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The Eastern Cape Government and the very reticent and administratively heavy Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Association (ECPTA) need to pick up this ball and roll with it. It must be mentioned however that residents and commercial beneficiaries of tourism income also need to be pushing from behind.
The Buffalo City Municipality and the ECPTA, together spend well over R20m to advertise our province and the city of East London. A large portion of this goes to the Africa Open Golf Championship which is televised from East London into millions of homes. Local and international viewers alike are exposed to what South Africa is, our brand East London, what it has to offer and also what it lacks.
Like any good brand, it needs an identity and sub-
Marketing professionals in the tourism industry, our tourism administrators and our political leaders are presented with an untapped opportunity. Here’s the rub however, instead of doing something about this, we have seen the East London beachfront deteriorate over the last twenty years. This while city planners debate development opportunities that never come to fruition.
In East London, aside from inactivity, we have in fact seen a regression. The city’s tourism office was recently closed and our zoo can no longer be recommended to tourists. Not to be outdone, the Port Elizabeth aquarium is a mere shadow of its former self and the city fathers of Port Alfred sit back and watch how raw sewerage is allowed to pollute the Kowie River.
Moving from the negative, I surely preach to the converted when mentioning that we have some of the best and most unspoiled beaches in the world, the Baviaanskloof, a world heritage site, the Addo National Park, the Wild Coast and the world famous sardine run, hours of sunshine with our moderate climate and our stunning golf courses, with East London Golf Club, Humewood and Fish River rated amongst the best in the country.
The importance of seeking out every opportunity to market our own brand, the Eastern Cape, to local travellers and more importantly perhaps to the illusive international tourist, on television and directly as they come to experience what we have to offer cannot be overemphasised.
The civic authorities need to take the first step and then we all need to work together, officially and as individuals, improve the brand identity of this wonderful destination.
Alan Hawkins is a freelance columnist and travel journalist.
He can be contacted by email firstname.lastname@example.org