Tag Archives: Brett Dungan

Majority of Cape Town hotels not reacting to tourism crisis!

Three months ago we conducted a survey of top-end hotel rates in Cape Town.  Given the tourism crisis in the Cape, I repeated the survey on Monday, calling the same hotels, asking them for their August rates.  Ellerman House remains the most expensive Cape Town hotel by far, starting at R5000 per room, and the Peninsula All Suite Hotel remains the least expensive 5-star hotel, at R1500 per room.  The survey found that the average rate of the sixteen 5-star Cape Town hotels is R 2715 per room, just under R1400 per person, an average decrease by 8% relative to the May rates.   Across all 27 hotels surveyed, the average rate per room is R2227, or just over R1100 per person, only 8 % lower on average than in May. 

Once again it was interesting to hear how the calls were handled, most hotel reservation departments asking careful questions, to identify if the caller was a travel agent/tour operator or a corporate caller, the questioning being very specific in this regard. Holders of a South African ID book or a Protea Hotel Prokard would have had different rates quoted.  Few hotels called had a rate sheet from which to quote immediately, having to access their computer for the ‘best available rate’ information, costing time.  I was shocked at the poor quality of the call handling and quoting by the hotel Reservations departments, quoting odd rates (i.e. not rounded off) very quickly, making it difficult to understand and record them accurately; interrupting while one was still speaking;  having a radio blaring in the background, affecting their ability to understand and hear the request; not all quoting rates with breakfast included, despite being asked for this rate (Protea Hotels quote room only, and refused initially to quote the add-on breakfast rate); an hotel line rang engaged three times; another hotel line was not answered at all; one hotel had a trainee answer the phone, and she did not know that hotel’s telephone number;  one staff member sounded in the depth of depression, as if she hated her job; one hotel did not disclose that it is undergoing major renovations, and its rates have not changed due to the renovations; and one hotel switchboard put me through to the kitchen when I asked for reservations, and I had to call again, as they could not transfer me back to the board.  Worst of all for the hoteliers whose rooms the staff have to sell is that only one (Victoria Junction Hotel) of the 27 hotels I called had a call to action, asking if I would like to book!

Some hotels have not changed their rates in the past three months, or only by a small percentage.  The Protea Hotel Fire & Ice increased its rate by an astounding 64 % to R1480 per room, making this 3-star hotel more expensive than a number of 4-star hotels.  Interesting is that a number of 4-star hotels are more expensive than some 5-star hotels.  The Queen Victoria Hotel rate has increased by 25 % relative to its opening special rate.  However, only eleven of the surveyed 27 hotels dropped their rates, noticeably the Newmark Hotels’ The Ambassador and Dock House (by 35%), and V&A Hotel (by 40%). The Cullinan Hotel has also dropped its rate sharply, by 30%, as have the Westin Grand Cape Town Arabella Quays, the Twelve Apostles, and the Crystal Towers hotels.

The rates were checked for 3 – 6 August per room for 2 adults sharing and inclusive of Breakfast per day, so as to compare the rates fairly.  We added breakfast to the rates where these were quoted separately.   We have ranked the hotel rates from most to least expensive, and reflect the rate change relative to our survey for May 2011 in brackets:

Ellerman House, 5 star, R5000 – R15700 (the new villa has 2 rooms offered at R48600 and 3-rooms at R60500), Tel (021) 430-3200 (no rate change)

Cape Grace Hotel, 5 star, R 4980 – R 14 530 for the penthouse, Tel (021) 410-7100 (10% rate increase)

Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, 5 star, R 3590 – R20816 for the Presidential Suite.  Tel (021) 430-0500 (1% rate increase)

One&Only Cape Town, 5 star, R3489 for South Africans – R5590 for non-South Africans. Tel (021) 431-5888 (10 % rate decrease)

Table Bay Hotel, 5 star, R3166  Tel (021) 406-5000 (International rate dropped, no rate change)

Mount Nelson Hotel, 5 star, R 3000 – R 9000. Tel (021) 483-1000 (no rate change)

15 on Orange Hotel, 5 star, R 2620 – R 2820, Tel (021) 469-8000 (5 % rate decrease)

Dock House, 5 star, R2430 (but pay for 2 days, stay for 3 days offer). Tel (021) 421-9334 (35% rate decrease)

Queen Victoria Hotel, not graded yet but seeking 5 stars, R 2350 – R 2715, Tel (021) 418-1466 (25 % rate increase from its opening special)

Twelve Apostles, 5 star, R  2190 – R  3940.  Tel (021) 437-9000 (24% rate decrease)

Westin Grand Cape Town Arabella Quays, 5 star, R 2160 – R 3640. Tel (021) 412-9999 (27 % rate decrease)

The Taj Hotel, 5 star, R 2150 – R 2650. Tel (021) 819-2000 (2% rate decrease)

Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa, 5 star, R 1700 – R3250.  Tel (021) 525-3888 (20% rate decrease)

V & A Hotel, 4 star, R 1640 – R1905 (but special pay 2 days stay for 3 days offer), Tel (021) 415-1000 (40% rate decrease)

Commodore Hotel, 4 star, R1600 – R 7780.  Tel (021) 415-1000 (no rate change)

Portswood Hotel, 4 star, R 1600 – R 3960.  Tel (021) 415-1000 (no rate change)

Bay Hotel, 5 star, R1600 – R2100 for South Africans, R 2600 – R 5500 for non-South Africans.  Tel (021) 438-4444 (no rate change)

Cullinan Hotel, 5 star, R 1515 – R 3400.  Tel (021) 415-4000 (30 % rate decrease)

Peninsula All Suite Hotel, 5 star, R 1500 – R 3240.  Tel (021) 430-7777 (4% rate decrease)

Protea Hotel Fire & Ice Hotel, 3 star, R 1 480 – R 2300, Tel (021) 488-2555 (64% rate increase!)

