Entries tagged with “Amazon”.


On Friday I took delivery of the printed copies of my first book ‘SwitchBitch: My Journey of Transformation from Sour to Sweet!’, a reprint and edited version of the book I launched in December. Last week ‘SwitchBitch’ was listed on Amazon as an eBook, with encouraging first sales. (more…)

Leeu Estates Manor House ArtemisLeeu Estates opened its doors in Franschhoek on Monday, after a three-year program of consolidating three properties, planting vines, developing a vegetable garden, and transforming a 19th century Manor House into a 17-bedroom boutique hotel.

(more…)

imageThis evening the biography and story about the making of the Oscar-winning documentary ‘Sugar Man’ was launched as ‘Sugar Man, the Life, Death and Resurrection of  Sixto Rodriguez‘ at a jam-packed La Parada Bree Street. The book covers the 72 years of Rodriguez’s life, his past and also a possible future!

The book was written by the two writers to tell the tale of finding the ‘lost’ Rodriguez, as told in the ‘Sugar Man’ documentary of 2012, being Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman, who owns Mabu Vinyls in the City Bowl, and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, a music journalist who has (more…)

Borage Bistro Interior 2 Whale CottageBorage Bistro has been on my list to try since it opened in May, and on Friday last week my friend Judy and I chose it for our lunch destination.  After a hesitant welcome by the waitress, we were well-attended to by front of house manager and co-owner Dennis Molewa, and found a sophisticated haven of German fusion cuisine and service standard.

Dennis told us that three co-owners opened the restaurant in the new Portside Building at the bottom of Bree Street, none of them having any experience in running a restaurant. Major shareholder is Christian Vaatz, a Cape Town based investment manager who loves outdoor eating.  He connected with Dennis, who has lived in Cape Town for four years, having worked for Amazon locally, and originally is from Frankfurt.  Chef Frank Marks is a German Namibian who studied at Silwood Kitchen, and joined Chef Luke Dale-Roberts when he was still at La Colombe, and then followed him when he set up The Test Kitchen. As if that wasn’t enough rubbing of shoulders with our country’s official best restaurant chef, Frank left his local job, and was accepted to do a stageBorage Bistro Dennis and Chef Frank Whale Cottage at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in Bray in the UK, before becoming full-time employed by him at Dinner by Heston in London, spending two years there. working with Chef Heston’s head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, before returning to Chef Luke at The Pot Luck Club.  He likes to study the scientific aspects of food, experimenting with foams and gels, and to (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Tourist arrivals grew by 5 % in the first six months of this year relative to the same period a year ago, with close to 5 million international tourist arrivals from January – June 2013.  Tourist arrivals from France, Germany, Italy, Asia, India, the USA, and Africa grew, while those from the Netherlands and the UK declined.

*   The Spur Corporation has bought the Hussar Grill chain of six steak restaurants for R35 million, and will develop the brand, taking it national.

*   Tour operator Francoise Armour has written a hard-hitting letter to Southern African Tourism Update, feeding back the poor experience of her clients when they go on a Robben Island tour.  Given that the number of bookings for the tour will now increase, she asks whether the iconic destination is worthy of the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela. Even more shocking than her detailed list of negatives about the Robben Island tours is the comments to her letter, in which many tour operators write that they no longer build Robben Island into their clients’ Cape Town tour itinerary!

*   Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille yesterday announced at a Day of Reconciliation event the renaming of the Fan Mile to (more…)

The tourism industry in the Western Cape makes up 10 % of the R 450 billion Western Cape economy, says Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development, and Tourism Alan Winde, and thus forms the ‘bread and butter’ of the province.  A large part of the industry consists of small businesses, that need to be ‘professionalised’ to run their businesses as businesses.  The Minister shared that a massive sporting event with tourism benefit is to take place in May next year.

A spontaneous request to have a coffee with Minister Winde, who is known to not stand on ceremony, is friendly and approachable, allows one to call him by his first name, is good on Twitter and offers his contact details if he can assist in a matter, led to an invitation from his office to meet with him in his provincial office in Wale Street.  From the guest list I had to sign, I saw that I was one of three industry operators meeting with the Minister on Monday afternoon, a reflection of his open door policy. The reception room is part office, but felt very homely, like someone’s lounge, and the staff is exceptionally friendly, head of the office Tammy Evans, spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme, and PA Lucille Fester coming to introduce themselves.

