The bottom end of Chiappini Street has housed two of my favourite restaurants in their time – Bruce Robertson’s The Showroom and Cormac Keane’s Portofino, both the talking point of Cape Town in their time. After a surprisingly long tenancy by low class Leaf, a smart ‘5 star 100% Halaal Fine Dining Bistro‘ has opened, called TRUFFLE. The restaurant was opened to offer top-end Halaal cuisine, which has not been available in Cape Town before. The name was chosen for its association with indulgence, which is echoed throughout the restaurant.
I had seen the exterior branding whilst driving down Buitengracht Street a week ago, but could not find any website via Google. Yesterday I stopped by, and was astounded how the restaurant interior has changed since Leaf occupied the space until about a year ago. Mohammed Adam was kind enough to spend time with me, to share information about the restaurant. He and Nisreen Ebrahim are joint owners, Nisreen and her husband Rafiq being previous owners of four fast food outlets they would not reveal the names of (LinkedIn revealed that they were Nando’s outlets), and took over the space in January. Mohammed did all the interior design, after some building work was done, half of the upstairs being closed off by means of a wall now, to give the kitchen double volume space. Almost everything has been changed, other than the wooden floor in the outside section, with a new wooden floor upstairs; new wooden steps for the staircase to match the tops of the tables and the Continue reading →
It is ironic that Australian 2011 MasterChef Finalist (and not even a winner) has become a celebrity, to such an extent that he has become the host of a 13 series SABC3 programme about sustainable eating in our country, also combining the travel highlights of the regions Hayden will visit. Beautifully filmed, with some product placement overkill, the first episode last night made one proud to be a Capetonian, and to see our beautiful city through the eyes of the guest chef! Hayden described Cape Town as the ‘tip of the iceberg‘, whilst raving about loving South Africa.
The episode begins with Hayden doing some surfing, sharing his passion for the ocean, saying it is the place at which he feels most at home. The link to the ocean is made, to share that he is a WWF SASSI ambassador, our local organisation that educates consumers about only ordering and buying orange-listed fish. It explains Woolworth’s dominance in the programme, with a number of TV commercials, although none match the beautiful ads which it created for MasterChef SA in Seasons 1 and 2. Hayden is ‘crazy about adventure’ and good food, he shared.
The start to Hayden’s food adventure was the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill, where he sampled sandwiches from The Kitchen, and samoosas from Cumin Catering. He described it as a ‘buzzing inner-city market‘, reflecting the flavours and fresh foods of Cape Town. Continue reading →
* Cape Town tops the list of the New York Times 52 places to go in 2014! In its accolade to Cape Town, the influential newspaper writes that the late Nelson Mandela drew inspiration from Table Mountain, which he could see from Robben Island, and it became ‘a beacon of hope’. The article also highlights Cape Town hosting the World Design Capital 2014.
* Passport control at OR Thambo airport is inefficient and marred by staff shortages, leading to complaints from arriving passengers. ACSA says it is not its responsibility, while the Department of Immigration is not responding to feedback providing.
* The Table Mountain Cableway welcomed its 23 millionth visitor on Friday. It carried about 4000 visitors a day during the Festive Season, a revenue of about R800000 per day on good weather days.
Table Mountain is the icon of not only Cape Town, but also of our country and even Africa. It was made a New7Wonders of Nature a year ago, and inaugurated as such a month ago.
Recently the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company proudly bragged that it had the highest number of visitors ever in November, with 90000 visitors in that month, or 3000 per day on average, assuming there were no closures due to bad weather days in November. This would mean that in that month an average of 1500 cars went up the curvy and steep Tafelberg Road every day, in the hope of parking. Dropping guests off at the lower Cableway station yesterday morning, I couldn’t help but think how antiquated and tourist-unfriendly this leading tourism destination is:
* The parking ‘facility’, if one can call it that, is wholly inadequate. Yesterday the parking alongside the road was full to just past where the taxis park, near the traffic circle on Kloofnek Road, which would mean a strenuous uphill walk to the lower Cableway station for anyone arriving from about 10h00 onwards. On our way up, we saw that there still is no pedestrian facility, and that tourists have to walk in the already narrow road to get to the Cableway station. One would have thought that a shuttle service would have been introduced to take tourists from the parking area at the traffic circle to the ticket office. Clearly the parking area near the traffic circle is wholly inadequate to accommodate all the cars destined for the mountain tour. The City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off bus stops at the Cableway station, and this has alleviated some of the pressure on parking, as guests can get off and hop on again once they have been to the top of the mountain, but this trip would cost them R250 for the day ticket, in addition to the R205 for the Cableway return ticket.
* The electronic board at the Kloofnek traffic circle is a useful information service, indicating if the Cableway is operating or not. This has alleviated unnecessary traffic up Tafelberg Road. Yesterday the billboard was not operating, but it was clear that the Cableway was open, given that it was a beautiful wind-free day.