Winchester Mansions Hotel, 4 star, R 1470 – R 3390.  Tel (021) 434-2351 (no rate change)

President Hotel, 4 star, R 1460 – R 2550. Tel (021) 434-8111 (no rate change)

Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, 4 star, R1450 – R 3000. Tel (021) 409-4000 (17% rate decrease)

Cape Sun Hotel, 4 star, R1300 – R 5500.  Tel (021) 488-5100 (13% rate decrease)

Ambassador Hotel, 4 star, R 1250 – R 1950 (but stay for 3 and pay for 2 nights offer), Tel (021) 439-6176 (35% rate decrease)

Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, no star grading, R 1220 standard, R1465 business rooms. Tel (021) 406-1911 (5% rate decrease)

Victoria Junction Hotel, 4 star, –  Tel (021) 418-1234 (Only re-opening in September, with rate of R1990)

On Moneyweb yesterday, the FEDHASA hotel association was quoted as saying that the ‘hotel industry is being hard hit by the economic climate and there is very little light at the end of the tunnel’. FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan, who tried to sell South African hotels down the MATCH river for the World Cup, is quoted as saying that hotel rates have come down ‘dramatically’ (by about 10%, according to him) in the past three years, and that hotel occupancy has decreased by 10%.  The African Sun hotel group, which operated the 5-star The Grace and The Lakes Hotel and Conference Centre in Johannesburg, has not renewed its operating agreement with these two hotels, saying that the 5-star hotel industry in Johannesburg is ‘no longer sustainable’!  The Southern Sun on Grayston Drive in Sandton is also expected to close its doors next year.  Singing a somewhat different tune, to that of a few weeks ago, Arthur Gillis, CEO of Protea Hotels, expressed his optimism for the industry.  Location is the prime asset of a hotel, he said. “I don’t think the industry is in trouble.  I think certain individuals and institutions are in trouble”, he said.  Many would disagree!

POSTSCRIPT 3/8: Cape Town Tourism has sent the following response to this blogpost: Cape Town Tourism met with hoteliers recently to review the value proposition of luxury hotels in Cape Town in particular. The outcome of our meeting and position on price, value and demand will be included in our next industry communication and feedback given at the industry sessions scheduled for next week.  As alluded to by MEC Winde, business will react to pressures in different ways as they see fit in terms of their own strategies, market demands and business imperatives. It is common knowledge that published rates are not necessarily what are achieved, particularly in the current climate. Whilst we can offer advice, intelligence, guidelines and input in terms of customer feedback and trends, the market will dictate and business will adjust to market demands as they see fit. Our concern must be with the over-all value proposition of the destination i.e. full pallet of accommodation, experiences, restaurants and services rather than too much focus placed on one segment of the industry. Here is an extract from our industry communication to be published:  It is clear that the current depressed nature of arrivals has more to do with externalities and the consumer climate than with accommodation pricing. Cape Town boasts an exceptional, quality product offering and if you look at the complete pallet of accommodation and, experiences on offer, excellent value. We don’t want to undermine the strength of our destination brand by devaluing it. Visitors to Cape Town leave the destination overwhelmingly impressed and willing to return. Post World Cup figures found that 92% of foreign visitors said they would recommend South Africa to others and 96% said they would return. This does not suggest a fundamentally flawed product or pricing problem.  Cape Town boasts some of the world’s best small hotels, B&B’s and guest houses that are competitively priced and offer excellent value for money. The fact that Cape Town has a luxury hotel offering that compares with, and in many instances exceeds, our competitors in terms of quality and setting is an asset to our destination. It is commonly recognised that destination price perceptions are driven more by travel time and distance (transportation costs) than by in-destination costs. There is no evidence to suggest that Cape Town’s in-destination costs have detracted from its value proposition. If we can address the demand problem we face, then the cost of flights should become more competitive.”

POSTSCRIPT 3/8 : Provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde has responded as follows:It is always interesting to see how markets and management react to these pressures. I am also very interested in the new season where we have seen new airlift directly to CT. From France, Switzerland, UAE, Zambia and more in negotiation at the moment. I have asked for a report on our market fact into these places. This will only be good news if we see bums in seats. I will keep you posted once I get the report”.

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

Social Media and Freedom of Speech: Censorship of Comments

Over the weekend this blog was in the news, when it was taken to pieces by the (now ex) ‘friend’ who introduced me to blogging more than two years ago.   It raised a number of interesting issues about blogging in general, blogging ethics, and the censorship or not of comments on blogs and website.


Carl Momberg wrote a tourism newsletter CapeInfo for many years, and it was a cutting edge, incisive and often biting overview of the tourism industry.  He has no direct tourism experience, to our knowledge.  He was like a wolf at the doors of premiers and ministers of the province and of the mayor of the city, criticising their every tourism move.   He was very well connected, and had the good journalistic practice in those days of requesting comment from the persons he wrote about. 

I started my WhaleTales tourism newsletter 9 years ago, and could never match Momberg for his sting.  We often debated issues, but presented different perspectives, and we were both passionate about the retention of the then-Cape Town Tourism, of which I was the Deputy Chairman.  As Momberg wrote, I even offered the then-CEO Sheryl Ozinsky money to pay the salaries of staff and other running costs to keep Cape Town Tourism alive, but the City of Cape Town was bent on bleeding the tourism body dry financially, until it capitulated and became part of the new regime, which resulted in a new Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, costing Cape Town the loss of its best marketer ever, being Sheryl Ozinsky!  

Carl travelled with his pet wolf Akela, about which he blogged.   We continued writing the WhaleTales newsletter,  and have been told that it has become the definitive tourism newsletter, with 25000 readers.   Momberg’s newsletter is irregular in its publication, and has lost its bite.  

More than two years ago Momberg invited me to blog on his website, and not knowing better, I accepted.   He clearly was looking for increased traffic to his site via my blog contribution.  When he started interfering with my writing style and content, setting conditions about what I was allowed to write about or not (to protect his own financial interests and relationships with the tourism industry), I started my own Whale Cottage blog and paid Momberg for the hosting of the blog and for his assistance for the short time that he had done so.  It is the best thing I could have done to not work with Momberg any more, and many asked me why I had associated with Momberg in the first place.  I love blogging and my blog, and have never looked back in the 26 months of writing it.  Momberg invited other bloggers to blog on his site too, but they have all left him and gone on their own, probably for the same reasons.

To create a stir, climb on a dubious bandwagon, and possibly to gain some new readers for his blog, Momberg has written a slanderous post about my alleged hand in closing down a tourism website.  He did not stop there – he has turned every word and action in our ‘friendship’ into a negative, and brought in other unrelated issues, to paint as dark a picture as possible.   He has forgotten the good journalistic practice of asking for my input and comment to his blog post before publishing it, and spewed forth malicious misinformation.  For the record, we have last spoken to each other more than two years ago!  My response to aspects of his blog post follows. 

Closure of Tourism website

I nor anyone else has any power to tell a server what to do or not to do.  As a website owner one usually deals with a webmaster, who has a relationship with the server, so that one cannot contact them directly.

Recently I spotted three defamatory comments made about me and Whale Cottage, by three persons whom I have never met and who have never stayed in my guest houses, in response to a comment I had written about my terrible stay at Sante Hotel and Spa.   The commenters wrote that Sante should ignore my comment, as I do not know anything about hospitality, it was claimed, and then made further defamatory comments.  As they were untrue and damaging, I followed the procedure of contacting the owner of the website, and requested the removal of the three comments.  He refused.  I then contacted the association of server companies in South Africa, and followed their procedure to request the removal of the three comments.  They contacted Hetzner, the server of the tourism website, and Hetzner in turn contacted the owner of the website, and gave him a specified period in which to remove the three comments, or face the closure of the website if he did not comply.   He refused to comply with the request from the Hetzner Abuse Department’s Gunther Breuninger, and the tourism website was closed down by Hetzner.   The owner has told Breuninger that he is moving to another server and reopening.   This website closure was laid at my door as an opening shot by Momberg, as if it was my doing.  He even implies that Breuninger is lying in his communication with him about this matter.

