The business of culture: Promoting the province’s cosmopolitan appeal with shopping and art

Landlocked, small in size, and highly urbanised, Gauteng lacks the natural assets and scenic beauty to vie with the country’s flagship leisure destinations of Cape Town, Durban and the wildlife safaris of the Kruger National Park. Nonetheless, tourism is viewed as a key enabler towards job creation and also plays a role in exposing the province internationally and dispelling some of the negative perceptions held towards crime and safety in the major cities. With provincial projections showing that for every one night increase in stay by each visitor, 24,000 new jobs are created, the province has identified several tourism segments in which it feels well positioned to compete, as well as providing the incentives for project development and promotional efforts.

Given its role as the country’s commercial centre, it is not surprising that business tourism is something the province is looking to leverage and extend into the lucrative and growing meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) segment. Furthermore, the province is looking to promote its urban vibe and aesthetic, by targeting big-spending visitors from emerging African source markets looking for a shopping and entertainment experience. To this end the province’s re-developing districts in the Johannesburg central business district and Soweto showcase the cultural diversity and heritage on offer.

Business As Usual

Gauteng has arguably the highest concentration of tourism-related infrastructure in place, particularly for the business visitor segment, thanks in part to Johannesburg serving as the main host city for both the 2010 FIFA World Cup as well as the more recent 2013 African Cup of Nations tournament. OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) is the largest and busiest airport in Africa, recording 19m passengers in 2011-12 and targeting an eventual annual handling capacity of 28m passengers. ORTIA is estimated to handle 50% of the country’s total air traffic, while receiving 80% of all business visitors who arrive into the country. Johannesburg and its surrounding municipalities have four designated large-scale convention centres, compared to one each for the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), in addition to a number of smaller conference facilities at academic and research institutions, such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria, as well as corporate office parks, including state utility provider’s Eskom headquarters in Midrand just north of Johannesburg.

Still, the province hardly has a monopoly on large events, and recent headline conferences such as Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the BRICS summit were both staged in Durban. In addition, the annual Mining Indaba event is held in Cape Town.

However, Gauteng receives a greater share of recurring, albeit smaller, conferences directly linked to trade, education and research taking place within the province. Additionally, while Gauteng might not be able to offer conventioneers the range of outdoor activities that the Western Cape and KZN can, it is also less susceptible to seasonality; spreading events more evenly throughout the calendar year.

Shopper’s Paradise

Nomvula Mokonyane, the province’s premier, has described Gauteng as the continent’s “shopping Mecca”, based on “the variety and quality of cuisine and nightlife”. With South Africa’s mainstay inbound markets of Europe and North America rebounding slowly from the affects of the global financial crisis, the importance of African visitors to the country is growing in stature.

“Africa is now contributing for around 8.5% of total tourist arrivals”, Thulani Nzima, CEO of South African Tourism, told OBG, further expressing excitement for the region’s potential, “Not only because the base is large, but because Africans are also proportionately big spenders”.

According to Nzima, African visitors are generally most interested in “lifestyle tourism”, that is, the nightlife, shopping and culinary experiences that cosmopolitan Gauteng is suited to cater to. Further, the province is working with hotels and retail players trade to package a variety of shopping options, ranging from air-conditioned suburban shopping malls with designer and global brands to discount flea and craft markets, to the rest of the continent.

Open Culture

In addition to being the home of the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage site 50 km outside of Johannesburg, with some of the oldest human ancestor fossils to have ever been found, Gauteng also offers something for history enthusiasts interested in more recent events.

A number of famous events linked to the country’s struggle against apartheid, such as the Soweto Uprising and the Rivonia Trial, took place in the province. Related sights, combined with a visit to the National Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, can be packed into a day tour.

While commemorating the past, the province is also interested in celebrating the present. “Our diversity of people needs to be leveraged and promoted, as we are home to strong Indian, Chinese, Italian and Portuguese communities, among others,” Premier Mokonyane told OBG. “In addition to tourism revenue potential, this helps unite and instil a sense of pride amongst our residents,” she added.

Many inner-city areas neglected during the country’s transition to democracy are being regenerated via public and private development initiatives, such as the Newton Cultural Precinct. Moreover, in 2012, a hop-on, hop-off bus tour service launched for the first time in Johannesburg, with much of its routing in and around the downtown core. The iconic and recognisable sightseeing red double-decker signifies the city’s position as a global destination with a tourism component worth showcasing.

Getting Creative

Arts and culture, under the Creative Industries Development Framework, has been prioritised as a key growth driver for the province due to its role in “providing opportunities for self-employment, job creation and urban regeneration”. Under the framework, creative industries are separated into sub-sectors with the intention that clusters will emerge around creative industries that are either entertainment based, such as film, television, music and performing arts, and those that focus on arts and design, such as crafts and visual arts. Partly, the rationale for this separation comes from a realisation that some components of the cultural sector, such as crafts, will always be dependent on and justify government funding, as they lend support to small, artisanal businesses and, importantly, safeguard culture and heritage.

Film Worthy

One creative industry towards which Gauteng believes it can make an economic contribution is film. According to a 2013 Deloitte study commissioned by the Department of Arts and Culture, the South African film industry contributed R3.5bn ($426.6m) to GDP in 2012 while creating just over 25,000 direct jobs.

Although the Department of Trade and Industry currently offers a variety of incentives and tax allowances for international productions meeting local content guidelines, the film industry generated approximately R670m ($81.7m) in tax revenue, easily surpassing the R250m ($30.5m) estimated to have been paid out in incentives; signifying that the industry is one that “pays for itself”.

According to Mzwandile Masina, the CEO for the Gauteng Film Commission, the province is responsible for about 70% of industry revenues and is strongly positioned to attract international film production, citing “a good location mix, plenty of flight connections, strong logistical support, and a range of price competitive support services and freelance professionals” as attractive factors.

The film commission, in particular, is keen to encourage co-productions between South African and international filmmakers as this facilitates knowledge, skills and technology transfer and raises the profile of the local industry in international markets.

Though the film commission is equally concerned with promoting and facilitating short-form films and television productions as it is in securing major studio projects with international distribution, there have been a few standout films in recent years that have helped place Gauteng on the international cinema map. “Tsotsi”, set in Johannesburg’s Alexandra Township won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. “District 9”, a science fiction thriller was also nominated for an Academy Award in four categories in 2010, including Best Picture.

Meanwhile, directed by Clint Eastwood “Invictus”, a 2009 biopic that centred around the national rugby team’s home triumph in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, in addition to “Bang Bang Club”, a 2010 drama chronicling the real-life story of four South African photojournalists set around the fall of apartheid, stand out as prominent examples of Hollywood productions focused on South African themes that chose Gauteng as their principal filming location.

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The Report: South Africa 2013

Gauteng chapter from The Report: South Africa 2013

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