“Being part of the Attractions Africa project team presents a big opportunity to share my knowledge and to include more KZN attractions. Attractions Africa is a trailblazer for the tourism industry throughout Africa and I believe this will help us to grow our tourism offering in KwaZulu-Natal. It will provide a platform that will benefit us all and allow us to re-introduce our province to the world,” says Mpume Mthembu, Marketing Director of uShaka Marine World and the newest member of this year’s Attractions Africa project team.
Having attended Attractions Africa conferences over the past three years, she says that she has learnt a great deal. This knowledge has not only translated into on-the-ground implementation at uShaka Marine World but has also been shared with her compatriots in the local industry.
uShaka Marine World is regarded as something of a trailblazer and is one of the two anchor attractions along the city’s iconic Golden Mile. Since opening in 2004, over 10 million guests have gone through its turnstiles and it can lay claim to plenty of accolades – including being home to the seventh largest aquarium in the world and the largest in Africa.
Mpume is a Durban girl. Born in Umlazi, she grew up in Durban and Mahlabathini. Her passion for marketing, leadership and branding are reflected in her postgraduate qualifications which include a B Com, a post-graduate Diploma in Business Management and an MBA.
The first 20 years of her career were spend in the corporate world with the likes of Old Mutual, Investec, the Ithala Development Finance Corporation and Hulamin. She went on to an open strategic branding and communications consultancy, iFutho Communications before moving to uShaka two and a half years later.
“The challenge when it comes to marketing a theme park such as uShaka is to constantly renew your offering and invest in new attractions and to ensure that your staff do not become complacent and always put your guests first. That attracts both new and return visitors,” she explains.
Under her watch, uShaka has upgraded many facilities including the children’s pool at Wet ‘n Wild and the soft play area at uShaka Kids World. The iconic Cargo Hold restaurant, which forms part of the wreck and boasts magnificent shark tanks, has been completely revamped and Sea Animal Encounter Island, where guests can enjoy up close and personal experiences with marine animals, was launched.
This has been backed up with the introduction of the Good to Great Initiative, which has encouraged employees to perform to their full potential and the Guest First campaign for staff.
Most significantly, Mpume’s love for all things tourism doesn’t stop at uShaka. She heads the Durban Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Forum and is a board member of the Durban Chamber of Commerce & Industry.