Fedhasa Board membership

I have written on this blog about the devious attempts made by then-FEDHASA Cape chairman Nils Heckscher to keep me off the Board of directors, when I had been nominated in the Small Accommodation category.  When I was elected to the Board, he made our Board meetings hell, constantly criticising my WhaleTales newsletters (prior to the days of blogging), and made me feel that we were having Whale Cottage instead of FEDHASA Cape Board meetings!   Heckscher was a very biased partial Chairman, and hand-picked his successor when his controversial reign was over to ensure that I did not get elected as Chairman!   From day one of being a  Board member I told my FEDHASA Cape Board colleagues that the MATCH terms and conditions were bad for small accommodation establishments.  I was ridiculed for this view, and was ultimately forced off the Board when the rest of the Board members cancelled my membership because of my anti-MATCH sentiments expressed in my newsletters.   

As they say in the classics, the rest is history – “MATCH” is the most hated word in the hospitality industry, and Hecksher got his karma returned, in that the hotel (Winchester Mansions) he is the GM of suffered one of the biggest cancellations of accommodation bookings by MATCH.

Momberg has been at odds with Fedhasa in the past, and therefore I am surprised that he included them in the post.  He was highly critical of the accommodation booking website for the World Cup, started by FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan, and slanderously described our national “Minister of Tourism and his Department (DOT) as a bunch of blundering idiots”for dealing with Dungan!

Restaurant bannings

Grasping at straws, Momberg writes on the basis of hearsay about the fact that I am not allowed into some restaurants in Cape Town, mentioning Beluga specifically.

Restaurateurs in Cape Town are a sensitive lot, and luckily it is only a few that cannot stomach feedback and the reality of a review.   Let me list them:

1.   Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek – long before my blogging and restaurant review days, whilst I was living in Franschhoek, I regularly went to then-bistro iCi.  A comment I made to a manager about declining value for money went to owner Susan Huxter, resulting in the barring from Le Quartier Francais and to Bread & Wine (the winefarm Moreson belongs to Huxter’s brother Richard Friedman).  Huxter tried to get other Franschhoek restaurants to follow suit, but while she has a strong influence over Franschhoek, none of her restaurant colleagues complied with her request.   I have tried to meet with her to discuss her heavy-handedness and discrimination against me, and she has refused all contact.  Twice in the past three months I have been invited to attend the opening of art exhibitions at Le Quartier Francais, only to be uninvited again on the instruction of Huxter, demonstrating the unprofessionalism and pettiness of this business owner!   

2.   Beluga/Sevruga/Blonde– I attended a Cape Times book launch at Sevruga last year, and gave the restaurant a Sour Service Award for its poor ability to handle a group of 150 women who were offered a very restricted “chicken or beef” type menu choice.  I received no response from owner Oskar Kotze or Marketing Manager Samantha Obery to it.  Six months later the Camps Bay accommodation association, which I head up, was invited to Beluga, to try out their Christmas and New Year menus, as a PR exercise, so that the guest houses should recommend the restaurant.  We were seated, and then Obery came to me, asking me to leave the restaurant, as owner Oskar Kotze did not want me there, due to the Sevruga Sour Service Award.  I said that I was happy to speak to him, as this was surely a mistake, but he was not there.  I gave her my cell number so that he could call me, but he refused.  I then called him on his cellphone, and he refused to take the call.   In the end Obery was instructed by Kotze to call the police, to escort me out of the restaurant.   Beluga received a Sour Service Award for this “PR exercise”, in full view of the guest houses that they were meant to be impressing.

3.   Sotano by Caveau –  a week ago I posted a review of the newly opened Sotano by Caveau in Mouille Point.  It was a fair review, and highlighted teething problems, with the full knowledge that they would be fixed.  I wrote about going back to finish writing about the winelist, as this was not yet available on the day that I was at the restaurant.  When I returned the following day, the Operations Manager Ross Stillford told me that the owners had asked me to not return to Caveau and to Sotano by Caveau, due to my Sotano by Caveau review.  To add insult to injury, one of the owners, Brendon Crew, tweeted about the barring and referred to me as a “bitch”.   This caused a furore, and more than 50 comments have been posted to this review, mainly scathing about Caveau and its owner’s behaviour, with 1253 readers (best read review ever)having read the review in the past week.

4.  Carne – our exposure about the dishonest claim by owner Giorgio Nava of only serving organic lamb, beef and game from his farm in the Karoo led him to remove this fraudulent claim.

We have written more than a hundred restaurant reviews, and all of them have fairly documented our experiences in those restaurants. It is a poor reflection on the handful of restaurant owners listed above, that they are so small-minded to not be able to take valid feedback. 

We have helped restaurants in Cape Town and in the Winelands who ran winter specials  and are currently running summer specials  in publicising these, and we know that our list is extensively consulted by those seeking good value.  Even though we have been barred from Beluga and Sevruga, their specials are on our list, demonstrating that we bear no grudges against these restaurants.  We tweet a link to the Specials page on this blog every day, as a community service.  We also tweet and blog Restaurant news and information about new specials being added.

Reviews of Crush!

We have written about Crush!1, 2 and 3, and Momberg questions my right to do so.  We note that it is Michael Olivier, editor of Crush!, who first posted the link to Momberg’s blogpost on Twitter.   The Crush! team of Olivier,  and his contributors Andy Fenner (JamieWho? blog, now ex-contributor) and David Cope of The Foodie blog, as well his designers who tweet as @Crush_Online, initiated the terrorising Twitter campaign against me at a Crush! dinner party at Sophia Lindop’s house on 16 October, which has run non-stop for five weeks, with added input by Clare McKeon and Eamon McLoughlin of Spill blog, and to which Cope has added an SMS stalking campaign.   

Censorship of Comments

Most blogs allow comments to blog posts.   Early in my social media experience I experienced the vitriol and abuse of commenters to comments made on leading blogs such as Relax-with-Dax, Food24 and Rossouw’s Restaurants.  As I was honest enough to reveal my name, the comments became personal attacks against me as the commenter and lost track of the actual restaurant that was being commented upon.  JP Rossouw agreed to remove these, on the basis of a promise I made to him to never comment on his site again.   This may be why he has changed his review website, and one cannot see the latest comments listed anymore.   Dax Villanueva too has removed derogatory comments over time, and allows criticism up to a point.  He is receiving a fair amount of abuse himself at the moment.  Clare McKeon of Spill blog told me that she too has received critical comments, and deletes them when they disparage her or cause her blog embarassment, given that she is wanting to gain as many advertisers as possible on her site, even if it is at the cost of losing her readers.

