy to get out a single message internationally. He said while the province’s new collaborative #NowhereBetter marketing campaign avoided talking about water and instead focused on the breadth of experiences on offer, it was also developing a waterwise tourism brand.