An article in the Cape Business News, entitled “Fedhasa to monitor Cape hotel pricing”, echoed a promise of such a survey by FEDHASA Cape Chairman Dirk Elzinga at the recent Tourism Destination Conference.  Elzinga promised that his association would conduct the survey in response to the accusation by Conference speaker and Cape Town Routes Unlimited Chairman Peter Bacon as well as provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde, that Cape Town’s hotels are expensive, and do not reflect the law of supply and demand, which should bring down rates, given poor demand, thereby giving our city a bad reputation, it was alleged. 

Given that FEDHASA Cape still has not conducted the promised survey, I decided to do my own independent survey last week, to get a feel for pricing of the largest and best known Cape Town hotels, asking them for their May rates.  Ellerman House is the most expensive Cape Town hotel by far, starting at R5000 per room, and the Peninsula All Suite Hotel is the least expensive 5-star hotel, at R1570 per room.  The opening offer of R1875 per room at the Queen Victoria Hotel is exceptional, given what it offers.  Interesting too is that a number of 4-star hotels are more expensive than some 5-star hotels.  The survey found that the average rate of the sixteen 5-star hotels surveyed is R2939 per room, just under R1500 per person.   Across all 27 hotels surveyed, the average rate per room is R2419, or just over R1200 per person, not cheap given that it is winter in May, and that there is poor demand. 

It was interesting to hear how the calls were handled, most hotel reservation departments asking careful questions, to identify if the caller was a travel agent/tour operator, single or double, a corporate business client, South African ID book holder, and/or a Protea Hotel Prokard holder, all of which would have affected the rate quoted.  Few hotels called had a rate sheet from which to quote immediately, having to access their computer for the information, costing time.

The rates were checked for 3 – 6 May (or the dates nearest these if one or more dates were fully booked already), per room for 2 adults sharing and inclusive of Breakfast per day, so as to compare the rates fairly.  We added breakfast to the rates where these were quoted separately.   We have ranked the hotel rates from most to least expensive:

Ellerman House, 5 star, R5000 – R15700, Tel (021) 430-3200

Cape Grace Hotel, 5 star, R 4510 – R 5680, Tel (021) 410-7100

One&Only Cape Town, 5 star, R3889 for South Africans – R5990 for non-South Africans. Tel (021) 819-2000

Dock House, 5 star, R3790 (but pay for 2 days, stay for 3 days offer). Tel (021) 421-9334

Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, 5 star, R3565.  Tel (021) 430-0500

Table Bay Hotel, 5 star, R3166 for South Africans, R 6000 for non-South Africans, Tel (021) 406-5000

V & A Hotel, 4 star, R3115 (but special 2 days pay for 3 days stay offer), Tel (021) 415-1000

Mount Nelson Hotel, 5 star, R 3000. Tel (021) 483-1000

Westin Grand Arabella Quays, 5 star, R 2960. Tel (021) 412-9999

Twelve Apostles, 5 star, R2865 – R4480.  Tel (021) 437-9000

15 on Orange Hotel, 5 star, R2770 – R2970, Tel (021) 469-8000

The Taj Hotel, 5 star, R2200. Tel (021) 819-2000

Cullinan Hotel, 5 star, R2150.  Tel (021) 415-4000

Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa, 5 star, R2120 – R3220.  Tel (021) 525-3888

Ambassador Hotel, 4 star, R1920 (but stay for 3 and pay for 2 nights offer), Tel (021) 439-6176

Queen Victoria Hotel, not graded yet but seeking 5 stars, R1875 special opening rate until July, Tel (021) 418-1466

Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, 4 star, R1750. Tel (021) 409-4000

Victoria Junction Hotel, 4 star, R 1686. Tel (021) 418-1234

Commodore Hotel, 4 star, R1600.  Tel (021) 415-1000

Portswood Hotel, 4 star, R 1600.  tel (021) 415-1000

Bay Hotel, 5 star, R1600 – R2100 for South Africans, R 2590 – R3690 for non-South Africans.  Tel (021) 438-4444

Peninsula All Suite Hotel, 5 star, R 1570.  Tel (021) 430-7777

Cape Sun Hotel, 4 star, R1500.  Tel (021) 488-5100

Winchester Mansions Hotel, 4 star,  R1470 – R1930.  Tel (021) 434-2351

President Hotel, 4 star, R1460 – R1660. Tel (021) 434-8111

Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, no star grading, R 1295 standard, R1665 business rooms. Tel (021) 406-1911 

Protea Hotel Fire & Ice Hotel, 3 star, R 900, Tel (021) 488-2555

To contrast the rates of hotels in the city, a rate survey was also conducted amongst the 24 members of the Camps Bay Accommodation Association, consisting of mainly 4-star guest houses.  The average May rate for the Association members is R766 – R1173 per room, the lowest rate being R500 per room.  The most expensive rate is R1600 for the 5-star Atlantic House.  Guest houses have dropped their winter rates by up to 50 % for many years already, understanding about demand and supply

What is most disturbing is that some hotels are offering South Africans better rates than they would offer international guests, very short-sighted in our opinion, given that it signals to international guests that they are not as desired, and means that they could be staying away from Cape Town and going on holiday elsewhere.  Price discrimination against foreigners is something the provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde should urge FEDHASA Cape to fight against, and to encourage hotels to drop this practice.

POSTSCRIPT 20/4: Rey Franco, Deputy Chairman of FEDHASA Cape, has e-mailed this comment: “Thanks for this, I do need to correct you on one specific comment you have made by saying we have not done the survey. Rema and I are checking the rates daily, on Expedia, booking.com and others. It is important to note that we decided to do the survey over a minimum of 3 months before releasing any information in order to ascertain the actual status of the rates stituation. Something the media forgot to mention. I am sure you would agree that looking at rates for only a few days is certainly not going to show any worthy trend. To show you why this survey must be conducted over a longer period I have attached the rates as displayed this morning under the certain categories for your perusal. You will see how low they are. See what you can get from the Taj! It is also important to note that rates will vary dependant on demand especially where large conferences and events are concerned. Another reason why rates need to be averaged out correctly. I will do the same daily searches on the additional hotels you have tested to ensure a wider trend analysis.”

POSTSCRIPT 24/4:  We received the following e-mail from Dirk Elzinga, Chairman of FEDHASA Cape: thank you for your email/copy of your blog that was passed on to me while I am travelling overseas. It made some interesting reading, and I am sure that we are able to make good use of your suggestions. I trust that the response you received from Rey Franco is clear to you, and that you do understand that we as Fedhasa try to get some 
realy (sic) reliable information about the relative pricing of our hotels in Cape Town. A once off snap shot comparison obviously does not serve this purpose. We definitely will inform our members and the media about our findings of this ongoing survey as soon as we feel that we have collected sufficient data to express an opinion based on facts. As Rey wrote, this will at least take three months or so.”

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter:@WhaleCottage