The vitriolic attacks by other commenters has led almost all commenters to comment anonymously, only the inexperienecd commenters using their own name.   This means that comments can be even more scathing than if the real name is used.  When we are uncertain about the credentials of the commenter, we send an e-mail to the address provided, and have often found the e-mail address to be a bogus one.

As a topic, comments and censorship thereof, has been receiving a fair amount of airtime in our Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings.  General agreement has been that some comments are vitriolic and abusive towards the writer of the blog or to the commenters, not what one would want to have associated with one’s blog.  We have decided that it is perfectly in order to not accept abusive and disparaging comments on our blogs, and that we have the right to excise these from our blog.  No commenter has the right to expect to have such abusive comments published.   But having said that, we encourage debate – comments are good for web traffic, bring in new readers, and present different perspectives.  Such an example is Sotano by Caveau, where the action of the owner has led to a stream of mainly negative comments about the parent restaurant Caveau. 

We will be interested to see how Momberg copes with comments to his blogpost, and whether he will resort to censorship.  He has already censored a word used by a commenter and has refused to allow commenter “Dieter” to comment.   He has already received criticism from outspoken blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs about not posting her comment, and therefore she has written her intended comment on her own blog.  Momberg has just closed down comments and one must register to comment, a new form of censorship –  “Due to increasing violations of CapeInfo’s Terms of Use with fraudulent emails being provided, we have introduced the requirement that only logged in users may post comments. You need to register on CapeInfo before you can log in. That you do near the top of the page. For help, please click on Frequently Asked Questions under the “Help” navigation tab.  Where people hide behind fraudulent email addresses, one can assume that they have something to hide and cannot participate in open discussion and debate. We do not censor content although we reserve the right to edit.”  Could it be that Momberg does not like comments which may be written in support of this blog?   He has allowed two Caveau staff (Sabrina – SD and Kirstie) to post comments unrelated to his content to his blog post which I refused to my Sotano by Caveau review! 

While he sets himself up as the “judge” of the tourism industry, Momberg has no ethics when he presents a one-sided perspective containing dishonest information on his subject matter!

We deplore the backstabbing and bitching taking place in social media, and while we recognise its importance in the marketing mix, we cannot agree with the low levels of personal attack that are allowed by companies such as Twitter and in blogs in the interest of Freedom of Speech.  Given the amount of disinformation being put out into the cyberspace, I welcome any questions you may have or comments you wish to make: info@whalecottage.com.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11: Martin Hatchuel, the editor of the Tourism website that has been taken down by Hetzner, has written a newsletter which Carl Momberg has distributed for him today.  In it Hatchuel writes: “I responded by refusing to remove the ‘offending’ material because it is my reader’s right to say what they want (within reason, of course – and only the courts can really decide what that reason should be). As a publisher, I can choose to let comments ride, and as a reader, you can choose to take offence – but if you don’t like what’s there, you do have recourse to the courts.  I felt that if von Ulmenstein can say nasty stuff about others, why shouldn’t others be able to say what they wanted about her?”.   We are shocked that Hatchuel is so unprofessional that he would allow untruthful abuse and disparagement to be posted as comments, when he writes that he has the right to edit and refuse commments, exercising his own censorship, exactly the issue he is complaining about in respect of Hetzner’s actions!  He cannot have read our newsletters or blog posts if he describes my writing as “nasty stuff”.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Reading the few comments to the Momberg blog post it is interesting to see that ex-Fedhasa Board colleagues and Cape Town Tourism Board members Nils Heckscher and Susanne Faussner-Ringer, and Cape Town Tourism PR Manager Skye Grove (recipient of a Sour Service Award for her unprofessional behaviour) have written disparaging comments – interesting in that Whale Cottage Camps Bay is a member of Cape Town Tourism! 

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Now Momberg is crying wolf in that he has turned to Hetzner to complain about this blog post, and I have had to remove part of a sentence about him!  Wasn’t his blog post about my complaint to Hetzner about the removal of comments on Hatchuel’s website, widely publicised by him?!  Double standards!  His website is hosted in London, disallowing us to have defamatory comments removed from his blogpost – makes you think, as Nedbank used to say!

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Skye Grove has also approached Hetzner, and has asked for the removal of our post about her Sour Service Award, awarded to her for retweeting a defamatory Tweet, motivating it as follows: “This has adversely affected my professional integrity”.  One wonders why she retweeted the Tweet, in the knowledge that it is defamatory, given her position as PR Manager of Cape Town Tourism.  She also has requested Hetzner to close down our blog.  She has not held back in her opinion about our blog in her comments on Momberg’s site, as well as on other sites, and retweets whatever negative she can find written about us – clearly a vendetta, and another case of double standards!   Our complaint about Ms Grove’s defamatory Tweet was rejected by her boss Mariette du Toit-Helmbold.  Ms Grove has no problem in disparaging Cape Town Tourism’s funder, the City of Cape Town, in terms of its supply of services to Cape Town residents.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Hetzner appears to have realised that it was too heavy-handed in its dealings with the Tourism website, and has reinstated it.  We welcome this move.  Momberg has not updated his blogpost to announce this, and it basically removes the foundation of his blogpost!   We await his apology for the defamatory comments made. 

POSTSCRIPT 23/11:  Skye Grove has returned to Hetzner, after we made an amendment.   She has now called for the removal of all references to her name on our blog.  Yet she has disparaged us widely in comments on other blogs and by retweeting defamatory Tweets.   She incorrectly blames me for the “(unlawful) action” of Hetzner in closing down the Tourism site (it is clear that this was Hetzner’s doing, and that the site has been reinstated), refers to our blog in its “lack of journalistic quality and substance thereof”, and to my lack of “journalistic ethics or standards”!  Her boss Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold has written a long comment about Social Media and Freedom of Speech, which we have published in the Comments section to this blogpost.  She calls for “honesty, transparency, respect, privacy, relevance, and responsibility within the social media communications realm”, yet her PR Manager Skye Grove does not play by these rules.   Today I declined a request for donating accommodation to the Cape Town Tourism staff function, given Ms Grove’s behaviour.

POSTSCRIP 23/11:  David Cope has also turned to Hetzner, wanting any reference to his name removed, and the whole blog closed down.  It is ironic that Cope complains to Hetzner about…. “damaged my reputation, but has brought my business name into disrepute”.  Yet Cope has had no shame in sending 285 shockingly disparaging Tweets about me, terrorised me with an sms stalker campaign, and retweeted defamatory Tweets.

