Is it too early to knock the Western Cape’s new DMO?

It finally happened: the Western Cape’s destination marketing organisation – known inexplicably as Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) – has effectively been closed down, and its functions have been taken over by WESGRO – a body with a far broader mandate. As the media release of 8 April put it: “Tourism industry stakeholders in the Western Cape were given official notice yesterday that destination marketing, investment and trade promotion for the province would now be done by a single, ramped up executing agency to increase the province’s national and global competitiveness as a business and leisure destination.”

And if you’ve been following the story, already the criticism has begun.

I held no brief for CTRU: while I personally get on very well with all the people who worked there, I always wondered how effective the business model really was. From its name downwards, I think it was a misguided, misinformed, and misdirected organisation that spent more time marketing itself than marketing the Province – its one, single client. I mean, what were *they* thinking when they called it Cape Town Routes Unlimited?

What about the rest of the Province?

But no matter. It is no more.

Still, as a resident of the Garden Route, I’ve watched the dramatic fall in tourism numbers in numbers in our region over the last few years – and listed while they tell us that they’re packing them in in Cape Town.

Does this have anything to do with the fact that CTRU brought the  marketing of the Garden Route to an abrupt stop at some point? They’ll deny it, but I’ve seen it – the Garden Route dropped off CTRU’s radar. As a DMO it seemed to prefer Cape Town, with a few sops to Route 62, and maybe the West Coast.

But no matter. It is no more.

A few things about the new situation, though.

The combined DMO is now running under the WESGRO banner (“the official Investment and Trade Promotion Agency for the Western Cape, located in Cape Town” – and this makes sense to me.

Why? Well, because it’s time to stop marketing tourism in a vacuum, and rather to market the destination as a whole – a Province that offers fantastic opportunities in tourism, film making, agriculture, ICT, fashion, manufacturing, education, medicine, and, and, and…

We’re grownups, now. We should have learned to play with the other kids long ago.


I’m very concerned that WESGRO should not make the same mistakes that CTRU made, by (a) marketing itself rather than the destination, and (b) forgetting that the *Province* is the client – and not just that village under the mountain. You know, the one with the big Waterfront and (only a part of) our famous Wine Route?

Whether this is going to happen or not is still to be seen, but I note with concern that the media release quotes WESGRO CEO Nils Flaatten as saying, “WESGRO was currently investigating the process of integrating the and websites but said these would remain in place with all the relevant industry information until further notice. He encouraged tourism stakeholders to find the updated events calendar on”

This isn’t good enough. The destination needs a web site with the name Western Cape in the URL – not Cape Town, not WESGRO. Matterafact, I think we must demand it.

WESGRO cannot be allowed to market the bits of the Cape that it prefers, or feels comfortable with, as CTRU appeared to do.

Having said that, though, it’s far too early to ask whether or not the new arrangement will or won’t work – because *we* – the businesspeople of the Western Cape – must make it work.

So now my question is: how do we do this? How is WESGRO going to take its mandate to the tourism industry (and to all the other industries in the Province), and how will our input be received?

If it’s with the same contempt with which most government departments and most South African political parties receive input from the citizens for whom they’re supposed to work, the whole exercise will indeed have proved another a waste of time.

But again: it’s far too early to say.