Carmen Lerm Celebrates As West Coast Way Turns 3! West Coast Way has just reached its third year of operation and this calls for a celebration.
For a company, three years is not generally one of those milestone events like 10, 25 or 50 years of business.
For humans, a third birthday is usually the first time that a child actually knows what is going on when mom and dad throw a party for them.
A child of three has generally mastered walking steadily, running and falling and basic speech.
If West Coast Way was a child of three it would be skate-boarding, tap dancing and delivering eloquent speeches in multiple languages.
That is why the West Coast Way is celebrating their third year because looking back at what has been achieved is worthy of a party.
I chatted to Carmen Lerm, the founder and driving force behind West Coast Way.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge in establishing these routes and marketing the West Coast to the world?
A: Support from the tourism accommodation, activities and attractions in the West Coast starting from Table View has been amazing – however, to convince everyone that marketing works and is worth-while investing in, is a big challenge in most industries.
Q: What has been the highlight of your three-year journey?
A: Winning the PERA Premiers Entrepreneurship award in 2016 was a big nod in our direction.
Carmen Lerm’s enthusiasm is inspiring as she talks about the diverse offerings of the West Coast. She has a talent for spotting emerging trends and finding the attractions that fit that niche, then weaving it all into an exciting route.
While each themed route can be experienced in rigid numerical order, it is easy to overlap and blend food with culture, adventure with art, small town living with rugged nature or a fusion everything that interests you, using the routes as a guideline for planning and inspiration.
A look at how West Coast Way has evolved
In October 2014 West Coast Way SA was launched. It consisted of a website, a handy travel app and one route with 15 stops. Three years later 5 exciting routes with 64 stops catering to all tastes and styles of travel make exploring the West Coast as easy as a visit to the website. The passion is still very evident and the ideas and growth show no signs of slowing down.
The Culture Route was the first route in the area celebrating our Heritage and diversity while incorporating Blue Flag Beaches, sand dunes and a National Park.
When mainstream tourism started punting food as an attraction, Lerm had already launched her Foodie Route with the catchy title Culture on my plate. This route showcased the world’s first carbon-neutral beer from Darling Brew, celebrated local wines, introduced Rooibos Tea as more than just a farmers choice of hot beverage and highlighted farm stalls, slow food and the heartiness of traditional West Coast fare prepared and served the old fashioned way, or artistically tweaked by top Chefs.
In April 2015 West Coast Way participated in World Travel Market Africa taking the attractions of this region to the world.
June of 2015 also saw the relaunch of the Foodie Route with the addition of the Culture & Oyster Walk, an important addition tapping into the forgotten stories – and people — of Saldanha.
The Berg and Scenic Routes were launched together early in 2016. These routes speak directly to the heart of adventurers, trail runners, hikers and cyclists. The Cederberg Mountains, rivers and plains offer variety for all levels.
Then came the tour operator friendly WhichWay concept, which was developed to show how easy it is to venture out and explore the area, offering self-drives, guided or guided and transported day and multi-day options.
In December 2016 the Wild Route was launched along with a collaboration with the owners of Kardoesie N7 Countrystop and their 7 stops on the N7 Route. The Wild Route has two tracks: People Rocking Nature and is ideal for the explorers keen to get off the highways and onto the dirt roads that lead to mountains, caves and tracks and the coastal track, namely Sustainable Seafood Track supporting the growing awareness of the plight of our oceans and the dangers of overfishing.
In early 2017 West Coast Way partnered with the booking site Lekkeslaap making booking accommodation on your route of choice an easy, seamless process while using a unique widget on the West Coast Way site.
At the annual World Travel Market WTM 2017 West Coast Way launched SA ROAD TRIP WITH THE MOST TWISTS, placing the area firmly on every road trippers radar, and in line with SA Tourism’s #WeDoTourism campaign aimed at getting the domestic market out and about exploring.
With the three major arteries being the coastal R27, the R45 in the middle and the national N7 road linking Cape Town to Namibia, the twists come in the countless minor roads that criss-cross the region leading travellers to remote villages, forgotten hamlets and unspoiled natural delights.
It was no surprise to see this dynamic company getting the recognition it deserves in 2017 being placed third in the PERA Awards for Best Emerging Tourism Business
In September 2017 the Mamre Werf #StoepStories were launched at the Rapport Holiday Show. Tori Oso’s #StoepStories answers the Department of Tourism’s call to action for all South Africans to contribute to tourism as #WeDoTourism campaign.
In three years, Carmen Lerm has not stopped creating new routes, tweaking others and continuously innovating, adding and refining the brand to meet the needs of travellers both local and international.
Route development is much more than linking a few towns and attractions on a map.
Achieving all the above in three years is remarkable, but Lerm and the team at West Coast Way SA have a very strong sense of civic duty.
“For us at West Coast Way, social responsibility is a serious business to be tackled with passion,” says Carmen Lerm.
They are actively involved in the annual Twitter Blanket Drive, supporting the Siyabonga Care Village just outside Vredenburg.
On Mandela Day a variety of initiatives see West Coast Way members and the team performing innovative tasks for their contribution to 67 minutes for Mandela.
Carmen Lerm is also a supporter of SANCCOB, a seabird rescue and rehabilitation centre who work with endangered African penguins and other southern African seabirds. The West Coast Way not only provided many of the prizes, but the company table adopted a total of 3 penguins at the 15th annual Benefit Auction held in August at the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice by Marriott Cape Town.
When asked what is next Carmen Lerm replied “Coming soon is the West Coast Way Pass, being developed primarily for the International Market. The pass will facilitate an easy booking system ahead of travel times as well as offering value for money. “
Carmen Lerm has successfully identified the unique offerings of the West Coast. She has then hand-picked the attractions that embody the ethos of the West Coast and introduced them, beautifully packaged, to the world.
So yes, there is plenty to celebrate on the third birthday of West Coast Way SA.
The Roaming Giraffe is Di Brown. Travel writer and blogger, mother, grandmother, avid reader, tourism professional, learner photographer, social media influencer, Twitter fan and lover of Instagram.
West Coast Way is South Africa’s road trip with the most twists. South Africans and visitors can explore a unique collection of themed routes to do adventure-filled Cape West Coast self-drive trips or a West Coast Holiday. The new West Coast Way “basket” of free routes on offer include the West Coast Way Scenic Route, the West Coast Way Berg Route, the West Coast Way Foodie Route, the West Coast Way Cultural Route – as well as the newly launched West Coast Way Wild Route, all of which are designed to showcase the many attractions and activities that are already on offer on the Cape West Coast and inland areas – but may be unknown to many. For more information on West Coast Way’s #WestCoastTwist and the list of 101 Things to Do on the West Coast visit www.westcoastway.co.za or call West Coast Way on 0861 321 777. Connect with West Coast Way on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at WestCoastWaySA.