POSTSCRIPT 23/11:  Carl Momberg has also returned to Hetzner’s door, complaining that I have not removed more content about him.  He incorrectly makes the deduction that my partial removal signals that I “acknowledged” publishing incorrect content – no Mr Momberg, I am subject to the same threat by Hetzner to have my website closed down if I do not make amendments, as was your friend Mr Hatchuel!  He contests almost every reference to him in this blogpost, describing them to be “untrue” , “misleading” and “she cannot prove otherwise”!   He demands of Hetzner : “I demand the whole post be taken down.  If there are further snide and defamatory comments about me or CapeInfo, I will issue further taken down requests, pending legal action”!   Momberg has not apologised for his defamatory blogpost, nor made any amendments, yet expects me to remove the whole blogpost in response to his!

The double standards of Cope, Grove and Momberg is interesting, in that they are quite happy to disparage me and my blog, yet do not want me to write about their actions.  We will not remove any further material from this blogpost or blog.

POSTSCRIPT 24/11: Michael Olivier, editor of Crush!, is also crushed by our blog, and has requested that it be closed down, that all current content relating to Crush! be removed, and that any future writing about Crush! by me be disallowed!   Olivier writes a number of untruths, despite having to declare his information to be “true and correct”, to motivate the closure of my blog:  my reviews of Crush! are “full of incorrect information”; I did not consult him – we used e-mail, sms’s, phone calls and our blog to invite Olivier to respond and participate in each of our three reviews, all with no response; that I have created false comments about his magazines on my blog, which is devoid of all truth and is libellous; he claims that I have “affected the livelihoods of restaurants, publications (I have not written about any other than Crush!) and businesses”, a libellous claim once again; that I had This Tourism Weekly website taken down – we know that it is Hetzner that took down the site as Mr Hatchuel, its owner, refused to heed the Take-Down notice; that he is “missing out on important functions which I will not attend due to her presence”; and that he has lost clients for Crush! and his radio programme due to my writing.   Double standards once again, as Olivier was the first to Tweet the link to The Tourism Weekly disparaging blogpost by Momberg on Saturday.

POSTSCRIPT 28/11: We have decided to follow the example of Momberg and Hatchuel, in moving our website to an international server.   This ensures our freedom of speech, and that the likes of Momberg and his merry men (and woman) will not have any power to have any content removed from our blog, nor for them to have our blog closed down!  Predictably, Momberg is furious about our move.   Again, we deplore Momberg’s double standards in defaming and disparaging us, yet crying wolf when we write the truth about him. 

POSTSCRIPT 29/11:  We have had to edit our writing about David Cope and Carl Momberg above, under threat of closure of the site by our server Hetzner, and also a blackmail threat by David Cope in his abusive Twitter campaign.   The edits we have done in no way reflect acknowledgement by us of any error or defamation, as suggested by Carl Momberg in his complaint to Hetzner.



POSTSCRIPT 29/11:  We were forced by Hetzner to remove the content of this blogpost until we moved the website to an international server.   Talk about censorship! 

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

FEDHASA Cape is still a farce!

One of the first posts on this blog, in October 2008, related to the unprofessional behaviour and politicking by members of the board of FEDHASA Cape, an association representing the interests of hoteliers predominantly.  At that time this writer had highlighted the political games played by Past Chairman Nils Heckscher and newly elected Chairman Phillip Couvaras, now ex-GM of the Table Bay Hotel, who had only been in the country for four months at the time that he was elected.

As quietly as Couvaras arrived on the hotel scene and was elected as Chairman of FEDHASA Cape, as quickly did he disappear and leave Cape Town at the end of March.  It is stated that differences of opinion between himself and his bosses at Sun International in terms of room rates to be charged, combined with a reducing value of his package in foreign currency, given personal international financial commitments, led him to accept a new position in Hong Kong.

Earlier this week it was time for political games at the FEDHASA Cape AGM again, in the election of the new Board (FEDHASA Cape has the most odd system of calling for an election of each Board member every year).  Board members are nominated in categories, even for the position of Chairman.   Rey Franco, the Chairman of the Restaurant category, was nominated for the same position again, as well as for the position of Chairman, having been Acting Chairman from the time that Couvaras left the country.   Pitted against him was Dirk Elzinga, the current Managing Director of the Cape Town International Convention Centre, a member in the ‘Allied’ category.   Elzinga is however leaving the employ of the RAI Group, the Dutch convention center management company, next month, so he will not represent a FEDHASA Cape member company from then onwards, it is said.   It is alleged that Past Chairman Heckscher had lobbied those present in voting for Elzinga, and he was duly elected as the new Chairman, the first non-hotel Chairman ever of FEDHASA Cape!   When this writer stood for the same position two years ago, Couvaras was brought in, with similar lobbying by Heckscher, to prevent a Guest House owner (and female!) from being elected in this position!  

Franco retained his position as Chairman of the Restaurant category in the election, whilst another upset saw Susanne Faussner, who had been pitted against this writer in the “Small Accommodation” category two years ago, even though she owns a hotel and a restaurant, got some of her own political medicine back when the Acting Chairman Franco had to make the casting vote in the election result in this category, and voted for Carole Armstrong-Hooper, owner of Highlands Country House, and a better qualified representative of the Smaller Accommodation category.  Other Board members elected without controversy were Roy Davies from the Vineyard Hotel, heading the Hotel category, and Michele de Wit in the Allied category.   Those watching the politics within FEDHASA Cape will be delighted that Heckscher’s two-year term as past-Chairman on the Board is finally over.  His political games have been described as “poison” by some of his fellow Board members, and this can be endorsed by this writer. 

What will be interesting is what happens to Franco, who took over Couvaras’ slot on the Board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, given that Elzinga now has been elected as the Chairman. 

From the time that MATCH launched its accommodation bookings for the World Cup four years ago, FEDHASA nationally but also the Cape branch supported and pushed contracting with MATCH as “the right thing to do”.  Nationally FEDHASA even took on a MATCH director onto its Board!    Hotels had loyally signed up 80 % of their room stock with MATCH.  Whilst a Director on the Board of FEDHASA Cape, this writer protested about the stringent legal terms and conditions, as well as the pricing directive, that the small accommodation establishments were subjected to in the MATCH contract, given the German experience of large-scale MATCH cancellations without refunds close to the start of the 2006 World Cup. The other Board directors condoned the MATCH actions!    MATCH has become a “swearword” countrywide, and in the hospitality industry specifically.  Heckscher was a particularly strong MATCH advocate, probably because of the benefit it would have for the Winchester Hotel he manages.  Ironically, his hotel received most of its room nights back from MATCH when the FIFA accommodation and ticketing agency cancelled the majority of room nights it had originally booked!

