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Cape Town 'heart' soccer

Cape Town Tourism, the city's public-private partnership to drive tourism in the city, certainly impressed with its pro-active, post FIFA World Cup 2010, report back to stakeholders. Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold talks to about the local industry's strategy pre-and post world cup and why she believes disappointing occupancy levels doesn't tell the full story.
Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold
Half-way through the world cup, Cape Town Tourism was ready to release its first report providing feedback to its constituency, including details on occupancy accommodation levels and the number of International arrivals at Cape Town International Airport.

The flow of information continues unabated as the tourism body tries to come to grips with what the city and the local tourism industry gained, and how it can leverage the tournaments success over the longer term. Broadly speaking, what was your strategy in the build-up to the 2010 world cup?

Mariette du Toit-Helmbold: As a public-private partnership, Cape Town Tourism was tasked with marketing Cape Town, as well as Cape Town Tourism's member establishments.

With regard to members, we hosted workshops on marketing, pricing and value-added services leading up to the event, as well as undertaking our usual booking portal function before and during the event. When it came to marketing the city and getting Capetonians excited about being hosts, we had a number of projects on the go.

We had a very strong hand on messaging tourism in the city as well as [having] undertook reputation management for Cape Town here and abroad. We hosted numerous events ahead of the FIFA World Cup such as 365 Days and 100 Days Till Kick-off... getting citizens in the mood by pushing the Live it! Love it! LOUDER! mantra.

eMarketing was another big focus of ours ahead of the tournament, as we strove to put forward an integrated marketing approach. We had the webpage setup exactly one year before 11 June 2010, and we focused on increasing our Facebook and Twitter communities too. Before the event started, the site went mobi, allowing anyone wanting information on Cape Town access to information from anywhere, anytime.

We also hosted many international media ahead of the FIFA World Cup so as to give them a broader picture of the city.

Biz: And during the event itself?

Du Toit-Helmbold: We ran a series of media tours which included trips around the city, Cape Town's iconic attractions and township, cuisine and winelands tours, among a few others. We tried to give foreign journalists as big a picture of Cape Town as possible in the short space of time they had available to tour.

During the event we also aimed to assist as many journalists as possible - providing a plethora of information on our media page online, as well as information and comments. Cape Town Tourism marketing staff were situated at the media centres throughout the event so as to be on hand for information dissemination.

The Come to Cape Town campaign was a last-minute campaign to bring more fans to the Mother City, especially those fans basing themselves in Gauteng - our message was Cape Town is the Place of a Lifetime. We encouraged low cost domestic airlines Kulula, Mango and 1Time to partner on a campaign to publicise their various flight specials on a single platform, and we called on Cape Town Tourism members to offer excellent accommodation packages.

Biz: Durban tapped into the local tourism market with a TV campaign during the world cup. We didn't see anything from Cape Town?

Du Toit-Helmbold: Cape Town did not run a TV campaign during the FIFA World Cup. We made use of airport billboards, and we advertised the Come to Cape Town campaign mentioned above in print, particularly in in-flight magazines. Our primary focus for both the build-up and duration of the world cup wasn't on above-the-line advertising. We spent our resources on very strong guest relations and media hosting activities, as opposed to above-the-line advertising.

Biz: Have you managed to quantify short-term benefits for the tourism industry in Cape Town and surrounds during the course of the world cup?

Du Toit-Helmbold:Our final world cup report showed that, although the number of visitors to South Africa was not quite what was expected, it was clear that most hospitality businesses in Cape Town enjoyed a better-than-usual winter.

As per our final report, accommodation establishments located closer to the City Bowl and Cape Town Stadium enjoyed the most positive spin-off, reaching a 90% average occupancy in the week of the quarter- and semi-finals. Average occupancy levels for the full duration of the event are estimated at 55%.

International arrivals to Cape Town International Airport for the FIFA World Cup period (11 June - 16 July 2010) were up by 24% compared to the same period in 2009. Some major attractions reported visitor numbers in excess of 2009 peak season figures and FIFA World Cup visitors are also reported to have spent up to four times as much as the usual winter visitors to Cape Town.

