DATE : MARCH 2013COMPASS – Insights into Tourism Branding
Created for CNN’s TASK Group by Anita Mendiratta © all rights reserved PAGE 2
Tourist waterfront developments –tourist traps or true to place? Exclusive or for everyone? Icons or eyesores?
From Auckland to Busan, Cape Town to Düsseldorf, Edinburgh to Frankfurt, and all other waterfront locations from F to Z, the debate continues. What value do waterfront developments really bring to a destination? There they stand on the edge of the water, attracting tourists as often a first port of call, often dominating a visitor’s dance card and perception of place (to the point where they can draw in more tourist foot flow than any other offering in the destination), generating highly desirable amounts of revenue, but greatly undesired envy (dare one say jealousy) from other tourist attractions.
Sadly, in some places, locals feel locked out – the space seems not for them, only for tourists with gold cards and gift lists of souvenirs. No thank you, not interested, especially when it all feels just so stereotypically been there, got the t-shirt’.
And what about impact on marine eco-systems, water quality, and sea views?
It is little wonder that waterfronts targeting tourists often receive such challenge. Whether it is Singapore, Sydney, San Francisco, Seattle, Santos, Seoul or anywhere else under the sun that has a waterfront development catering to tourists, the question is the same: aside from their individual gains, is it really a good thing for the destination as a whole?
This question has for decades been asked by destinations, and developers, alike.
The answer: a strong ” absolutely”, when waterfront developments are looked at as a whole.
GETTING THE RIGHT BLEND TO GET REAL BUY-IN
One tourism waterfront that spent many of its formative years making its case is Cape Town’s iconic V&A Waterfront. Blessed with the backdrop of the majestic Table Mountain, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, the city’s waterfront development is recognised globally for its award winning design, finely woven together mixed-use working harbour and tourism destination offering, six star green, gold star heritage rating, and #1 position as South Africa’s most popular tourism attraction.
Still, built at a time when the new South Africa was still reshaping as a recently liberated nation, coming together as a people united by a determined spirit of colour blind unity, the waterfront spent many a year being accused of being just for them – the tourists – and not welcoming to locals. As a result, concerted effort was made to ensure that the waterfront was felt to be not just a place for people across the country, but a place of the people across the country, in all ways that matter – socially, economically, emotionally, collectively. The result? Inclusive, emotive success.
As expressed by the current CEO of the V&A Waterfront, David Green,:
“A waterfront cannot be viewed in isolation. It is an extension and neighbourhood of the city, not just an attraction. It makes a significant impact not only as a driver of tourism, but also from an economic and emotional wellbeing perspective. This is an indoor outdoor destination that offers city dwellers a ‘’backyard”, in an historically significant setting. We recognise that a waterfront is about creating and fiercely retaining a space that locals love and celebrate as their own; the spaces between the buildings are actually more important than the buildings themselves.”