Brett Dungan, the national CEO of FEDHASA, who has been heavily criticised in this blog for his role in pushing a private accommodation booking portal (Rooms4U) he set up for the World Cup, is said to be leaving FEDHASA National, possibly as a result of his alleged abuse of his position at FEDHASA to further his personal interests. Elzinga will take over his position as CEO of FEDHASA National, but based in Cape Town, it is said – more politics, some would say, and supported by a headline in a report by Cape Business News :“CTICC Managing Director Finds a new Job”!  Being Chairman of FEDHASA is an honorary position that is not rewarded with compensation.

To read the original article “FEDHASA is a farce”, click here.

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

FEDHASA CEO misleads accommodation industry about World Cup

In the past few months hotel association FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan has been on a PR-binge, setting himself up as the national spokesperson for the accommodation industry on all matters relating to Accommodation and the World Cup.

Three months ago Dungan started punting the www.rooms4u.travel portal, in conjunction with S A Tourism.  Very quickly Carl Momberg of www.capeinfo.com  discovered that Dungan was the private owner of the website, whose ownership is not declared publicly.  At that time, tourism bureaus were up in arms about the move by S A Tourism to set up an accommodation booking portal in competition with themselves, via Dungan’s website.  Dungan now states on his website that it is not the official website of the Department of Tourism.

In the Cape Times of 10 March, an article entitled Some SA hotels won’t be sustainable and may face closure” quotes Dungan extensively, having addressed Parliament’s portfolio committee on tourism.

He told the committee that issues that faced the tourism industry were “pricing, availability of accommodation, perceptions of South Africa as a destination, and the impact and concerns for the country after the tournament‘Hotels will be under enormous pressure.  There will be job losses as some won’t be sustainable.  These were issues that were identified some time ago” , he is quoted as saying, and pointed the finger at logistics planning on air travel and car hire that was lacking for the World Cup.  So far, so good.

However, the following quote about the small accommodation industry is what makes Dungan look like an opportunist: ” Small operators like B&B’s had failed to market their ventures through websites like www.rooms4u.travel, a specially created portal which would steer visitors to available rooms in each city, which featured price comparisons.   He said rooms4u was the definitive South African accommodation portal but said hotels and small establishments not registered on the site within 60 days would struggle to sell their available rooms.”

Even “better” is this quote, showing how two-faced Dungan is: “He said many hotels were at fault for failing in their marketing and relying too much on Match, Fifa’s exclusive hospitality partner.  They should never have given up all their channels of sales just because Match was coming here”.

Our response to Dungan, FEDHASA and S A Tourism is as follows:

1.  We do not understand how Brett Dungan gets to address the Parliament portfolio committee on tourism, in his capacity as CEO of FEDHASA, an association that predominantly represents hotel interests only, and not those of small accommodation.  In the Western Cape branch, for example, a hotel and restaurant owner, Susanne Faussner-Ringer, heads up the Small Accommodation segment, not understanding the needs of small accommodation owners!  Neither Dungan nor FEDHASA are the official spokespersons of the accommodation  industry, and have no mandate to speak on our behalf.
2.   The paragraph berating “small operators like B&B’s”, that “failed to market their venues through websites like rooms4u.travel” annoys us: 
      *  we may have small operations, but many of us do understand about marketing
      *  we all have our own websites, and advertise on powerful accommodation websites such as S A Venues, Cape Stay and SafariNow, which send us enquiries
      *  Brett Dungan does not disclose that he is the (private) owner of the rooms4u.travel portal, and that he will earn commission from every booking he takes on this portal – we see this as a conflict of interest!   However, the portal is only 3 months old, so how dare Dungan berate us for not advertising on it! 
3.   Even worse is his quoted claim that “Rooms4u was the definitive South African accommodation portal” – we absolutely disagree
      *  Threatening that hotels and establishments who have not registered with his portal within 60 days “would struggle to sell their available rooms” is scaremongering and unprofessional.  The portal has no track record, it operating for just more than 3 months
      *  The attack on the accommodation industry for supporting Match is so shocking and is an absolute turn-around.   FEDHASA made sure that its hotel members offered 80 % of their rooms at the time South Africa was bidding for the World Cup about 5 years ago, and 80 % of the room stock was the requirement.   One was berated for being disloyal for not signing with MATCH at the time.   To now say that they were relying too much on MATCH is preposterous!!!!  Dungan regularly publicly supported Match, and pointed fingers at hotels and especially small accommodation establishments for allegedly charging “rip-off” pricing for accommodation, when it is MATCH that has been ripping off soccer fans by adding 30 % commission to accommodation prices.  FEDHASA even has a Match director on its national board!  
POSTSCRIPT: The Cape Times incorporated the essence of this blog post in an article it published on Monday 22 March – read the article here.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

World Cup pricing survey will provide incorrect information

Having been a market researcher for a large part of my career, I completed one of the 5 questionnaires received yesterday from Grant Thornton, a consultancy contracted by the Department of Tourism to conduct a survey amongst accommodation establishments, with shock as to its poor design.  The results of the survey will be used to prove that South African accommodation is not ripping off soccer fans for the World Cup.

Given that the consultancy will stand to make a good income out of the survey, it is surprising that Grant Thornton have got the survey design so wrong, meaning that much of its survey will be meaningless, being based on incorrect or missing information.  It is pretty clear that Grant Thornton does not know how the tourism industry operates, despite its work it conducts in the industry!

The survey problems are the following:

1.  The survey shows that it is hotels that have been used as a model for the survey.  Guest houses, self-catering establishments, and B&B’s outnumber hotels by far.

2.  The questionnaire becomes intimidating when one has to state one’s room types – again the design is for hotels, and the various room types do not match those of guest houses/B&B/self-catering establishments.  Surprisingly, single rooms are not listed as an accommodation type.

3.  It is made even more complicated in respect of the rates charged per room type – small accommodation establishments do not quote “STO” rates, and tend to charge the same for all room types – the table requesting this information could be intimidating for a small accommodation establishment.  “Not applicable” options are lost after the first question, and one is not told how to deal with pricing of room types one does not have.

4.  A bigger concern is the time period used for the study – the industry has been admonished for “price-gouging”, and FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan has pointed a finger at the industry, telling it that the World Cup runs from 11 June – 11 July, and that it should therefore charge normal winter rates from 1 – 10 June and from 12 July onwards.   However, the survey asks for one World Cup rate only, from 1 June – 31 July, thereby condoning this pricing policy.

