Table Mountain is on the bucket list for all visitors to Cape Town. The iconic flat-topped mountain provides an experience like no other, with breathtaking views of a vibrant city nestled between two great oceans. The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) not only transports visitors to the top of this vantage point, but also enhances their experience from the minute they arrive at the lower cable station and step into the cable car.
There are a few challenges that the company faces in making sure visitors have the best experience, mostly due to stringent safety precautions. But a visit to Table Mountain remains a “must do” experience and, as it was voted Africa’s Top Tourist Attraction in 2019, there is no shortage of interest from both South African and foreign tourists.
Statement of the problem/opportunity
The peak season traditionally occurs during the December and January period, when South African schools are on holiday and foreign visitors from colder climates enjoy a sunny Christmas in Cape Town. But with the sunshine also comes the summer winds, which can gust up to 80km/h and cause a safety threat to the cable cars.
The Cableway can only operate in good weather conditions, but needs to close during heavy winds. Thick cloud also impacts the full experience of the mountain because it impedes visibility. In addition, if the weather is bad for a few days and then clears, it results in large crowds waiting for the cableway and a lot of traffic.
These variables lead to visitors’ anxiety that their experience will be negatively impacted and results in a large volume of calls and enquiries to the help desk, which overloads the operations team.
The challenge the Cableway faced was clear: how does it ensure that the experience of this iconic attraction exceeds visitors’ expectations, even in the busy weeks of the peak period with crowds and weather conditions to contend with?
A larger communications strategy persuades visitors to prioritise a trip to the Cableway, but TMACC also knew that it had to provide them with the tools to ensure they had a good time.
On 4 December 2019 it was noted by Independent Online that Cape Town was set to experience double-digit growth in tourists arriving in the city, based on flight bookings from the UK and Germany. So we were prepared that it was going to be a busy season.
We also attended several sessions with the Cableway to gear up for the peak season, and understand the questions that the front desk gets asked on a daily basis.
We identified that there were mainly questions about the weather and its impact on whether the Cableway was open or not. There were also many questions about the specials running at the time, and what they included and excluded.
We spoke to the Cableway’s operations teams to understand some of the pain points for visitors to the mountain over the peak season, which uncovered insights such as parking confusion, traffic congestion and a lack of understanding of where to queue.
After the writing was crafted and edited, we sent the newsletters to design. Our designers worked to incorporate the Cableway’s new corporate identity, which added personality, colour and visual intrigue to the newsletters.
Once the client had approved the content, it was deployed to the various recipient databases using Campaign Monitor.
Our strategy was to arm potential visitors with tips on how to have the best experience at the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway.
We identified Cableway’s three existing newsletter databases as a way to effectively deliver answers to frequently asked questions before the traveller arrives at the attraction.
Our insights led us to believe that we couldn’t just reach out to the Cableway’s loyal visitor base, but had to extend further to new visitors, whom the Cableway had never spoken to before. So we created three separate newsletters. The Visitors’ Newsletter was aimed at the Cableway’s 6 000 subscribers, and the Cable Card Newsletter was customised for its 2 600 Cable Card-holders, whom we knew would spread the word to family and friends who might visit Cape Town. The third newsletter, the Tourism Industry Newsletter, was written for the Cableway’s network of tour operators and people in the industry, totalling over 6 100 subscribers. This group represented our best chance of targeting new and potential visitors.
We also had several different target markets to speak to in one communication medium. The new brand strategy for the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway focuses on a sense of inclusion and the need to address niche markets, such as hikers or persons with disabilities, to make sure that everyone feels welcomed. To address both South African and foreign visitors, we needed to carefully position our tone so that we delivered personality without losing meaning or going over their heads.
So we needed bite-sized chunks of useful information that appealed to all audience groups, while still being vibrant, friendly and welcoming.
First, we decided to get ahead with the Cableway’s most important audience: the tour operators gearing up for a busy season. Specific packages and specials were selected for them to upsell to their new visitors over the peak season. We also wanted to position the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway as the best source of information on their tours to the mountain.
Second, we prioritised what to tell the different audiences, while still keeping each newsletter fresh and relevant. We selected the right specials that would be the most relevant to each of the specific markets. For example, we selected to tell the Cable Card-holders and general visitors about the Early Bird special, as we knew they were loyal visitors with families visiting them and could spread the word about a more premium product. And the more people buying Early Bird specials means slightly fewer people joining the crowds later in the day.
All three newsletters had useful tips on how to avoid the queues and where to park, and prompts to visit the TMACC website, where real-time weather updates and closure information would be readily available.
The content in the newsletters highlighted the following:
- People with Early Access Tickets would be able to skip the long festive season queues
- Early Access Tickets would include free coffee and muffins at the Wi-Fi Lounge on top of the mountain
- Other special offers for children and pensioners
- Tips for visiting Table Mountain during the busy festive season
- A profile on the 29-millionth person to use Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
- Other useful information and contact details
The newsletters were designed in a responsive format, to ensure that mobile users enjoyed the same experience as desktop users.
The newsletters were bright and eye-catching, showing the beauty of Table Mountain in a visual and inspirational way, to entice people to visit the Cableway.
We crafted the subject lines for each newsletter carefully, to ensure optimum open rates.
We cleaned and honed our databases, making sure that each newsletter was sent to the correct audience segment, and we tailored the content of each to the appropriate audience.
We packed each newsletter full of content, to ensure that there would be plenty to entice those who opened them to read something they found to be of interest.
The newsletters were sent out to nearly 15 000 people over the peak period of December 2019 and January 2020. This was a targeted campaign, primarily to Capetonians, who we hoped would spread the word – which is what clearly did happen, given the excellent sales of the Early Access Special over the holiday period. The coverage and reach to our desired audience was therefore highly effective.
These were some of the success metrics we saw over this campaign:
- The Visitor Newsletter measured an open rate of 33%, compared with industry standards of about 15% in the travel space, and was opened by 1 951 unique users, from 34 different countries. Of the people who opened the newsletter, 195 clicked at least one link
- The Cable Card Newsletter resulted in a phenomenal open rate of 48%, far higher than any previous newsletters sent to this database. Of the 1 262 people who opened the newsletter, 85 clicked at least one link
- The Tourism Industry Newsletter was opened by 1 797 unique readers – an open rate of 29.5% – which amounted to a 4% increase on any previous newsletters sent to this database. Of the 1 815 people who opened this newsletter, 75 clicked at least one link
Although we perhaps can’t attribute it all to the newsletters, the Cableway sold more Early Bird tickets in the December-January period than in any other period.