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Live Conferencing Webinar focuses on reigniting local Tourism

MEDIA STATEMENT: Live Conferencing Webinar focuses on reigniting local Tourism
Issued 19 April 2021

Over one hundred local entrepreneurs attended George, Wilderness and Uniondale Tourism’s first ever live conferencing webinar, aimed at rejuvenating local tourism. The conference took place on the 13th to the 15th of April. Attendees included hotel, guest house and restaurant owners, as well as activity providers and tour operators. Fourteen speakers representing local, national, and international travel brands delivered up-to-date research, designed to help local tourism operators boost their bookings. Delegates participated in the virtual conference on Zoom and were able to interact with an array of speakers from ATTA, Expedia, South African Tourism, George Municipality, Wesgro and Thompsons Holidays.

The host and moderator for the webinar was Dirk Wessels, the portfolio councillor for Strategic Services. Joan Shaw, Tourism Manager of George Municipality, opened the conference by encouraging local businesses to “take George into a new era, together”. She emphasised the need for collaboration and partnership between local businesses in making the region a strong travel destination.

On Wednesday the 14th of April, award-winning tour operator, Thompsons Holidays, indicated that they are currently looking for tourism product partners in George and Wilderness, affording a rare opportunity for products to go into the consideration pool with the wholesale giant. Trudie Jacobs, Senior Product and Operations Manager with Thompsons, went on to explain what qualities tour operators search for when looking to add local hotels and activities to their Garden Route portfolio. Jacobs provided a wealth of advice to tourism business owners on how to boost their businesses. She recommended collaboration with other local businesses to produce creative package deals that include accommodation and activities.

“Exceptional value-added packages can be created around special holidays, including Mother’s Day, youth packages for school holidays or Women’s Month,” said Jacobs. She further advised business owners to focus on domestic travellers by modifying their pricing and adopting flexible cancellation policies.

“International tourists are dreaming of their next holiday to South Africa,” according to Gillaume Massey, of the Expedia Group in UAE and Africa. The Senior Business Development Manager shared global market research insights to help George grab a larger share of the tourism market. Massey described evidence of a large increase in online searches for flights to South Africa. He further described the major international trend towards ‘last-minute travel’ and had good news for tourism when he revealed that international travellers are starting to trickle back to South Africa, currently booking for July 2021. He added that many travellers are now spending 3 to 4 times more on their international holidays than before lockdown.

Massey advised local tourism operators to inspire potential travellers; “Tourists are seeking rejuvenation,” he said, “there is a huge demand for holidays which offer rest, relaxation and a focus on mental health”. Gil Massey also advised local tourism providers to ensure that their marketing material provides strong reassurance to potential travellers of COVID safety protocols.

On Thursday the 15th of April, Monika Iuel, the new CMO at WESGRO, shared an overview of the Remote Working, Remote Living campaign’s results to date, as well as highlighting the website. Ilse van Schalkwyk described the Western Cape’s Tourism Blueprint 2030. The Chief Director of Economic Sector Support for the Department of Economic Development and Tourism said the ten-year strategy is designed to stimulate tourism throughout the region. She advised local tourism providers to focus on branding the Garden Route as an ‘active outdoor region’. Van Schalkwyk had welcome news when she announced that George has been identified as a secondary business hub for the Western Cape. It is set to benefit from a growing business events industry and attract investment for a large conference facility.

Tourism establishments interested in partnering with Thompsons should email George, Wilderness and Uniondale Tourism to get in touch with Trudie Jacobs, the Senior Product and Operations Manager: