Tag Archives: apartheid

New Green Point Track adorned by Artvark urban art sculptures, links Cape Town’s past and present!

Green Point Track Whale Cottage PortfolioOn Saturday Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille officially opened the Green Point Track, a new sporting facility which is hidden on the cul de sac road that leads away from the Cape Town Stadium, across the road from McDonalds.  Given that the launch has been very low key, with barely any information to be found via Google, we requested Artvark, the creators of ten urban art sculptures made for the Green Point Track, to let us have more information about the project.  It was interesting to read the motivation for the sculptures created, linking Cape Town’s sporting and recreation past and present.

On the cards since 2009, the urban art project was deemed to be an important part of the upgrading of the Track, to commemorate its history specifically, and the sporting and cultural history of Cape Town generally.  Landscape artist Darryl Pryce-Lewis conceptualised the idea of negative and positive panels made from metal, all to be positioned in a straight line, creating a ‘visual effect to be able to look through a negative space of an individual sculpture towards the positive, the symbolism of this already touch upon the diverseness and challenges faced in our country‘, explains Artvark. Continue reading →

Melanie Verwoerd Literary Lunch entertaining, Radisson Blu a disaster!

Gorry Bowes-Taylor does a great job for Wordsworth in ‘pairing’ authors of recently published books with good wines and meals at restaurants around Cape Town and the Winelands.  However, the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront in Granger Bay let her down badly on Saturday, with the most over-promised and under-delivered lunch ever experienced, for the launch of Melanie Verwoerd’s book‘The Verwoerd who Toyi-Toyied‘.

It was commendable that Verwoerd came to the lunch, having flu, but she was witty for most of the talk about her book, until it came to the sad part about her losing her partner Gerry Ryan (she had divorced her Verwoerd husband Wilhelm some years before).  The ‘talk’ was in the form of a question and answer session, with a witty and sharp summary of key phases in Verwoerd’s life by actress and writer Marianne Thamm (currently writing Helen Zille’s biography, and author of ‘I have Life’ about attack victim Alison, which sold 85000 copies), who clearly was very well prepared and knew the book well.

The book was launched in Ireland and the UK as ‘When we Dance‘ last year, and was subject to an interdict in Ireland for a while, brought by Ryan’s friend David Kavanagh, her South African book containing a statement at the back of the book confirming the state of the relationship between the two friends.  She had been warned against speaking out, but always a rebel, she felt she had the ‘right to write’ her book, and was surprised that despite the court action it became a best seller in Ireland. Verwoerd traces her history, from growing up in Fochville as a Van Niekerk, and then in Stellenbosch, after she was adopted as a Fourie in her late teens.  She met Wilhelm Verwoerd at the University of Stellenbosch, and got married to him at the age of 20, giving up her studies in Theology to join him at Oxford, where he was studying on a prestigious Rhodes scholarship, to the shock of his parents, given that he is the grandson of the late Prime Minister HF Verwoerd, said to be the architect of apartheid. She did however graduate with Honours and Masters degrees. His parents feared that he would be ‘corrupted’ by England’s liberal values, and did not want him to be linked to Cecil John Rhodes either!  In London they met many ANC officials living there in exile, hearing about a South Africa they had never experienced. Returning to South Africa, they met President Mandela, and Wilhelm wanted to apologise to him for what his family had done to him, but Mandela told him that his surname could be a burden or a blessing – it would be Wilhelm’s choice as to how he would use it, in true Madiba style, Verwoerd said.  They became ANC members, under the radar initially, but eventually the news leaked, and it caused mayhem when his family found out, his father banning him from the house and disinheriting his son. Verwoerd ensured that her children stayed in touch with their grandparents.  She spoke fondly about ‘Ouma Betsie’, Wilhelm’s late grandmother, who lived in the all-White enclave of Orania, where she was visited by Mandela, described by her as a visit resembling that of a ‘foreign head of state‘.

Her book reminds one about the country’s conservative past, and we laughed when she related that she could not open a bank account in her own name, earning more than her husband as an ANC Member of Parliament (the youngest ANC MP ever), as it could endanger their marriage, the bank argued!  She did ultimately get her way with the bank.  Having achieved what she wanted as MP, she requested then-President Mbeki if she could head the South African embassy in Dublin, which he agreed to.  She laughed when she said that she was not ‘a born diplomat’ (much too direct, much like her ‘colleague’ Tony Leon, who headed the embassy in Buenos Aires). She fell in love with Ireland from the first day. She saw her challenge as ambassador to give the government a return on its investment in the embassy, and focused on tourism (130% increase) and wine promotion in the period 2001 – 2005, to great success in part due to the rise of the ‘Celtic Tiger’, she said, the demise of which she experienced too.  She then became UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) Ireland Executive Director, travelling in Africa on a number of occasions, working with Sir Roger Moore, Bono, Vanessa Redgrave, and Liam Neeson.  She was voted the Irish Tatler International Woman of the Year in 2007.  It was in this time that she met renowned radio presenter Gerry Ryan (with 500000 listeners, and a daily three hour show which ran for 25 years), and fell in love with him within half an hour of her first date with him, despite initially resisting his advances.  He was separated, but could not divorce before four years of separation had passed, as per the Irish divorce law.  They were a couple for two years, when he suddenly died alone in his apartment three years ago, and she became the shunned ‘other’ woman, who was told that she was lucky to be able to attend his funeral!  She and her children were hounded by the media, and Verwoerd ultimately lost her job at UNICEF due to the controversy surrounding Ryan’s death, and her relationship with him, her dismissal settled out of court.  All the VIP supporters other than Bono resigned from UNICEF Ireland to protest her dismissal! She denied that Ryan was a cocaine and drug user, but is open about his financial problems, in that he relied on Verwoerd for his living expenses, despite his big salary, which appeared to have been spent on his five children and an extravagant lifestyle.  Despite being divorced from Wilhelm, she retains his surname, she told me, quite contrary to her self-proclaimed feminist nature.  She still lives in Dublin, having dual citizenship now, and she loves the ‘softness of the country’, and how ordinary people will stop her in the street and give her a hug. Her two children are students at Trinity College.  She visits ‘home’ regularly though!  She is looking forward to the next 45 years of her life, which will include her coming back to live here, she said to conclude her talk.  In reading her book, it is clear why Ireland is so important to her, the memorial bench which she had erected for Ryan in a park in Dublin being an important link to him, despite the terrible treatment she received in Ireland as a result of her relationship with him.  Her children studying in Dublin must be another important reason.

The bookings for the Literary Lunch were taken by the hotel’s event co-ordinator Carmen Jansen, who followed up despite the paperwork having been faxed.  She was abrupt on arrival, and chased the payment after the first course, usually done at the end of the meal.  I discovered afterwards that she had left to go home, hence her eagerness to receive the payment!  The menu sounded fantastic on paper, but what was presented differed vastly from the description.  We had to Google most of the descriptions, to know what to expect on our plates!  Baguette and rye bread was served, with what looked like butter curls but was margarine. I asked the waitress for some real butter, and she brought branded Floro.  Another request led to branded butter arriving at the table!  The same waitress filled the water jug with so much ice that she poured most of it over the table, wetting my notebook.  Service had to be requested, nothing being done proactively, such as refilling the water jug.  Each table had a central display of a hand with flexible fingers holding an exercise book, to tie in with the literary theme, one assumes, but the naughty men at the table had fun in changing them to rude signs!  The venue was most unsuitable, a long rectangular room that had more than a hundred guests squeezed in, meaning that guests had to get up to let others get through.

The starter was ‘Baby Chicken 2ways‘, described as ‘confit leg cannon, grilled maize sage beurre (which must have been the wheel of pap), courgette roulade (which must have been the loosely wrapped vegetable strips), supreme pan seared (the other chicken style, we assumed) with napage (sic) of port wine spuma‘ (no foam was visible).  The pink mayonnaise was not included in the menu description!  For the main course ‘Crisp Salmon Scaloppini’ (thin slices of scallop with the salmon) was served with ‘crumbed aromatic fresh gremolata (lemon zest, garlic, parsley, olive oil), salsa di burro bruciato (appears to be burnt butter salsa), caper berries, gentle braised fondant potatoes and carcisfo frito (sic – the closest wording we found on Google was ‘carciofo fritto’ – fried artichoke!). We could not see the caper berries, but we found olives!  An elderly gentleman at our table asked the waitress if she could put the leftover salmon in a ‘doggie bag’, to spoil his cat, but she refused. I called the Deputy GM (they do not have a F&B Manager in this hotel), and I got the company policy talk (mainly for health purposes, and thus legal reasons, should the customer get ill if he ate it at home). Very kindly, after some persuasion, he relented!  The vegetarian eaters at our table had a rough time, their risotto being burnt.  For dessert we were promised a ‘Decadent Tasting Plate’, being anything but decadent, consisting of ‘Dark chocolate no bake cheese cake (tick) with angel hair (none to be seen), coconut crème brûlée with caramel crackling (curdled, no caramel topping!), coco rico (coconut soda?) jelly (tick), pistachio ice cream (tick) on coffee shortbread soil’ (tick).  No feedback was sought about the meal during the function. We were shocked to hear that Chef Grant Kennedy had not been on duty, and unfortunately it showed!

