As the CEO of Johannesburg Tourism Company, Lindiwe Mahlangu-Kwele is providing the key link between sport and tourism at this summer’s FIFA 2010 World Cup. One of the rapidly rising stars of travel, she has played a pivotal role in unlocking the soul of Johannesburg, the “City of Gold”, and using tourism a catalyst for social betterment. On the eve of the World Cup, what does she and Joburg have for their greatest ever challenge?
BTN: What does it mean to you, as a South African, to be hosting the first World Cup in Africa?
LMK: This is a lifetime dream, but more importantly this will change the geopolitical face of our country. It will dispel the myths and stereotypes about our ability as a country because people will have first-hand experience of who we are as a nation. More importantly it’s the lasting legacy beyond 2010, world-class service, infrastructure, a diverse range of graded accommodation stock, skills and an extremely patriotic nation who will show the true warmth and hospitality of our country.
Lindiwe Kwele at Indaba 2010 with Sibongile Mazibuko
BTN: What measures are you taking to ensure the World Cup creates a legacy that will last beyond 2010?
LMK: Ensuring that every infrastructure investment that has been made is sustainable beyond the event, skills transference to guarantee a capable and qualified workforce to sustain the South African economy, safeguarding the institutional memory and learning from working with qualified global experts’ in order to replicate the model towards enhancing our competitive edge, ensured the construction of multi-purpose stadia to ensure usability by other sporting codes, more importantly improved service standards amongst our operators and quality assurance and compliance by accommodation. We are expecting more airlines as the aviation policy is encouraging the opening of the skies which will increase competition and reduce costs of travelling, thereby increasing consumer choice.
BTN: How do you see Joburg as a tourism destination evolving beyond 2010?
LMK: I see Joburg continuing to be the trendsetter in terms of shopping, art, film, theatre (creative industry), meetings, conferencing, as well as an events destination. I see us defending and growing our market share, and to be ranked amongst the Top 100 cities in the world. I see us continuing to attract mega events supported by world class infrastructure as a legacy for 2010 and beyond.
BTN: What are the highlights of Joburg’s tourism campaign for FIFA 2010?
LMK: The campaign is based around the lifestyle elements of Joburg. Looking beyond the 90 minutes of the game, we promise the visitors party time, music, dance, dining, fashion, theatre, plus more. It is our objective that visitors will enjoy the Joburg experience to such an extent that they will become repeat visitors to the destination after the World Cup.
The Joburg Rocks campaign offers a diverse range of attractions: visitors will be spoilt for choice, with something to do after the 90 minute game… it’s going to be party galore!!!
Joburg is the most cosmopolitan city in Africa, pulsating, dynamic, diverse, the essence is the soul of its people that makes Joburg unique… Where Africa meets East, and where East meets West, so we offer visitors a lifetime experience but all of these are offered with a bit of sophistication and the whole world identifies with this… hence the claim that we Rock!!
(Joburg by night)
BTN: What are you hoping to achieve by hosting World Sport Destination Expo?
LMK: Mega-sporting events are the key driver of tourism growth. Joburg has repositioned itself as Africa’s premier events destination, therefore hosting such an event will reinforce this messaging and create a platform for policy direction around hosting and investing in mega-sporting events. It will also add onto the list of our world events that we have hosted.
BTN: How important is sport tourism in Joburg’s overall tourism strategy?
LMK: It’s the cornerstone of our strategy and our market share is driven by mega sporting events. Joburg didn’t do badly amidst the global recession last year due to the hosting of the Fifa Confederations Cup, India Premier League (IPL) and British Lions’ Tour, so our occupancy rates sky rocketed due to these mega sporting events.
BTN: What do you have planned for African Fashion week and World Fashion Month? And how will it help build Joburg’s reputation as Africa’s fashion capital?
LMK: Currently we are looking at merging fashion with football as the two go hand in hand. Joburg can safely claim to be the fashion mecca of Africa and this period is ideal because the world fashion icons will be on our shores and it is strategic to showcase the best of what we have to offer. And hosting fashion weeks has enabled Joburg’s designers to participate in the New York and Paris fashion weeks and therefore this is a continuation of our quest to entrench ourselves within the global fashion arena
BTN: How has hosting Miss World for the past two years helped forge Joburg’s fashion credentials?
LMK: Miss World fashion shows have seen our designers being given a platform to showcase on a world stage. They also have a huge global platform through the contestants, and a potential 115 countries that now know about our creations.
(Above: Soccer City)
BTN: You were voted “African Travel Personality of the Year” by the World Travel Awards last May. Which of you achievements within the industry are you most proud of and why?
LMK: Repositioning Durban as the fun city to visit, got the private sector to fund the campaigns and our programmes, achieved talkability and increased Durban’s market share and defended its position as a leading domestic tourist destination. Turned Joburg around as an energetic, pulsating, sophisticated and dynamic city in Africa, brought in Miss World 08/09 amongst other major events and conferences to Joburg, which saw the city jump from number 152 to 120 in the ICCA Rankings. Leveraged off the mega-events i.e. A1 Grand Prix, Megafest & Miss World to showcase the city’s infrastructure, people, and culture to the global audience. Fostered strategic alliances and winning the hearts & confidence of my South African tourism colleagues to support our initiatives. Most importantly I have ensured that all these events that we attract to Joburg leave a legacy for our city not only for tourism development but also for social development.
BTN: What excites you most about working in travel and tourism?
LMK: The evolution of the industry and its competitiveness. More importantly you deal with people from different walks of life and we ultimately are interconnected to one another so it’s the most comfortable space to be in.
BTN: What do you hope to achieve over the next five years?
LMK: Using my talent and abilities to influence policy direction around using tourism as a catalyst for growth and development. Champion responsible tourism practices and make time to contribute to the social development agenda of our country. Also to be recognised as a thought leader in destination management and marketing.
BTN: How does hosting new events stimulate tourism?
LMK: It boosts infrastructure development and maintenance, improves service skills and standards, offers a platform for the destination to showcase oneself, increased arrivals, spend and length of stay thereby contributes to city’s GDP, sustainable growth and job creation.
BTN: What do you see as the biggest growth opportunities for Joburg in 2011 and beyond?
LMK: Obviously Joburg is driven by the services sector but business tourism is growing steadily over the years. With the investment in the Gautrain, I see more telecoms, retail growth opportunites along the Gautrain route, electronics.
BTN: What lasting image of Joburg would you like football fans to take away from this year’s World Cup?
LMK: The greenest city in the world, warm and hospitable people, quality service, value for money, accessible, and more importantly an authentic African experience.