For the period 11 June to 11 July 2010, Cape Town Tourism's network of 18 Visitor Information Centres reported a total increase of 47% in visitors to the centres, in comparison with the same period last year - international visitor numbers were up by a staggering 71% and domestic visitors by 15%.

Results also conclude that 90% of tourism businesses surveyed by Cape Town Tourism believe that the FIFA World Cup was good for tourism growth in Cape Town in the long run as new markets and more travellers were able to experience the city with a positive outcome on their perception of our destination, and that word of mouth [from] these visiting fans will have a positive effect on future business.

Biz: An average occupancy increase of 15% on the same period for 2009 seems disappointing, considering we are talking about the largest sporting event of the year.

Du Toit-Helmbold: Visitor numbers were not what was predicted or expected when the event was secured. Cape Town was less successful at attracting FIFA World Cup visitors because we were removed from the hub of the games. The peak in visitors for us came towards the quarter and semi-final period.

This was an unusual world cup - the first to take place in Africa (an unknown) and the international media were a negative element in the run-up to the tournament, especially with regard to readiness and safety issues. We also hosted this event on the back of a global recession, which truly affected potential visitor's pockets.

We do feel that the real benefit of hosting the FIFA World Cup is definitely the international exposure received during the broadcasting of games, as well as coverage on the city and country by international media that visited. Fans and media that came to the world cup have been shocked by how different the picture is on the ground and are taking this message home with them. We believe this word of mouth is our most authentic marketing tool in the aftermath of this event.

Biz: To what extent will the world cup create lasting benefits for the local tourism industry?

Du Toit-Helmbold:We expect to see an increase in tourist numbers over the next five years due to our international exposure and word of mouth from our newest Cape Town brand ambassadors. An increase in visitor numbers, as well as the possible countering of Cape Town's seasonality, would provide more business for existing tourism businesses.

With a big focus on responsible tourism, one of our biggest aims is to benefit local communities by focusing creative and tourism projects to a broader market.

Biz: Were you happy with the level of collaboration between regional and national tourism authorities?

Du Toit-Helmbold:Absolutely. The event logistics were exceptionally well-handled. We have proven we can do it!

Biz: What are the most valuable lessons Cape Town Tourism has learnt from this world cup event?

Du Toit-Helmbold:The hosting of the FIFA World Cup was less of a learning experience than confirmation of our expectations.

We learnt that we are capable of hosting major events, that we are an adaptive destination and a real contender in the eventing world. Realising this was a confidence booster for the country and all South Africans.

We saw the media play a huge role in the negative spiral of news about South Africa before the tournament began and we learnt that, even with national and international messaging and reputation management, the only way to counteract this is with a huge budget and the opportunity of hosting media.

We also saw two new source markets (outside of our usual European source markets) enter our visitor spectrum, diversifying inbound travellers and attracting more visitors.

Biz: You had a safe sex initiative distributing condoms with a message on the condom packaging reading 'Play it safe in Cape Town'. Have you had any feedback on the project and can you reveal how many condoms where eventually distributed and the number of venues that accepted them? Where there other responsible tourism initiatives in which the Cape Town Tourism participated?

Du Toit-Helmbold:160 000 condoms were distributed to over 30 establishments in Cape Town. Feedback on these initiatives was varied as some people thought it was a great idea and others mistook the message as the promotion of prostitution.

The Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct (an international Code of Conduct) was also launched in Cape Town in June 2010, by FTTSA in conjunction with UNICEF and Cape Town Tourism. This initiative aims to protect the safety of children and prevent the effects of child sex tourism - including human trafficking, child pornography and child prostitution. This code is continuously being rolled out.

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About Herman Manson: @marklives

The inaugural Vodacom Social Media Journalist of the Year in 2011, Herman Manson (@marklives) is a business journalist and media commentator who edits industry news site His writing has appeared in newspapers and magazines locally and abroad, including He also co-founded Brand magazine.