Allée Bleue sponsored the wines for the lunch, its MCC Brut Rose being a welcome drink if one did not want to start the lunch with a glass of decadent Hendrick’s Gin, served by dapper young men at a table with an interesting table display with cups.  Ansgar Flaatten, brother of Wesgro CEO Nils, heads up the wine division at the wine estate, and will be taking over as MD from Wolfgang Leyrer shortly.  He reminded the audience about the herb production, and their newly introduced herb tours and lunches on Friday mornings. The Starlette range was offered with the different courses, including a Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Rouge, and Shiraz Rosé, all sold for around R40 a bottle.

The Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront has such a wonderful location at the water’s edge near the V&A Waterfront, and one wonders why they would have handled the book launch Literary Lunch so badly, with poor and over-promised food, and poor service!  We requested Gorry to not use this venue for her lunches again.  Verwoerd’s story ends sadly, yet bravely, in that she wrote the book, thereby fulfilling her promise to Ryan to tell his story, warts and all, and corrects many of the terrible things that were said about him after his death. she explained, Ryan appearing to be more controversial after his death, yet having had such a large following for so many years.  The book combines her love story with Ryan with her (and her ex-husband’s) story, using a local title that does not do this brave lady justice, with an odd typeface, and may not encourage book sales as much as the original title may have done.

POSTCRIPT 28/5: We posted our feedback about the lunch at the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront on Saturday on this blog and on Twitter only.  Today we received the following reply from the hotel’s Executive Assistant Manager Marcel Eichenberger:  ‘Dear Cherissie (sic), I would like to thank you for the feedback regarding your lunch experience in Harbor View, this is a vital aspect of our business and without feedback such as yours we would not find a platform to grow and improve our quality of product and standards. I would like to apologize for your experience as this is certainly not our standard of food quality, presentation and service. We pride ourselves on what we serve and the personal service which our team provide.  By your feedback this was not the case and I am disheartened by our actions. I have and will address these issues with my team both service and kitchen to ensure we up our game to make sure this does not happen again. I have spoken to chef regarding the execution of the menu as per the menu and he too is very apologetic with regards to the outcome of his menu.  Our team is well trained and we invest a lot of resources to ensuring we serve the highest quality produce so that each guest has a great experience, our lack of execution is with great regret and I do apologize for this.  I have spoken to Mark our banqueting manager and he too will ensure that service delivery is executed on every function according to our standards.  With regards to the “doggy bag”, I do apologize that it was so difficult to arrange but it is to safeguard us as a global brand to ensure food safety is adhered too and I know at times exceptions can be made and we will look into this going forward.  The venue is a fantastic venue for functions and weddings up to 120 guests but we did go over our capacity and therefore making the venue very full, we are however are looking to make some changes to the venue and we hope to see this happen in the following year.  I am confident that this will make functions such as the lunch a more comfortable venue.  We get allot of our business via word of mouth so I would like the opportunity to make this up to you and if you would consider coming for a lunch or dinner to our Tobago’s restaurant I can assure you we will meet and exceed your expectation in both food quality and service. To my understanding you will also be joining us for the Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner and we hope to change your perception of our abilities.  Should you wish to take me up on my offer please contact me directly.  Once again my sincere apologies‘.

Melanie Verwoerd: The Verwoerd who Toyi-Toyied’, Tafelberg Publishers.

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

Calls for UK boycott of South African wines and fruit counterproductive!

The call last week by the Black Workers’ Agricultural Sector Union (BAWUSA) for consumers in the United Kingdom to boycott South African wines and fruit reminds one of apartheid days, when now-British MP Peter Hain was vocal about boycotting South African products in our dark days prior to the change in our government in 1994. Such a boycott could only worsen the situation for the half a million South African farmworkers, and is counterproductive to negotiating an increase in the minimum farmworker wage, and in the improvement in the general well-being of the farm workers.

The trade union federation COSATU is led by its Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich, a known trouble maker and loud mouth who has regularly put his foot into his mouth in attempting to destroy our tourism industry, and is now focusing on destroying our wine and fruit (including apples and grapes) export business. Ehrenreich is a City of Cape Town ANC councillor, and one wonders why he does not do his day job for Cape Town, regularly having been seen in the past two months in De Doorns, the epicentre of the farmworker unrest, and why the City does not censure him.  He and his trade union federation mates had to concede defeat, when the workers asked for the strike and unrest to be called off last week, as the workers were running short of money, not being paid for their days off whilst striking!  Many say that the unrest was instigated by the ANC to make the Western Cape ungovernable, the province being in the political hands of the opposition Democratic Alliance!

Sensationalist The Guardian has led British newspapers in pushing for the boycott, and even ran an opinion poll about the topic, 59% of the poll voters supporting such a boycott, reported The South African.

Su Birch, CEO of Wines of South Africa (WOSA), wrote an open letter to the newspaper: ‘The coverage unfairly targets the South African wine industry and has the potential to do unimaginable damage to an industry that is working hard, through its support of the Wine and Agricultural Industry Ethical Association (WIETA), and also Fairtrade, to ensure the ethical treatment of workers‘.  Ms Birch highlighted that the strikes were not connected to the wine industry, but to the fruit farming industry.  She also reminded the readers of the newspaper that South Africa is the ‘largest producer of Fairtrade wines in the world‘, and that the WIETA initiatives are making ‘real, tangible progress that puts South Africa at the forefront of ethical, social sustainability‘.  WOSA-antagonist Neil Pendock could not help but take a swipe at WOSA about the poll, yet admitted that he had voted against the boycott!

It is too early to tell what damage, if any, The Guardian poll and resultant publicity for the farmworkers’ cause will generate, and whether it will impact on wine and fruit exports, at a time when South African wine producers are facing tough times in generating sales in the UK!

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

Poor Service green Cape Town’s biggest Tourism downfall!

Writing in Huffington Post earlier this month, journalist Jennifer Schwab praised our scenic beauty, but slated the service offered during the 24 hour visit she paid to Cape Town three months ago.

Ms Schwab likened Cape Town to Del Mar and La Jolla in California, yet without the myriad of shops and franchise restaurants.  Her focus was on our city’s sustainability, and she wrote about her visit to Cape Point, Stellenbosch, and Camps Bay that ‘Cape Town might just be my new ideal green design city‘.  With Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles, flanked by the ocean, ‘it is clear that Cape Town received more than its fair share of God-given raw materials’.   She praised the City of Cape Town’s development policy, and in it calling for public participation, ‘thanks to smart zoning that puts aesthetics above tax revenue’. She praises the low height of the Atlantic Seaboard  buildings, and that the houses aren’t built all the way up the slopes of the mountains.  Our highways are described as encouraging ‘Bond-like driving‘!

After heaping praise on Cape Town, the closing paragraph is a let down, but is not far from the truth:“The downside of Cape Town? One is the apparent lackluster feeling that service people have for their jobs. From the employees of the airport to receptionists and porters, there was an apparent disconnect – even when you tipped them generously. The government and airport employees in particular looked kind of like Stepford wives while doing their jobs: an empty glazed stare with little enthusiasm for the task at hand and equal lack of interest in pleasing the customer. Service at private establishments was somewhat better, but not a high point of the Cape Town experience’. Of course the Apartheid word had to creep into the article, and the journalist blames our divided past for the poor service standard in our city!

But all is not lost when Ms Schwab concludes that ‘it appears one can live a quite splendid life in Cape Town, and a very sustainable one at that. If you ever have the chance, visit this southern outpost of urban vision, terrific food and wine and incredible natural gifts of scenic beauty!

A number of our guest house guests have fed back for the first time how they have noticed how slow staff are in our city, be it in restaurants, shops, and tourism attractions, asking how business owners and managers cope with this speed, and commenting that they would never remain employed in Europe with such a slow speed.  Last night I experienced unacceptable service at Gibsons in the V&A Waterfront, with an arrogant manager, and no service check as to my satisfaction with the meal, no offer of a dessert menu, and no paper in the credit card machine when I paid.  For their smart uniforms and reasonable value, the service let-down is so great that it will be hard to go back again.  Poor English pronunciation, poor ability to bring a menu when a customer has sat down, out of stocks on menu items, clearing the table when the bill is requested, getting the order wrong, stretching in front of the customer when adding or removing cutlery, and not checking up on one’s satisfaction with the dish are common restaurant service failures in Cape Town, giving our city a poor service reputation.

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

Top Australian Chef Neil Perry praises SA cuisine, advocates SA ‘Food Safaris’!

Neil Perry, top Australian chef of flagship restaurant Rockpool in Sydney, visited chefs and restaurants in South Africa earlier this month, and has returned to his home country, encouraging Australians to experience our ‘Food Safaris’, reports Southern African Tourism Update. His trip was widely reported, and the Sydney Morning Herald sent journalist Anthony Dennis to accompany Chef Perry on his culinary tour, an unfortunate choice with his emphasis on our apartheid past in his article!  Not only did the visit and resultant publicity reflect our country’s unique cuisine, but it also has tourism marketing benefits, the visit having been sponsored by SA Tourism.

Chef Perry’s journey started off at the elite and exclusive boutique hotel Ellerman House in Bantry Bay, where he did a braai of crayfish tails with his Asian touch, kingklip, and soy-marinated yellowtail.  He was assisted by Ellerman House Head Chef Veronica Canha-Hibbert, who told the visiting chef that South Africa’s cuisine extends beyond game eaten next to a fire under a safari-style boma. ‘But in South Africa there’s a group of highly trained, skilled chefs who are creating a strong food culture and identity‘, she said.

Dennis praised our country’s ‘fine wine, great seafood and where the barbeque…is a favoured cooking appliance’. It is a shame then that he digs into our country’s past, writing that ‘apartheid can still cast a shadow, even over the dining table’, singling out MasterChef SA judge and Chef Benny Masekwameng as one of few ‘Black South African chefs’. Chef Benny told the journalist that the eating habits of the ‘majority of black South Africans who live below the poverty line, not much has changed at the dinner table‘, but that the ‘middle class’ in our cities are increasingly exposed to global food trends! The ‘shanty towns’ on the way to the Winelands receive a predicted mention from the journalist too, contrasting them with the modern airport built for the 2010 World Cup.

Chef Perry praised the wine industry: ‘South Africa has got amazing wine credentials. One of the real positives is that it has a lot of old vines in the ground and you’re getting some fantastic maturity there’. He praised Franschhoek’s fine white wines. Calling Franschhoek’s Grande Provence a ‘lodge’, Chef Perry and the journalist enjoyed the creative cuisine of Chef Darren Badenhorst, who prepared a typical South African braai lunch for them, with Karoo lamb chops, free-range Spring chicken, and boerewors, ‘a traditional and delicious type of sausage’. The visiting team stayed over at La Residence in Franschhoek.

Their next stop was Phinda Game Reserve, where they enjoyed the traditional Boma dinner (‘with a dirt floor, stone and reed walls’).  They were treated to springbok, impala, and warthog, and entertained by the staff choir.  Chef Perry was impressed with our game meats, saying ‘it was really quite intense’, not having any Australian game (other than ‘Wallaby‘ on their menus, according to blogger Bruce Palling).   In Cape Town the Australian team had eaten springbok at The Twelve Apostle’s Azure for the first time, served as a ‘Cape fusion main course of springbok fillet with celeriac cream, roasted radish, orange tapioca and sultana-caper paste.  The rare, perfectly cooked meat has the consistencey of beef but with a distinct saltiness and dark chocolate-like richness’.

In Durban the visitors ate traditional Indian food, including bunny chow at the House of Curries, described as ‘classic street food from the apartheid years and is a feature of the national diet across all groups’! One wonders who fed Dennis this nonsense information!  In Johannesburg a Chef’s Table dinner at the San Restaurant at the Sandton Sun Hotel represents ‘the Rainbow Nation’s ethnic groups. Under apartheid, this congenial, multiracial gathering would have been deemed illegal‘. Chef Garth Schrier served the visiting chef more Bunny Chow, as an amuse bouche of a mini loaf of bread with a Cape Malay chicken prawn curry.

One wonders what SA Tourism’s understanding of our country’s cuisine is, and that of the Western Cape in particular.  With 16 of the top 19 Eat Out Restaurant Finalists based in the Cape, it is a surprise that not one of these top chefs, most of the calibre of Chef Perry, were exposed to the visiting chef.  At least up and coming Chef Darren Badenhorst at Grande Provence was included in the programme, even though he has not made the Top 19 list due to not having been in charge of the kitchen for a full year.  This is even more evident from the SA Tourism website’s Top 10 Wine estates (gastronomic) list, of which the compiler is not identified:

1.   Buitenverwachting

2.   Rust en Vrede

3.   La Colombe

4.   Pierneef à La Motte

5.   Terroir

6.   Bread and Wine

7.   Overture

8.   The Goatshed

9.   Fyndraai

10.  Tokara

Odd inclusions on the list are Bread and Wine, Fyndraai, and Fairview’s The Goatshed, while surprise exclusions are Delaire Graff’s two restaurants, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, the Restaurant at Waterkloof, and Grande Provence.  The ranking of Tokara in 10th’s position is an insult to the cuisine creativity of Chef Richard Carstens!

While all publicity for South Africa is fantastic, and in Australia’s leading newspaper even more so, it is a shame that a journalist should have turned a South Africa Food Safari story into an apartheid story, which is not the topic of his story at all.  One wonders what gives an Australian the right to point fingers at our country’s past, given their own Aborigine history!  It wouldn’t be a surprise if one were to find that Dennis has South African roots!  At least Chef Perry enjoyed his trip: ‘My food philosophy is all about local, high quality produce and fresh ingredients so I was thrilled to meet with like-minded chefs in South Africa’. He encouraged travellers to our country to ‘add a South African food safari to their bucket list’, advising that they visit the Winelands, shebeens, experience a Braai, and enjoy a seafood buffet on the beach.

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

Cape Town Tourism: should it defend ‘apartheid’ Cape Town?

I am not politically-inclined, do not belong to a political party, nor do I vote.  I am concerned however when I see the word ‘apartheid’ dragged into tourism communication, either to Cape Town’s ‘benefit’ (e.g. the bid for Cape Town as World Design Capital 2014) or detriment.  I was surprised to see an article on Cape Town Tourism’s website, defending a particularly nasty article in The Observer (a Sunday UK paper with about 1,2 million readers), with a photograph taken from The Promenade in Camps Bay, about Desmond Tutu’s birthday (Desmond Tutu’s dreams for Cape Town fade as informal apartheid grips the city’).

The Observer writer David Smith focused on Archbishop Tutu’s birthday last Friday, celebrated in St George’s Cathedral, the ‘fortress of resistance to racial apartheid‘, as his opening shot!  The article is a lengthy tome of attack against Cape Town, for being the ‘cancer of injustice, racial segregation and bitter division’, for its contrast of ‘opera houses’ (sic), ‘literary festivals’ (sic), ‘internet entrepreneurs’, ‘luxury mansions’, and ‘prosperous California-style wine estates’. It states that ‘millions (sic) of tourists’ arriving in the city will see the ‘other’ Cape Town, with shacks, violence, poverty, and ‘non-white’, resulting in a Cape Town that ‘remains an apartheid city in all but name’, contrary to what Tutu stands for, speaks the article on his behalf. The rest of the article justifies this statement, going back to Jan van Riebeeck as the real architect of segregation.  President Zuma is quoted as having said earlier this year that Cape Town is a “‘racist’ place with an ‘extremely apartheid system (sic)’.  The DA is labelled as ‘a front for the wealthy white elite’.  Andrew Boraine of the Cape Town Partnership has the closing word, quoting Tutu: ‘winning freedom is one thing – using it is twice as hard’. Heavy stuff indeed, and not for the faint-hearted to defend, especially not appropriate for the city’s tourism body to climb into the boxing ring for in our opinion, given only four incidental references to tourism:

*   Staff make up beds in 5-star hotel beds, and then come home to sleep on the floor

*   Staff cook the best meals for guests, and then live off a slice of bread

* ‘ Cape Town is largely for the benefit and entertainment of tourists’

*   Cape Town is the world’s top tourist destination

Had I been the guardian of the city of Cape Town, I would have:

*  Got Archbishop Tutu to speak for himself, and respond, in the unique and direct way only he can (he is not interviewed, and no quotes from him are mentioned, and neither is the Dalai Lama’s cancelled visit

*  Got our feisty Premier Helen Zille and Mayor Patricia de Lille to write the response, the latter’s appointment being an excellent counter to the article in itself.

*   pointed out that the hospitality industry has a Minimum Wage, currently R 2323 per month

*   countered that Cape Town has a population of 4 – 5 million residents that love living here, irrespective of their skin colour

*   corrected the information, in that there is only one opera house, and that one literary festival has taken place for the first time last month

*   highlighted that it is the tourists who have visited Cape Town and seen the reality of the haves and have-nots in our city, as one would see in every city in the world, even in London, and who have voted to give Cape Town the top tourism accolades.

*   highlighted the hospitality sector GM’s, sommeliers, restaurant managers, and other management staff, who have reached their professional positions, despite their past.

*  corrected the tourism arrival figure quoted

Instead, Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, mistakenly referring to the article being in The Guardian, wrote awkwardly about ‘the juxtaposition between Cape Town’s poor and wealthy communities’,and that the legacy of apartheid ‘is a disjointed physical landscape and economic society..‘, digging a terrible hole for herself and our city as she goes on to write that for many of Cape Town’s residents it is ‘not yet a great place to live’!  None of this has anything to do with tourism at all, and she is the wrong person to challenge a leading UK newspaper, and very clearly out of her depth in defending a past political system.   She writes that Cape Town will be ‘reimaging’ as a ‘more livable space for all‘.  She quotes the city’s World Design Capital 2014 bid, in ‘shedding light on sustainable design’. Mrs Helmbold does get to tourism in her reply, highlighting the size of the industry and its employment of 300000 staff (no source supplied). She writes that the City of Cape Town, with the tourism industry, has embraced ‘Responsible Tourism’, in that tourism ‘creates better places for people to live in, and better places to visit’.  She concludes that ‘tourism is the lifeline to livelihood”.

I wrote to Mrs Helmbold yesterday, asking her why she had responded, and if she had sent her reply to the newspaper. This was her response:“Cape Town Tourism, as industry association and destination marketing agency for Cape Town, will respond from time to time as appropriate on issues that could affect our industry and/or destination brand. It is important to illustrate the positive role and contribution of tourism to Cape Town’s economy and the commitment from tourism to contribute to making Cape Town a more livable city through embracing responsible tourism principles and practices. We have submitted our response directly to the Guardian (sic) and posted a copy on our industry website where we can direct industry queries about the article. The Guardian has not yet published our response”.

One hopes that Cape Town Tourism’s response is not published in The Observer, and that the tourism body will invite the journalist to Cape Town, to personally showcase the great opportunities in tourism being afforded to all its citizens.

POSTSCRIPT 15/10: We have received the following feedback from Lisa Harlow from the UK: Well I am a Times / Sunday Times reader and still agree with Nick! I wouldn’t worry too much about this report – quite typical of the Guardian and Observer. But more importantly was the fairly recent good coverage of South Africa in the Saturday Telegraph. However, recession still goes on in the UK, and this is more of a hurdle to overcome for tourism. Lets see how successful BA are with their extra Cape Town flights for the summer season…”

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

World Design Capital 2014: Cape Town visit not reflective of city’s design wealth!

The visit by two judges from the Montreal-based International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, Dilki de Silva and Martin Darbyshire, to evaluate Cape Town’s bid for World Design Capital 2014, ended off on a better note than its start, at least as far as the weather was concerned!  The judges left town yesterday, after a jam-packed visit.

Oddly, the tourism industry was not informed prior to the visit what exactly the judges would be exposed to, and other than Twitter, there was barely any communication from the Cape Town Partnership, nor Cape Town Tourism, or the City of Cape Town during their visit.  Cape Town Tourism would not even share the itinerary of the judges’ visit after their departure, but fortunately Cape Town Partnership Managing Director Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana obliged immediately on receiving our request.

The judges were put through an active programme of activities, arriving on Sunday when the city was blowing a storm, perhaps apt as the new Cape Town Tourism video is all about depicting the city with billowing clouds over Table Mountain!  The judges had flown in from Dublin, and residents of Cape Town would have known that something was different, with yellow material wrapped around 100 trees on Heerengracht Street, and the lights shining on Table Mountain having been changed to yellow over the three day visit of the judges.  The bid company Cape Town Town Partnership had used yellow as the colour for its bid, to represent optimism, and it was chosen as ‘an attention-grabbing, creative and inspirational colour.  We chose it to represent our World Design Capital  bid and it represents our passion for design as a force for change.’

On arrival at Cape Town International on Sunday morning the judges were shown the World Design Capital 2014 stand which had been designed for the Design Indaba exhibition in February, a rainbow-coloured perspex structure on which Design Indaba attendees were invited to write their words of inspiration about the city.  The two judges were driven to the city centre in a MyCiti bus, and from the Civic Centre bus station to the Taj Hotel in a Green Cab.  The judges had Sunday afternoon off, a waste of time one would have thought, given that the city centre is dead on Sundays.  There was no rest for the judges thereafter, being driven to the Cape Town International Convention Centre for a 7h00 breakfast on Monday, at which the judges were addressed by Mayor Patricia de Lille, Cape Town Partnership CEO Andrew Boraine, Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, Cape Town International Convention Centre CEO Rashid Toefy, and Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille.   After a walk around the Convention Centre, the judges presented the rationale for the World Design Capital project, and its legalities, to which the City of Cape Town responded.  Brad Habana did a presentation on a Private Sector Sponsorship Strategy for Cape Town, a topic which seemed to not fit the design theme of the judges’ visit.

Driven in Africa’s first electric car built in Cape Town, the Joule, the judges were taken to the Montobello Design Centre, hardly the epitome of design excellence in our city!  From there they were driven to Khayelitsha, to view the Violence Protection through Urban Upgrade project and a community library, and thereafter to Mitchell’s Plain to be shown a Design Indaba inspired low-cost housing project, both stops questionable in their impression created, in not reflecting the beauty nor design strength of our city, given the two First World competitors Cape Town has!  A highlight must have been a helicopter flip over the city.  Without lunch and dinner indicated on the programme, and no time allocated to it, the poor judges must have been starving.  On Monday evening they were whipped off to The Assembly nightclub in Harrington Street, the most shabby, unsuitable and non-design venue that could have been chosen, and having no relevance to design at all, with its Japanese paper lanterns, as someone wrote on Twitter.  The advertised snacks were non-existent, and invited guests had to pay for drinks.  There was not enough seating for guests, even though they had to RSVP.  Seating was against the screens, which meant that many guests attending could not see the screens.  Other than the presentation by Design Indaba CEO Ravi Naidoo, the presentations were mediocre, read from notes, and came across as absolutely amateurish, and one felt embarrassed for Cape Town and its design talent that this poor venue and platform was chosen in an attempt to impress the judges.  The speakers did not address the promised topic of ‘What would it mean for Cape Town to be World Design Capital 2014?’, which is what attracted me to attend.  They failed not only the judges, but also the audience, which walked out in growing numbers, especially during a break in the proceedings.  I was surprised that the Design Indaba could have been the co-organiser (with the Cape Town Design Network) of this mediocre event, meant to be one of networking too.

On the third day, the judges were allowed to meet an hour later for breakfast, but 8h00 on a morning after the night which saw widespread snow falling around the country, and a temperature of 5°C at that time, the breakfast at the Green Point Urban Park on Tuesday seemed an extremely inappropriate venue, despite its great beauty and design.  After breakfast the judges were driven to Stellenbosch University’s Sustainability Institute and the Lynedoch Ecovillage. Then they were taken to Spier for a photograph, and even lunch, it would appear.  From here they were driven back to the city centre, to The Fringe in Canterbury Street, not the most savoury part of town, where the judges heard short presentations on the Central City, Creative Cape Town, Catalyst Projects, and the Cape Town Heritage Trust, whereafter they were taken to the nearby District Six Museum.  At the Fugard Theatre they heard a presentation about Cape Town’s educational facilities.  The judges were entertained at GOLD restaurant to a ‘gala dinner’, according to Cape Town Partnership spokesperson Lianne Burton, and shown around the Gold of Africa Museum.  Here our city’s ‘ersatz Madiba’, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, told the judges: “God took special care and time when he created Cape Town”. As if the judges had not heard enough talk, they were exposed to further presentations on their last day, on the planned expansion of the Convention Centre, the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre, and were shown the Freeworld Design Center, and entertained at Hemelhuijs next door.

While Cape Town had the advantage of having the judges in the city for four days, compared to only two days in Dublin, they must have been drained by the number of presentations that they had to sit through.  One also is disappointed that they did not get to see enough of the beauty of Cape Town (e.g. Atlantic Seaboard, the Waterfront, Chapman’s Peak, Robben Island to create the link to our famous Freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, Cape Point, Cape Town Stadium, the winelands, and Table Mountain – cleverly it was closed for its annual cableway maintenance)!   While it would have been difficult to replicate, a mini Design Indaba would have been an important way in which the judges could have experienced the tremendous design talent of Cape Town’s creativity.  The Cape Town Design Route, developed by the City of Cape Town, would have been a further highlight to share with the judges. Perhaps anticipating my criticism, Ms Ngewana Makalima wrote: “Design is interpreted in many different ways. In this context we are referring to transformative design aimed at improving the quality of life of ordinary cities.  It is not about high-end products, supporting a high end lifestyle.  This is why the bid theme is ‘Live Design, Transform Life'”, she wrote.  In the Cape Argus she is quoted as saying: “We hope to inspire the judges with our innovation, passion and humanity. Cape Town has an important story to tell of a city that is using design to overcome our historical problems of disconnection, inequality and urban sprawl to create a more inclusive and liveble city for all citizens”. I cannot see how any design will take away the townships, and the shacks inside them, and how it can address ‘inequality’!

A Cape Argus editorial highlighted that ‘fresh thinking in matching the considerable 21st century challenges’ is required for Cape Town.  Touching on the legacy of apartheid in a complicated wording, it does state that Cape Town can ‘realign(ing) the urban landscape with post-apartheid values and virtues…   Clean government, vigorous debate and a diverse creative sector provide the context for far-reaching innovation in the broad discipline of design with a view to re-imaging the city as a fairer, cleaner, more efficient and more livable space’.  We have previously questioned this focus on apartheid, first mentioned by Mrs Helmbold in blaming design for apartheid, given how far South Africa has come, and especially Cape Town, the city that was streets ahead in embracing its citizens of all races long before 1994.  We liked the conclusion of the editorial: “We are also convinced that giving the award to Cape Town and contributing to fashioning a fairer city will bring credit to the International Council’s faith in design as an instrument of the greater good.”

Ms Makalima-Ngwenyana said that Cape Town’s bid was about design in public transport, public spaces, community facilities, and the upgrading of informal settlements, in other words designing a more ‘inclusive economic vision’.  Mayor de Lille said of the bid: “Cape Town’s bid to be the World Design Capital shows how far we have come as a city.  More importantly, it shows how far we want to take this city. The creative industries make up an extremely important part of our local economy.  The value of an event such as World Design Capital not only exposes our creative design talents to the world, but in turn develops our local industry into an asset for decades to come.” Ms Burton is quoted as saying that Cape Town’s bid comes from a developing world, compared to those of two cities in the developed world, and said that it would be significant if Cape Town won for a developing country for the first time.  “Ours is a serious bid.  We’re solving serious problems.  It’s design for survival, not simply for pretty things.  We need smart ideas for big problems. Smart ideas in inexpensive ways and that’s what Africa’s been doing for years.” Once again, one wonders in which city Ms Burton is living in – the Cape Town I know is largely a vibrant First World, developed city.

Judge De Silva said of Cape Town during her visit: “We’ve been impressed.  We’re very positive about Cape Town’s bid.  We’re seeing examples of what the city promised in their bid book.  We haven’t yet had time to download all the information”.

After the ‘intensive two-day assessment visit’ to Dublin by the judges, the Irish Times reported De Silva as praising the city: “It is very exciting to see so many young people doing creative things in Dublin.  We want people to get involved with design and to educate cities about the value and importance of design in community building.  I have seen a lot of passion here and people who want change.  What you have here is a project that belongs to the community.  I didn’t expect the new facilities like the Grand Canal Theatre downtown and the new conference centre. Dublin has a vibrant European feel to it and I see more similarities between young people here and Eindhoven rather than London.  You are now in the midst of a design community and the rest of the world looking at Dublin.  How you leverage that to your benefit is up to you.” In Dublin the judges visited Irish designers and workshops, the Guinness Storehouse, Ballymum Regeneration, Kilbarrack Fire Station, Baldoyle Library, and the Dublin City Civic Offices.  A lunch was held in the Hugh Lane Gallery, a creative venue choice. Dublin is known for its graphic, animation and gaming design, and architects.  Third candidate city Bilbao celebrated World Design Day with the launch of 4500 balloons at the end of June. No further information in English is available about the judges’ visit to the city, which clearly must be a front-runner for the Capital status, with its impressive and modern Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry. The city is described as‘a dynamic and innovative city with intense social and business activity’, reports the Cape Times.

We are sceptical of Cape Town’s success in this bid, for its heavy focus on the apartheid legacy and design’s role in this.  After 17 years of a transformed political landscape, and the abolition of apartheid, this is an old hat theme, and not one that will help us to win against Bilbao and Dublin!  It was surprising to see ‘Mr Design South Africa’, Ravi Naidoo, one of our country’s best design brains, and organiser of the internationally acclaimed Design Indaba, missing from the bid committee.  We do congratulate the Cape Town Partnership for its bid making the Finalist stage, however, an amazing achievement in itself.  Claims that winning as World Design Capital in 2014 will bring in hordes of tourists should be taken with a pinch of salt, given that even being the number one TripAdvisor Travel Destination has not brought any tourists to our city!  One had not heard of this competition or any of its past winning cities before, until Cape Town announced its bid last year.  According to the Cape Times, the bids ‘are primarily assessed in terms of vision rather than pre-existing city features’, but no future vision appears to have been reflected for Cape Town, with its too great a focus on the past!

It is also clear now where Mrs Helmbold obtained all her ‘Brand Cape Town’ material, in that most of its content appears to have come from the bid book, given that Ms Burton was a consultant to both Cape Town Tourism and the Cape Town Partnership, and a member of the bid team, having left Cape Town Tourism as its marketing manager last year.  This left a huge marketing hole for Cape Town, at a time in which the city’s tourism industry is bleeding.  It also explains why Mrs Helmbold chose ‘Inspiration’ as the city’s positioning, as it would support the design theme of the bid, even though it is not unique for Cape Town, and has been used by Edinburgh and Korea!

The World Design Capital is awarded biennially, and is ‘more than just a project or a programme: it’s a global movement towards an understanding that design does impact and affect (the) quality of human life’, the President of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, Mark Breitenberg, said.  Cape Town was chosen a finalist out of 56 bids presented.  The Cape Town 465 page bid book has been nominated for a Loerie Award for creativity.  The winning World Design Capital 2014 will be announced on 26 October.

POSTSCRIPT 28/7: The Cape Town Partnership’s PR agency has just sent the following release about the World Design Capital 2014 judges’ visit:

Cape Town’s Creative Community On Board for World Design Capital Selection Visit

Cape Town has said farewell to the World Design Capital’s selection committee, represented by Dilki de Silva (Canada) and Martin Darbyshire (UK). The two were in the city from Sunday, 24 July till Wednesday, 27 July, for a whirlwind tour of what makes Cape Town a true contender for the role of World Design Capital 2014. Cape Town was the last stop on their itinerary of short-listed cities, after Bilbao and then Dublin. Yellow fever swept the local creative community (yellow is the colour of Cape Town’s World Design Capital bid) as more and more stakeholders saw that winning the title would bring a shot of creative energy and global design-focused attention onto the destination. His Grace Desmond Tutu made a special appearance at a gala dinner held in honour of the World Design Capital selection committee’s visit on Tuesday night. He led a blessing for the assembled guests, which included Premier Helen Zille and Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille.

At a capacity Cape Town Design Network event (attended by De Silva and Darbyshire), which was held at the Fringe in Cape Town’s East City on Monday, 25 July, Design Indaba founder, Ravi Naidoo, announced a challenge to the Cape Town creative community in the form of a competition; Your Street. The initiative invites creative proposals for how an aspect of Cape Town street life can be enhanced through the power of design thinking. The best idea will receive R 50 000 in cash. If the person who brings in the idea also has the business plan and commitment to funding to achieve it, they will receive R 150 000. Impromptu pledges then came in from the audience as architect (and previous Design Indaba 10×10 Housing Project competition winner), Luyanda Mphahlwa, promised a further R50 000 for the most innovative idea, and design leaders, XYZ, leapt up to add R 50 000 worth of design fees towards the creation of the product in reality. Entry into the competition closes on 31 August 2011. Details are at http://www.designindaba.com/yourstreetaware and competitive environment. Naidoo pointed out that being able to live with an understanding of both the first world and the third world allows Capetonians, and South Africans, the advantage of viewing the world through a unique prism, and as such, allowing us to access two thirds of humanity as a market place.

The Cape Town Partnership has been responsible for managing the World Design Capital Bid to date. Managing Director, Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana, explained that design in this context goes beyond the creation of product and aesthetics; “In our application for the bid, we focused on design as a tool for transformation and re-integration. Examples include the IRT transport system, which will allow us all to experience less traffic, a project like the Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrading in Khayelitsha, which has provided a safe, stimulating space for the community, and the Sustainability Institute in Lynedoch where environmental and social sustainability is being both academically rooted and practically applied.” Says Makalima-Ngewana; “We are exhausted but so happy and so very proud of everyone for presenting Cape Town as an inspiring contender for World Design Capital 2014. We are all holding thumbs for October when the winning city will be announced.”

POSTSCRIPT 29/7: In a Media newsletter today Cape Town Tourism writes about the World Design Capital bid, and once again blames design for apartheid: “The story at the heart of Cape Town’s bid theme is about the city’s use of design to overturn the negative legacy of its colonial and apartheid past; a cruel design which aimed to divide people, disconnect the city, and force both people of colour and the urban poor to its fringes”!

POSTSCRIPT 20/10: A media release received on behalf of the Cape Town Partnership indicates that a delegation of 9 city representatives, under the leadership of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille,  will be heading to Taipei, for the announcement of the winning city on 26 October.  These are extracts from the release:  A high-level delegation, led by Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, is heading to Taipei for the official announcement of the winning city, taking place on the final day of the International Design Alliance (IDA) Congress on 26 October, 2011. The delegation includes Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing; Jo-Ann Johnston, Chief Director of Economic Development and Tourism, PGWC; Alderman Conrad Sidego, Mayor of Stellenbosch Municipality; Andrew Boraine, CEO of the Cape Town Partnership; Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana, MD of the Cape Town Partnership; Skye Grove, Communications Manager of Cape Town Tourism; Michael Wolf, Chairperson of the Cape Town Design Network and Luyanda Mpahlwa, leading architect and World Design Capital Bid Committee Member. Executive Mayor De Lille said in her most recent weekly newsletter: “I will be travelling to Taipei for the result, proudly representing the first African city to reach this stage of the process. On the face of it, it is a tremendous opportunity for Cape Town to demonstrate how we are using innovation to address the challenges of our past and the inevitable challenges of our future. Past World Design Capital winners have also seen increased visitor numbers as a result of the title. Torino, Italy, World Design Capital for 2008, reported higher visitor numbers in their title year – which coincided with the global economic downturn – than in 2006, when they hosted the Winter Olympics can result in marked tourism peaks and troughs, World Design Capital has the potential to deliver sustained visitor numbers throughout the title year, through a series of design-led events over the course of 12 months. The title also does not require any infrastructural investment, but is an opportunity to leverage our World Cup infrastructure.”

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

Cape Town selected as finalist for World Design Capital 2014

Yesterday Cape Town received the fantastic news that it has been selected as one of three finalists for the World Design Capital 2014, with Bilbao and Dublin.  The city competed against 56 cities for this prestigious accolade, which was won by Seoul last year, and has been awarded to Helsinki for 2012.

A World Design Capital city is selected every two years by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, to a city that uses ‘design for social, cultural and economic development’, the Cape Town Tourism media release says.  The Council will be visiting Cape Town from 10 – 24 July, in a period in which the city will not be looking at its best in the winter weather, relative to its northern hemisphere competitors. The winning World Design Capital for 2014 will be announced on 26 October.

The Cape Town Partnership managed the bid for the award, supported by Cape Town Tourism and the City of Cape Town.   The recent decision to position Brand Cape Town as an innovation hub supported the World Design Capital bid, and uniquely differentiates Cape Town from other South African and African cities.

Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold welcomed the good news: “This is a significant moment for Cape Town.  Our shortlisting is an acknowledgement that design is an asset and a massive catalyst to align different sectors across the city with the ultimate goal of making Cape Town a more liveable (sic) city.  Many people associate Cape Town with our beautiful natural surrounds but design and innovation is (sic) leading the way for us to become a city that people are increasingly choosing to explore and discover from an urban context….  As Cape Town moves into the future, we are convinced that it will become an ever more exciting place to live in, work in and visit.”

Odd was the information contained in the ‘Newsflash’ sent to Cape Town Tourism members last night, which stated that “..Cape Town’s bid theme is about the City’s use of design to overturn the negative legacies of its colonial and apartheid past that saw design dividing people, disconnecting the city, and relegating both people of colour and the urban poor to the fringes”.  This mouthful of a statement, which does not make sense in blaming design for apartheid, gets worse in the rest of the ‘Newsflash’, and one hopes that the bid book contains a more uplifting and positive motivation for Cape Town to be selected as the World Design Capital 2014!

Andrew Boraine, Chairman of the Cape Town Partnership, wrote on his blog that the Finalist status is good for Cape Town for five reasons: organisationally it demonstrated a good partnership and teamwork between the private and public sector; the deadline in getting the 465-page bid book completed and submitted was a challenge well handled; it gives brand Cape Town international visibility; it gives the citizens of Cape Town pride in their city’s success; and it will help to develop a greater design focus on anything that impacts on design in Cape Town. 

POSTSCRIPT 22/6:  The website of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design summarises what the three finalist design capital bid cities represent.  Cape Town is praised for its beauty, and hosting of the World Cup last year, hardly the basis of giving one confidence of winning in October.  Furthermore, embarrassing is that a link is provided to the ‘Cape Town Tourism Board’, which is not Cape Town Tourism’s website, but that of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, which organisation had nothing to do with the bid!  Even worse is that it is completely dated, with a boring You Tube video dating back to the World Cup!  Come on Cape Town – the world’s design eyes are on us now!  The photograph shown for Cape Town is an aerial shot of the city, with the Cape Town Stadium prominently visible.  That for Bilbao is of a highly modern building, in all likelihood the Guggenheim Museum.  The Dublin pic is completely boring.  Dublin is reported to have spent €14 million on its bid, compared to Cape Town’s mere R2 million!  This is what the Council wrote about each of the three finalist cities:

Bilbao  

Bilbao is the capital of the province of Vizcaya, which is situated in the western part of the Basque Country, in northern Spain. As a financial and economic centre of the region, it is a dynamic and innovative city with intense social and business activity. Since the creation of The Guggenheim Museum in 1997, this city with a population of over 350,000 has been in the process of a large-scale urban transformation that has led to the development of a composed and diverse metropolis on the cusp of a dramatic urban revitalisation. So much so that Bilbao earned the 2010 Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize given for contributions to the creation of vibrant, liveable and sustainable urban communities.Spanish Tourism Board (Bilbao)  

Cape Town 

 The City of Cape Town lies at the southwestern tip of Africa, uniquely nestled between Robben Island and the majestic Table Mountain range, two national heritage sites. Since the end of apartheid, this city, now three times the size of New York and home to around 3,6 million people, has undertaken the process of redesigning itself. As South Africa’s oldest city and having recently hosted the first World Cup on African soil, Cape Town now has first class infrastructure and a cosmopolitan lifestyle. With the highest standard of living of all South African cities, this gateway to the African continent is rich in heritage, innovation, diversity and creative talent.Cape Town Tourism Board 

Dublin  

A city of one million people, Dublin is a hospitable, lively and eccentric city known to be open to ideas and creativity. With its wide connectivity and strategic geographical location, the capital of Ireland has become a busy crossing point for global flows of people and investment, as well as an international hub for large technology companies such as Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft and IBM. With its unique design heritage, the Unesco City of Literature is host for influential and distinguished design events such as the ATypI 2010 conference and the World Craft Council Europe conference in 2011.Dublin Tourism Board

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

South Africa wins 2010 World Cup and becomes Plan B for future FIFA World Cups

The best compliment that FIFA could pay South Africa is the declaration by Jerome Valcke, FIFA Secretary-General, two weeks ago that “South Africa will always be a Plan B for any World Cup”, reports AFP, and an amazing compliment to the Local Organising Committee (LOC), as well as to South Africans across the board, in organising the best “party” in the world and showing the “gees” of our nation to our visitors and to our fellow countrymen.

FIFA praised the country for what it believes will have been a “perfect” World Cup.  “If on July 11, we are on the same level as we are today (3 weeks ago), I would say it’s a perfect World Cup”, he said.  Initial transport problems led to empty seats at the Opening Match in Johannesburg on 11 June, but these problems were quickly ironed out.

The World Cup has made South Africa and the continent of Africa “sexy”.  At the TIME and CNN Global Forum, which was held in Cape Town two weeks ago, and was attended by a large number of the world’s global business leaders, South Africa’s smooth hosting of the World Cup had changed perceptions about the country and the continent, speakers said, reports The Sunday IndependentTIME editor Michael Elliot said that the country is riding an “extraordinary wave of energy and optimism”, and stated that South Africa is “on the verge of tremendous opportunity”.

So how has South Africa benefited from the World Cup?    The benefits have been financial and emotional:

1.   A legacy of infrastructure – I disliked the word “legacy” initially, when I heard politicians justify the billions of Rands to be spent, but now that legacy is concrete, with ten new or upgraded stadiums around the country, fantastic roadworks leading into Host Cities, and around the stadiums, airports of an international standard (almost all, given the embarrassing fiasco at King Shaka airport in Durban), a Gautrain in Johannesburg and a modernised train station in Cape Town, new modern buses, upgraded city pavements, city greening and new city artwork to beautify the Fan Walks.

2.  The “gees” Ke Nako that was the theme of the World Cup grew throughout the World Cup into an unheard of spirit of national pride, surpassing that of the Rugby World Cup in 1995. The nation-building power of sport, first through the rugby match between the Stormers and the Blue Bulls in the Orlando Stadium, and the powerful bonding of South Africans in supporting the Bafana Bafana team, as well as them demonstrating the pride in their country via mirror socks, flags on the cars, and flags on their homes and businesses, has been one of the most wonderful benefits of the World Cup, and is likely to last well beyond the end of the World Cup. For the first time the country became proud citizens of their continent too, in supporting “BaGhana BaGhana”, when they were the final African team to play in the tournament.   Many South Africans doubted their nation’s ability to host an event of this magnitude across nine different locations around the large country, but she has done her country proud.  Locals are already calling for a regular way of displaying unity, by putting up flags, wearing the Bafana Bafana colours, or those of our country’s flag. 

3.  The improvement in South Africa’s image world-wide is the best legacy of all, and perhaps we needed to hear bluntly at the start of the World Cup how dimly we were viewed by the world.   Whilst we hated her broadcasts, Emma Hurd of SkyNews was the wet blanket that reminded us day in and day out about how dreadful life can be for many of our citizens, but even then the TV station changed its tune, its broadcasts became more and more positive, and Ms Hurd’s focus moved more to the soccer and less on the social imbalances.   Maybe it was a blessing that England fell out of the tournament so early on, which led to less interest in the World Cup reporting by the station.   Reporter after reporter has written about how they feared coming to the country, having heard about its reputation of crime, AIDS, poverty, and even apartheid, but all wrote about how pleasantly surprised they were about the spirited and united nation they saw, and about the first class facilities they encountered.   Not only South Africa but Africa benefited in image, as written above already.   Africa has been the step-child of the world, and it was the “social responsibility ” of the world, and FIFA in particular, that saw South Africa awarded the rights to hosting the 2010 World Cup – a tremendous leap in faith for the body at the time, but a dividend that has paid off richly for FIFA President Sepp Blatter and his team, not just in terms of their revenue earned, but also in their image for having the faith and in sticking behind South Africa, denying that they ever had a Plan B and a Plan C.

4.   The control over crime was a surprise even for South Africans.  The cancellation of the contract between the FIFA Local Organising Committee and Stallion Security at the Cape Town and Durban stadiums was no security loss at all, and the police did an outstanding job in handling the security of the stadiums, as well as of the Host Cities in general, with high police visibility, and a marked reduction in crime in general.  Western Cape Premier Helen Zille told the Cape Town Press Club that a BBC interviewer had expressed his surprise to her about not seeing the “expected crime wave”, reports the Weekend Argus.  Never before had such visible policing been seen, not only in and around the stadiums, but generally in city streets and in shopping malls.  One wondered where they had been hidden all these years, and hopes they will remain.  South Africa was not prepared to compromise safety, its biggest vulnerability, and I experienced what I first thought was a crazy safety procedure to have my car security-checked at the Green Point Traffic Department, with a car search, a sniffer dog search,  a search underneath the car, and a personal security check, then a blue light escort into the stadium.   Special World Cup law courts also acted immediately on World Cup-related crimes, and meted out harsh fines and penalties for theft and other crimes, and the incident of the British fan entering the England team changing room, and the subsequent admission of guilt payment by the Sunday Mirror reporter related to this matter, attracted varying reaction to the harshness of the fines. 

5.   Whilst South Africa was shunned as a “rip-off” country for its cost of flights, accommodation, transport  and World Cup packages prior to the World Cup, due to the 30 % commission add-on by FIFA hospitality and ticketing agency MATCH to already high prices of flights, accommodation and transport, the prices of all of these aspects of the World Cup quickly dropped when MATCH cancelled the bulk of its booked rooms, and SAA cancelled the seats MATCH had booked.   It was unheard of that accommodation rates dropped during a world event, but pricing is about supply and demand, and the lower than expected demand necessitated the decrease in rates, which did increase last-minute bookings to some extent.  It was gratifying to see soccer fans book their own accommodation, preferring to book more reasonably priced guest houses.  It is hoped that the world will forget its initial image of our country in this regard.

6.   The biggest surprise for locals was the power and fun of the Fan Walk in Cape Town.  It appeared that this may have been the only city in South Africa to have one.  Despite one’s scepticism of the concept initially, given Cape Town’s winter weather, not even rain could deter ticket holders and even towards the end, on a sunny afternoon, Capetonians without tickets from walking the Walk.    The flags put up everywhere became a trademark, and made Cape Town look festive, and one hopes they will stay, and give a nostalgic memory of the biggest party Cape Town has ever experienced.

7.   South Africa has new tourism icons, the very beautifully designed stadiums becoming tourism assets in their own rights.   The Soccer City, Durban, Cape Town and Nelspruit stadiums in particular are beautifully designed.  Cape Town had a Big Six it marketed – now it has the Big Seven, the Cape Town Stadium added, which became the backdrop to most broadcasts from the city.

8.   If it has not been said above, the interpersonal tolerance between South Africans seems to have improved, and small courtesies towards other pedestrians, motorists and shoppers are manifestations of the wonderful spirit of “South Africanism”.

9.   “White” South Africans have caught the soccer spirit, and the majority never were interested in this sport.   One never thought that locals would rush off in such large numbers to buy their match tickets online, and to queue for tickets at FIFA outlets in Host Cities, even camping outside the doors the night before.  More than 3 million tickets were sold, and about two-thirds went to South Africans.  We all became enraptured with the game, and all learnt new terminology about soccer (although most of us still do not know if it is ‘soccer’ or ‘football’ that we have been watching!).  We got to know the names of new soccer heroes – Diego Forlan, Thomas Mueller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, and many more, for their performance on the pitches.

10.  School children but also adults learnt about geography in terms of the participating nations, so that Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the South American countries of Uruguay and Paraguay could be placed.  Nestle ran a “Children of the World” promotion, with information about different participating countries on their Smarties boxes.   Hopefully South Africa featured on the atlas of children and residents of the world community whilst they watched the many matches in the past month, and saw their countries’ TV stations present documentaries about our country.   We got to know the flags of participating nations. 

11.  Musically, life will never be the same, the vuvuzela being synonymous with the 2010 World Cup, and will no doubt be the “spirit maker” at future sporting events around the world.   Loved and hated, the “toot toot” during broadcasts and live matches were part of this sporting event.  FIFA President Blatter refused to have it banned, when called upon to do so by the world media and by players, who said that they could not hear their coaches and the referees.  The world’s largest vuvuzela was erected on Cape Town’s unfinished highway for World Cup sponsor Hyundai.   Two songs will go down in World Cup history – “Waka Waka” by Shakira, much scorned when it first received airplay on radio, but now synonymous with the event, South Africa, and even Africa – as well as K’Naan’s “Waving Flags”.

12.   It is the future tourism legacy that will hopefully benefit the country, in that it will attract tourists to our country in future.  Due to the improvement in South Africa’s image and the wonderful documentaries about South Africa (for example German TV station ZDF dedicated hours of coverage of South Africa, using our ex-Miss South Africa Jo-Ann Strauss, speaking her best possible German – she is engaged to a German), one can hope for an influx of tourists for years to come, but one must be realistic about the depressed economy internationally, and even locally, said our Governor of the Reserve Bank Gill Marcus last week.

13.  If there is one name we will never forget in the context of the World Cup, it is the by now well-known Paul the Octopus from Oberhausen in Germany, who correctly predicted 5 wins and 2 losses for Germany, as well as the win for Spain against the Netherlands in the Final. He even has a Twitter page @PPsychicOctopus, which surpassed 500 Followers in just four days.

14.   The media coverage for South Africa has been phenominal, many countries sending media representatives not only reporting about the soccer but also doing documentaries about the cities in which they were based.  The BBC had a special Studio built on top of the Somerset Hospital, giving it a fantastic view of a beautiful Table Mountain on the one side, and of the beautiful Cape Town Stadium on the other side.   An hour after the Final last night, ZDF was still broadcasting about South Africa and the World Cup, recapping the highlights of the sport event and of the country.  Even normally cynical Oliver Kahn, who was a co-presenter, praised the organisation, hospitality, friendliness and lack of hooliganism of our host country.  ZDF probably was the TV station that gave our country the most, and most positive, TV coverage.   The Final is expected to have been seen by 700 million TV viewers around the world last night.

15.   The power of the endorsement in terms of VIP attendance at the matches is unmeasurable, and those celebrities that are on Twitter, Paris Hilton and Shakira for example, who expressed their delight, spread the word even further.  Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel, Queen Sofia of Spain, her son Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia, Holland’s Crown Prince Willem Alexander and his wife Maxima, Prince Carl Philip of Sweden, Prince Albert of Monaco and Charlene Wittstock, German President Christian Wulff, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Luia da Silva, Charlize Theron, Morgan Freeman, Mick Jagger, Kimora Lee Simons, Leonardo DiCaprio, Andrea Bocelli, Franz Beckenbauer, injured ex-German captain Michael Ballack, Bill Clinton, David Beckham, will.i.am and the Black Eyed Peas, Naomi Campbell, Princes William and Harry, London Mayor Boris Johnson and many more attended the matches over the past month.

16.  Despite the winter timing of the tournament, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth’s weather generally played ball.  Cape Town had three rain days during matches, and challenged the perception of Johannesburgers that it rains all the time.  

17.   The smooth logistical running of the World Cup has opened up the country to bid for other events, and the 2020 Olympics is the next event the country has been invited to bid for.   IOC President Jacques Rogge has been in the country for more than a week, and has been warmly recommended the country by his friend FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

18.  Social media marketing received a tremendous boost during the World Cup, and peaked on 11 June, the start of the World Cup.   Only one event challenged interest in the early part of the event, being the engagement of South African Charlene Wittstock to Prince Albert of Monaco.  As soon as the USA and England teams were eliminated, web traffic fell dramatically, partly though due to the problems with the SEACOM cable for those websites that are hosted overseas by their servers.   Yet action on Twitter never let off, and whenever a goal was scored, Twitter crashed. Twitter users followed soccer stars they had not previously heard of, and even Sepp Blatter opened a Twitter page (@SeppBlatter). 

19.   The initial high airline ticket prices encouraged many locals as well as tourists to drive between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, and also to other parts of the country, to save on costs, thus supporting tourism in smaller towns and cities that were not Host Cities.  One hopes that this will lead to a rediscovery of the Garden Route, an area that has suffered badly as far as tourism goes in the past three years.

20.   One can be grateful from a business perspective that the World Cup did take place in winter, a normally quiet period, therefore not influencing productivity, or lack of, badly on match days, and on Bafana Bafana match days specifically, which saw shops and businesses close early.   This is compared to many companies that close for their Christmas/New Year break, when Cape Town is at its busiest.

21.   The surprise benefits of coming to the country for the international soccer fans was the beauty of the country, and in Cape Town the fans were surprised about what special beauty the city offers – the mountains, the sea, the wildlife at Cape Point, and the winelands.

22.   Soccer fans that arrived without tickets and locals enjoyed the “gees” at the Host Cities’ Fan Parks, many offering top notch musical entertainment every day, and broadcasting all matches.  In early days the Fan Park on the Grand Parade had to be closed, due to over-capacity.  Other fans went pub-hopping, Long Street being popular for this, with numerous bars and restaurants with televisions.  The V&A Waterfront was another popular destination, and every restaurant agreed to install TV sets for the duration of the World Cup.   Paulaner Brauhaus and other hospitality marquees set up at the Clocktower side of the V&A did extremely well, and I personally queued at the Paulaner Brauhaus for as long as 2 hours for the semi-final between Germany and Spain.   The law of supply and demand forced greedy hospitality marquee owners to radically reduce their entrance fees, where these were charged, from over R 100 per person, to about R 20.

23.  FIFA must be congratulated on their determination in making this an excellent World Cup, and were based in Johannesburg for a number of years, to guide the management of the event.  It gave us great confidence that the event would be a success, even though so many locals were sceptical.  FIFA executives were also ruthless in their deadlines for the completion of the stadiums, and the infrastructure, which was excellent in making everything come together, even if it felt that some work was very much last minute.   FIFA insisted on the police presence and the instant law courts, and they have dramatically reduced crime in the past four weeks.

The World Cup has not been super-perfect, and had some blemishes:

1.  I have written copiously about MATCH, FIFA’s hospitality and ticketing agency, and its ruthless attempt at exploitation of the accommodation industry, which unfortunately backfired badly for the agency, for the accommodation industry and for the image of the country as far as affordability, or lack of, goes.

2.   Many empty seats were visible, especially in the early matches, and were attributed to transport problems in Johannesburg at the first match, and to sponsors not allocating all their tickets.

3.   The inability and thereafter late landing of four aircraft at King Shaka airport in Durban on the day that Germany played Spain was the biggest logistical blunder of the tournament, and left many German fans angry about the costs they had incurred to see the match.   ACSA is offering a reported compensation of R400 per head!

4.    Restaurant business dropped dramatically, and fine dining establishments that refused to succumb to TV sets lost business badly, especially on match days in their cities.  Theatre and general entertainment also suffered, and the popular Jonny Cooper Orchestra closed down a show in Camps Bay two weeks ahead of schedule.   Retail outlets did not gain from the World Cup, and the opposite probably is true.   Sales of the Cape Times and Cape Argus have been said by its management to have been the worst ever in the past four weeks.

5.   The negative media reporting focused on only one theme – the great divide that still remains in South Africa, between haves and have-nots, and the irony of the monies spent on the stadiums relative to the lack of proper housing for all of its population will have to be addressed.   One hopes that the future impact on tourism, and resultant employment, will address this problem.  But it will also mean a new attitude by employees to value their jobs and terms of employment.

