The destination marketing organizations (DMOs) NYC & Company and Cape Town Tourism are embarking upon the first-ever city-to-city partnership between groups in the United States and South Africa. The union aims to boost tourism between the two cities, both of which are capitals of culture, cuisine, and design in their respective countries.

The agreement evolved out of a long-standing dialogue between Fred Dixon, the CEO of NYC & Company and Enver Duminy, the CEO of Cape Town Tourism. The two-year alliance includes the exchange of marketing and advertising assets and the sharing of best tourism practices. The two DMOs will also collaborate on ways to boost travel between the cities through offers and incentives provided by third-party travel providers.

While the partnership does not segment out the luxury market per se, according to Chris Heywood, NYC & Company’s senior vice president of global communications, “Our goal is to attract higher-spending tourists who will stay longer” and spend more. According to CTT’s Duminy, while the initial aim of the partnership is “to run campaigns in each other’s market without an actual direct monetary outlay and create demand to stimulate an increase of tourism in both directions, our ultimate goal is to support the initiation of a direct airline route between New York and Cape Town, to enable more convenient and accessible travel between the two cities.”

Duminy points out that the U.S. is Cape Town’s third-largest source market (and South Africa’s second-largest). South Africa is the largest African origin market for visitors to New York City, accounting for nearly 30 percent of African visitors to New York City.

For Cape Town, this is the first such partnership within the tourism sector specifically, and a first DMO marketing twinning agreement in Africa. But for NYC & Company, partnering with international destinations is old hat. It’s a practice that the city has been engaging in for nearly a decade. The strategy behind each individual partnership differs. For example, New York and Milan inked an agreement in 2015 with the goal of increasing low-season travel. New York teamed up with Seoul, South Korea in 2011. A key part of that deal was a special Korean Air promotional fare between the two cities.

In the case of re-upping an agreement with Mexico City this spring, it was somewhat of a political scenario. It was, according to Heywood, a way “of countering the rhetoric of the Trump administration, by speaking to the values of New York City. It was critical for us to send a message into the Mexican market and our announcement of a renewal [of the New York/Mexico City partnership] was very helpful in reinforcing the message that we welcome all visitors.”

New York’s strategy with Cape Town, however, is not overtly political. Instead, according to Heywood, it’s a way for NYC & Company to get a foothold in Africa.

The main element of the partnership is the trading of marketing and advertising assets, which will be activated in early 2018. In Cape Town, New York City advertising will be featured through digital and out-of-home media, and via a solar-powered mobile visitor information center. According to Duminy, “In terms of marketing, Thando — which, in the local African language is the word for love — is our moving billboard and activation station. The Cape Town Tourism-branded vehicle, usually stationed at events and high visitor traffic areas, will be rebranded with NYC marketing material for the duration of the campaign.”

New Yorkers, meantime, will see advertising directed to travelers, according to Duminy, who are attracted to CTT’s major tourism offerings – culture, attractions, wildlife, cuisine and adventure. Ads appearing on bus stop shelters and LinkNYC kiosks will highlight the similarities between the two cities with taglines like “From Midtown to Cape Town” or “From Central Park to Kirstenbosch” or “From Hot Dogs to the Gatsby.” The Gatsby, by the way, is a massive submarine sandwich.

Both Duminy and Heywood concur that agreements like these are win-wins for DMOs. “We don’t have big advertising budgets,” notes Heywood. “So, these partnerships allow us to generate interest in a creative and cost-effective way.”

That said, Heywood has advice for other DMOs that might be intrigued by the concept. “These partnerships take an extraordinary amount of work because each agreement has to be customized. It can take years to negotiate them and bring them to fruition.” But if a DMO sees an opportunity to cultivate opportunities based on shared business strategies and goals, the payoff is a greater international marketing presence, which can drive high-yielding international tourism visitation.

Photo Credit: A beach in Cape Town, South Africa. DMOs NYC & Company and Cape Town Tourism are embarking upon the first-ever city-to-city partnership between groups in the United States and South Africa. Nick Gray / Flickr