Tag Archives: B&B’s

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headline : 29 July

imageTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines 

* The Tourism Business Council of South Africa has emailed accommodation establishments that amendments made. to the Immigration Act 13 of 2002 last year requires of hotels, motels, boarding houses, lodges, guest houses, and apartment buildings to keep a register of their guests, take a copy of their ID or passport (none of them do), and take the residential address details. Failure to do so may result in a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months! Interesting is that B&Bs are not included in the list, and that Airbnb is excluded, being accommodation in private homes and apartments in the main!

*   Cape Wine 2015 will include a number of seminars on topics as Continue reading →

Tourism is ‘bread and butter’ of Western Cape, says Minister Alan Winde!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telegraph Travel ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ an improvement, but not error-free!

After writing about the disastrous error-filled and outdated Conde Nast Traveller  Guide to Cape Town earlier this week, it was refreshing to see a link on Twitter about the Telegraph Travel’s  ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’, written by local travel writer and ‘destination expert’ Pippa de Bruyn (author of a ‘Frommer’s Guide’ to South Africa and to India, and of  ‘A Hedonist’s Guide to Cape Town’), resulting in a far more accurate guide for the tourist visiting Cape Town.

The Guide kicks off with the Beauty positioning for Cape Town (the one that Cape Town Tourism has just thrown away by using Inspirational’, as the new positioning for Cape Town, even though it is not unique for Cape Town and has been used by others, including Pick ‘n Pay!), in stating that “Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world”.  It is accompanied by a beautiful shot of Clifton, with the Twelve Apostles as backdrop.  The reasons for travelling to Cape Town are motivated as its ‘in-your-face beauty’; the pristine white beaches; the proximity of nature; spotting zebra and wildebeest on the slopes of Table Mountain; watching whales breaching in False Bay; being ‘halted by cavorting baboons near Cape Point’; being a contender for World Design Capital 2014 with its art galleries, ‘hip bars’, opera, and design-savvy shops; the unique marriage of Dutch-origin vegetable gardening, winemaking introduced by the French (this fact must be challenged, as it was the Dutch who established the first wine farms), Malay slaves’ spices, and English ‘Georgian mansions and Victorian terraced homes’;  its contrasts of pleasure and poverty, of ‘pounding seas and vine-carpeted valleys’, and its award-winning wines and produce offer ‘some of the best (and most affordable) fine dining in the world’.

The ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ includes the following recommendations:

*   travel time is suggested as ‘pretty much any time of the year’, and a warning of wet Julys and Augusts now is inaccurate, given the wonderful non-winter weather experienced in Cape Town during both these months this year!

*   misleading is the claim that Cape Town offers the best land-based whale watching in the world – this positioning belongs to Hermanus, and is corrected a few pages further into the guide.   Also misleading is the claim that the best ‘summer deals’ are available in October and November – most accommodation establishments have the same rate for the whole summer, and do not drop rates at the start of summer.

*   it is up-to-date in that use of the MyCiti Bus is recommended to travel between the airport and the Civic Centre, as well as to the Waterfront.  Train travel between Cape Town and Simonstown is not recommended, due to dirty windows and lack of safety, one of the few negatives contained in the Guide.  The red City Sightseeing bus is recommended, as are bus tours, taxis, Rikkis, and car hire.

*  The ‘Local laws and etiquette’ section does not address either of these two points.  Instead, it warns against crime when walking or driving, and recommends that tourists should not ‘flash their wealth’.  Potential card-skimming in the Waterfront and at the airport is also a potential danger, travellers to Cape Town are told, not accurate, and unfair to these two Cape Town locations.

*   Tourist attractions recommended are Cape Point, driving via the Atlantic Seaboard and Chapman’s Peak; wine-tasting in Constantia; the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens; exploring the city centre on foot, walking from the city centre to Green Point; taking a water taxi from the Convention Centre to the Waterfront; the Footsteps to Freedom Tour; the Company Gardens; the National Gallery; summer concerts at Kirstenbosch; tanning at Clifton beaches; shopping for wines or going on a wine tour; High Tea at the Mount Nelson hotel; going on tours which allow one to meet the ‘other half’  locals;  walking through the Waterfront or taking a sunset cruise; the Two Oceans Aquarium; eating fish and chips in Kalk Bay; going up Table Mountain by foot or cable car; day trips to Cape Point, the West Coast National Park to see the spring flowers, and the Winelands (referring to Franschhoek as the now out-of-date ‘Gourmet Capital of the Cape’, by stating that ‘it is the only place where you have award-winning restaurants within walking distance of each other’, not correct either).

*   in the ‘Cape Town Hotels’ section, it states disturbingly (and information out of date) that ‘Cape Town isn’t cheap’, and therefore suggests that clients stay in Oranjezicht, Tamboerskloof, Higgovale, and Bo-Kaap  (but none of these suburbs have restaurants, something guests would like to walk to by foot from their accommodation), as well as De Waterkant, the V&A Waterfront (probably one of the most expensive accommodation areas!), and ‘Greenpoint’ (sic).  Self-catering and ‘B&b’ (sic) accommodation is recommended.  Hotels previously reviewed by The Telegraph are listed: the Mount Nelson, Ellerman House, the Cape Grace, Cascades on the Promenade, Four Rosmead, An African Villa, Rouge on Rose, Fritz Hotel, and The Backpack hostel, an interesting mix of hotels, and not all highly-rated in its reviews. No newer ‘World Cup hotels’ are recommended. 

*   For nightlife, Camps Bay’s Victoria Road, Long Street and Cape Quarter are recommended.  Vaudeville is strongly recommended, but has lost a lot of its appeal.  Other specific recommendations are Asoka on Kloof Street, Fiction DJ Bar & Lounge, Crew Bar in De Waterkant, Julep off Long Street, and the Bascule bar at the Cape Grace.  The list seems out of date, with more trendy night-time spots being popular amongst locals.

