Travel Debrief: New York City

Enver Duminy, CEO, Cape Town Tourism, debriefs u|Chief on his recent trip to NYC.


Tell us about your recent travels?

Most recently, the LoveCapeTown team and I travelled to New York City, US, to sign a trade and media partnership agreement with NYC & Company, our counterparts there. It’s impossible not to be struck by the sheer size and energy of New York, a city familiar to us from many TV shows and movies. We’re proud to be associated with them, to be placed in the category of world-class destination should make Capetonians and South Africans thrilled.


What was memorable in terms of the travel and business experience?

As far as this travel experience went, a lot of it was consumed with meetings and networking opportunities, as is always the case of business travel, however, the team and I made it to a few of the landmark attractions, including Lady Liberty, Central Park, The Highline, and also getting to see the global Broadway sensation Hamilton.

We’ve been developing this international relationship for some years, so it’s good to meet up with our friends there and carry on as if no time has passed at all. The people you meet are central to any travel experience, and we enjoy sharing our stories.


What results did you achieve through this trip?

As mentioned, the trip was to sign a partnership deal, the first of its kind between New York and any city on the African continent – a landmark deal. This will see Cape Town Tourism and New York & Company sharing our marketing platforms to encourage visitors to go to each city respectively, and also sharing best practice.


What opportunities did you identify?

As a developing nation, we must always be on the lookout for opportunities; we’re looking to increase awareness around all that South Africa has to offer, as well as seeking opportunities to develop more direct flights, for example, to provide ease of access. Getting there and back is part of the challenge, so increased flights between both cities would encourage business development across a number of industries. We are also working via our National Department of Tourism to engage with the Department of Home Affairs, in developing a VISA Waiver Program for South Africans travelling to the US.


What surprised you about the country – positively and negatively?

What’s great about New York is that the city has its own independent character, so no matter what may going on outside – politically, socially – NYC & Company continues to seek ways to attract visitors. We’re aware of the challenges the US has been facing, and yet NYC & Company doesn’t get distracted from making a trip there worthwhile, ensuring that visitor experiences are always top of mind. What stood out most for me was the friendliness of locals and a very high level or focus on customer service, something that many of us in Cape Town need to work on, in order to ensure that the customer is at the centre of everything we do. You could say that’s a positive approach to a negative situation.


How did you grow personally from this travel experience?

I was inspired by the creativity I came across there, as well as the energy of the individuals I met. They have impressive resources, but they’re also looking for ways to maximise potential with what they have. That’s what we have to do locally – rather than being limited by what we have, we need to ask ourselves, how can we make it work for us, how can we make what we have grow?


What lesson did you learn or pick up during this trip that you would like to share with others?

Possibility thinking is great, but it can take many months or years to see the fruit of a dream coming to life. Perseverance and hard work go hand-in-hand with seeing a dream realised. And it’s amazing to hear how many people love our South African accent – so don’t be ashamed to speak up and laugh out.


Was there something about how they do business or live their lives that readers could benefit from experiencing?

I believe that international travel opens you up to fresh perspectives. There are no rights or wrongs about different lifestyles, but you can gain inspiration through seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, watching how they work and play. That’s why travel stirs so many of us – we want to see the world and the people who live in it. No matter where you go, you’ll find people you can relate to on a personal, human level, and South Africa has plenty to offer our visitors in that regard, so it’s a pleasure to encourage people in other countries to get here to see for themselves. There’s Xhosa saying, which was printed on a coffee mug on my flight back from NYC, which sums this up wonderfully “Ukuhamba Kukubona – Travelling opens a window to the world”.


Any fun memories?

Every memory is a fun one, as it is filled with so many possibilities, and one is reminded of how beautiful the world is, but also how amazing our City is that we sometimes take for granted.


Where would you go to next time if you visited for business or pleasure?

I’m privileged to travel to many places professionally, to share the good news of South Africa. Ideally, I’d like to see more of the Middle East and UAE countries – there’s much about Cape Town, in particular, that would appeal to the Muslim traveller, so I’d like to make sure that that message gets out there.

Having travelled around SA in 2010 with the FIFA Soccer World Cup, I’ve found many welcoming places. Business travel doesn’t always provide opportunities to explore, but I do love to get into local neighbourhoods to meet people and find out what makes them tick – they’re the ones who can tell you their local secrets – what’s fun to do and see.


What did you learn about New Yorkers?

Locally, we’re starting to realise the value in increased cultural sensitivity when it comes to our visitors, so larger tourism operators are translating literature into more languages, or providing more options for visitors from different backgrounds – and that extends from menu options to providing prayer facilities or directions to places of worship near holiday accommodation. It’s all about personalising your business offering so that visitors have a home away from home.


What were the language challenges?

Well, New York, although a first-language English-speaking city is like Cape Town, a cultural melting pot. You could be speaking to someone in Spanish one minute and then in French the next. Wherever you go, take phrasebooks (or Google Translate!) and pick up languages as you go. If not, just say I am South African and Madiba is our father – the recognition and assistance you will receive will astound you…enjoy your travels.