The Minister’s office is spacious, with a leather couch, upholstered chairs, and paintings of District Six. It feels friendly and welcoming.  Minister Winde explained his approach to his position is as he would run his business, being responsive, approachable, and accessible, not like politicians that are corrupt, hide in their ivory towers, and don’t care about their electorate, he said.

We talked a lot about Wesgro, and it was a relief to hear that a head of tourism will be appointed, and key tourism positions will be filled due to contract positions not having been renewed when Cape Town Routes Unlimited was closed down and merged into Wesgro on 1 April. The Minister is proud of his plan to place the tourism promotion agency inside Wesgro, as he believes that ‘tourism is business’, and used agriculture as an example of also being included in Wesgro’s trade and investment activities.

We discussed seasonality, not only in tourism, but also in business generally in the Western Cape, and how tourism has a ripple effect on all businesses, every Western Cape business being in the tourism business, even though they may not offer accommodation nor are they restaurants.  Excellent news is that Premier Helen Zille signed off support for a massive 12 km marathon to be held in the province, attracting 50000 runners next May, and to be organised by Elana Meyer.  We shared with the Minister that the Camps Bay Business Forum is looking to attract businesses to the prime beachfront suburb in the winter months, and is planning to host two special events, in May and in September next year.

An interesting concept is that ‘Cape Town is a second city to Johannesburg’, the Minister said, as Melbourne is to Sydney, and Rio de Janeiro is to Sao Paulo in Brazil.  It will always be a beach and holiday city predominantly, yet needs businesses to support and grow the local economy. He mentioned the shocking statistic that only 3% of Cape Town’s income is business related, the rest coming from tourism. ‘Cape Town is a great place in which to do business’, he said, and he is encouraging the growth in conventions, attended by businesspersons. He is proud of the growing multinational call centre industry in Cape Town (e.g. Lufthansa), and it is the home of the oil and gas industry. He mentioned with pride that DHL has set up its Africa head office in Cape Town, while Steinhoff International has opened offices in Stellenbosch. If we had more business in the Western Cape, more businesspersons would fly first and business class, and therefore the Cape Town – London route would be more profitable for SAA, and its axing in two weeks time could have been prevented.  The Minister has challenged Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten to come up with a plan to fill the Lufthansa flights between Cape Town and Munich (the change takes place in October due to Lufthansa not being allowed to land late at night at Frankfurt airport due to noise restrictions), to ensure that flights are as full as possible, and that Lufthansa retains the Cape Town – Munich route for more than the year that it has committed to.  The Minister would even like to see international tourists use Munich as a hub instead of London, so that they can fly directly into Cape Town, so avoiding having to fly via Johannesburg, even if they are coming from the USA, other European destinations, or Eastern Europe.

Africa is an important continent for business, as it has six of the top ten fastest growing world economies, and hence Wesgro is focusing its energy on the BRICS countries as well as Africa. He dislikes the use of the term ‘Gateway’ to describe Cape Town’s geographic role relative to other African countries, the Minister said, because of its link to ‘gate’, and would rather that the terms ‘platform‘ or ‘springboard’ be used in this context.

The local tourism industry is divided into two extremes, one part being large hotels and tour operators, with organised industry representation, and the other part consisting of many small ‘mom and pop’ tourism business owners, such as B&Bs and tour companies, and not represented at industry level.  The latter need to be ‘professionalised’, the Minister said.  They need skills training in how to run their businesses, how to do marketing, and how to reinvent their businesses. He mentioned a number of examples, such as the parking area blocking the restaurants from the kite-surfing beach in Saldanha Bay, and the Knysna forest having an old-world feel of 30 years ago with little tourist appeal, no operators having seen the business potential in the forest, such as offering yoga and retreats, picnics, unique weddings, and more. One of the Minister’s favourite examples is the West Coast Fossil Park outside Langebaan, which has world-class historical fossils of whales, walruses, sabre tooth tigers, and more, and is highly sophisticated scientifically, but is not from a visitor and tourism perspective. This is set to change, with the R30 million they have received from the Lotto, and the province is also contributing, to create a tourism route.

