Entries tagged with “Accra”.


WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   The Commonwealth Fencing Junior Championships for fencers under the age of 20, and inaugural Commonwealth Fencing Cadet Championships for under-seventeens started at UCT on Saturday, and runs until 17 July. Cape Town is the first host of the championships, in which 14 nations are participating, including a Western Cape team, according to a newsletter received from the City of Cape Town.

*   Little Havana in Umhlanga Rocks has won The Wolftrap (more…)

Retro chicWhen I have the time, I attend Lauren Shantall’s Trendtalk meetings in the home of Cape Town design, the Inner City Ideas Cartel, on Waterkant Street. The talks focus on lifstyle, décor, and design.  So it was two weeks ago, when the 10th such meeting was addressed by a mix of speakers, a salute to the Milan Fair which was taking place at the same time.

The first speaker was not on the program, and represented Rock Girl, a ‘grass roots movement to inspire, encourage, and invest in women and girls’.  They had brought children along, unruly and without control, disturbing the rest of the audience.   The link to this association was not explained to the audience.

Independent Trend Analyst Saint-Francis Tohlang addressed the topic of ‘The creative economy through Africa’s lens’.  He said that by 2020 60% of Africa will be (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Pernod Ricard, international marketer of Absolut, Mumm, and Martell, has seen a 18% decline in sales in China in the first half of its financial year.

*   The Karoo is one of the world’s top nine stargazing destinations, which includes the Algarve in Portugal, Ayer’s Rock in Australia, Atacama Desert in Chile, Jasper National Park in Canada, Mauna Kea in Hawaii, Grumeti in Tanzania, Kitt Peak in Arizona, and Gülpe in Germany.

*   SAA has applied to introduce new routes, and new codeshare agreements with a host of new destinations, including Moscow, Asuncion in Paraguay, Lomé in Togo, Praia and Ilha do Sol in Cape Verde, Jakarta, Kingston, and Port of Spain  in Trinidad and Tobago.  The airline has also applied to increase the frequency of its African routes, including Lagos, Blantyre, Lilongwe, and Accra.

*   Twitter now has 5,5 million users in South Africa, up by 129% in just one year. (via Twitter)

*   Michael Jordaan, owner of Bartinney wine estate and former CEO of FNB, found parallels (more…)

The SAA announcement by its General Manager Theunis Potgieter on Tuesday that it plans to cancel the direct flights between Cape Town and London as of 16 August has been greeted with shock by the Cape tourism industry, and could not have come at a worse time, the industry suffering what could be another tourism crisis this winter. It appears that the tourism authorities did not receive any prior warning about SAA’s plan to cancel a route it introduced 20 years ago. At the SAA breakfast at Indaba last month the airline already announced that it ‘was hurting in the current global recession’, and that it had requested a R6 billion ‘government injection’!  The psychological damage of SAA’s decision probably is worse than its actual effect, in signalling that the country’s airline does not take Cape Town seriously as the country’s leading tourism destination.

Tourists and businesspersons travelling between Cape Town and London from 16 August will have to do so via Johannesburg, at no extra cost. Tickets already booked will be refunded, if required.  The change will allow SAA to expand its flights to and from Perth, Mumbai, Accra, and Abidjan, probably all flying to Johannesburg only. SAA has assured the industry that it will continue marketing Cape Town as a destination. The motivation for the cancellation of the service was said to be the reduced size by 24% of the demand for flights between South Africa and the UK in the past three years, largely caused by the increased airport departure tax and the £52 UK visa fee, reports Travelmole.  News24 added that air traffic control fees have also doubled. Of concern is SAA’s feedback that ‘South Africa is among the top five fastest declining visitor markets to the UK’, according to Visit Britain statistics.  SAA’s justification appears South African demand driven, and does not reflect the radical decline in the demand for the route from UK tourists, which has been evident in the past summer season.

