Greenhouse Gas Emissions | Rhoanda Jansen van Rensburg
November 20, 2018
Urban Econ | Developing Buffalo City’s Tourism Game Plan
November 20, 2018

Urban Econ | Developing Buffalo City’s Tourism Game Plan

Its long been discussed that the tourism sector in Buffalo City, needed a game plan. In November of 2017 the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality (BCM) started a process to update the long standing municipal tourism sector plan. The original plan, though extensive, was developed in 2005 and had thus become out of date. The process to develop the strategy was facilitated by the appointed professional service provider; Urban-Econ Development Economists.

Three public meetings were convened for the development of the strategy. These meetings had rich discussions on challenges and opportunities for tourism in the metro. It also proved a good networking opportunity for participants. The sessions focused on report-backs on the findings of the research conducted, and then group discussions on key aspects that needed to be included in the study. The sessions were well received by tourism stakeholders who indicated that they would wish to have more regular sessions like it in future. Key issues identified in the sessions were that:

  • The tourism sector requires the basics to be put in place. These include city cleansing, road, water and sanitation infrastructure and better safety.
  • The Buffalo City brand needs to be strengthened and the local tourism community needs to own that brand.
  • The need for information to effectively flow between the municipality, the municipal development agency (BCMDA), provincial departments and the tourism community.
  • The need to organise the tourism community within a representative body.
  • Proposed name changes to towns and cities in the metro could have an impact on branding.

As part of the study a case study analysis was undertaken of tourism management and marketing activities in four popular, coastal tourism destinations. Three South African competitors were analysed that being Nelson Mandela Bay, Durban and Cape Town. An international benchmark was also selected that being Barcelona. The comparison found that BCM had the lowest number of staff involved in tourism destination management and marketing of any of the four destinations at only eight staff members. The largest staff contingent for a South African destination was Cape Town which had 127 staff across three organisations. Thus, as a ratio of tourism budget (not including salaries) to tourism staff, Buffalo City had the highest tourism budget per staff member at R5.7 million p.a. for 2017. This was a higher ratio than even the City of Barcelona, which was calculated as having a project budget of R5.4 million per staff member. This pointed to the need to recommend additional human resources in targeted areas to assist BCM to effectively spend and manage their tourism budget.

A survey with visitors to BCM in December 2017 offered insights into the leisure visitor profile to the city. A key aspect that emerged from both interviews with tourists and product owners was the importance of the internet and social media marketing. Internet marketing has overtaken more traditional mainstays of tourism product marketing, such as the brochure. The study found that 74% of BCM products had their own website, and 65% had a listing on a third-party website, whilst 57% were on TripAdvisor. Whilst only 59% of product owners used brochures. When visitors were interviewed 61% indicated that word of mouth was the most important information source for their accommodation choice. The second most popular medium used was social media, cited by 30% of visitors. Only 12% of visitors cited brochures as being used in their choice. Thus, a key recommendation put forward within the marketing strategy was a focus on social media content development and the active management of various social media platforms to promote BCM as a compelling destination to visit.

Transformation in tourism is a key pillar of the National Tourism Sector Strategy. Of the accommodation products surveyed, 36% indicated that their business was 75-100% black owned. This positive sign of the growth in black-owned tourism businesses in the city needs to be supported with further focus on enterprise support, mentorship and skills development.

The split between domestic and foreign source markets, indicated that BCM is predominantly a domestic tourism destination. The main domestic source market for visitors to formal accommodation was identified as Gauteng, followed by the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape. The main international source markets for visitors to formal accommodation was identified as Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

The top attraction for international and domestic visitors alike were the spectacular beaches of BCM. The main activities for BCM visitors were visiting the beach (28.0%), shopping (11.5%), dining out in restaurants and bars (9.7%), visiting a museum and heritage sites (8.2%) and visiting the casino (7.4%). This finding pointed to the need to devote resources to beach upgrades and attraction management in the city. It also pointed to the need to promote the shopping and dining experiences the city has to offer.

The strategy is currently in its final draft form and on approval from the municipality’s project steering committee can be released for public comment. Further details on the Tourism Plan will be shared through the BKCOB newsletter and other publications.