Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold has announced that she has decided not to renew her contract with Cape Town Tourism after having been CEO for the past nine years.
The City of Cape Town recently confirmed a three-year tourism marketing and visitor services mandate for Cape Town Tourism, securing its financial and strategic future.
"It has been an exciting, fast-paced few years and I have been proud to lead Cape Town Tourism through a fascinating and challenging era for tourism. The renewal of our mandate from the city and confirmed funding for three years is definitely a highlight. I am confident that the organisation is stable and sustainable with a very capable team and a committed and progressive industry board. Cape Town Tourism's reputation is established globally as one of the best practice examples of tourism destination marketing and private/public partnership tourism organisations. I leave behind a legacy that I am immensely proud of and look forward to a new chapter in my life and career," said Du Toit-Helmbold.
Under her leadership, Cape Town Tourism has won critical acclaim as a visitor services and marketing organisation doing sterling work at the coalface of one of the country's fastest growing industries. Cape Town Tourism has been recognised by the UN World Tourism Organisation for its "world best practice tourism organisational model and innovative initiatives in destination marketing".
Her achievements are manifold. In 2004, she was widely praised for her change management and project management initiatives, which culminated in the then-fragmented tourism industry in Cape Town being brought under one roof, with the establishment of a unified tourism body for the greater Cape Town Metropole - Cape Town Tourism. She was appointed CEO of Cape Town Tourism in 2004.
Other milestones include the development of Cape Town's first comprehensive Visitor, Industry and Tourism Marketing Strategy (2004), an integrated Cape Town Tourism Visitor Safety and Support plan (2005), securing the destination marketing mandate for Cape Town (2008), the first Digital Tourism Marketing Strategy for Cape Town (2009) which culminated in Cape Town Tourism being recognised as the "most connected" DMO in Africa in 2012, the 2010 FIFA World Cup Tourism, Visitor and Marketing Strategy for Cape Town (2010), an Urban Tourism Marketing Strategy and Campaign incorporating the first ever global media partnership between Cape Town, Durban and National Geographic (2011) and the three city partnership between Cape Town, Joburg and Durban Tourism in association with SA Tourism (2011).
Du Toit-Helmbold said that the last few years have involved making tough decisions within a changing global environment and local tourism landscape: "We have adjusted our marketing and visitor service strategies and adopted a centralised organisational structure with a strong focus on digital marketing and communications in response to changing consumer behaviour and trends. We harnessed the power of the Internet to attract visitors to our city and to ensure that our interaction with them during and after their visit is always personal, authentic and dynamic. We have also made central, the important role local citizens play in the marketing of their own city."
"We applied sound business strategy and practice to self-generate a substantial part of our annual budget, from a zero base in 2004 to R6 million by 2011. We are ready to grow this substantially with the implementation of a new commercial strategy supported by the City in 2013."
Said Sabine Lehmann, chairman of the Cape Town Tourism Board: "Mariëtte has been a fearless and passionate leader for tourism and a champion of all things Cape Town during her time at Cape Town Tourism, and her energy, optimism and creativity will be missed by her team and by our board. We wish her every success in her next chapter."
Du Toit-Helmbold will leave Cape Town Tourism at the end of July 2013 to continue working on tourism and marketing strategy initiatives, nationally and internationally, as an independent tourism and marketing strategist. She will also support Cape Town Tourism until the Annual General Meeting in October where she will present the 2012/2013 results and officially hand over the reins to the new CEO.
"Tourism and Cape Town is my first love and I will remain involved and committed in helping to grow the tourism sector in Cape Town and beyond. Besides its impact on economic progress and sustainable development, tourism is one of the sectors best positioned to deliver on job creation, perhaps the single most collective issue of concern at this time. Tourism creates prospects for entrepreneurship and provides millions of direct jobs worldwide, as well as countless more through its multiplier effects on related sectors such as trade, manufacturing and agriculture. It is one of the largest employment sectors in South Africa and a fast entry vehicle into the workforce for young people and women in both urban and rural communities.
"It is an exciting time to work in tourism and I look forward to applying my passion and what I have learned to continue working with government and the industry to make a positive difference." concluded Du Toit-Helmbold.
Cllr Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, said: "The City of Cape Town thanks Mariëtte for her leadership, commitment and dedication to promoting Cape Town, both locally and internationally. She has left an indelible mark on Cape Town and the tourism industry. We wish her well and trust that she will do well in all her future endeavours."
Cape Town Tourism's board will begin the process of recruiting a new CEO shortly.
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Whilst increased tourist arrivals verify the achievements of Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, I wish to highlight that so much more could be done to promote tourism to Cape Town. For 30 years I worked in Cape Town's tourism industry, before moving to the UK to continue the promotion of our City as a top class destination. Wherever I go and whoever I meet, I am being asked 'why does a City with so much to offer do so little to promote itself'? Obviously, Capetonians live under the misconception that their place is being promoted effectively. Sadly, this is not the case. As a result of these revelations, I offered my professional services to Cape Town Tourism, but my numerous letters were ignored. Can readers of these columns suggest a way to contact them? Comments would be much appreciated, either here or to my Email. Yours faithfullyUlrich Dannecker (E: firstname.lastname@example.org)