Only British Airways operates direct flights between the two cities all year round. Virgin services the route between October and March. Emirates has good value flights to Dubai, which has become a hub connecting travelers to other hubs such as Heathrow. SAA is planning to increase its capacity by 13% through the use of larger aircraft on its reduced twice-daily (from three times a day) London-Johannesburg route, and has justified its decision on its ‘long-term growth and business optimisation strategy’, reports News24.

Reacting to the news, Cape Town Tourism issued a joint statement yesterday. Its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold’s waffled and garbled response was disappointing and was not aggressive in challenging SAA on a decision it has made on a purely financial basis, without recognising that Cape Town is the most important drawcard for tourists in South Africa, something which Mrs Helmbold should be countering on behalf of its Cape Town tourism constituency: “This is disappointing news for Cape Town’s tourism industry and we fear it could affect tourism arrivals from the UK and the rest of Europe negatively… Whilst SAA’s growth strategy’s emphasis on expansion of routes into Africa and new markets like South America and Australasia is encouraging, the issue of direct air access to Cape Town is again highlighted. Airlines must make economic sense. When a flight is cancelled this is the reason. Decreased business travel, as a result of troubled economies, continues to plague key source markets. The business traveler is a major contributor to covering flight expenses, which points to a need to work hard on forging stronger business ties in addition to the leisure market.”  ACSA’s Cape Town Manager of Service Standards Ian Bartes is the Chairman of Cape Town Tourism, and one could expect that Cape Town International will lobby SAA to consider reversing its decision.

Surprisingly, the media release also contained a statement by Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten, now responsible for tourism in the Western Cape, in having taking over the operation of the ex-Cape Town Routes Unlimited.  His comment was far more practical and business-orientated, and one hopes that it will lead to action, especially given that ACSA’s Cape Town International GM Deon Cloete now is Chairman of the still-existent Board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited: “Our research has indicated that the London-Cape Town route still holds strong economic value for the Western Cape and neighbouring Eastern Cape. International airlines identified this and are increasing their capacity during peak season. Many business and leisure travelers from the United States are using London as a connecting flight into Cape Town and we are at risk of losing these visitors, as the traveling time has been extended even further. A national debate on airlift strategy is urgently required to discuss direct flights into Cape Town International Airport as well as the other regional airports. Poor economic conditions in the global north and escalating fuel prices were making it difficult for many international airlines to remain competitive. These market conditions would also have an impact on the pricing of domestic flights and the ability to move tourists throughout South Africa.”

Once again City of Cape Town Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, has demonstrated how out of touch he is with the tourism industry, which has just experienced one of its worst May months since 2007 and thereby proving that Seasonality is getting worse, in his reaction to the SAA announcement in Cape Town Tourism’s media release: “In order to sustain tourism in Cape Town, we need to counter seasonality with year-round inbound tourism. It is vital that flights to Cape Town remain consistent throughout the year. The only way we can secure more direct flights to Cape Town is by stimulating both business and leisure tourism demand for Cape Town. This will translate in more visitors and ultimately more jobs for the sector, year round.  Perception does not shift overnight – and it needs proof – the industry must stand together to tackle our tourism weaknesses and grow a more complex offering of product to multiple markets. Leisure and business visitors need to see that Cape Town is a 365 destination for a thousand good and different reasons.”

Provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde also expressed his concern to Southern African Tourism Update about SAA’s decision, and probably is the only tourism player able to come up with a viable solution to this tourism dilemma, affecting not only Cape Town but the whole Western Cape, describing it as sad and disappointing for the whole of the province’s economy, saying direct airlift was important for business, tourism and airfreight. ‘I have no doubt it will have a negative impact,’ he said. ‘We will push forward with our airlift strategy to encourage other airlines to fly here.’ He said the Cape must review its long-haul competitiveness and create the right economic conditions for airlines to fly there”.

One has seen in the past that Cape Town Tourism does not have the clout to address something as substantial as this tourism issue, despite its Board Chairman’s job at ACSA, and we have no confidence that this tourism body will do anything about turning around SAA’s decision, or in devising a campaign to ensure that Cape Town does not lose any more precious UK visitors, which already are in short supply.