The Minister is very excited about the idea which he has for an Events app, which will request information of one’s favourite activities (e.g. winetasting), and will communicate with the user in providing information of all wine-related events to be held over the year, to allow the user to book for such events well in advance.  A ‘hackathon’ of tech geeks is to be briefed by the Minister in September, to develop the app within two to three hours.

We ended off our chat about the False Bay Coastal Route, and the allegation levied by the previous Tourism Minister Lynne Brown, of the ANC, of Minister Winde ‘stealing‘ her plans. The Minister has seen no need to respond, given that the plans belong to the Western Cape, and not to a political party. The plan is to develop ‘recreation space’ along the False Bay coastline, to encourage locals and tourists to spend time on the beach, coming for walks, buying something to eat or drink from an informal trader, playing soccer and volleyball, or camping along the beach at new campsites.  It will include the Zeekoevlei eco-park, and the upgrade of Monwabisi, including the provision of security, funded by the Ministry with assistance from the City of Cape Town and the National Tourism department as seed money, to act as a catalyst to attract developers to the area.

The Minister impresses with his hands-on approach to promoting tourism, and having run businesses in tourism town Knysna, he has practical experience of what small businesses need from his department.  The Western Cape is blessed with its dynamic Premier Helen Zille and its savvy Finance, Economic Development and Tourism Minister Alan Winde.

POSTSCRIPT 5/8: Minister Alan Winde announced on 2 August that in the last three years, the Western Cape has attracted 80 international investment projects, to the value of R30 billion, and creating close to 7000 jobs. The projects have come from the United Kingdom, the USA, France, Germany, and The Netherlands, and include companies such as Amazon, IBM, Harley Davidson, ColorMatrix, and Altech setting up in the Western Cape.

POSTSCRIPT 5/8: The ‘multimillion Rand‘ upgrade of Zeekoeivlei to provide braai areas, eco-friendly toilets, and a massive lawn similar to that at Kirstenbosch, has created 100 jobs, and is aimed at enhancing the area’s attractiveness as a tourist destination, reports the Cape Argus. The national Department of Tourism contributed R25 million, and the Western Cape government R1 million, for the upgrade.  The Rondevlei, which borders Zeekoeivlei, has hippos, the only reserve in Cape Town.  The park attracts 130000 visitors annually, and this number is set to increase.

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

Just when all of Cape Town, and even South Africa, is feverishly voting to make Table Mountain a New7Wonders of Nature when voting closes today, damning articles were published yesterday in the Cape Times and The Guardian, questioning the credibility of this competition.

The Guardian wrote that the 4-year competition has become controversial, with some countries having been charged millions of dollars for the marketing use of the campaign.  In its final leg of voting, to select the top seven ‘natural landscapes and places’, a short-list of 28 includes Table Mountain, the Great Barrier Reef, the Maldives, Mount Kilimanjaro, Uluru, the Dead Sea, and the Amazon rainforest.  Charged a mere $199 registration fee to enter initially, some participating countries have since been charged exorbitant fees for a global marketing campaign, leading to the threatened withdrawal from the competition by the Maldives and the Komodo Island national park in Indonesia.  The organisers have encouraged these two attractions to remain in the competition, without any further payment.

Past CEO of Cape Town Tourism and past Mayor of Cape Town, Gordon Oliver, is quoted in The Guardian as asking: “What authority does this organisation have to determine a natural wonder as a finalist? It’s important that our authorities get the credentials of such organisations who set themselves up as the authority to decide the prominence of natural features”. The New7Wonders Foundation has denied charging excessive fees, yet it has confirmed that there are fees to be paid if the Foundation’s branding is used. A spokesperson said that the income derived from the competition funds the running of the competition and ‘maintaining a voting platform’.