5.  The question that shows that Grant Thornton is not in touch with the industry is the one requesting information about current pricing – it obviously wants to compare the World Cup rates charged with those charged currently and the year prior – however, it defines these as “2010” and “2009”.  In the accommodation industry generally, and this would include hotels, one quotes 2008/2009, 2009/2010, etc, giving that the rates usually change from the start of the summer season of every year, i.e. October.   The information generated about current rates would therefore create confusion and potentially incorrect answers, importantly required as a benchmark for the World Cup pricing comparison.

It is inexcusable that a company of Grant Thornton’s stature could have got a survey, which could have been made so much more simple and more meaningful, so wrong.

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

FIFA’s MATCH kicks out accommodation

FIFA’s MATCH accommodation agency has cancelled 65 000 bed nights in the Western Cape, and 441 695 bed nights nationally, reports the Cape Times.


The release of rooms without cancellation penalty to MATCH is a further sign that the World Cup may not be as successful in terms of international bookings as may have been hoped internationally.  The article’s opening paragraph states: “FIFA has relinquished 65 022 rooms nights in the Western Cape because of lack of demand….”


Vivienne Bervoets, Senior Accommodation Manager of MATCH,  stated in the article that the reasons for the room cancellations include that the rooms booked by MATCH were not on match days, that the establishments were further than 70 km from a host city, and that the accommodation type (e.g. timeshare) proved to be unpopular with international visitors.   The bulk of the room nights cancelled in the Western Cape appear to be in Cape Town.   The dates already cancelled appear to be bookings MATCH made with establishments for dates before 11 June and after 11 July, signalling that pre- and post-World Cup tours are unlikely to happen.   The article intimates that further accommodation cancellations may be possible, depending on the demand for tickets.


Business Day also reported on the accommodation cancellations, stating that 31 % of the bed nights booked initially, and representing 7 843 rooms, had been cancelled by MATCH.  The timeshare cancellations amounted to close to 31 000 timeshare weeks.  Bervoets is quoted as saying “Match has substantially curtailed its procurement drive to concentrate on sales and operations”.  She stated that MATCH is still looking for “good quality hotel rooms, specifically in Gauteng, and also for contract properties if customers specifically requested this”.  


It is surprising that so much of the room stock has been cancelled, given the outcry about the poor support of MATCH, and that it had to bring in cruise liners and contract properties in neighbouring countries, including Mauritius, to build up sufficient accommodation stock for the World Cup accommodation requirements.  


The Cape Argus also reported on the MATCH cancellations, and quoted Dr Laurine Platsky, the Western Cape province 2010 co-ordinator, as saying that “rooms were released because of a lack of demand and fewer bookings than expected.”   Rooms cancelled in the Western Cape were on the West Coast and in outlying areas, she said.  


The room nights cancellations may imply that MATCH’s Matchville concept, in creating hubs or concentrations of accommodation outside host cities, in supplementing accommodation supply, may have raised the hopes of accommodation establishments which cannot be fulfilled.   In Plettenberg Bay, a Matchville centre, for example, it appears that 50 % of the room nights booked by MATCH have been cancelled already.


MATCH has until 10 April to cancel further room nights without being subject to its cancellation policy, and resultant payment to accommodation establishments for accommodation cancellations.   More cancellations are expected before this date.


Accommodation establishments who have had their MATCH room nights cancelled are unhappy, saying that FIFA “overhyped” its accommodation needs, reports a further article in the Cape Times.


FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan is quoted in reports about the MATCH cancellations, in which he opportunistically offers cancelled MATCH establishments the hope that his new (personally owned) website “portal” www.rooms4u.travel, which has been set up on behalf of S A Tourism, can fill all the room nights cancelled by MATCH.  This is contradictory sentiment, as Dungan has praised MATCH consistently, and protected their rip-off pricing, pointing a finger at non-MATCH contracted properties and blaming them for “rip-off” pricing!


Even Cape Town Tourism has insensitively “welcomed the release of the rooms and the opportunity now available for establishments to market their rooms during the 20 weeks leading up to the tournament.   Experience has taught us that last-minute bookings for events like the World Cup are not unusual and we are expecting an increase in booking confirmations during the next few months”, according to a quote in the Cape Times.


Non-MATCH contracted guest houses are complaining that bookings are not looking as rosy as they were led to expect, and many are only about 50 % booked, even if they are charging “reasonable” prices for their accommodation.


Guest Houses were sceptical about MATCH from the beginning, in 2007, when they first launched their campaign to sign up 55 000 rooms.  While one could commend FIFA/MATCH for including the small accommodation sector in a FIFA World Cup for the first time ever, the contract for the small accommodation sector was similar to that of hotels, and both were extremely stringent at that time:
1. one had to set the rate on the basis of a 2007 rate and add 16 % to get to the 2010 rate.  (This formula still stands in the contract today).    One then had to pay MATCH 30 % commission, which made the mathematics of it completely non-viable, especially given an inflation rate in 2007 of 13 % alone!
2.  one had to be graded by the Tourism Grading Council.
3.  80 % of one’s room stock had to be allocated to FIFA.
4.  the cancellation policy was written in a way to suit MATCH only, giving them huge cancellation leeway until 15 days before arrival.  The establishments’ cancellation policies were not taken into consideration.  From Germany 2006 the industry had received feedback that hotel rooms were cancelled dramatically in the last minute, as the supply exceeded demand.
5.  Payment was to be made on the day of arrival of the soccer guest, and he/she would hand over a bank cheque inside a booking voucher, which could be banked the following day. 
6.   The contract is a legally exacting document, off-putting in itself.
The figures soon showed that only about 20 % of the MATCH contracts had been signed with small accommodation establishments.   Early last year, in a presentation given by Vivienne Bervoets, she admitted that MATCH had realised that it had a problem, in that it did not have the bednights required, and therefore it had launched the Matchville concept – this would be a cluster of towns/villages which jointly had to deliver on a  minimum number of rooms to quality for this status.   MATCH would lay on transport between the Matchville and the closest stadium.   Hermanus and Plettenberg Bay are two such Matchville towns.   Surprisingly too, at the presentation Ms Bervoets stated that MATCH had amended its requirements as far as small accommodation establishments were concerned, in that:
1.  a “fair” price could be charged, subject to MATCH’s approval, no longer needing to be as per the contract formula – even though this is still in the current contract
2.  MATCH would add on the 30 % commission and no longer demand it from the establishment
3.  A 50 % deposit would be paid
4.  One could offer as many or few rooms as one wanted to.
This sounded more fair, but did not seem to move many more small accommodation establishments to sign up with MATCH. 


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

2010 World Cup: cash in or lose out?

2010 World Cup soccer fans coming to South Africa next year will be the target of overpricing of car rental, hotel accommodation and air transport, according to a number of travel industry players interviewed by Travel News Weekly.

