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BTN spotlight: Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, CEO Cape Town Tourism

BTN spotlight: Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, CEO Cape Town Tourism

With less than 350 days to go till Fifa 2010, Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, is one of the business people in travel. However she found time in her hectic schedule to share with BTN her views on the industry, as well how preparations are going for the World Cup when Cape Town is an Official Host City.

BTN: How are preparations going for the World Cup?
MTH: Cape Town is getting ready to welcome the world. The City of Cape Town’s preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ are at an advanced stage with Green Point Stadium 70% complete, just under 350 days away from the tournament and on track for completion in December 2009.

Cape Town International Airport and Cape Town Station are being upgraded to world class facilities, while our road infrastructure is also being upgraded. Safety and security have been prioritized with 41,000 officers being deployed to safeguard the soccer events. In terms of tourism infrastructure, we have in excess of 70,000 beds in greater Cape Town with a 45% growth in accommodation capacity as a result of new hotels being built over the past five years. Cape Town Tourism supports 2,700 plus accredited tourism businesses, including over 300 tour operators ready to meet the needs of our visitors in partnership with our extended visitor services network.

The Mother City is also an established host city of major events and recent statistics show that four out of five visitors indicated that they would like to stay in Cape Town during the 2010 World Cup.

BTN: What still needs to be done? And what do you see as the biggest challenge ahead of the tournament?
MTH: The biggest challenge for our country is to host a World Cup that does justice to and aptly reflects the scenic beauty, history and heritage, cultural diversity and warmth of the South African people. The biggest opportunity that Cape Town Tourism has identified is to inspire the citizens of our iconic city to become ambassadors for the 2010 World Cup and welcoming hosts. Our Citizen Activation campaign has as a goal to inspire our citizens with confidence with the message “Cape Town, Ready to Welcome the World”, inspire excitement with the message “Live it! Love it! LOUDER!” and inspire ownership with our dedicated 2010 website to empower citizens with information.


(Above: Cape Town with Table Mountain, Shaen Adey)

BTN: How does Cape Town Tourism, and your role in particular, fit into the World Cup?
MTH: Cape Town Tourism has three functional areas along which we measure our performance and service delivery for the World Cup: destination marketing, visitor services and industry and community services. Naturally, these programmes are aligned with the Host City’s 2010 Business and Marketing Plan. We recognise that the 2010 FIFA World Cup represents a significant milestone and a springboard for sustainable long term-growth and legacy for our city. As a platform to generate awareness and positive media coverage it will play a vital role in positioning Cape Town as the lifestyle capital of South Africa.

Currently, we are upgrading and extending the reach of our Visitor Service network through our extended stay programme, aimed at encouraging visitors to make their stay in Cape Town a holiday, a new range of visitor guides and maps are being developed along with mobile and electronic Visitor Services and an informative website with cutting edge technology.  Furthermore, we are launching a focused staff training and awareness programme to enhance service delivery to World Cup visitors in particular. 

(Above: Township Barber Shop, Cape Town, David Lazurus)

We are working closely with representatives from FIFA, MATCH, FEDHASA, SATSA, national and provincial government bodies to ensure that the 2010 World Cup is an unforgettable event.. Responsibility in tourism is, as always, an objective and we are particularly proud of Cape Town Tourism’s participation in the Green Goal programme.

BTN: How do you plan to build a legacy that will last beyond FIFA 2010?
MTH: Cape Town Tourism has established a strong working relationship with all of our various stakeholders and is committed to continue working with them to ensure that the 2010 FIFA World Cup ™ becomes a legacy for tourism growth and has a real and positive impact on all businesses, small or large.

The legacy that we would like to leave will include economic development and job creation, improved infrastructure, civic pride, service excellence, a sustainable and green Cape Town marketed as a destination for 365 days of the year.

Our Live it! Love it! LOUDER! campaign has civic pride at the heart of it as demonstrated during our One Year to Kick Off event that took place on the 11th June 2009 when Cape Town Tourism, stakeholders and media took to the city’s streets in a City Sightseeing Bus to make some noise and fill citizens with excitement. This was followed by a symbolic kick off from Table Mountain to mark this historic occasion.

(Left: Cape Town, St James beach, Shaen Adey)

We are focussing on in-destination activations to ensure that visitors to the World Cup have unforgettable experiences and leave our country as brand ambassadors, inspiring others to visit.

BTN: What advice would you give to fans that plan to travel to Cape Town during the tournament but don’t have tickets?
MTH: Firstly, we anticipate that a number of tickets might become available in the fifth sales phase after the Final Draw takes place on the 4th December 2009 as FIFA and corporate clients release the tickets that they won’t be using. 

Alternatively, the public viewing areas and Fan Park at the Grand Parade will be excellent venues to watch the beautiful game and experience the spirit of the 2010 World Cup. The FIFA Fan Walk will also link the Grand Parade with the stadium. 

BTN: You won “Africa’s Leading Destination” at the World Travel Awards in May. What do you think you have been doing over the past year to be winning plaudits from the travel and tourism industry?
MTH: We were extremely proud that Cape Town Tourism was simultaneously in the running for Africa’s Leading Marketing Campaign (Living Cape Town, Loving Cape Town); an incredible achievement after being appointed as the new marketing agency for Cape Town less than a year ago at the time. 

The secret of our success however lies in representing Cape Town – a world-class tourist destination and the excellent relationships that we enjoy with our stakeholders. It was a privilege and a pleasure to accept the award on behalf of the tourism industry and people of Cape Town. It is testament to their dedication to growing this city as one of the world’s favourite and most remarkable destinations. Cape Town is indeed Africa’s greatest city and ready to welcome the world.

(Left: Constantia Estate, Shaen Adey)

BTN: Do you have any specific measures in place to address the global downturn? And can the industry collectively do anything to ease the pain?
MTH: In order to tackle the economic and seasonal issues, we have to work on proactive tourism marketing strategies to reduce the impact of seasonality. Focusing on events and business tourism during this period is just one strategy that Cape Town Tourism is driving to reduce the impact of the global downturn. Domestic tourism has become a key focus area for many destinations around the world and Cape Town Tourism has also shifted its attention to capturing a larger share of this important market.

In my opinion some of the key points of learning for Cape Town are: those destinations and organisations that can adapt through innovation and effective public-private partnerships will come out stronger to lead the way to a new era in tourism; we should investigate new models, rethink traditional spending and place more emphasis on strategic partnerships and networks; we should continue investing in marketing, but in an extraordinary way, and allow for no wastage; we should think global, but act local; we should identify our window of opportunity and activate it effectively and creatively; government must give tourism the space to play as a serious economic stimulus (it is not about bail-outs, but rather about creating an enabling environment); as a destination, we must develop a price strategy and manage it; we must focus on creating more value and retain high standards. It is impossible to recover from a “cheap” image; and we must collaborate and invest in joint marketing efforts.

(Photo: Cape Minstrels, David Lazarus)

Cape Town Tourism is working with the industry to ensure that we can ride out the economic storm, hopefully coming out the other end stronger as an industry and destination. We are in the fortunate position of being a host city of key international events, the most significant being the 2010 FIFA World Cup. With less than one year till the kick-off of that event – the eyes of the world are upon us and we must make sure that we use this window of opportunity wisely to establish a lasting and economically successful legacy for the future.

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