In its lead story yesterday, the Cape Times wrote a damning report about the New7Wonders competition, the Foundation earning half of the R2 SMS fee per vote (potentially generating up to R1 billion, if it achieves its goal of 1 billion votes). The report also states that the campaign does not have any standing with international official or scientific bodies.  It has no relationship to UNESCO, which governs the World Heritage sites.  The article also quotes Oliver, and he asks what additional benefit the New7Wonders of Nature title would have.  Being based purely on a vote by SMS or on MXit restricts the campaign to a vote by cellphone and computer owners, and does not reflect the views of the ‘entire world’, said a UNESCO spokesperson, the organisation having distanced itself from the campaign.  The City of Cape Town confirmed that it has spent R1,7 million on advertising country-wide, to encourage South Africans to vote for Table Mountain.  The City has justified its expenditure , in that Table Mountain has made it to the finalist list of 28, from 440 initial entrants.   It also quoted research by Grant Thornton (the consultants who grossly over-estimated the economic value of the World Cup), which estimated that Cape Town specifically and South Africa generally could benefit from being named a New7Wonder of Nature, through an increase of R1,4 billion in tourism revenue.

We have seen that the accolades which Cape Town has received this year, including being named top world travel destination by TripAdvisor, have had little benefit for tourism to date, and therefore question the value of the New7Wonders competition for tourism.  Earlier this week it was announced that votes for Table Mountain were lagging badly behind those of many other finalists destinations.  It has been noticeable that Cape Town Tourism has given Table Mountain little support for its New7Wonders of Nature campaign, despite Sabine Lehmann, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company CEO and driver of the Table Mountain New7Wonders campaign, being a Board member of the tourism body.

Voting for the Top New7Wonders of Nature will end at 11h11 GMT (13h11 in South Africa) today, 11 November 2011, reports The Guardian.  In a Southern African Tourism Update article received last night, it is announced that the result will be announced at 21h00 in the V&A Waterfront this evening. www.new7wonders.com

POSTSCRIPT 11/11: I read the City of Cape Town’s ad properly after writing this blogpost – it features Archbishop Tutu with outstretched arms, standing on top of Table Mountain, so badly photographed by Oryx Multi Media that he is unrecognisable.  It also contains a quote by him: “I really can understand how, when God created all that there is he said, ‘I think I’ve got to do something special here’. And so God produced this fantastic gateway in the South – Table Mountain – our mountain, what a wonder!”. Over-optimistically, the ad claims boldly that becoming a New7 Wonders of Nature will ‘boost the South African economy by R1,4 billion per annum’, and that ‘11000 new jobs will be created’.

POSTSCRIPT 11/11 21h15: Table Mountain has just been announced as one of the New7Wonders of Nature, with the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil, Halong Bay in Vietnam, Iguazu Falls in Argentina, Jeju Island in South Korea, Komodo in Indonesia, and Puerto Princesa Underground River in the Phillipines.  What is extraordinary is that the organisers write that the list of seven is provisional, and subject to verification, as late as the start of 2012!

POSTSCRIPT 12/11: Tourism consultants Grant Thornton have issued a media release today, predicting that Table Mountain’s inclusion in the New7Wonders of Nature will attract 108000 new tourists per annum, and that this translates to additional tourism revenue of R 1,4 billion per year, for the next five years.

POSTSCRIPT 12/11: City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee member for Tourism Grant Pascoe has been extensively quoted in Kfm news reports this morning, stating that Table Mountain’s inclusion as a New7Wonders of Nature will boost tourism and create jobs, emphasising the latter in particular.  One hopes that the expectations he is creating will not be dashed!

POSTSCRIPT 12/11: The organisers of the New7Wonders of Nature have found a new way to generate income, and announced last night that they are starting a new campaign to choose the New7Wonders Cities, for which city nominations close on 31 December.