POSTSCRIPT 7/6SAA agreed yesterday to pay a R18,8 million penalty to the Competitions Commission for fixing fuel rates and other surcharges for cargo, reports Southern African Tourism Update today! This probably is what they need the cost-cutting Cape Town-London saving for!

POSTSCRIPT 8/6: Columnist Tony Weaver wrote in the Cape Times today that it is clear that the tourism industry was not consulted by SAA in cancelling the Cape Town – London route as of 15 August. He wonders if it is a ‘punishment’ of the Western Cape to be DA-party led, seeking a reason greater than just cost-cutting for this drastic action by SAA.  A writer to the Letters page today highlighted that SAA’s decision is ‘bottom-line’ based, and not considerate of the ‘bottoms’ of its customers, many of whom have already migrated to other airlines serving the route, which may be the reason for the decline in demand on this route! The newspaper also provides response from some tourism players to the news:

*  Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten told the FEDHASA Cape AGM yesterday that they have “secured a ’round-table’ discussion with South African Airways..”, given that their ‘research indicated that the London-Cape Town route still holds ‘strong economic value for the Western Cape and its neighbouring Eastern Cape'”. The increased travelling time for long-haul flights in having to travel via Johannesburg could adversely affect tourism to Cape Town, he said.

*   Surprising to read is that City of Cape Town Councillor Grant Pascoe has written to SAA Chairman Cheryl Carolus and CEO Siza Mzimela, expressing his ‘concern and disappointment‘ on behalf of the tourism and conference industries, importers and exporters, and investors, given that the tourism industry adds R14,6 billion to the GDP of the city annually, and employs 300000 staff.

*   Provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde sounded more upbeat, saying that other airlines servicing this route ‘will pick up the slack‘.

*   Mossel Bay Tourism said that the ‘province seems to be under-supplied with direct flights’, and that the quickest way in which foreign tourism arrivals can increase is to ‘land larger numbers at Cape Town International‘.  The ‘hinterland‘ has suffered greatly since the soccer World Cup, with an over-supply of accommodation in Cape Town, and related offers,  making it attractive to stay in the city for longer, and to do day trips into other parts of the Western Cape, instead of staying over in towns and villages in the province, it added.

POSTSCRIPT 8/6:  On Twitter negative Tweets about SAA’s decision met with strong resistance from @JamesStyan, a journalist for Beeld and Die Burger today.  We met for coffee this afternoon.  He had met with SAA on Wednesday afternoon, after their announcement of the cancellation of the Cape Town-London route, and was told verbally, not documented in their media statement, that should the economics improve, that the route could be reinstated.  He is adamant that this decision is based on economic considerations and SAA’s hub strategy, making Johannesburg its hub from/to which all its flights connect.  He also reminded me that other airlines have cut their Cape Town routes since the World Cup too.

POSTSCRIPT 13/6: The band Roxette performed in venues around the country last week, and flew out of OR Thambo airport to their next destination. On their Facebook page they wrote: ‘Just spent 90 minutes at one of the world’s worst airports, Johannesburg. Could actually be the no.1 on that scary list.. how about some organisation with customs’, reported The Times on Monday.

POSTSCRIPT 14/6:  The MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index 2012 shows, according to Southern African Tourism Update that ‘the majority of international visitors to Cape Town are from London, with 185000 visitors expected to spend US$361 million throughout the year. This is followed by 127500 travellers from Dubai spending US$118 million, and 76000 visitors from Amsterdam spending US$68 million’. Once again this survey makes a mockery of the SAA decision to axe its Cape Town-London route!

POSTSCRIPT 14/6: The irony grows – the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that it will hold its AGM and World Air Transport Summit in Cape Town from 2 – 4 June 2013, reports Southern African Tourism Update!  SAA is the host airline for the event!

POSTSCRIPT 4/7: Reuters reported today that Lufthansa will no longer service Cape Town from Frankfurt, due to the night flying ban over this airport.  All Cape Town flights will be serviced from Munich five times a week from 28 October.