*   The Restaurant section is most disappointing, given the great accolade given to the Cape Town fine-dining scene early in the guide. Four restaurants only are recommended, and many would disagree that these are Cape Town’s best, or those that tourists should visit: The Roundhouse in Camps Bay, Willoughby & Co in the Waterfront, 95 Keerom Street, and ‘Colcaccio (sic) Camps Bay’!  A special note advises ‘gourmet diners’ to check Eat Out and Rossouw’s Restaurants  for restaurants close to one’s accommodation.  Stellenbosch restaurants Overture, Rust en Vrede and Terroir are recommended, as are Le Quartier and Ryan’s Kitchen in Franschhoek, and La Colombe in Constantia.

*   Shopping suggestions include the city centre, Green Point, Woodstock, De Waterkant, and Kloof Street, the latter street not having any particularly special shops.  The Neighbourgoods Market in the Old Biscuit Mill is recommended as the ‘best food market in the country’ (locals may disagree, with the squash of undecided shoppers, and increasingly more expensive), and may recommend the City Bowl Market instead).  Art galleries are also recommended.

While the Telegraph Travel  ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ is a massive improvement on the Condé Nast Traveller  Cape Town guide, even this guide contains unforgivable errors, which a local writer should not be making.  One would hope that Cape Town Tourism will get the errors fixed.  We also suggest that they recommend the addition of Cape Town’s many special city centre eateries, and that the accommodation list be updated.  The exclusion of Robben Island on the attraction list is a deficiency.   The delineation between recommendations for things to do in Cape Town is blurred in some instances with recommendations in towns and villages outside Cape Town, which may confuse tourists to the Mother City.  Overall, the Guide appears superficial and touristy, and does not reveal all the special gems that Cape Town has to offer.

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

Cape Town Tourism Marketing presentation: nothing brand new, collection of clichés!

Last week Cape Town Tourism hosted a series of four workshops on “A Strategic Plan for Cape Town Tourism and Destination Brand for Cape Town”, invitations having been sent to Cape Town Tourism members.  The presentation was wishy-washy, and most certainly did not meet the promise of a “Strategic Plan”.  I left the two-hour presentation concerned, and convinced that Cape Town Tourism does not have a clue about Marketing, despite the appointment of an Australian consultant!

What was not previously declared by Cape Town Tourism was that it has appointed Ian Macfarlane of Strategetic Consultants in Sydney, who has worked with the organisation for six weeks already.  One wonders why a consultant had to be appointed at all, if Cape Town Tourism is the City of Cape Town appointed marketing agency of ‘Brand Cape Town’, and had Lianne Burton as its consultant Marketing Manager (we have previously questioned her Marketing capability, being a journalist),  and why a consultant from Australia has been appointed on a five month contract, and at which cost!  Macfarlane was introduced as the ex-Marketing Manager for Tourism New Zealand,  which developed the ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ advertising campaign more than ten years ago, CEO of the Gold Coast Tourism Bureau in Australia, and Marketing Director of Tourism Australia, which launched the controversial campaign ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’, when tourism dipped after the Olympics.  This campaign cost $180 million, and was deemed a failure and withdrawn, being banned in the UK for the use of the word ‘bloody’, and tourism numbers dropped rather than increased, according to Wikipedia!  Macfarlane is an ex-Capetonian, who was once MD of Young & Rubicam Cape Town, and left the country about 18 years ago.  Surprisingly for a marketing consultant, it was hard to find information about him on Google!  

Instead of the presentation by Macfarlane on ‘the strategic plan proposed for Cape Town Tourism’ (the plan should be for ‘Cape Town’ as a brand anyway, and not for the organisation!), as indicated in the invitation Cape Town Tourism members were sent, Macfarlane entertained us with a humorous take on the global tourism scenario.  He said that the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reflects an increase in tourism, but that this is not the case, as the body is counting cross-border Asian travel, something SA Tourism has been blamed of as well, in counting shopping visits from neighbouring South African countries.  He spoke about cities winning tourism awards, which is nice for them, but that these do not translate into bookings, as we have seen with the recent TripAdvisor top destination award.  He candidly said that he hasn’t a clue about the future, and that no one knows for sure!  “Times are tough, and friends are few”, he said!  He said that tourism will be successful if many little things are done a little better, rather than doing one big thing.  These were hardly the quips we were wanting to hear about a serious topic, being our livelihood!  He talked about ‘conspicuous consumption’, having led to over-extended consumers, and that a new post-materialism era had begun. This means that consumers are looking for better value, are cutting back on their expenditure, and have become more conservative in spending their money. ‘Urbanisation tourism’ is a trend too, Macfarlane said, in that tourists like to experience the music, museums, art, and entertainment in cities. Bush holidays are on their way out, he added.  He told us that South Africa is not competing that well in a tourism context.  He reiterated that the only visuals one sees of South Africa, in SA Tourism marketing campaigns, is the Big 5, which means that these campaigns miss 70 % of the world’s travellers visiting cities.  While many expected South Africa to fail during the World Cup, it was a success he said, and left an overriding impression of its great cities in which the soccer matches took place.   The marketing of our cities has not been carried through, and now SA Tourism is pushing wildlife tourism again, he said sarcastically!  Wildlife is not unique to South Africa, shared with other African countries, thus not giving our country a unique positioning.

Macfarlane shared with us ‘learnings from the rest of the world’:

*   Visitors are the most important element of tourism, not the suppliers of tourism services.  Visitors are changing all the time.

*  There are no ‘silver bullets’ to fix tourism. A portfolio of events is needed, not one big one.  He sarcastically wished us good luck in hosting the proposed Grand Prix, saying that it had led to a financial loss for Melbourne, and had not grown tourism to the city.

*  If there is no demand, there are no sales, which means that one must get into the mindset of the traveller. 

*  Communication must be on travellers’ terms, meaning that Cape Town should not be packaged aspirationally, ‘badge value’ no longer being important to tourists.

*  There is no correlation between the exchange rate and tourism arrivals, a contentious claim!

*   ‘Destinations don’t sell themselves.  They need a USP (unique selling proposition), representing the sense of the city, touching different people at different times’

*   The ‘mindful consumer’ is tougher, looking for value, wanting to see and do more at no or little cost.  He/she wants to expend energy, cycling being popular, and wanting actively engaging experiences, in contrast to ‘restorative’ ones.

None of the above was a ‘strategic plan’, and was more of a consultant-speak overview of the world!

When Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold introduced the session at the Baxter Theatre, I was concerned when the word ‘Marketing’ was not mentioned at all.  Contrary to the invitation to hear the presentation of a ‘strategic plan for Cape Town’, Mrs Helmbold talked about an ‘intervention strategy’  that was to be an open-forum discussion, to which they wanted input.  It was not clear what Mrs Helmbold was addressing when she took over from Macfarlane.  Much of what she had said at the Brand Cape Town presentation was re-packaged, but with some changes.  For example, the upturn Mrs Helmbold had predicted for 2014 just two months ago is no longer on the table, saying that we will never recover to 2008 levels.   She urged us to become ‘scouters of change’.  Consumers are depressed.  She said it would be suicide if we looked for new markets, such as business tourism and the domestic market, and neglected the 80 % of tourists coming from our traditional European (Germany, Netherlands, France and Italy), UK, and USA markets, contradicting what she had said at the ‘Brand Cape Town’ presentations.  The marketing message for Cape Town must be changed to be relevant to more people.  Most people in the world are in ‘survival mode’, and not thinking of travelling.  “We must speak to people in their mindset, so that they put us on their bucket list”!  In the past 24 months, 118 tourism businesses closed in Cape Town.  No job creation is occurring in tourism, given the reduced tourism growth since 2008.  We are over-reliant on the traditional long-haul market, and should attract more locals, but the international tourism spend is far more lucrative.  The domestic market is the toughest ‘nut to crack’, as it comes with such established preconceptions about a city like Cape Town, e.g. it rains all the time, it is so expensive, it is so ‘racist’, it is so clicky, and it is so far away!  For the domestic market these are realities.  This market should be attracted to Cape Town for short city breaks.

Further highlights mentioned by Mrs Helmbold reflecting marketing activities included:

*  Cape Town should package tourism around events already hosted rather than creating new events. 

*  airfares to the country are high, and discussions are taking place to address this. Increased demand is needed for airfares to drop.

*   Cape Town has some of the world’s best 5-star hotels, but also good value for money B&B’s and guest houses

*    the knowledge for Cape Town must increase, and change.  Here Mrs Helmbold  went down the ‘Brand Cape Town’ workshop presentation route, justifying a broader positioning for the city in being a centre of academia, business and creativity.

The only element of a ‘Strategic Plan’ I picked up was its Vision: “to make Cape Town a ‘must visit’ city”!  This means that visitors must be encouraged to come now and spend more.  Very briefly, some marketing activities were mentioned, too specific to be a ‘Strategic Plan’, including:

*  promotions of the city, with showcases on Discovery (interestingly, the Tourism New Zealand campaign also focused strongly on the Discovery channel) and National Geographic channels, a joint project with the tourism offices of Durban and Johannesburg, as well as of SA Tourism.  Within these programs, city-specific ads and promotional programs will be placed.

*   packaging food and wine events under one umbrella, to establish Cape Town as the Gourmet Capital of Africa (the city cannot lay claim to this, as this accolade belongs to Stellenbosch)

*   tourists must go beyond the usual city tourist attractions, and should be involved in the history of the city, in experiencing the story of freedom in a creative way, and incorporating the Fan Walk.

*   proactive PR

*   do more direct marketing with the consumer via the Cape Town Tourism website, with real-time bookability

*   ‘community-building’ on-line via social media

*  appointment of an ad agency this week, to create a brand campaign, to be launched at the Cape Town Tourism AGM om 17 October.

*   local content about Cape Town is to be created and distributed via the Cape Town Film Commission

*  reviewing and probably reducing the number and location of the Cape Town visitor centres, eighteen being too many.

*   A Brand Ambassador campaign, using Cape Town residents as communication icons, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Olympic swimmer Natalie du Toit, and SABC3 Expresso Show and Kfm presenter Liezl van der Westhuizen.  The day after the presentation, the Cape Argus headline screamed “Tutu: tax wealthy whites”, hardly the brand ambassador needed for Cape Town! 

*  inviting visitors to Cape Town to attend blog club meetings

*  targeting the ‘young black market’

‘Cape Town’ is a brand that is 361 years old, and is a ‘city of villages’.  It still has a very generic image, and stands for a ‘cloud of things’.  The cloud must give the tourist enough reason to come to Cape Town, concluded Mrs Helmbold. 

It was clear to me that there is no exact ‘strategic plan’, let alone a Marketing Plan for Cape Town, which is what we were expecting!  It was a collection of clichés!  A discussion arose around my question about the proposed positioning of ‘Inspiration’, which Mrs Helmbold harps on about for Cape Town, despite it already having been used for Edinburgh and Korea, and even by Pick ‘n Pay!  Mrs Helmbold’s response, saying that it is hard to find something unique to say for Cape Town, and that Cape Town would be packaged ‘as a basket of unique propositions’, despite the appointment of an international consultant, made me realise that she has no understanding of Marketing!  Scary, when one considers that the City of Cape Town has entrusted R30 million of our ratepayers’ monies to Cape Town Tourism to market our city in the next twelve months, with a new Marketing Manager, coming from an advertising agency, and who is only starting at Cape Town Tourism in September!  Oddly, no summary of the ‘strategic plan’ has been sent to Cape Town Tourism members who could not attend the presentations, nor to its media list.

The report about the ‘strategic plan’ by the Cape Argus, with a headline “Cape Town to launch global drive for tourism”, appeared exaggerated relative to the information we heard in the presentation.  The report states that the plan presented by the tourism body was a response to a report by the newspaper about the city’s tourism industry being in crisis, but we challenge this, in that work on the plan commenced seven months ago, coming from the ‘Brand Cape Town’ workshops!

POSTSCRIPT 15/8: A lengthy report about the ‘Strategic Plan’ was sent to Cape Town Tourism members after our blogpost was published this morning!

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

Build more hotels, open more restaurants in Cape Town: TripAdvisor tourism tsunami on its way!

Cape Town has made it to the top of the TripAdvisor 2011 Travelers’ Choice Destinations Awards, beating world cities and destinations Sydney, Machu Picchu, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, New York City, Rome, London, Barcelona and Hong Kong.  It is a fantastic accolade for our wonderful city, and could lead to millions of visitors to Cape Town, if the TripAdvisor numbers are to be believed!

“With beautiful scenery, great wine and gorgeous weather, it’s easy to see why Cape Town, which also played host to last year’s World Cup, has topped this year’s list” said Emma Boyle, TripAdvisor spokesperson.

I am extremely sceptical of TripAdvisor, a love-hate site for hospitality establishments, that allows users to rate hotels and restaurants around the world.  Boldly they claim to have “over 45 million trusted travel reviews and opinions”, which Cape Town Tourism promptly misinterpreted on its blog as being the number of voters for Cape Town.

 

While I am delighted at the visibility for Cape Town as a result of the top ranking of our Mother City, the market researcher in me was disappointed in TripAdvisor’s announcement not answering two key questions:

*   who participated and voted for the top destinations?

*   what methodology was used, including sample size, vote methodology, time period of vote, etc, or was it purely based on the number of Google-type searches recorded on the TripAdvisor site? 

A vague sentence in the TripAdvisor announcement stated: “honor top travel spots in the world based on millions of real and unbiased opinions from TripAdvisor travelers.  Award winners were determined based on a combination of travelers’ favourite places and overall destination popularity”.  “Millions of TripAdvisor travelers around the globe have helped identify the world’s top travel spots,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. “The Travelers’ Choice Destinations awards not only recognize some of the most beloved travel destinations worldwide, but serve as inspiration for millions of travelers looking to plan their next trip.”

As a registered TripAdvisor owner for my four establishments, each with their own e-mail address, I received four e-mail announcements of the winning destinations, which means that all TripAdvisor users and product owners will have received the e-mail on Thursday, clearly a potential benefit for our city in terms of future enquiries and bookings.  Yet I was not requested to participate in a poll to choose my favourite travel destinations on any of the e-mail addresses.

When one clicks onto ‘Cape Town’ on TripAdvisor, a top ranking of B&B’s, hotels, restaurants and things to do appears.  Here the rankings are explained, in that they are based on a ranking derived from an average user score out of 5.  The number of reviewers having stayed/eaten at an establishment is also mentioned.

Once again the TripAdvisor sceptic that I am, and knowing that reviews can be written by establishments themselves (a severe criticism TripAdvisor faces continuously), by competitors wishing to disparage fellow establishments via false reviews (another severe criticism TripAdvisor faces), and by vindictive anonymous past guests, with a difficult procedure for owners/managers to respond to these, I was particularly interested in the Restaurant top 10 listing for Cape Town, as judged by TripAdvisor reviewers:

1.   La Colombe – on the 2010 Eat Out Top 20 shortlist

2.  The Opal Lounge 

3.   Caffe Hausbrandt – this is where it gets to be odd – this is a coffee shop on Green Market Square that I have never heard of

4.   Miller’s Thumb in Gardens

5.   Constantia Uitsig

6.   Savoy Cabbage

7.   Fork

8.   Willoughby’s

9.   Brio

10.  Carne

Only La Colombe made the Eat Out Top 20 shortlist, but did not make its Top 10 list in 2010, as its chef Luke Dale-Roberts left and opened his own restaurant The Test Kitchen.

The Top 10 Hotels list for Cape Town, as rated by TripAdvisor users, is as follows, ranked from 1st onwards: 2Inn1 Kensington, Derwent House Boutique Hotel (which was rated by an astounding 598 reviewers), Blackheath Lodge, Four Rosmead, An African Villa, Steenberg Hotel, dysART, Kensington Place, Villa Zest Boutique Hotel, and Table Bay Hotel.  Only two hotels are on this list, the rest being guest houses or small boutique hotels. 

The Top 10 things to do in Cape Town is an odd collection, and appears to include companies who offer tourism services: Table Mountain Walks with a guide, Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Cape Hiking and Cycling Tours, Langa Township (a strange inclusion), Lion’s Head, Boulder’s Beach, Cape of Good Hope, Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, and Abseil Africa from Table Mountain.

Time will tell whether the TripAdisor 2011 Travelers’ Choice Destination Award for Cape Town will make itself felt in terms of the benefit of ‘millions’ of TripAdvisor reviewers visiting our country and our city, something every accommodation establishment and restaurant sorely needs and hopes for for the bleak winter lying ahead.  There has been no sign of any increase in enquiries since the TripAdvisor 2011 Travelers’ Choice Awards were announced last week.

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

New Cape Town liquor trading by-law put on ice!

The City of Cape Town has lost face with its planned introduction of the new Liquor Trading Days and Hours By-Law today, in that it has had to backtrack twice in the past few days, demonstrating the lack of professionalism of the City’s Liquor Policy Task Team, which worked on the by-law for the past two years, and thereby one questions if they can be taken seriously going forward.

The long-awaited City of Cape Town Liquor by-law was meant to become effective today, and many outlets selling alcohol are unhappy about what is perceived to be draconian legislation to curb liquor sales, in the interest of reducing accidents due to drunk driving, a problem particularly prevalent in the Western Cape – however the City’s by-law ads do not mention this reason for the city’s new Liquor by-law! 

A UCT student in Social Development, Policy and Management, Rowan Dunne, discovered earlier this week that the by-law has not been fully gazetted, in that three amendments made since it was gazetted in September 2010 have not yet been gazetted, and will only be so on 14 January, making any attempt by the City to apply the liquor regulations illegal until then, reports the Cape Times.

In addition, the new by-law would have meant that all pubs, hotels and restaurants selling alcohol would have had to close their sales at 2h00 this morning, the new time limit meant to have been introduced by the by-law.  But given that it has not been gazetted, outlets could stay open as late as they liked on this longest party night of the year.

From today, the by-law was meant to have prohibited the selling or drinking of alcohol in hospitality establishments before 11h00, and after 23h00 in residential areas, and after 2h00 in CBD areas.   The City already had to amend the 11h00 morning deadline, to accommodate champagne breakfasts.   Sparkling wine may be used for such breakfasts, on condition that it is served with food.

Ironically, the number of deaths due to accidents has fallen dramatically this festive season, compared to the previous two years, due to stricter roadside controls by the traffic authorities, and strict new laws regarding fines/imprisonment due to excessive speeding, and driving drunk.   In addition, the Cape Argus has commenced a “Name and Shame” campaign, publishing on its first page names of persons who have been convicted of drunk driving.

Strangely too Mayor Dan Plato said in an interview on Kfm earlier this week that the City did not have enough law enforcement officers, and that these would initially be visiting establishments to educate them about the new by-law.   The City has also advertised the by-law regulations in the local Cape Times and Cape Argus newspapers.

The times at which alcohol may be served and drunk are as follows:

Residential areas:  B&B’s, guest houses, backpackers, pubs, taverns, restaurants, night clubs, theatres, places of entertainment, sports clubs –  11h00 – 23h00  (Hotels until 2h00)

“Local or neighbourhood business centres”:   B&B’s, guest houses, hotels, backpackers, pubs, bars, taverns, restaurants, night clubs, theatres, sports clubs, places of entertainment – 11h00 – 23h00    (Sports clubs until midnight, rezoned Hotels until 2h00.  Liquor stores and specialised wine shops may sell alcohol from 9h00 – 18h00 Mondays – Saturdays)

“General Business centres” : B&B’s, guest houses, hotels, backpackers, pubs, bars, taverns and restaurants – 11h00 – 2h00 (Supermarkets, specialised wine shops and liquor stores may sell alcohol from 9h00 – 18h00 Mondays – Saturdays) 

Industrial areas: Pubs, bars, taverns, restaurants, night clubs, theatres, places of entertainment, sports clubs – 11h00 – 2h00 (Liquor stores and specialised wine stores 9h00 – 18h00 Mondays – Saturdays)

Agricultural areas (i.e. wine farms): Guest accommodation, pubs, bars, restaurants, ‘tourist facilities’ and sport clubs – 11h00 – 2h00.  Wineries may sell and serve wine from 11h00 – 24h00 every day of the week, and may sell it for off-consumption from 9h00 – 18h00 every day of the week.

Small Holdings:  Guest accommodation, pubs, bars, restaurants, ‘tourist facilities’, sports clubs – 11h00 – 24h00 (Wineries as for agricultural areas above).

On Tuesday this week, Councillor Taki Amira had announced that the City was going ahead with the introduction of the by-law, and that it applies from today.  Outlets with liquor licences were threatened that they could lose their licences.  On Thursday, he did an about-turn, after a meeting with city club and bar owners, as well as with Dunne.   “The City would like to allay fears of club and restaurant owners with regards to the enforcement of the City’s new Liquor Trading Days and Hours By-Law.   The by-law will be phased in over the next few months and will not be stringently endorsed until all role players have been extensively informed about the new legislation.”  Club owners are uncertain of their zoning, and which time limit therefore applies to them in respect of the closing time.  

The City’s by-law is likely to become a benchmark for other municipalities in the Western Cape.   The City’s by-law advertisement already warns that “the new Western Cape Liquor Act takes away the automatic right of renewal for an annual licence”.   The ‘policing’ of the by-law by the public is encouraged in the City’s by-law advertisement, and could lead to misuse for ‘political’ or ‘points-scoring’ purposes, and lead to bad neighbourliness. 

The City’s Clubs, Bars and Restaurant Association is planning legal action, and plans to approach the Cape High Court on Monday, to fight the by-law.

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

‘Star wars’ lead to much milder Tourism Grading accommodation assessment!

In March accommodation establishments were shocked to receive an onerous set of guidelines for a new grading assessment system to be implemented by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.  It caused such an outcry that the Tourism Grading Council had to delay its implementation of the new grading criteria by four months.  

Input was sought from assessors, who themselves appeared to be unhappy with the greater number and more onerous criteria to be evaluated, and from accommodation establishments, both individually and as representatives of accommodation associations, such as the Camps Bay Accommodation association, which I head up.   The Tourism Grading Council must have been overwhelmed by the response it received from the industry, to such an extent that it had to go back to the drawing board, and delay the implementation of the new assessment criteria to this month.

The new criteria have been implemented, and many accommodation establishments have been in shock, and taken the bold decision to revoke their star grading, not feeling that they will meet the new criteria sufficiently enough to make them retain their previous star grading.   What is surprising is the poor communication by the Tourism Grading Council, in having had feedback that many establishments would withdraw from the voluntary grading assessment system, and that many others were unhappy with the extremely onerous proposed requirements.   The CEO of the Tourism Grading Council was invited to speak to accommodation establishments in Franschhoek, Somerset West and Hermanus, but no one (least of all Cape Town Tourism, who sadly remained silent on the topic) set up an information session with Cape Town based accommodation establishments.

We were critical of a number of new grading assessment criteria which were proposed, but are willing to give the new system a try.  Despite having been assessed by the Tourism Grading Council since its inception about ten years ago,  the new grading systems requires all existing clients of the Tourism Grading Council to be registered from scratch.  When I received the close to 20-page document for registration alone, and knowing that I would have to complete it for four Whale Cottages and not just for one guest house, I was immediately switched off, so switched off in fact that I have not had the energy to complete it yet.  Some of the information that is requested purely for the registration process includes the following: 

*   Company turnover (this should have no relevance to the grading)

*   Number of employees (this should have no relevance to the grading)

*   Number of “visitors handled by your company on an annual basis” – most establishments might know their occupancy, but number of guests per annum is not a standard measurement in an establishment.

*   Bank details are required, with onerous details requested such as date of opening the account, with details of the accountant and insurer too, information which has no relevance to the Tourism Grading Council, in our opinion.   The questionnaire states that bank details are requested in the case of (unspecified) refunds – however, the ‘Schedule of Conditions’ excludes any refunds to be payable “for any reason whatsoever”.  

*   Documentation is required for company registration, provincial/municipal registration, ‘sufficient’ insurance cover from one’s insurer (would they ever say it is sufficient?), BEE scorecard compliance, liquor licence and municipal rezoning.

Ten pages are dedicated to the Tourism Grading Council “Schedule of Conditions”, which include the following:  assessors may “overnight”, and in that instance accommodation, lunch or dinner (specifying that it be a 3-course meal – most guest houses and B&B’s do not offer meals other than breakfasts), one drink, one local call and one breakfast must be provided.  The form on which one has to sign acceptance of these assessor rights differs from the detail provided in the Schedule of Conditions, the former being very vague.  We have seen the ‘overnight’ privilege abused in the past, with assessors bringing partners and using their assessment visits as their annual holiday.   It is also a way in which establishments can ‘influence’ the assessor in terms of the expenditure on the meal and drinks offered, taking the assessment out of the purely professional level.  The time commitment to an “overnighting” assessor is tremendous – instead of a 2 -3 hour assessment visit, one is required to entertain the assessor from late afternoon until check-out the next morning, an extremely onerous time commitment for the owner/manager of the business.

*   fees are payable annually, which is as before – in fact the fees must be paid upfront, so that the assessment can take place. 

*   assessments must be done annually

*   “The TGCSA has the choice of the assessor to be assigned for the annual assessment at its discretion” – this is most contentious, as grading is voluntary in general, and one has always been able to select one’s own assessor.

*    The Tourism Grading Council will award a star grading.

*   One may dispute the grading awarded

*   Graded establishments must maintain their establishments’ standards to comply with the grading awarded, and must display their grading plaque (which has been changed, meaning that each establishment must order a new one).

*   Establishments must promise to not offer “any gratuity/incentive/bribe to any person in order to influence such person…”, clearly referring to the assessors, and to only provide truthful information

*   The Tourism Grading Council excludes its liability for any claims against it caused by any claims which may be lodged against a graded establishment.

*   Should the establishment be sold, it cannot cede or sell with it the current grading, which means that it has to be terminated, and the establishment must be assessed from scratch for the new owners.

All of the above relates to the paperwork purely to be (re)registered with the Tourism Grading Council!  The application form was not offered to the industry for input originally.  We have been told that most of questions are for one to receive government business!

A most pleasant surprise is that the actual assessment has been vastly simplified compared to the initial draft, which ran to 60 pages, and the criteria have been relaxed relative to what was intended in the draft, making most of them little different to the existing assessment criteria.  We highlight the most important ones:

*   The scoring for 4 stars, which was proposed to change to 74 – 88 % in the draft, has been changed back to the current 85 – 94 %

*   The draft document required a security guard, and onerous specified security features.   This caused an outcry due to the cost of the extra staff and features needed.  Now the minimum requirement is for the ‘best possible” safety and security to be offered for one’s guests, including providing emergency information, contact details of staff on 24 hour call, adequate lighting outside and inside the establishment, the “best possible locking devices”, and a safe for valuables (in the draft the safe was specified to be a laptop size one, but this requirement has been dropped, probably out of cost considerations in replacing existing safes).

*  Statutory obligations include being registered as a business; registered with the provincial authority (the exact registration is unclear); having public liability insurance; and complying with local authority fire; and hygiene and building access regulations.

*   The establishment must be open throughout the year, except if seasonal in nature, and if being renovated

*   No discrimination of any kind is allowed, in terms of denying access to any guests

*   Marketing communications must specify the cost of accommodation, meals, refreshments and any extra services, as well as surcharges and levies, and must be quoted inclusive of VAT;  the cancellation policy must be communicated; the “in-house rules” must be visibly communicated; and all facilities and amenities must be “honestly” described

*   Bed linen and towels must be changed every five days – given water shortages and rising electricity costs, the draft requirement of changing towels daily and of changing bed linen every three days having caused an outcry.

*   The bedroom and bathroom size, specified in square meters per accommodation type and star grading in the draft document, has been dropped, the only requirement being that the space “should allow guests to move easily”, with a minimum ceiling height to cater for guests 1,8 m tall, and should provide “freedom of movement”.   The minimum bedroom and bathroom sizes were a very sore point in the draft, and would have disqualified many establishments from retaining their current star grading.

*   Airconditioning is only required of 5-star establishments – the draft required all 4-star and 5-star establishments to have airconditioning, causing an outcry due to the cost of purchase, as well as cost of running in terms of electricity.   A heater or fan must be made available.

*   Colour TV’s are required, but no longer have to be flat-screen, as specified in the draft

*   “Stationary (sic) and writing materials” must be supplied, a new requirement

*   Telephones in guest rooms are optional, and not a requirement

*   One of the biggest issues was the provision of an 18 hour reception service in the draft document – this has mercifully been changed to “reasonable hours during the period that the establishment is open”.

*   the minimum Breakfast requirement is a Continental one.  Breakfast serving time was specified in the draft, and this has been removed.

The Tourism Grading document for Guest Houses contains 38 pages of guidelines of how assessors are likely to score the criteria out of 10 points.  Assessors welcome the new criteria and scoring sheet, saying that it takes the subjectivity out of the assessment.

It is a shame that the Tourism Grading Council communicated the initial draconian draft document, as it frightened many of its existing graded properties from renewing their grading.   The Tourism Grading Council has made no attempt to inform its clients that the initially strict criteria have been greatly relaxed, making it likely that establishments will retain their  existing grading – a PR campaign aimed at existing graded establishments is sorely needed!   One wonders how much of taxpayers’ money was wasted by designing a draft assessment document, utilising consultants, when the Tourism Grading Council has largely reverted back to where it was in March this year!   It needs to address the registration questionnaire, in terms of length and onerous requirements, as this is now the only off-putting part of being assessed.

POSTSCRIPT 28/10:  We believe that this blog post may have led to the Tourism Grading Council sending out an invitation to Cape Town accommodation owners/managers to attend a four hour breakfast presentation at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on 3 November.  While we salute this very late attention to Cape Town’s accommodation industry, in trying to obtain buy-in to the new grading assessment criteria, breakfast time is the one time of the day that guest houses and B&B owners cannot be away from their establishments, and certainly not for four hours!    It proves how out of the touch the Tourism Grading Council is with its customers. 

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

Tourism News: South Africa loses ‘value for money’ image in UK

Tour operators say South African accommodation has become too expensive for their UK clients, and they have called on local accommodation suppliers to relook their prices for 2011, reports South African Tourism Update.

Portfolio of Places representative in the UK, James Westrip of Africa Collection, says that the “good-value-for-money perception” of South Africa has gone in the past year.  This changed perception about tourism prices, coupled with tough economic times in the UK and the strong Rand “…is proving problematic for us all”, he said.  He feels that “SA is pricing itself out of the market”.   Portfolio of Places has experienced its worst year ever in its more than 20-year existence, we have been told.

Another operator said that it is no longer feasible for local establishments to increase their rates by 10 % annually, in excess of the inflation rate.  These increases effect the value for money perception of South Africa, says Louise de Waal of Baobab Travel.  She stated that budget accommodation options often are questionable as far as quality goes, and therefore cannot be booked.  Tourvest Inbound’s Martin Wiest says that high pricing makes our country less competitive globally.

&Beyond’s Gary Lotter acknowledges that not all accommodation establishments have increased their prices above the inflation rate, or at all, but it is the strong Rand that is the root of the problem.  He also said that if establishments were to drop their rates, they could receive more business, although this is not guaranteed.

Westrip also complained about establishments charging their direct clients better rates than they do tour operators, even though their clients may be a once-off and tour operators usually are loyal to establishments and book them regularly.  De Waal queried the wisdom of last minute rate reductions, and called for early-bird discounts instead.

It is interesting to read that tour operators cry wolf about high rates when it is the operators that are exceptionally greedy in their commission demands.  Africa Collection takes 20 % commission on bookings it gives Portfolio of Places clients, on top of close to the entry level R20000 annual advertising costs for the Bed and Breakfast Collection advertisers.  While the standard commission rate is 10 %, tour operators tend to do business with establishments if they can get commissions of 20 % or more, leading their business to go to hotels rather than guest houses and B&B’s, which would be far more affordable for tourists. 

It may well therefore be the tour operators that are the cause of the loss-of-value-for-money image that they are complaining about!

A survey on the Southern African Travel News  website shows that the majority of respondents indicated that they have frozen their rates.

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

S A Government blasts FIFA about World Cup bookings

In what is an unprecedented attack on FIFA, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the South African Minister of Tourism, has blasted FIFA over the low number of international visitors coming to attend the World Cup in 18 days from today, reports the Cape Times.   It is the first attack on FIFA by a member of the South African Cabinet.

Van Schalkwyk told Parliament that only a quarter of the 44000 tickets which had been allocated for Africa (excluding South Africa) had in fact been sold, and he blamed this on the lack of internet access for bookings to be made by soccer fans in African countries, and the exorbitant prices of the tickets.  “This is what I will tell Fifa to improve on when they next host the cup in developing countries: ‘Look at the way you sold tickets in Africa’.  ‘Africans do not buy tickets on the internet”, he is said to have added.

