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Cape Town Tourism farewell speech

by Mariette du Toit-Helmbold on 24.07.2013

My journey through the past nine years as CEO of Cape Town Tourism has been an extraordinary one.

The tourism industry has boomed in robust times as, entranced by the thrill of experiencing an exciting and new democracy, the world discovered the exceptional beauty and diversity of Cape Town. 

As hotels and restaurants started to mushroom to meet the demand, the tourism services industry grew quickly but incredibly professionally alongside it.

In those early days, much debate was had around industry standards and still to this day, our tourism sector is exceptionally passionate and self-regulated. 

Together we have planted the seeds of Responsible Tourism, and this is a now a young seedling that needs continuous nurturing.

We rose to the occasion of the soccer World Cup with pride and we dazzled the world with our gees, our efficiency and our captivating landscape.

More recently we have felt the pinch of a global recession. Its impact felt directly by hard-working businesses that were not able to fill their beds, despite doing everything right. These have been tough times, and we have had to work ever harder and smarter to remain competitive and relevant.

We have had several successes on this front. Not only is Cape Town consistently rated amongst the world’s most lusted-after destinations, Cape Town Tourism is also the recent recipient of a Travel+Leisure Smitty Award (Social Media in Travel and Tourism Awards) in the category Best Overall Use of Social Media, CVB, Global for our marketing work. Our Facebook competition, Send Your Facebook Profile to Cape Town, won a coveted Gold Lion at the 2013 Cannes Lions Awards in the Branded Content section; one of only two South African golds.

In the years gone by, we have also experienced an increasingly collaborative and open relationship with the industry and I feel confident that my successor, Enver Duminy, will add enormous warmth and integrity to this partnership.

I am handing over the reigns to a great new leader for Cape Town Tourism and look forward to watching Enver in action.

It is bittersweet to leave Cape Town Tourism.

It’s so much a part of me after all of this time, but the time is right to create something new that will address the gap in destination and tourism marketing and allow me the opportunity to make an impact beyond Cape Town.

Destinate, my new venture, is an international destination and tourism marketing agency that will partner with tourism organisations, destinations and private-sector brands to navigate the complex and competitive world of destination and tourism marketing, to unlock the full potential of brands and destinations.

Allow me a quick ad break for Destinate …

Destinate will work with like-minded individuals and service providers within the tourism, marketing, creative and digital sectors in a fluid bespoke network.

We will not be consultants who parachute in, write fancy strategies and leave without being involved in the execution or accountable for results achieved. We will co-create strategy and provide marketing implementation support and mentorship, to ensure delivery and measurable return on investment.

Clients can opt for a comprehensive tailor-made package with dedicated support, or choose a selection of neat plug-ins as required to fit within budget.

I have a few business cards still warm from the printer … and my website should be live within the next few days, so let us stay in touch and continue working together.

I have always loved what Michael Schrage says in his book, Serious Play: “Those who are willing to invest in and test unproven ideas, based on a hunch or a gut reaction, are likely to find their noses bloodied, routinely. But, by the act, they increase the odds, dramatically, of joining the small set of true world-beaters who shape tomorrow’s extraordinary contours.”

Those privileged and entrusted to lead have a great responsibility to bring about positive change.

I became CEO of Cape Town Tourism at the age of 28. As I look back tonight I know without a doubt, none of our work, our creativity and our inspiration would have been possible without the unwavering commitment, hard work and passion of the Cape Town Tourism team I was privileged to lead.

I will miss my team enormously and I wish them well in their individual lives and careers. I am, without exception, so grateful to my Board for the wisdom, ingenuity and creativity they infuse into our organisation.

It is an honour to have Arno Vorster here, the founding Chair of Cape Town Tourism, as well as a few of the first Board members.

In fact, we have all three chairs in the house – Arno, Ian Bartes and the current Chair, Sabine Lehmann. Thank you for your leadership over the past 10 years.

Thank you to the City of Cape Town for the vote of confidence in Cape Town Tourism – I look forward to seeing the partnership grow from strength to strength over the next few years as you work side-by-side to promote Cape Town, and provide an enabling environment for the tourism sector to grow.

And to you, my friends in the tourism industry, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and for the many hours we have worked together, in good times and in tough times.

I wish you all the utmost success and happiness, and hope to stay in touch as I embark on this new, exciting era of my life.

Here’s to a great journey, new beginnings and staying extraordinary.