POSTSCRIPT 13/11: A surprise sentiment is expressed in a media release sent today by Cape Town Routes Unlimited, its CEO Calvyn Gilfellan subtly requesting lower rates for ‘ordinary people’ to go up Table Mountain: “We want to salute the thousands of ordinary South Africans who voted for Table Mountain, and whose support ensured that the city’s iconic peak was named one of the New7Wonders of Nature. These ordinary people, we believe, stand tall among the real heroes in this accomplishment. Together with the official organizing committee, they deserve our richest praise and congratulations. Now the challenge is to make Table Mountain, and the rest of Cape Town’s tourist attractions usually associated with visitors who have deep pockets, more accessible to ordinary people. After all, it was the ordinary people who stood up to vote for Table Mountain. We at Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the official destination marketing voice of Cape Town and the Western Cape, stand ready to assist with this”.

POSTSCRIPT 13/11: Earlier this week provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde did a tandem jump from Signal Hill, taking a ‘leap of faith‘ in the vote for Table Mountain.  He said: “As nervous as I am for this jump, I am far more nervous about this vote”. The Minister stated that the win for Table Mountain would mean a 20 % increase in tourism numbers, reported the Cape Argus.

POSTSCRIPT 4/5: The status of Table Mountain as a New7Wonders of Nature has finally been confirmed, six months after Cape Town’s landmark received a provisional award, subject to a voting audit.  All seven New7Wonders of Nature have had their status confirmed.

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

We have written previously that Table Mountain is in the running to become a New7Wonders of Nature destination, and that its performance is based on the number of votes that it receives. Tourism consultancy Grant Thornton has released estimates that show that Cape Town could gain R 1,4 billion if it were to become one of the seven New7Wonders of Nature, reports the Weekend Argus.

Table Mountain is one of 28 finalists, and if it were to win, it would lead to a surge in foreign tourists, creating 11000 new jobs, Grant Thornton has estimated.  The problem with this estimate, whilst excellent news for tourism to Cape Town and the Western Cape, is that this consultancy created huge expectations for all South Africans with its vastly over-exaggerated estimates for foreign arrivals to the World Cup last year, leading to a massive let-down when arrivals were nowhere as high as the consultancy’s estimates!

Capetonians and their fellow South Africans are urged to vote for Table Mountain as a New7Wonders of Nature on www.votefortablemountain.com or www.new7wonders.com.  Table Mountain is up against the Amazon, the Galapagos, the Dead Sea, Uluru, the Maldives, the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, the Iguaza Falls, Mount Kilimanjaro, Vesuvius, and the Black Forest, amongst others, to be named a New7Wonders of Nature.  The list of seven New7Wonders of Nature will be announced in November.

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

The current social media “wars” taking place both in the food and wine arena should be a reason for bloggers to get together, and to write a Code of Conduct for blogging.  This serious call came from Emile Joubert, a PR consultant to the wine industry, and writer of the Wine Goggle Blog, when he addressed the final and best attended meeting for this year of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club at the Grand Daddy Hotel in the Cape Town city centre.

Emile was a most entertaining speaker, and challenged wine bloggers in improving their ‘game’.  He had brought along two De Wetshof wines from Robertson-based winemaker Danie de Wet, the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, as well as Kanonkop Pinotage, the only South African wine in a recent list of “100 most exciting wines in the world”, and a magnum of Glen Carlou Pinot Noir, which were tasted by the bloggers.   Emile praised the initiative of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, which was established in May this year.  He has seen the benefit that his wine clients have enjoyed through the increasing number of bloggers, all wine lovers with an opinion, he said.   Social media is a perfect platform for wine promotion.   Every wine has a story, he said, making it eminently ‘blogable”, unlike spirits or beer, which are more generic beverage categories.   Wines have a brand name, a culture and a personality, and these characteristics can be used to good advantage by wine bloggers.   Emile acknowledged the leadership of Mike Ratcliffe in being the first wine blogger ever, for Vilafonte, about six years ago.  

Emile was critical of wineries embracing social media by opening a Facebook page, and paying lip service to social media through poor writing on their blogs and in their Tweets, which give the wine industry a poor image, he said. He said that many wine bloggers “are more enthusiastic than talented in writing” about wine, wasting the time and space for serious wine lovers.  They are boring, he said, and if they contain spelling errors, they are an embarrassment.  He said that many bloggers are too obsessed with readership numbers, using links non-stop, no use he says if their blogs are lousy!    He encouraged bloggers to develop their “own voice”, and to create their own ‘blog brand’.   “Speak your own voice clearly, succinctly and passionately”, he urged.