POSTSCRIPT 6/7: The meeting with SAA and the Cape tourism industry representatives, hosted by Wesgro yesterday, has not made any impact nor reversed SAA’s decision to cancel the Cape Town – London route from next month. Instead it was agreed that greater demand needs to be built in attracting visitors to the Cape, so that SAA can then meet the demand and reinstate the route. Other airlines must be attracted to service the city with direct flights, it was agreed.

POSTSCRIPT 17/7: News24 has reported today that SAA has sold one of its three slots, being its Cape Town – London route, at Heathrow for an estimated R300 million!  The cancelling of the route therefore appears more cash driven than motivated by the low demand!

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

A concern about the future marketing of the tourism industry in the Western Cape, given the closure of Cape Town Routes Unlimited and its incorporation within Wesgro, and the departure of its CEO Calvyn Gilfellan on 31 March, motivated me to call Wesgro and request an appointment with its CEO Nils Flaatten.  Despite the busy and short week prior to Easter, he made time for the interview on 5 April.

The hurdles put in my way to meet Mr Flaatten were considerable, and demonstrated the personality of the organisation and told me more about the company than the time I spent with Mr Flaatten.  It also demonstrated how far removed Wesgro, the Western Cape Trade promotion and Investment agency, is from the Tourism industry, if ‘customer service’ is anything to go by.  When I called to set up the interview, Mr Flaatten’s secretary insisted that I follow ‘protocol’ and e-mail her the meeting request, and tell her who I am.  I had done this telephonically, and it became a power struggle, with constant interruptions from her, before she accepted my meeting request telephonically.  She indicated that it would take a considerable time to get an appointment date, which she would e-mail me!  A Tweet to express my dismay about this lack of approachability by our province’s new tourism head, combined with an e-mail to Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Development, Finance and Tourism, led to a call directly from Mr Flaatten, offering a meeting for a few days later at 11h30, or so I heard.  Mr Flaatten called at 7h45 on that day, asking where I was, having expected me at 7h30!  As a late night blogger and guest house owner I would never have accepted such a time slot, which seemed very ‘Johannesburg’ to me!  Mr Flaatten said he would be out of town for two weeks, and could only reschedule a meeting thereafter.  Yet his secretary called later in the morning, and offered me a midday meeting, which I accepted with gratitude.  For the first time, she offered parking, and took all the relevant details telephonically.  I arrived at the building half an hour early, wanting to make sure that I arrived on time, but I was not allowed into the building as Wesgro had not alerted the parking garage staff at the boom! They refused to let me in, and traffic problems were caused with other garage users wanting to enter.  I had to call Wesgro to ask them to let me in. However, all the staff were in a meeting, and Mr Flaatten’s secretary could not be contacted. I was told that I would be called back.  No such call came, and I had to call again after 20 minutes of being trapped at the boom, and having been threatened by the parking staff that the traffic department would be called if I did not move my car!  I was given a bay number by the Wesgro switchboard and relayed this to the boom operator, but it was refused because it had not been sent to them on the prescribed form!  Needless to say, this incompetent stakeholder-unfriendly introduction to Wesgro twice in one week made my heart sink, and realise how much smarter and visitor-friendly the Western Cape tourism industry is.

I was shocked when I saw the reception area in which I had to wait for Mr Flaatten, which doubled up as an office, with two ugly red chairs. Mr Flaatten’s office did not look much better, the same style ugly red chairs serving as visitor chairs with a rather nice blue desk, but the blue not matching Wesgro’s corporate blue, the functional office having no warmth or professionalism. Mr Flaatten seemed professional but distant, not giving one the feeling that one could ever have a collegial relationship with him in his new role as provincial tourism head. He has headed up Wesgro for the last two years. I was surprised when he asked me to tell me who I am, not what the interview was about, and he made it appear that he knew nothing about me at all!  I at least had Googled his name, and had found out that he went to school in Stellenbosch, served in the South African Navy, and had worked in investment banks in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong.

