Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth was one of the tourism stars of the FIFA 2010 World Cup. BTN met up with Mandlakazi Skefile to find out about her new role as the tourism chief of this incredible part of South Africa.
Located 763 km east of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay is regarded as the “official” gateway to the scenic Eastern Cape Province and the famous Garden Route. It is the only city that boasts the Big 7 (elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion, leopard, southern right whale and great white shark).
BTN: How would you describe your new role as Chief Executive of Nelson Mandela Bay?
MS: My new role is the one that needs to provide direction and leadership to the entire staff at NMBT in order to deliver on our mandate of selling Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) as a preferred holiday destination. Also my role is to engage with all relevant stakeholders in the industry in an effort to grow tourism in NMB.
BTN: Which areas of your tourism product offer the most exciting opportunities for growth?
MS: It is in the Meetings Industry as well as Sports Tourism (especially water sporting events). If we grow these components of our tourism, it will yield very good returns.
(Japan vs Bafana Bafana at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium)
BTN: What is your favourite memory of the FIFA 2010 World Cup?
MS: Seeing loads of people in our bay having an honest good time. Most of our places of entertainment were buzzing with vibe and excitement from the beach front to the townships. I looked forward to each day and what experiences it had to offer.
BTN: What are the lasting legacies of the World Cup you hope to see for NMB?
MS: The first one is the infrastructure that it has created for us. We now have a facility (which is our new stadium) that can hold up to 45,000 people for either a sporting event of music concerts.
Secondly, our public transport system has proved that it is capable of handling large numbers of people. This will add value to our sustainable and responsible tourism strategy.
Our airport has demonstrated the ability to receive direct chartered aircrafts from abroad. During the World Cup, an aircraft carrying 280 passengers flew in direct from Portugal. That has created an opportunity to encourage direct charted flights.
(Elephants Walking At Addo Elephant National Park)
Lastly, are the people of Nelson Mandela Bay – the way they have received our visitors was amazing. We have heard very positive stories during the World Cup where visitors hand bags were returned to their owners after being left in a public taxi, visitors wallets containing passports being returned to their owners, some residents opened their homes to receive visitors in order for those visitors to experience the culture of the people in the Eastern Cape and Nelson Mandela Bay. The list is endless.
BTN: How would you describe the Nelson Mandela Bay tourism experience?
MS: The experience here is quality, relaxed, relatively safe, value for money and very convenient (all the attractions are within close proximity. Some of the wild life experiences for instance lie within 15 minutes of the airport).
BTN: What is your strategy for ensuring the good will and publicity generated by the FIFA World Cup has a lasting impact in Nelson Mandela Bay?
MS: The strategy going forward is to make sure that those people, who visited us during the World Cup, do not forget about us. We want them to return with their families for holiday. We will continue to engage with outbound tour operators in those countries where they are from, especially those countries whose teams played in NMB.
(Nelson Mandela Bay is the “Water Sport Capital of South Africa”)
BTN: Nelson Mandela Bay is known as the “Water Sport Capital of Africa”. How does water sport and adventure sport fit into your tourism strategy?
MS: It fits in perfectly well. Currently, we are looking at growing our water sporting events so that we are justifiably a Water Sports Capital of Africa. Such events do attract people from other cities who are water sports junkies. It also stimulates economic benefit into the city in terms of people going to restaurants, shopping and generally places of entertainment. Already, NMB is the only city in Africa that hosts the full Ironman. Therefore, if the city encourages these events then we are very much likely to attract other international water sporting events like open water swimming events which are very big in the USA.
BTN: How do you see tourism in your region evolving over the next 5-10 years?
MS: I see it evolving in that, with the International Standards Convention Centre that will be operational by 2012, the meetings industry will undoubtedly grow. I see us being able to bid and secure large meetings and events (obviously, for now we will start small and grow this market). That will put pressure on our airport to make sure that there are sufficient scheduled flights that will cater to the demand we would have created. The same goes with our attractions and accommodation establishments: if the demand increases, that will justify both private and public sector to invest in building or creating more facilities.
(Conference in style at one of the many Game Reserves in and around Nelson Mandela Bay)
BTN: Which territories/countries present the brightest future opportunities for inbound tourism?
MS: Firstly we are targeting domestic tourism within South Africa. That is encouraging people from other provinces to come to our city. We have seen trends internationally that a large component of tourism is created within the domestic market. In terms of international markets, opportunities for inbound are from the following countries:
* UK (traditional market)
* Germany (traditional market)
* Netherlands (not a completely new market but need to stimulate it even more)
* USA (started tapping into this market only last year)
* Sweden (growth potential as the city currently has a twin city agreement with the city of Gothenburg)
* China (this has a huge potential but needs to be developed over time)