Most social media programs of wineries lack a strategy, in his opinion.  He recommended that a 1/3 each of one’s action should be focused on SOCIAL, MEDIA and MARKETING.  He described the wine industry as ‘ego-sodden’ terrain, with over-intellectualisation of wines, for example, referring to wine tasting of “tar” and “figpaste”, having run out of new adjectives to describe the taste of wine!   Emile feels that bloggers will make traditional mainstream media wine writers obsolete, and that is why Neil Pendock too has taken to blogging.   He mentioned that the recent ‘Swartland Revolution’, a marketing activity by a number of Swartland wine producers in Riebeeck Kasteel to make their wine region “sexy” via social media marketing, had made TIME magazine.  

In developing a Bloggers’ Code of Conduct, Emile called firstly for anonymous comments to be disallowed, saying that this would never be allowed on a letters’ page in a newspaper.  He also called for a boycott of restaurants that ban writers!   When asked, he explained the split in the wine industry, based on wine writers being pro- or anti-Platter.   The anti-Platter writers are unhappy with sighted tastings to judge the stars awarded to each wine, as they can influence the livelihoods of those affected by lower star ratings.  He called Platter “the best phone book” for the wine industry.  It would appear that this group of writers is also critical of Wines of South Africa (WOSA), in that they feel that the monies spent on marketing South African wines is not effectively spent.  Accepting ‘freebies’, including airline tickets and more, is frowned upon, and leads the anti-Platter faction to expose their ‘colleagues’ guilty of this practice without disclosure.  This leads to backstabbing, infantile behaviour, and persons dishing out insults without being able to take them in turn. 

The Food Blogger Marisa Hendricks from The Creative Pot blog praised her Twitter and blogging friends for their friendly support and ‘chattiness’, which makes Social Media enjoyable to her. She was honest in saying that she is a ‘messy’ cook, that her family does not eat fancy food every night, and that there are irregular meal times in her household.   She focused on three aspects of a blog, in making it more successful. The design of the blog is paramount, as it expresses one’s personality. 

Secondly, food photography needs attention.  In her household photography is mainly done at night, which is complicated as far as lighting is concerned, making dishes look too yellow.  She says that cellphones are not made to give good photograph quality, and that one should choose the right camera (she uses a Cannon), read the manual that comes with the camera, and experiment with the camera settings.  Natural light is best, and it can be softened by gauze, she said.  Food should also be lit from the side, and not directly from above.   Food styling is equally important for successful photography, creating a desire of “I want to lick my screen”, she said!   Styling can be enhanced through the use of cutlery, glasses, doilies, napkins, etc.   White plates are classic in food styling, but bright plates offer a contrast for a one-colour food dish.   The styling should be natural, in how one would eat the dish.  This helps one when one submits one’s food photographs to what she called ‘foodporn” sites such as Foodgawker!  Thirdly Marisa spoke about advertising, and she only allows text-based ads.  She does not want her blog to look like a “billboard”.   She knows that advertising could be off-putting to her readers.  She also discussed affiliate links, to cookery books sold by Amazon, for example, which can work well if used properly.

In discussion it was mentioned that bloggers’ “user-generated content” is becoming more trusted for recipes and information than are recipe books and magazines.  Marisa called for better hardware to read blogs.   Disclosure of receiving free products is paramount, it was said, and PR companies should not expect bloggers to write about the products they have handed out, much like a print journalist will not guarantee that he/she will accept a media release. It was felt that one should not write about something one did not like.  

A competition amongst attendees to find the most frequent Tweeter during the two-hour Bloggers’ Club meeting led to a flood of Tweets.  Hila Jonker (who Tweets as @LadyRaven) won the prize of a bundle of fresh greens from the gardens of the wonderful new restaurant Babel at Babylonstoren.

The 2011 programme for the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club will be announced closer to the start of the new year.  The first meeting of the year will be hosted by Pigalle on 26 January.   More information is available from info@whalecottage.com.

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