FESTIVE MESSAGE FROM NMBT CEO: MANDLAKAZI SKEFILE
After a year of highlights and challenges, with much anticipation, the festive season has finally dawned upon us, where many of us have the opportunity to unwind and take a break from our responsibilities at work, school and home. It is a time of the year where we are able to reflect on the events that have transpired throughout the year, absorb the lessons learnt from those experiences, and improve upon them in the year ahead. Most importantly, it is a time for us to spend quality time with our family and loved ones, exploring new experiences and making memories along the way.
Amongst the variety of high and low moments experienced this year, as Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism, we were able to conclude the year on a positive note, despite an array of challenges from a local, national and global perspective. However, as a city, we were able to rise to the occasion by sustaining our local economic contribution through a growing tourism sector.
As an organisation, we were able to harness our creativity and ingenuity to implement marketing strategies and initiatives that would see us accomplish the goals we set out to achieve this year. In line with the government’s objective to increase GDP growth, create sustainable jobs and promote transformation, we were able to increase tourist volume, geographic spread, length of stay and visitors spend in our city. In all our efforts to market Nelson Mandela Bay as the ideal travel and tourist destination, we have made a concerted effort to work towards transformation in the industry, where our historically disadvantaged residents may also enjoy benefits from the sector.
As much as our role revolves around attracting new visitors to our city, to experience the sights and sounds on offer, we simply could not ignore our local NMB travellers and explorers. It was for this reason that we developed #Sharethebay, a citizen’s campaign, where locals are given the opportunity to be home-grown ambassadors of the city, by utilizing social media platforms such as: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube to post their pictures and videos of the activities they experienced in NMB. Through this initiative, we were able to successfully increase NMBT’s reach and interactions with both current and potential visitors all over the world.
Through forged relations with DMC’s and tour operators around the country, we have yielded an increase of in experience offerings, such as the bottlenose dolphin sightseeing experience and the popular craft beer tours, which have resulted in extended stays and spend in NMB. The success generated from these initiatives has motivated us to continue our collaborations and partnerships with surrounding destinations and products, ensuring that the city always has the best to offer its guests.
Despite being a year of many challenges, there have been a number of great outcomes and success stories within the local tourism sector. This year, the city welcomed the most number of cruise ships to our shores, with visits from 24 cruise liners in total, up by 10 visits from the previous year. Huge ocean liners such as the Queen Victoria, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, carrying over 2000 passengers each, were among the many who docked at our harbour, creating an influx of tourists in and around the city.
During the course of the year, our top foreign market visitors were from Germany, UK, US, Netherlands, Australia, France and Switzerland. We also experience over 50% growth in arrivals from African countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, Ethiopia and Botswana. In addition, we have also seen an increase in arrivals from the East, with visitors from China, Japan and India gracing our shores on a regular basis. Despite this fact, we are increasing our efforts to attract even larger visiting numbers from the East, enabling quicker economic growth, leading to the creation of more sustainable job opportunities.
Apart from the fact that NMBT was awarded an unqualified audit report, which reflects a strong organisation with optimal functioning financial processes and systems, by PKF Independent Auditors and Chartered Accountants for the 2015/16 financial year, the organisation has also sustained and increased the local economy through tourism, with a total direct spend of R7, 311,236,872, up from the R 6,572,854,919 in 2014, which has sustained approximately 48, 373 jobs.
Despite our core focus on the fun activities and exploration, we have gone through great lengths to ensure that those who are out exploring the city this festive season, are doing so in safety, with increased presence of all law enforcement agencies around the city, including our very own Metro Police. Our residents and visitors can rest assured knowing that our city’s finest will be there to ensure that we are kept safe while enjoying the sights. Information will also be readily available at any of our tourist visitor information centres, including our tourism ambassadors, who you will spot throughout the city.
To our visitors and locals, I would like to wish each and every one of you a joyous festive season and a prosperous new year, filled with memorable and exciting experiences, on behalf of the NMBT team. We would like to encourage as many of our local residents to stay with us in NMB this festive season, and enjoy the exciting offerings in store. However, for those who are travelling, we want urge you to practice caution and safety on our long roads. An increased volume in road travel over the festive season leads to a higher risk of fatalities on our roads, so please remain alert on the roads at all times. For those staying in the Bay this year, we want to encourage you to #Sharethebay and download our upgraded NMB Travel Guide Mobile Application, where you will have access to the latest events and activities.
It has certainly been an eventful year for my team and I, constantly pushing the envelope to ensure that our city, Nelson Mandela Bay is recognised for the world class tourism destination that it truly is. As a team, we will continue to focus our efforts on growing our local economy through tourism, whilst striving towards highlighting all the activities and experiences on offer in our beautiful city.