Mariette du Toit Helmbold


Cecil Rajendra a human rights activist from Malasia said: "The raw material of the tourist industry is the flesh and blood of people and their cultures." We are on the brink of a new era in tourism. We have to continuously strive towards fulfilling our visitors travel needs and dreams, whilst presenting an offering of our region and all its peoples that continues to capture the imagination of the world. We have to move forward and think bigger. Change is not easy, but it is essential if we want to be able to align ourselves as a serious international tourism role player and a leading destination committed to excellence, conservation and transformation.

I grew up on a nature reserve just outside Hermanus, the heart of the Whale Coast. This is where my love for the environment and its people inspired me to make tourism my life. Matriculated at Hermanus High School in 1993. Studied at Stellenbosch University and graduated in 1996 with majors in English and Political Science. At school and university I was involved in conservation projects and was one of the founding members of The University of Stellenbosch’s Bird Club.  I was involved in tourism route development and product development along the Cape Coast in conjunction with local guesthouses and private farmers. Completed tourism courses in Marine Tourism, Specialist Whale Guiding, Fynbos and Cultural Tourism.

I have learned a great deal through the establishment of my own business at a young age, a business I started with not much more than passion and determination, tourism developments for the V&A Waterfront and the City of Cape Town and the greatest and most exciting challenge thus far, the establishment of a new unified regional tourism organisation for the Cape Metropole, Cape Town Tourism, the change management thereof and taking this new organisation into the future.

I was fortunate to be part of conceptualising; laying the foundation, implementing and now managing the new unified Cape Town Tourism. Six independent and very different Local Tourism Organisations had to be merged into one new, streamlined and world-class Tourism Body for the entire Cape Town Metropole – the new Cape Town Tourism. In June 2004, the new Organisation was established.

With less than three years to go to the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup and the eyes of the world upon us, there has never been a more opportune time in tourism. But the tourism industry and our society has also never before been faced with such an urgent need to address the triple or rather quadruple bottom lime.

We must invest in solid, practical and firm principles of ethical behaviour, management and lifestyle, balancing the fragile state of our climate, communities, the natural environment with the need to grow the tourism economy to address poverty and unemployment.

I have realised that in order to deliver upon our mandate and grow our tourism economy effectively, we have to implement smart, bold and creative business strategies. Tourism is business and as a tourism agency, we must practice what we preach, making sure that we can show return on investment and deliver a remarkable service that makes this destination proud and puts the visitor in touch with the magic of Cape Town and the Western Cape.

An innovative Visitor Strategy was developed for Cape Town, recognised by the UNWTO as a world best and guides our operations. We have changed the way in which we operate significantly – each Visitor Centre is being run like a cost centre, accountable for making the funding we receive work so that we can generate even more in order to do more. We have cut operating costs with more than R1million over the past two years, by working smarter and managing our business more effectively. We have grown our self-generated income with more than R1 million every year.

We have developed public private partnerships to expand our Visitor Centre network beyond the traditional municipal locations – opening state of the art and trendy Visitor Centres where the feet and the need are. Working with the 2010 tourism task teams, we are gearing ourselves to deliver excellent visitor services throughout Cape Town, making use of state of the art alternative visitor services technology and tools. A global perspective is required to deliver excellent services and visitor experiences locally.

Constituted as a voluntary Membership Association, Cape Town Tourism is unique from many other tourism agencies. Our structure means that we represent and work with the private tourism sector whilst remaining in a dynamic partnership with local and provincial government. It’s a dynamic partnership that really works.

I do not see Tourism as a career or just a job - it is a way of life; it thrills me, motivates me and enthuses me.  I know that most people want to experience something real, something of meaning, while contributing to local communities within a framework of respect for indigenous people and the environment. The benefits from Tourism must be distributed fairly with the central goal to protect, preserve and uplift local communities and its environment.

I love 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”.

Bold and innovative leadership is needed to take us into the future and I am privileged to have had responsibility thrust upon me from a young age. Having responsibility is one thing, but accountability is what is essential to be successful.

But, success is not driven by individuals, rather by teams. All the people involved in our tourism industry, staff, entrepreneurs, communities and businesses, are the unsung heroes and I am incredibly proud to be part of Team Tourism South Africa.

My Skills and Competencies include:

  • Over 12 years practical Tourism experience
  • Tourism research
  • Tourism development
  • Tourism feasibility and business plan development
  • Tourism mentorship
  • Staff training and development
  • Tourism product & Route development (1997 – 2000)
  • Establishment of own tourism business – Travel Lounge (2000)
  • Development and Management of 1st Gateway Tourism Centre for SA in V&A (2001 - 2004)
  • Change management of tourism organizations & systems
  • Project management of the establishment of a unified Tourism Body for the Greater Cape Town Metropole – Cape Town Visitor Services Association now trading as Cape Town Tourism. (April-June 2004)
  • Interim Management of the new unified Cape Town Tourism (July-Oct 2004)
  • Appointed as CEO, Cape Town Tourism (Nov 2004)
  • Business Plan and Budget preparation and management
  • Staff placement and Organisational design
  • Travel Writing for various national and international publications
  • Coordination of local marketing strategies in line with Destination Marketing organization for Cape Town and Western Cape (Now trading as Cape Town Routes Unlimited), regional and national tourism objectives
  • Development of Cape Town Visitor Strategy
  • Development of 2010 Visitor and Host Strategy (adopted by UNWTO & DEAT as African and National Strategy and Model)
  • Development of Cape Town Membership Programme
  • Review and sustainable planning of the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) network of Cape Town in line with the principles of responsible Tourism, including analysis of systems and policies
  • Manages a network of 20 world class Visitor Information Centres (VICs) that represents approximately 2 500 tourism businesses and deals with more than 3 million enquiries per year
  • Development of 1st Service Excellence Programme for Cape Town
  • Development of marketable membership material in line with the newly adopted provincial membership strategy
  • Communication with tourism, local business and community role-players to ensure responsible tourism growth at a local and ground level
  • Development of new tourism products and routes in line with international tourism trends and destination marketing strategies
  • Development and management of public-private partnerships
  • Convene and mentorship of community tourism projects in association with City and Provincial role-players
  • Coordination of new corporate brand development and role-out in conjunction with marketing team
  • Convene the publication of official marketing and visitor publications and maps as well as supporting marketing collateral
  • Development and coordination of new electronic booking strategies
  • Facilitating and coordinating event, conference and exhibition participation – bringing public and private sector together
  • Management of trade, industry and road shows as well as facilitating local and international press and trade visits
  • Extensive research on responsible visitor services and the impact of tourism on local communities
  • Developed and implemented 1st integrated Cape Town safety and security plan
  • Introduced new business systems and commercial programmes to grow self-generated income
  • R1million+ saved in two years through new innovative business systems & strategies i.e. new streamlines ICT platforms
  • Expanded CTT Visitor Centres to communities of Cape Town to ensure business support & tourism awareness programmes at grass route level
  • Digital Business Centres managed in partnership with City of Cape Town > dedicated business support programmes in place
  • Membership Development and emerging entrepreneur Support Programme in place
  • Membership Development Fund established > contributes annually to 200+ SMME membership fees
  • Tourism Outreach and Awareness clinics in communities hosted
  • BEE Scorecard implemented > 400% increase in BEE business members from July 2005 to July 2006
  • Maintaining sound relationship with regional,  national and international industry role-players & organizations i.e. UN WTO (represented CTT as key-note speaker at the Microsoft Government Leaders Conference in June 2006)
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Excellent leadership skills
  • Excellent public speaking skills