Placemaking and inclusivity: why Italians should visit South Africa

Sud Africa

Di Gianluca Basciu

A conversation with the Minister of Tourism of South Africa and the V&A Waterfront CEO

Walking through the streets of Cape Town, you might incur in the majesty of the Table Mountain, the beauty of the beach of Camps Bay or the honking of the famous minibus-taxis. It may also happen that while crossing Nobel Square – tribute to the four South African Nobel Peace Prizes – you hear a man speaking to a large public: “I’m not here as the Minister of Tourism. I’m here as a nostalgic Capetonian who did the Penny Ferry when I was a little boy”. It’s the 9th of October and the old rowing boat Penny Ferry service has been reopened to the public at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront – 123-hectares space in the South Africa’s oldest working harbour. Since the beginning of November, the boat has started again serving the Capetonians and the visitors, carrying them across the channel.

The ceremony is attended by the South African Minister of Tourism Mr. Derek Hanekom, and the V&A Waterfront CEO, Mr. David Green.

Mr. Green, what are the main challenges in managing such a complex organization?
The Waterfront is a place of deep historic interest and culture. We work very hard to bring authenticity to make it more than a shopping centre, and more than a place where you can live, work, and play. People increasingly want to connect with other people: this requires a high level of inclusivity, especially in South Africa. The Waterfront is therefore a place for everybody, whether you are buying a handbag, or you are just coming here to eat something. I also think we attempt to be a site where people can reflect, connect, feel good about integrating with the history and nature of the place. That is probably the biggest challenge we have. We don’t want to be a tourist trap.

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Which managerial skills do you look for in your team?
The biggest skill we are working at is placemaking, which is the ability to understand what makes people feel comfortable in spaces. It’s part of the urban development, but it’s also just an instinct to understand people’ nature. Most people say “I want to run an efficient building, I want to have a lovely architecture building”. Instead, what makes the success is activating all the spaces.

Mr. Hanekom, what is the relationship of the Republic of South Africa with Italy?
Historically it’s very strong, and it remains very strong. From a tourist point of view, we only have a dozen country offices spread around the world. One of them is in Milan. Obviously Italy has an incredible and diverse tourist offer, so it’s very high on the list of many South Africans to visit Italy some time in their lives, whether it’s Rome, or Florence, or Venice, or the South of Italy. Italy is chosen both for the landscape and for the heritage. South Africa is different but similar. For this reason, we would like to see more Italians coming to South Africa. We perceive this as a potential, which is why we opened the country office in Italy.

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