I have just finished reading a wonderful blog post by a gentleman called Peter Carruthers (you can read the article by visiting www.petesweekly.com.)
Peter is a marketing expert: although now living in Norway he originally hails from these fine shores. The article was written after one of his visits home (it reads like he was in Durban, but the sentiments are just as true for the Cape Point Peninsula.)
In the article Peter advocates a marketing approach of selling what you have now. I won’t try to give an exact outline of what he says, it would be better to just go and read his blog, the general outline though was that overseas visitors are much more positive about visiting South Africa than we are about selling the positives to them.
Cape Point Fear
As someone who is still relatively new to the Cape Point area I have an outsiders perspective on things. The one over-riding thing that jumps out about South Africa is that the race issue is still very much driving life and this just as true in the Cape Point Peninsula. Part of this is the absolute certainty among sectors of the population that the country is going to go the way of Zimbabwe (and many other African countries). It is only a matter of time before you are killed by a criminal act and that we are going to be under the rule of a military dictator sooner or later. The media doesn’t help with this.
Crimes are sensationalized in the worst kind of way and news departments only focus on the negatives of the country. This paints a very biased picture for anyone overseas thinking of coming here- luckily most see past this and come anyway.
We do not have a 1st world infrastructure in the country, but we are by no means the worst. The roads that tourists are likely to use are fairly good. My father visits at least once a year and doesn’t know what we are moaning about. Some of their roads are much worse (I am sure that areas of the SA are atrocious, but that is not our problem down here- our roadson the Cape Point Peninsula are generally in good condition and our authorities have a sensible maintenance schedule.) Yet recently there was much negative speculation in the press about what state the infrastructure will be in some 20 years in the future! We maybe need to keep an eye on these things but should it be allowed to scupper our present?
Then there is the crime rate- yes, areas of the country are terrible, I certainly wouldn’t want to break down in Lavender Hill at midnight, but I have been to cities around the world far worse than Cape Town, with areas that you would never dare run tours to (did you know that the number of Americans behind bars per capita is twice that of South Africa!). In fact parts of the Cape Point Peninsula are far safer than where I grew up- would I leave my doors unlocked at night- not on my life; do I fear to walk around- absolutely not.
Cape Point is a business– tourism is our product
If you run a company and you have employees who run around all the time telling potential customers all the negative things about your business and products they surely would not be working for you for long. Tourism is actually the Cape Point Peninsula’s biggest export (though technically I suspect that it is an import) and needs protecting.
In Peter’s article he points out that our scenery is spectacular but not unique (if you have been to where he lives now then you will understand.) It is the value for money, friendly service and the feeling that you are in Africa without having to worry too much about ‘being in Africa’. To quote the article:
“They’re not interested in why it works, or how it works, or what the experience next year will be. They don’t want to know that the waiter dropped some food in the kitchen or that the receptionist is building a R16 million home in Verulam on her R5213 per month salary.
They want to know if the R150,000 they are investing in a three week family break in November is going to be better value than anywhere else. (It will be if they come. It won’t if they don’t arrive because our fears for the future send them to Cyprus, Crete, Spain, Australia, Canada, or any one of 120 other not so nice destinations.)
Cape Town over the last 15 winter days was warm enough to be a heat wave in Oslo, and on each day the temp has been higher than Oslo which is in mid-summer. Yet each person I spoke to warned of the looming storm because such fine weather could not last. When we hear tourists wax lyrical about the joys of the country we feel the need to balance their happiness with our own view of reality.
As I see it, tourism can bring immense amounts of money into SA. This is money that is already being spent elsewhere. It is simply a matter of guiding it here. And you won’t do that by selling the problems. No one cares when they are on holiday. “
I’m not by nature an over the top optimist but I do see the value in selling what works rather than emphasizing what’s wrong. It is dangerous to brush all our problems under the rug, however the answer to them is only likely to come from finding solutions to them than simply highlighting them. Lets face it though- some parts of the country maybe a real concern but right now the Cape Point Peninsula has much more going for it than against it.