Tour operators and travel agents complain about the “2010 rip-off”, and many have been quoted double the normal accommodation rate by hotels.  Showing their greedy side, the hotels are also cutting the commission percentage they are offering agents, given that they expect to be fully booked.   “It is great for those making the money, but in the long run, it is going to reflect badly on South Africa.” said an agent.  Others have decided to not be part of the ‘rip-off brigade’, and Dorienne Levitt of African Stay said as follows: “I have decided to not be part of that and am only dealing with providers who offer reasonable prices.  I will try my hardest not to use vendors who are acting without integrity, during 2010 and thereafter”.    In addition the conditions set by hotels with minimum stays of 8 – 30 days are too stringent, agents say.   Protea Hotels has contracted 80 % of its rooms to MATCH, at prices ranging between R 950 – R 4 500 per room. 

The Travel News Weekly article also quotes Brett Dungan, the national CEO of FEDHASA, as saying that his organisation would not “associate with nor support hotels that were not affiliated to MATCH and were “ripping off” clients.  The reason why we have been working so closely with MATCH is to eradicate the issue of price gouging”.  But it is MATCH that is ripping soccer fans off, by adding 30 % commission on all its contracted accommodation rates!

Transport costs too have soared, with car rental prices doubling from the already high 2009 Confederations Cup rates levels.  Avis says it will increase its rates by 15 – 20 %, justifying this on the basis of “the expected demand and additional work required”!

Airfares for 2010 too are a rip-off, for both incoming and outgoing flights, and for domestic travel, that is if any tickets can be found to be available.  Most airlines have not released their seats for the World Cup period.    Domestic flight tickets are likely to cost double the normal fare, reports the Weekend Argus, at about R 3 800 for a return airfare between Johannesburg and Cape Town on SAA, and at R 5 300 on BA/Comair.   International flight prices are set to triple, the airlines milking a money-making opportunity after many years of tough trading.  

Coach companies too have imposed “crippling conditions”, agents say.

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

MATCH drops 2010 standards to accommodate FIFA

As MATCH is unable to fill the missing 15 000 beds it requires to accommodate FIFA’s officials, sport teams and ticket package holders, it has made the shock announcement that it is letting go of its requirement that 2010 World Cup accommodation must be graded by the Tourism Grading Council, reports the Southern African Tourism Update.

MATCH requires 55 000 rooms, and has contracted 40 495 rooms to date, of which 75 % are hotel rooms and 25 % small accommodation rooms.

The report says that MATCH will use its “discretion” to select non-graded accommodation for the event.   The Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Tourism and MATCH will be amended to reflect the grading requirement change.

However, Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk was adamant that he preferred that graded accommodation be used: “The South African government neither supports nor promotes the use of non-graded accommodation establishments.     Furthermore, the South African government respects the right of all accommodation establishments, whether graded or not, to choose whether they want to contract with MATCH or not”.  These are interesting words, reflecting the Minister’s understanding of the resistance to MATCH by the small accommodation sector, regularly reported by WhaleTales in this blog.

In the media statement, MATCH reiterated that it will not contract private homes, an initiative driven by Seeff and Pam Golding estate agencies.

FEDHASA National CEO Brett Dungan addressed the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee last week, and trashed the Sunday Times report of a week prior, which described the resistance from the small accommodation sector to FIFA’s “MATCH-fixing”.   Southern African Tourism Update reports that Dungan said that MATCH requires “100 000 rooms”, clearly an exaggeration of the FIFA accommodation requirement.   Dungan is also quoted as saying that only 13 % of small accommodation establishments have contracted with MATCH, which, if correct, reflects how deep the distrust of MATCH is by small establishments.   Dungan also is quoted as saying that a 20 % commission is a standard fee to pay when receiving business from tour operators.  Once again he appears to be poorly informed, as MATCH is taking a 30 % (not 20 %) commission on top of the 2010 accommodation rates, a most exceptionally high rate.   Dungan did acknowledge that there would not be enough accommodation in each of the towns and cities with 2010 soccer stadia, according to the report.

One of the solutions to general accommodation during June and July 2010 is cruise ships, not for MATCH, but for soccer fan groups and individuals.   The QE2 from Dubai was reported to have requested docking in the Cape Town harbour, but Minister van Schalkwyk had strongly rejected the request, saying that South African accommodation establishments should be supported.  

The latest news on cruise ships is that a German based company Moltke Promotion GmbH, through its subsidiary One Ocean Club,  has partnered with IKapa Tours & Travel.  The MS Noordam is reported by Southern African Tourism Update to be based in Durban harbour, accommodating soccer fans, who will be taken to Port Elizabeth for the quarter final, and for the third and fourth place play-off.   The MS Westerdam will be based in Port Elizabeth for the first half of the soccer tournament, and then will be cruising between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town in the second half.

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

Mixed festive season feedback

In the past two days newspapers have been quoting from a Cape Town Routes Unlimited media release about the status of the festive season, creating a confusing picture as to whether the season has been a good or bad one.

What is surprising is that the festive season is not yet over, and already Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) is trying to draw comparisons between this season and that of last year, before it has come to an end, with many visitors only returning to start work on Monday 12 January.

The Cape Times report quotes CTRU as stating:”…they (Tourism Managers) had experienced a festive season that was “similar or better” than those in previous years”    However, the article does not state which Managers CTRU refers to.   Further reference is made to tourism having improved on the West Coast, the Winelands, and Central Karoo, with a decline in the Garden Route, Klein Karroo and Robertson and Montagu, two towns which were affected by floods in November.   The basis of the trend information is not specified.   Surprisingly, no mention is made of Cape Town’s festive season success, which has been exceptional and continues until the end of this week.

The Cape Times artcle also states that the Airports Company serviced more passengers in December 2008 compared to a year ago.   This trend was also experienced by the V & A Waterfront, and in Kirstenbosch, while the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company had its worst performance in 10 years in December, due to the weather.

Business Report quotes FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan as saying that “tourists were spending less, but Cape Town and Durban were still busy”.  One wonders where he sourced his information, and how it is quantified, as the FEDHASA Cape office is still closed, and the FEDHASA offices in KwaZulu-Natal having stated that the area had experienced a very poor season a week ago, according to media reports.

The future looks good, with February predicted to be an excellent tourism month.   Whale Cottage Camps Bay, for example, already has an occupancy of 90 % for February, more than three weeks before the start of the month.  This used to be the case in November too, but the booking pattern was extremely last minute in November 2008, yet resulted in the same occupancy rate as in the year before.

Rented cars were hard to find over the festive season.  One of the most popular companies, Value Car Hire, had no stock over the New Year, with availability from this week onwards for the first time.

The decrease in the price of petrol yesterday, by more than R 1,30 a litre, is an excellent note on which to start 2009, which many say will be a challenging one, due to the global credit crunch.