Van Schalkwyk’s outburst is interesting in that S A Tourism, the country’s national marketing tourism marketing agency, did little to make South Africa attractive to international soccer fans – other than some ads on CNN and SKYNews there was little visibility of advertising for this country.  Many soccer fans are not English-speaking, or from the UK and USA, and would not have seen the advertising.  The pay-off line for South Africa “It’s Possible” is hardly inspiring, exciting or informative about what South Africa stands for as a tourism destination. 

Van Schalkwyk also criticised MATCH, the FIFA ticketing and accommodation agency, about its strategy to book accommodation at small accommodation establishments, and then cancel the majority of these bookings as late as two months before the start of the World Cup.   “I think the escape clause in the contracts for accommodation is unfair to small operators.  We raised this issue with Fifa from the start”, he said.  

This writer criticised MATCH about the legally worded contract and the MATCH cancellation policy, which did not allow establishments to set their own cancellation terms, whilst a Director of FEDHASA Cape, via this WhaleTales Blog, and via the WhaleTales newsletters since 2006.   For the first time in its history, MATCH booked accommodation at ‘non-hotel’ establishments, at guest houses, B&B’s, and self-catering establishments. 

POSTSCRIPT:Poor Minister Van Schalkwyk is having a bad time – on Fin24.com today he is quoted as saying he was pained and embarrassed that guests were handed scarves with a “Made in China” label on them at a media conference, at which he outlined the country’s tourism strategy going forward, two days ago.

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

International World Cup soccer fan attendance halves

The boom projection of foreign attendance of the World Cup of 483 000 has been revised to a still-optimistic 373 000 by Grant Thornton, the tourism consultancy that created the original projection about 3 years ago, a drop of 23 %, reports SA Tourism Update.

The Grant Thornton estimate contradicts the FIFA estimates that the number of international soccer fans attending matches in South Africa has dropped by almost half, from 500 000 to 220000, reports The Times.

Based on the original optimistic international soccer fan attendance, the hospitality industry saw $-signs , and actively renovated their establishments, and put excessive price tags onto their properties.  Private home owners did quick renovations of their properties in the major cities, and planned to travel overseas during the World Cup period, spending their rental income, only to find the rental market being almost non-existent for the World Cup, given the over-supply of accommodation.

MATCH, the accommodation and ticketing agency for FIFA, also greedily added a 30 % surcharge onto the accommodation it contracted, and will have added similar commission rates to transport, flight and ticket prices, giving South Africa a dreadful label of “rip-off” pricing in the international media.  It is the fear of the excessive costs as well as the soccer fans’ fear of the perceived crime risk, that has kept soccer fans away in the main, report the international media.

Grant Thornton only revised its international attendance projections in the last month, when it became clear that MATCH could not sell all its contracted rooms, and gave them back to establishments, and that more than two-thirds of the tickets sold to date are to South Africans.  Even World Cup sponsors and football associations have not been able to sell all their tickets, and have returned them to MATCH.  

One wonders why it took Grant Thornton such a long time to revise the estimates, as its first estimate set the expectations for the hospitality industry.   The tourism consultancy now blames the credit crunch (which has been around for 2 years) and the distance of our country from the qualifying nations as the main reasons for the poor international bookings.  It also says that accredited Tour Operators also did poorly in selling packages.   Such Tour Operators had to pay $ 30 000 for a licence fee per country in which they were looking to sell packages, reports The Daily Maverick.

MATCH cancelled 1,3 million room nights out of the 1,9 million it had originally contracted, reports SA Tourism Update.    Many of the rooms released were in Zimbabwe, Mauritius, and in smaller local country towns (e.g. Plettenberg Bay, Hermanus).  The Protea Hotel Group has had 60 % of its rooms returned, in Cape Town, Durban and smaller towns, having originally been forced to allocate 80 % of their rooms to MATCH.  The Kruger National Park had 25 000 room nights returned.

Grant Thornton is trying to put a positive spin on the tourism benefit of the World Cup, by claiming that the average length of stay now is 18 days as opposed to 14 days as estimated originally, and that the average spend per trip would be R 30 200 as opposed to the originally estimated R 22 000.  On average, international soccer fans will watch 5 World Cup  matches, as opposed to the 3 previously estimated.

Attendance by African soccer fans has fallen to an estimate of 11 000, in what was meant to be an “African World Cup”, reports Business Report.    High ticket prices and lack of access to credit cards and the internet in other African countries has been blamed on the poor support from this continent.   It had originally been estimated that 48 000 African soccer fans would attend the World Cup, which still would not have been a satisfactory attendance level.

Grant Thornton in 2007 estimated the impact of the World Cup on the economy of R21,3 billion, with 159000 new jobs created.   International consultants Morgan Stanley published an estimate two months ago, of 350000 international fans attending and the local economy benefit being R15 billion.  The government has spent R33 billion on the tournament, for the building of stadiums and upgrading its infrastructure around the country to date, reports The Times. 

Grant Thornton now says that no new jobs appear to have been created due to the World Cup, but that it has prevented job losses, reports Business Report.   An estimated 2,5% – 3,5 % growth in the GDP of South Africa has been drastically reduced to 0,54 %.   Many fans have chosen to book via the internet, and are booking at B&B’s and guest houses, rather than hotels, and therefore are not booking via the “official MATCH-hosted channels”, says  Business Report.

FIFA President Sapp Blatter will be staying in the 5-star Michelangelo Towers during the World Cup, while the rest of his FIFA entourage of 200 will be accommodated at the Michelangelo Hotel next door, reports The Times.   Herr President’s requirements are a minibar stocked with South African wines, which is a good boost for the local wine industry, but the ice cubes in his fridge must be made from Evian water.  He will be protected by 5 bodyguards.   While sponsors’ products are meant to be used, which would mean that Blatter would have to drink Coca Cola’s Bonaqua, he is breaking protocol by drinking imported San Pellegrino mineral water.

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