I told him that other than its name, and having only a broad idea of what Wesgro does, I knew nothing more, and that I wanted to know what its role will be in taking over the duties of Cape Town Routes Unlimited.  Wesgro is governed by the Wesgro Act, and has three duties according to the Act:

*   to attract and retain foreign investment in the Western Cape

*   to grow exports

*   to increasingly attract business to the city and the province

Wesgro is funded by both the City of Cape Town (R10 million) and the Western Cape government (R18,4 million), the R25 million which Cape Town Routes Unlimited received from the Western Cape government being added to give a total of R53 million, larger than the budget of Cape Town Tourism.  The organisation services the province, ultimately reporting to Minister Winde.  It also works with the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee member Belinda Walker, doing strategy planning.  The organisation’s operations include:

*   hosting inward trade missions, at which they try to ‘matchmake’ the visiting delegation members with local businesses via ‘speed dating’

*   outward missions travel overseas, promoting trade with the Western Cape, benefiting from sponsorships for flights and other travel costs from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Any Western Cape business is seen to be a ‘member’ of Wesgro, although one does not take out or pay for a membership. The organisation also looks to stimulate the setting up and development of ‘SMME’s’ (small businesses), including entrepreneurs, emerging entrepreneurs, and start-up businesses.  They also look to grow sectors of Western Cape businesses, and a number of such sector development agencies have been developed, for IT, Craft and Design, etc.  Geographically, Wesgro is concentrating on the ‘West African Trade Corridor’, which includes Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, Namibia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  “The Headquarter for African business should be Cape Town”, Mr Flaatten said.  He shared that a trip to Accra the week before had seen distribution agreements signed with 20 companies represented in the trade delegation.  It was at this point that Mr Flaatten justified his organisation’s take-over of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, saying that Wesgro already has links to the chambers of commerce and influential players in these West African countries, so in the same way they can engage with the leading tourism players in these countries to attract more West African tourists to Cape Town and the Western Cape. He added that the Northern Hemisphere countries of the UK, the USA, Europe and Japan would only show a 1,5 % growth, labelling them as ‘concentration risk’.  Currently most of the Western Cape exports go to the UK, to the Netherlands, and to Germany, in that order. Mr Flaatten also said that 73% of South Africa’s foreign direct investment in Africa comes from Cape Town businesses, mainly being in the financial services, real estate, and hospitality sectors. He added that by 2030 there would be more middle income earners in Africa than in India.  He also emphasised the potential of the BRICS countries.  Further high growth high income countries are Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates. Inward missions coming to Cape Town are from the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, and they offer marketing services, sales support, and call centre services.

Mr Flaatten gave his views of our tourism industry by saying that it has a number of outspoken characters in it, implying that this would be something he would have to get used to!  Wesgro has taken over the 25 Cape Town Routes Unlimited staff, who were in the same building, and will be assimilated into his team, retaining the benefits, and terms and conditions at which they were employed originally.  Wesgro will ‘capitalise on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited’ marketing knowledge, Mr Flaatten said, but I was concerned that he could not tell me the name of the most senior marketing executive (we think it is Debbie Damant, not known to most) that he has ‘inherited’, especially given that the marketing of Cape Town Routes Unlimited had been strongly driven by its then CEO Calvyn Gilfellan.  The Board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, now led by ACSA’s Deon Cloete due to the move of its previous Chairman Peter Bacon to Mauritius, will oversee the activities that are in the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Annual Performance Plan, until the organisation with its Board is dissolved when the Western Cape Tourism Act of 2004 is repealed.  Similarly, the Wesgro Act must be amended, to allow it to additionally manage destination marketing for the Western Cape.

Mr Flaatten requested the industry to give him a month, so that he can get to know his new staff, and what the capacity requirements are, not wanting to be irresponsible in becoming unnecessarily large.  First he must stabilise the staff situation, and then they must focus on planning for the following financial year. They have already hosted a workshop with 100 regional and local tourism bureaus, seeing them as ‘subject matter experts’, and not wishing to duplicate their work, he said. He will also engage with industry representative bodies such as FEDHASA Cape, SATSA, etc, but I left him with a reminder that the tourism industry consists of a large number of small businesses, many not belonging to the big tourism associations, and that their voices should be heard too. Listening to the tourism industry will be the biggest challenge for him currently, Mr Flaatten said. He realises that the ‘Cape Town & Western Cape’ brand is a problem ‘which will not be easy to fix’.