6.   The early exit of England in particular was damaging to tourism, as multitudes of fans were standing by to fly to South Africa to support their team.  The England fans were the best for accommodation business, but their bookings were linked to their team’s playing schedule.

7.  The biggest loser of the World Cup probably is FIFA itself, in terms of its image, Sepp Blatter having been booed at the Final and also on another occasion.    FIFA also came under fire about its card-happy referees, the British referee Howard Webb setting the record for the highest number of cards, with 14 yellow cards and one red card during the wild Final match.  The lack of technology to check on the admissibility of goals was also severely criticised.

8.  FIFA’s technology also failed when demand for tickets became so great, that its system crashed on numerous occasions, a dent to its image of perfection and organisation.

9.   The more than 25 000 volunteers that were appointed by FIFA and its LOC, were poorly utilised in terms of their skills and day-job capabilities and were extremely poorly managed.   They were “employed” outside of the South African labour legislation, and had to sign for this in their contracts.   They had tax deducted from their meal allowances when these were paid into their bank accounts.  In Cape Town they were served disgustingly bad food for three days, and were not compensated for it in terms of their meal allowances.   They did not all receive the designated volunteer clothing, even though it was ordered about 6 months ago when the volunteers were appointed.  Volunteers attended three days of training in April plus a morning in May, and were not compensated.   Huge dissatisfaction existed about the forced McDonald’s diet of R 60 per day, which the LOC would not alter at all, the most unhealthy food they could have been fed.  The Green Point branch next to the stadium made a fortune out of this arrangement, yet their service and food quality was shocking – the Volunteer Co-ordinator had to call the branch regularly with complaints.   Volunteers were forced to drink Coke, when many preferred water, Bonaqua being a Coca Cola brand too.   Quotas were set for the amount of water and Coke that each volunteer had to receive.   The Volunteer Farewell Function last week started two hours late, was badly organised, and lunch was served at 15h30, 1600 volunteers having to queue – many left at this stage.  More than a month after starting to work as volunteers, they have not yet been paid, despite a promise that they would be (now they are due to be paid at the end of July!).   Sadly, international volunteers left the country with an image of the poorest organisation of a World Cup relative to their experience of the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, a shame given that one third of the volunteers were from other countries around the world, and they will take this message back home with them.  I kept hearing them say that this must be “an African way” of doing things, a perception I tried to correct whenever I heard it.

10.   The FIFA sponsors Budweiser, McDonald’s and Coca Cola were not all positively received.  Budweiser was only served inside the stadiums, and comments via Twitter were only negative about the beer. McDonald’s became a swearword amongst the volunteers, and even the police and media working close to the Stadium must have disliked receiving the poor quality and service for more than a month.   Coca Cola became the butt of jokes about Paris Hilton getting the brand wrong when she was wrongfully arrested for smoking marijuana.   The food sold by concessionaires inside the Stadium was poor.

10.  FIFA also lost face when it fanatically reacted to ambush marketing, and the Kulula.com airline provoked FIFA in its newspaper ads.  Bavaria beer is the best known brand in South Africa, due to FIFA’s reaction to the Dutch brewery’s ambush marketing inside the stadium in Durban.

11.  Corruption in terms of Government departments and municipalities buying huge allocations of tickets has been hinted at, and no doubt further such claims will be written about in the media.

11.  Whilst the occupancy of accommodation establishments in Host Cities close to Stadiums was reasonable in the past 30 days (Whale Cottage Camps Bay at 71 %), the areas in smaller towns barely picked up any benefit in this period.   Sadly, business in May was at its worst ever, and what income was made in June, was offset by the “vacuum-effect” of the World Cup in May.     

12.  Last, but not least, is the anti-climax of the month-long party having come to an end.  The lives of many changed in the past month, with different habits, glued to television sets, children on holiday for 5 weeks, daily beer drinking habits having been developed, and the mundane side of life was set aside for the period.  Reality strikes today!  

POSTSCRIPT 18/7: FIFA gave South Africa a score of 9/10 for the hosting of the 2010 World Cup, reports The Times, up from the 7,5 rating for the hosting of the Confederations Cup last year.   FIFA President Blatter likened the score to a cum laude at university level.  “The greatest memory is the willingness and commitment of South Africans to show the world their ability to host this World Cup with discipline and honour” Blatter said.

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

World Cup Service Excellence drive can only be Mickey Mouse!

The Department of Tourism has announced a last minute service excellence campaign “Tourism Service Excellence Initiative” (TSEI) for all front-line staff dealing with soccer fans during the World Cup, less than one month prior to the start of this world sport event.   While its intentions are extremely noble, and it will be offered for free, a two-hour session will hardly make any difference to generally poor service attitudes in Cape Town and South Africa.

The Department of Tourism has contracted The Disney Institute from Orlando to conduct a number of free two-hour seminars around the country, the Cape Town ones taking place next Thursday (at His People Center in Goodwood) and Friday (at the Cape Town International Convention Centre), at 10h00 and 14h00 on each of these days.  The same presentations will be held in Stellenbosch on 15 May, in George on 17 May, and in Knysna on 18 May.

The Disney Institute is a highly regarded “university of service excellence”, and a company like Pick ‘n Pay has regularly sent its managers to Orlando to improve its stores’ customer care and service excellence.   But it is impossible to change a service mentality in 2 hours!

The Western Cape province sent the invitation to attend the seminars in Cape Town as a Press Release, and it states that one can call to make a booking (a friendly and reasonably efficient process requiring ID numbers of staff, and more) or go the TSEI website www.tsei.co.za.    Dr Laurine Platzky, the “2010 FIFA World Cup Coordinator from Provincial Government Western Cape”, describes the seminars as “energetic” and “inspiring”, their aim being to “give all football guests an unforgettable experience in the Mother City and the Province”.

The TSEI document has the logos of the Department of Tourism, TSEI and the Disney Institute, as well as of FEDHASA, at the bottom of the document. FEDHASA’s has a web address linked to it (no other web addresses are supplied), but it is not FEDHASA’s web address – it is the web address of FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan’s private Rooms4U booking portal, which has been criticised on this blog previously!

The TSEI document states that customer service should be improved “in anticipation of the millions of guests to the games” (our underlining).   One wonders where this statistic comes from – 3 million tickets are meant to have been sold, but this does not mean 3 million ticket holders, given that tourism consultancy Grant Thornton has estimated that each visitor will watch 5 matches on average, reducing the number of ticketholders to 600 000 on average!   Also, one talks about “games” for the Olympics, but for the World Cup they are called “matches”!   In a “mastery” of copywriting, it claims that The Department of Tourism had in 2008 already “crafted” (did they mean drafted?) the Tourism Service Excellence Strategy, to “take Service Excellence in the Tourism Service Value Chain to greater heights”. 

It then explains why service levels must be taken to greater heights, in that service excellence in the past has been hampered by (wait for it…….) “the negative impact of apartheid (!), a largely autocratic management style (!), the lack of an established culture of customer service, insufficient training, systemic educational concerns, the poor image of the service industry by most, and the harsh economic realities of many workers who remain focused on survival rather than service” (our exclamation marks).  Phew!  

Internationally, we rank in the middle, at 62nd of 124 countries, on competitiveness, in the 2007(!) World Tourism Council Competitiveness Report.   The Department says that the level of service delivery ranges from good to very poor in our country.   That is why it has appointed The Disney Institute to conduct Service Excellence Seminars, “which are designed and focused in creating a culture of service excellence”.  Come on – can a 2-hour seminar create a culture of Service Excellence, no matter if it is presented by The Disney Institute?! 

Boldly the document continues about the objectives of the Service Excellence Initiative, all defined as being for “2010 and beyond”:

1.  “Championing service transformation

2.   Creating a customer service orientated SA

3.   Crafting a ‘solution-minded’ customer service culture in SA

4.   Providing human behaviour solution to SA

5.   Ensuring SA delivers world-class customer service

6.   Touch the entire service economy so that 2010 leaves a legacy”.

While it is clear that not all points are meant to be addressed by the seminars, the last one is – once again, how can they think that they can achieve this in two hours?!

The document states who should attend, and it lists immigration and customs officials, the police, tourism officials, “local government”, as well as private sector front-line staff in tourism and travel, hospitality, petrol stations, transport and banking.  Each participant is to receive a certificate and a Service Guideline Card, for which an extra half an hour has been allowed.

The best is kept for last – the value that a company’s staff will gain from attendance at the seminars:

“*   Engage employees to be personally involved in creating and delivering quality customer service

 *   Explore the significance of performance accountability, ensuring an equal weight value between business results and employee behaviors (sic) that enhances a positive work culture (straight from the Disney Institute literature no doubt)

 *   Learn the significance of creating and sustaining a corporate culture by design rather than default (?)

 *   Introduce the concept of “Common Purpose” as the organization’s chief global service driver” (we are tiny local non-global tourism related businesses in the main!)

The final best is the “dynamic” pay-off line that the copywriter ends off with : “Be Brilliant – Tourism Service Excellence Initiative” !!!!!!!!!! 

If the Department of Tourism’s Tourism Service Excellence Initiative document is anything to go by, its Service Excellence Workshops will be Mickey Mouse!  I cannot wait to attend, to experience this magical 2-hour transformation in Service Excellence!

POSTSCRIPT:  After writing this post, I found an article written earlier this week by Natalia Thomson of S A Tourism Update about the same topic.  She writes that the Disney Institute contract is worth R 9,5 million, and that 250 000 persons will be put through the workshops around the country.   Read her cynical and critical article here.

Read our follow-up article about the presentation here.

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