Please boot out this Hotspur marketing idea!

How will government convince angry and desperate South Africans that nearly a billion rand for a marketing deal with a UK soccer team is value for money?

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01/02/2023 15:35:03

Image: Tottenham Hotspur/Pixabay/GovernmentZA/compiled by OUTA

Please boot out this Hotspur marketing idea!

We question the reported proposal by South African Tourism to enter into a marketing deal with Tottenham Hotspur to the value of nearly a billion rand over three years to promote South Africa as a destination.

We are not surprised at the public outrage, given South Africa’s financial constraints and the far more pressing issues that these funds could be spent on, even in the tourism sector.

“We understand the need to market the country as a tourism destination. However, a contract and spend of this size and nature against the backdrop of our country’s financial constraints and the dire issues that need funding attention, combined with low public trust in government’s spending decisions, leads us to question the rationality of this proposal,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA CEO.

“We believe this could be a serious wase of money and abuse of taxpayers’ funds, especially when this decision would consume around 38% of SA Tourism’s marketing budget for the next three to four years. On top of that, this spend is largely aimed at the UK visitors, which is only around 25% of South Africa’s inbound tourism market.”

These are the issues that government needs to address to encourage tourism: high crime including violent crime, the collapse of water infrastructure including in cities, loadshedding, the failure of small businesses in the tourism sector…. the list goes on.

OUTA is writing to Minister of Tourism Lindiwe Sisulu and the acting CEO of SA Tourism, Mzilikazi Themba Khumalo, asking for detailed information and transparency regarding the return on investment for this proposed agreement.

According to SA Tourism’s annual report for 2021/22, the entity received R1.297 billion as a grant from government, through the Department of Tourism, which was triple the previous year’s grant of R423 million.

SA Tourism also receives around R60 million in TOMSA levies (tourism levies charged to consumers for the use of specific tourism services), which the entity is supposed to use to promote South Africa, and to our knowledge, the various roleplayers who represent to tourism industry on the Tourism Business Council, have not been aware of this planned spend.

On digging into the affairs of SA Tourism, we also note that the entity’s five executives jointly cost R10.928 million. This included the departing CEO who was paid R905 810 for just two months before he left on 31 May 2021, and the replacement CEO who also soon departed but was paid R2.227 million for eight months.

We understand the need to entice international tourists from overseas destinations – whom SA Tourism’s report says spend much more per tourist than locals – but we are concerned that the proposed deal seems contrary to SA Tourism’s stated strategy.

“Efforts by the organisation to support the recovery of the tourism sector are focused on achieving its vision to position South Africa as an exceptional tourist and business events destination that offers a value-for-money, quality tourist experience that is diverse and unique. To become more resilient to potential future disruptions, South African Tourism is therefore embarking on strategic initiatives to shift from having a purely destination marketing focus to supporting the recovery of the tourism sector in a much more robust manner,” says Advocate Mojankunyane Gumbi, SA Tourism’s interim chairperson, in the annual report (our emphasis).

Remember the flagpole project? The Tottenham Hotspur proposal is another project that shows how removed government is from the need to spend its scarce revenues more wisely.

More information

A soundclip with comment by OUTA CEO Wayne Duvenage is here.

OUTA's letter to the Minister and CEO is here.

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