The Board of Directors of Wesgro raises interesting questions.  Board members Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette Du Toit-Helmbold, its Board Vice-Chairman and CEO of the Cape Town Partnership, Bulelwa Ngewana, and Board member Guy Lundy, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town and Wesgro Vice Chairman, may prevent duplication of marketing activity between Wesgro and Cape Town Tourism, but ideally should remain independent tourism bodies, so that the industry benefits from the best of both bodies.  Ravi Naidoo, organiser of the Design Indaba, is well-known and highly regarded.  Interesting too is that Alderman Belinda Walker is on the Board, but does not deal with Tourism matters in the City of Cape Town, which could lead to duplication of tourism management within the City.  One could be concerned about two Boards of Directors managing the duties of Wesgro, until Cape Town Routes Unlimited is closed down legally, and about the incestuous duplication of Board members of Wesgro and Cape Town Tourism.

For an organisation that had a number of months warning of taking over Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and that had taken over its operations four days prior to my visit, I was concerned about the general lack of marketing insight, terminology (other than the branding issue), and discussion that I heard from Mr Flaatten during our lengthy interview.  He did not mention Cape Town Tourism, and how Wesgro will avoid duplication of marketing activities with the city tourism marketing body.  The Wesgro website only shows an amended logo, in that the new duty is incorporated in its descriptor underneath it: ‘The Western Cape Destination Marketing, Investment and Trade Promotion Agency’, and contains a block of information to state that it has taken over the duties of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, with a link to the now defunct tourism body’s website!  I was concerned about the very business-like Wesgro culture, which does not appear ‘customer friendly’ nor service-orientated in simple requests of setting up a meeting and honouring a parking arrangement, which does not auger well for our tourism industry. The offices are functional but unattractive, not matching the tourism industry image. I was concerned that Mr Flaaten did not seem to know anything about Minister Winde’s EDP, which I thought would reside in Wesgro, and would eventually become the home of most Western Cape industry development bodies, the products and services of which Wesgro appears to market.  Mr Flaatten was very responsive in providing the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Annual Performance Plan which they will be working to achieve.  The 27 page Plan lists the mission as marketing the Western Cape as a desirable leisure, business and events tourism destination, and its main goal is to ‘position Cape Town and the Western Cape as a premier leisure, events and business tourism destination in Africa’. However, none of the defined goals are measurable.  The budget breakdown is disconcerting, with about 50% going to staff salaries, and only 24% going to marketing expenditure. Much of the performance is measured in terms of the number of meetings held, the number of convention bids presented, and the only tourism related measurement targets are the number of international arrivals (1,6 million) and domestic arrivals (3,2 million) for the current financial year, Cape Town Routes Unlimited only expecting to generate 5% of each kind of tourist through its marketing efforts, which begs the question as to why it existed in the first instance!

We will give Wesgro the month that has been requested, and await the way forward for the marketing of the Western Cape with trepidation.

POSTSCRIPT 18/4: In a media release sent out by Wesgro a week ago (but not to contacts on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited media list!), Nils Flaatten said that he would continue to report to the Wesgro Board of Directors, and to the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board on a quarterly basis about ‘expenditure and performance against predetermined objects’. “Flaatten assured tourism industry stakeholder (sic) that there would be no ‘disruption to the delivery of the tourism destination function in our province'”, the media release added. It also stated that Cape Town Routes Unlimited and Wesgro will continue to occupy their respective offices in their current building, and that the telephone and e-mail details of the Cape Town Routes Unlimited staff ‘will remain in operation until further notice’.

This Tourism Week asked some critical questions about Wesgro’s new role in handling the Tourism marketing responsibility for the Western Cape in its newsletter on 13 April.

Wesgro, Waldorf Arcade, 80 St George’s Mall, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 487-8600.  www.wesgro.co.za Twitter: @Wesgro

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