MOSSEL BAY NEWS - Tourism as we know it is fast changing. Young people, the tourists of the future, prefer adventures and unique experiences when visiting an area.
With Mossel Bay and the Garden Route having more than 104 distinctly different adventure offerings that cater for the changed need, the area is uniquely positioned to garner more of the tourism market, yet innovative plans are required to market the area effectively to prospective tourists and new markets.
What is necessary, is to start the process to collate and consolidate the adventure tourism offering in the broader region of the Garden Route in a concise manner conducive to effective marketing.
Mossel Bay municipal manager Adv Thys Giliomee challenged tourism operators to think differently about what they are offering the tourists who visit the area.
"Tourists nowadays no longer want to merely buy a night in a bed, or merely a meal or two when visiting our area. Tourists today are interested in experiencing the town and the surrounding area in a manner that is different to what was the norm for so many years. They are looking for something out of the ordinary. Similarly, speaking to the adventure tourists requires new thinking, a new approach. This is the challenge."
Giliomee said that when the adventure offering is well defined and effectively marketed, the hospitality industry and accommodation facilities and eateries will benefit.
Tourism professionals gathered this week to accept this challenge and to consider options available to rethink the offering to modern day tourists.
The meeting was facilitated by Socia Novus representative Thys Pretorius and Alewijn Dippenaar of Adventures Garden Route DMC. Both were passionate about the need for creating linkages by connecting opportunities on offer within the region to market what the Garden Route has to offer to both existing as well as proposed new tourism markets.
"With more than 20 distinct niche tourism groups, special interest tourism is growing," Pretorius said. With the Zipline expected to come into operation in November and bridge swinging being mooted for the Gouritz River bridge, the challenge extends to mapping the number of content days available to tourists.
"The region has been winning international awards as a world destination offering unique value propositions," Dippenaar said.
"With combined strength, we need to increase our visibility internationally through the establishment of adventure centres as a point of entry." Dippenaar added that several international markets were not being effectively targeted. He made a clear distinction between the roles of traditional tourism bureaus and the proposed adventure centres.
On 25 October the second Tourism Indaba will take place in Wilderness, where feedback will be provided on the establishment of the region as an adventure destination. "There simply are not enough specialists on adventure tourism available," Dippenaar said.
The next tourism Indaba should be more inclusive, Dippenaar urged. He asked tourism operators, especially the concerns offering adventure tourism, to contact him (082 457 5675 or firstname.lastname@example.org) to participate, not only in the Indaba, but in taking tourism in the Garden Route to the next level.
Make the cake bigger
It is imperative, Dippenaar said, to establish the area from Riversdale to Knysna as the adventure mecca of South Africa. To effectively market this area as such to the international adventure market a single adventure catalogue is envisaged to highlight the product offering of the entire area. He added that growing the tourism offering will need more international exposure in an integrated approach.
Several markets, such as Russia, China and India remain untapped. These are markets that prefer adventure tourism in small groups of six to 12 people per tour group.
Fred Orban of the Oyster Catcher Trail added that marketing could no longer be limited to one product offering only. "We live in an area with culture unrivalled anywhere else in the world. We offer not only wide open spaces, we offer ancient footprints nowhere else to be found."
Orban, however, warned that the image of Mossel Bay should not develop into that of an industrial town as that would put paid to the intention to effectively grow tourism.
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