Ugu is good to go

On a mission to take the South Coast global

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As the brand-new CEO of Ugu South Coast Tourism, Phelisa Mangcu has her work cut out to transform the perception of the South Coast from laid-back local legend into a dynamic world-class brand.

Fresh from Joburg Tourism following a stint at Trump International Hotel in New York city, Mangcu knows what branding is all about. Although the Joburg, New York and South Coast brands are worlds apart, she confidently states, “It is our mandate to grow the South Coast to be a place that can compete internationally, that is identifiable in other parts of the world.”

Before addressing international growth, however, Mangcu insists on working with existing strengths. Domestically, the South Coast remains a firm favourite, especially among people with friends and family in the area. The majority of visitors are from other parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal, with Gautengers making up 21%, Free Staters 8%, and the balance from the rest of South Africa. “Now that is something that we need to sustain and grow,” says Mangcu.

Internationally, the South Coast has a brand footprint in the UK, Germany, Netherlands and Australia. With regard to tourists from the rest of Africa, Swazis are frequent visitors, but with regard to the rest of Africa, “We are not there yet,” says Mangcu. “The African continent is a market that we as Ugu South need to understand and try to penetrate.”

One potential lure would be medical tourism. “In Johannesburg, apart from shopping, a lot of people come from the continent for medical reasons. After their operation, they stay around to convalesce. The South Coast could also be a medical tourism destination because it is a relaxed environment for people to recover.”

Not only is South Coast well known as being a year-round, family-friendly destination that offers great accommodation facilities and value for money, but it is also very accessible from Gauteng, with CemAir offering a daily flight from Johannesburg to Margate. “Now that is something that we need to capitalise on, the fact that we are connected,” says Mangcu.

Although there is no direct service between Margate and Cape Town, Mangcu points out that the South Coast is just an hour and a half from accessible Durban, adding: “We have a rich, diverse culture and heritage offering, and the scenic, coastal and natural beauty of the area speaks to eco-tourism. and great adventure opportunities”

Golf, weddings and sport are also tourist attractions. However, Mangcu also aims to develop business tourism and the supply side of things.

“Ugu South Coast Tourism is a destination management entity, so it is part of our responsibility to ensure that we have world-class tourist services, and those can be provided in different ways, such as through training. We have to support SMMEs in terms of quality assurance, tour guide accreditation, mentorship, business legacies, market access and exposure to marketing platforms.”

Apart from ensuring that local operators can supply international tourists with services at the requisite standard, Mangcu agrees that one of the most important benefits of encouraging small businesses to develop the skills to get involved in tourism effectively is the heightened sense of identity from which communities benefit. “It encourages people to feel positively about their communities, it encourages them to stay positive about their culture and be proud of who they are and what they can offer the world,” she says.

Growing the tourism offering is also part of developing the South Coast’s international footprint. The popular Ugu Jazz Fest creates such an opportunity. More than that, a film studio development project is in the pipeline. This would be a massive lure for tourism and investment.

“One day the South Coast is going to give Hollywood a run for its money,” says Mangcu confidently. “Maybe in 12 years we will be able to compete with Hollywood and draw major film productions here.”

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