DURBAN 13052012 Indaba. Picture: Jacques Naude

South Africa’s three biggest tourism cities and metropolitan hubs of Joburg, Cape Town and Durban signed a landmark Three Cities Alliance tourism marketing agreement at Max’s Lifestyle in Umlazi on Sunday, in the main media event of this year’s Indaba travel trade show.

More than 200 international and local media and tourism bosses from the three cities were taken to Umlazi’s most popular hot spot in the first Indaba activation in a township. Journalists from as far afield as China, Australia and India were part of the tour and were visibly fascinated by the experience.

Sporting colourful, locally made “pantsula hats”, courtesy of South African Tourism, the contingent made their way to Durban’s biggest township in three buses that caused a traffic bottleneck in the busy road in front of Max’s Lifestyle. Former Miss South Africa Joanne Strauss, as host of the event, also wowed the guests.

Philip Sithole, head of Durban Tourism, said: “This is wonderful… All these people will leave South Africa with an incredible township tourism experience. This is the biggest international media entourage going into a Durban township since Nelson Mandela voted in the 1994 elections in Inanda.

“It’s great that we get to launch the Three Cities Alliance in South Africa’s second biggest township after Soweto.

“This historic agreement will see an international marketing campaign launched to promote South Africa’s biggest city destinations. It will also see us collaborating in domestic tourism marketing.”

Speaking at the signing, Durban mayor James Nxumalo said it was “fantastic” that the three cities had decided to work together in promoting major urban centres.

“We need to embrace such partnerships to put South Africa on the global map. There has been an increase in urban tourism globally and we need to promote our main cities, not just our natural assets and the safari experience. Our three major cities attract up to 70 percent of the tourists that come to South Africa.”

Nxumalo said “co-opetition” – a new phrase meaning mutual co-operation and competition – mentioned by Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk at Indaba’s opening was the new “name of the game” in tourism marketing.

The agreement between Cape Town Tourism, Durban Tourism and Johannesburg Tourism would see the cities putting their combined resources into a national partnership to promote the urban tourism offerings of SA.

“The agreement introduces a new age for collaboration on domestic and international marketing campaigns, information distribution, marketing collateral and online campaigns, events and trade shows, as well as shared knowledge on an executive level,” said Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold.

“The three cities will collaborate to leverage local events and align events calendars where possible, promoting each other’s events and short city-break packages.”

Thulani Nzima, CEO of SA Tourism, said: “South Africa is well-known for its world-class wildlife offering… but, we are increasingly projecting to a global audience that South Africa offers so much more – our urban, cosmopolitan cities, our vibrant music industry, burgeoning status as a global fashion capital, our cuisine and our rich heritage and culture.”

Durban and Cape Town had already embarked on the programme and had secured a multi-media global deal with National Geographic. Du Toit-Helmbold said Joburg was part of the overall alliance, but was still finalising its financial commitments.

Phelisa Mangcu, acting CEO of Joburg Tourism, said it was committed to working with Cape Town, Durban and SA Tourism. “We can be counted amongst the world’s cities of the future. We believe South Africa and its urban centres can attract a much more substantial segment of the world’s urban travellers.”

Combining resources to market the three cities globally was most evident in the recent deal with National Geographic, where individually the cities would not have been able secure such an extensive multi-media contract, Sithole said.

“The deal will see the three feature on all National Geographic platforms and documentaries shot in each city. As an alliance we will spend between R28 million to R30m over three years in marketing. We will get about R60m in value and reach over 70 million worldwide.”