2014 is Cape Town's Year

by Mariette du Toit-Helmbold on 29.10.2013

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There is plenty of travel inspiration for 2014

The much anticipated annual "best of travel" list by Lonely Planet, still one of the most trusted voices in travel, has a few surprises in store, but whether you are into traditional cities or intrigued by cities on the rise – there is plenty of inspiration for your travels in 2014.

Lonely Planet says “their travel experts trekked the globe to hand-pick the best trends, destinations, journeys and experiences for the upcoming year” and the list of countries, cities and regions poised for greatness in 2014 was compiled “after fierce debate and hundreds of suggestions from their extended family of travel experts, authors, editors, bloggers and tweeters”.

The top city place goes to Paris, undergoing an exciting urban renaissance; followed by tiny Trinidad described by Lonely Planet as " a sherbet-tinged, time-trapped Unesco World Heritage Site". Cape Town is third on the list. 

Lonely Planet has made a mark for itself in between the “glossy travelogues" selling picture-perfect destinations by searching out the often “less than perfect, but always interesting” places and experiences for their readers.

Finding the beauty between the layers of a city

During my tenure as CEO of Cape Town Tourism I always enjoyed my interactions with the travel writers sent by Lonely Planet to uncover new and interesting things in Cape Town. They were always keen to go deeper, to venture away from the well-known and glamourous side of the city and to get lost in the layers of Cape Town. Like us they know that the deeper you go into a city the more beautiful it gets...

This is what sets the Lonely Planet “best in travel” list apart and that is why, in my opinion, this accolade matters.

Being World Design Capital is a golden opportunity for Cape Town as the eyes of the world are upon us.

Cape Town's Golden Opportunity

2014 will be a big year for Cape Town and for South Africa. The country celebrates 20 years of democracy and Cape Town will wear her crown as World Design Capital for 2014. It is a golden opportunity for Cape Town as the eyes of the world are upon us.

Whilst many will debate just how far we have come since the country emerged from the shackles of Apartheid, it is an opportune time to firmly position Cape Town as a city that has far more to offer the world than its awe-inspiring natural beauty.

Former industrial districts such as Woodstock are undergoing a regeneration.

Lonely Planet says of Cape Town: “In recent years the city has received a deluge of accolades paying homage to its undeniable natural beauty. This year the city is destined to get even prettier as it takes on the title of World Design Capital for 12 inspirational months. Expect sculpture-lined green spaces, sustainable projects, and further regeneration of former industrial districts such as Woodstock and The Fringe, now the stamping ground of trendy shoppers and gourmands.”

They encourage visitors to “venture on a tour out of town to see how innovation is turning things around in the disadvantaged townships and then explore suburban sights on the swanky bus system that’s finally making Cape Town feasible on public transport” to experience in action how the title of World Design Capital is being used to help “bridge the gap between Cape Town’s disparate population”.

2014 and Cape Town’s title as World Design Capital, is an opportunity to build upon the awareness created for South Africa’s vibrant and evolving urban offering as a whole during the World Cup in 2010.

Urban tourism is on the rise and I believe the growing awareness of South Africa’s cities has contributed to the country’s sustained tourism growth despite the international economic down-turn over the last few years.

The World Cup, hosted in cities in 2010, gave the world a glimpse of the country’s vibrant urban environment and the liveability of its cities; the feedback was substantive and glowing. South Africa had long positioned itself as a country with abundant wildlife and great scenic beauty and most marketing campaigns were somewhat one dimensionally developed around these themes.

The urban centres of the country were under-utilised as brand strengths in marketing efforts before 2010.

Since then, the country’s marketing took a different angle with South African Tourism (www.southafrica.net) working closely together with cities to showcase South Africa’s vibrant living centres of culture.

Here is an example of a campaign South African Tourism did with National Geographic called “Through the Lens”.

Being a design capital is about being creative, innovative and exciting, but also a city that puts people first, one that people want to visit.

For Cape Town there is no better time to invest in its urban tourism-marketing proposition than 2014.

Being a World Design Capital is by its very nature an exercise in city branding. Cape Town won the bid based on our proposal to use design as a starting point to transform our city and improve the lives and opportunities of our residents. This promise to be a champion for design-led urban management is also the foundation for a city tourism brand, a calling card for a city that is creative, innovative and exciting, one that puts people first, one that people want to visit.

Cities are brands and the sooner they harness their brand and assets, the sooner they stand out and start to win. For each and every one of us World Design Capital 2014 is a chance to define ourselves – to stand apart and tell our story.  Cape Town cannot afford to let this opportunity pass us by.

World Design Capital 2014 is a chance to define ourselves – to stand apart and tell our story.

Read more on my thoughts about the significance of the title of World Design Capital for Cape Town here.

You can also read more on my views on cities as the new super brands of destination marketing and the important link between a city’s liveability and visitability.

Mariette du Toit-Helmbold is an international destination marketing and tourism thought leader and brand developer. She owns Destinate, a tourism marketing company, and was CEO of Cape Town Tourism for nine years. Follow her on Twitter or Destinate on Twitter or Facebook

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