The gay CIA has opened up its offices in Cape Town! No need to be alarmed. This CIA is not so secretive. Its open doors and welcoming hospitality are creating quite a buzz in de Waterkant Gay Village, where both travellers and those involved in the tourism industry have found a place to connect, do business and sell their Pink products under the pink roof of a wonderful new tourist centre called Cape-Info-Africa, or CIA in short.
Left: Brian Kruger – Head of Cape-Info-Africa
Head of Cape-Info-Africa is Brian Kruger, a charming man who has been extensively involved in the hotel and tourism industry for a decade and has now concentrated his experience and energy into creating South Africa’s first gay business centre where numerous Pink businesses operate under one roof to cater for the needs of the gay tourism and the local and international gay market.
John French: Brian, please explain the concept of Cape-Info-Africa to me.
Brian Kruger: As far as I know, there are no other gay business centres in South Africa, and perhaps the world that have what we have here at Cape-Info-Africa. We have a virtual office environment in the tourism industry where we have four travel desks, (one being our Pink Travel Desk), in addition, there are a number of others desks including a safari desk, an Adventure desk, Europcar, Avis Luxury Car Hire for the prissy Queens, Saraswati Tours, CafÃ© Africa and Cprop Real Estate Agency among others – all catering for the needs of local and international gay tourists. Whatever the gay traveller needs can now all be organised and achieved under one roof now.
So, do you only cater to the gay market?
Cape-Info-Africa is not a totally exclusively gay tourism centre. We do have a Pink travel desk that caters exclusively for the gay market. The current state of gay tourism in South Africa does not justify a centre of our magnitude and its sustainability.
Well, they could if they wanted to…
You said it, not me!
What percentage of your clientele is gay?
We have about 85 Pink products that advertise with us out of a total of about 240 advertisers at this stage. 90% of our staff and associates are gay.
And the rest are… liars?
They are probably in denial!
Perhaps you should have a conversion desk as well! Do you find it easy to work in a very gay oriented office with a lot of gay people working together? Is it a plus or a minus?
We have a very relaxed atmosphere in the office in general and this most definitely rubs off onto our clientele, both gay and straight.
Are there any relationships blossoming in the centre yet?
Nothing in the centre as yet. Years ago, I was organiser of The Gat dance parties and there are still relationships today that started at that pavilion at the Goodwood Show Grounds. If those walls could only talk, boy would they have a lot of stories to tell!
What is the age range of your gay clientele and how does age affect the packages they look for?
I would say that the average age group of our gay clientele would be between 35 and 55 and generally the packages are similar. Most want gay or gay friendly establishments throughout their stay and all want to enjoy a safari experience.
Do many lesbians use your services?
Amiene van der Merwe “mans” our Pink travel desk and also runs a tourism company called Wanderwoman. We have had a small number of lesbian clientele, but so far the males have been predominant.
Right: One of the networking functions at CIA offices in de Waterkant, Cape Town
What is the state of the gay tourism industry locally as well as internationally?
Gay tourism in South Africa has a very long way to go. Our tourism authorities have not yet seen the light in this regard and do very little towards marketing to this niche market. Internationally, this is a totally different issue and this can be seen by the support that cities like Sydney, Montreal, and many European cities get from their tourism authorities.
I believe you hold regular social functions at your offices
We have network functions every second month where we invite all our advertisers and related businesses to a social networking opportunity where everyone can talk to each other. It serves as a wonderful networking opportunity. These network functions are specifically geared towards the Pink market and we have had three of these functions so far.
With your great experience in working and dealing with the gay market, what advice would you give novices who wanted to tap into the gay market?
From a business perspective, if you want to tap into this market, I find that gay people do not take well to the perception that they are being ripped off. You must have a good attitude towards Pink business and do not just try to make money out of them. Your products must be priced at cost effective and market related prices. Establishments that charge, for example, R30 per glass of wine will get away with it just until another venue opens, and then they will lose the majority of their business. Gay people tend also to be even harsher in cutting you out if they are not happy with your service or pricing. They have a great attention to detail and do not overlook things like that.
Cape Info Africa can be contacted on (021) 425-6461; fax (021) 425-6459, e-mail email@example.com or on the web at www.capeinfoafrica.co.za.