* A solution introduced by the Cableway company was the online booking of tickets. This service has been marketed as alleviating queues that Table Mountain was notorious for, many visitors in past years having to queue for up to four hours to buy their ticket, and then to queue for the cablecar. Our guests had pre-booked their tickets (they are valid for 14 days), but when we arrived at the Cableway, the service seemed to be so efficient that not one person was at the ticket office, but there was an incredibly long queue to get into a cablecar. The online ticket purchase was therefore of no benefit at all. Even odder was that other guests of ours who wanted to go up the mountain as well, could not go, because the allocation of online booked tickets had run out for the day by lunchtime, even though they could have bought tickets at the ticket office. All this does not make sense and is customer-unfriendly.
* Visitors coming down the mountain cause severe traffic blockage on Kloofnek Road in the late afternoon, the road widening done in winter not alleviating the traffic problems. Two days ago we drove into town, and saw that there were no traffic officials to regulate the traffic flow, or lack of!
The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company has done little to upgrade its facilities in many years since it introduced new cablecars, with the exception of a repaint of its cablecars, probably sponsored by its advertiser VISA, and the erection of the electronic billboard earlier this year. One cannot understand that the parking situation has not been addressed, that there is not a dedicated safe pedestrian path, and that there is no suitable undercover protection for tourists having to stand in the sun for many hours to get into the cable car, at temperatures such as 36°C yesterday, especially as the CEO of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company, Sabine Lehmann, is the Chairman of Cape Town Tourism!
POSTSCRIPT 27/12: Our guests reported the disaster of the rest of their trip up Table Mountain this morning. The queue was a shambles, being a general one for both online ticket holders and non ticket holders. The non ticket holders were then sent to the ticket office, to buy their tickets. Standing in the queue in the heat for so long, the daughter of our guest fainted. A Cableway staff member saw this, but did not react at all, nor call for help with first aid. Part of the congestion is that the lifts only take 12 passengers at a time, and that the cablecar only took about 40 passengers at a time instead of its capacity of 64. The guests had to queue for an hour to get into a cablecar to get back down the mountain. Our UK guests said that this has been their only negative experience in Cape Town.
POSTSCRIPT 28/12: This morning I took another guest up to the Cableway station, and this time the traffic was even worse than on Boxing Day. It took an hour to drive to the station and return to Camps Bay! The police (NOT traffic police) were directing the traffic at the Kloofnek Traffic Circle, which caused an even greater traffic jam. I saw the odd umbrella for the queue waiting to get into the Cablecar. There is a wooden pergola all the way up the steps where the queue has to wait, but there is no awning over the pergola, therefore not protecting the tourists against the sun and heat at all.
POSTSCRIPT 28/12: Sabine Lehmann, CEO of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company, has responded to this blogpost via a Comment. We were shocked to hear that she had been on leave from 20 – 27 December, returning to work today. She admits that Boxing Day was their busiest day. One wonders how a CEO can be away from her business at the peak of the tourist season! This is her detailed reply:
“The 26th of December was our busiest day this year and our facilities were severely under pressure. We find that in the mornings the Cableway is at its busiest and remind visitors and tour operators alike, that even on our very busy days (such as today), it tends to be much quieter from 3- 4pm onwards.
I agree, we do not have enough parking on Tafelberg Road. But as the road is in a nature reserve it is unlikely that more parking will ever be built. The Taxi’s offer a shuttle service from Kloof Nek @ R5 per person. We are also in discussion with the City of CT to assess whether the MyCiti Bus could connect from Kloof Nek to the Cableway. I am hopeful that this may have a positive outcome by season 2013.
Upgrade of Facilities:
During shutdown each year, the Cableway completes the upgrade of facilities. These are almost always dependent on permissions from a number of parties (City of CT, SANParks and Heritage) so in most cases projects are 2-3 years in the planning before they can be completed.
Some of the signficant investments and upgrades that have taken place over the past 5 years include:
Complete Table Mountain Cafe overhaul including all back of house facilities, top station ablution block upgrade and new sewage system, shading at the lower station on Tafelberg Road, shading at the lower station on the ramp, new ticket system to allow us to sell on line, rehabilitation of Tafelberg Road, completion of a pedestrian boardwalk either side of the Lower Cable Station, completion of a new turning circle at the lower Cable Station and the electronic sign board on Kloof Nek. We have more planned over the next 3 years but are awaiting final sign off of necessary permissions and need to time projects with our shutdown over the next few years.
The Cableway invested R3.5 mill this year to rehabilitate Tafelberg Road, build a new turning circle and build the pedestrian Boardwalk. Tafelberg Road is a public road and not owned nor managed by us.
Online tickets were introduced 3 years ago. They have helped spread demand throught out the day (as has the Sunset Special after 18h00). The Cablecar unfortunately will always remain the bottle neck but visitors who do hold on line tickets do get through quicker. Due to the fact that we are so weather dependent and cannot predict when we will open nor whether there will be a view, we only sell a set number of on line tickets per day”.
POSTSCRIPT 31/12: Forwarding this blogpost on to Cape Town Tourism demonstrates that having Ms Lehmann (CEO of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company) as Chairman of Cape Town Tourism will never result in any action against the Cableway Company. This is the reply we received from Enver Duminy, Executive Manager Tourism Services of Cape Town Tourism, reflecting that mediocrity rules in Cape Town’s tourism authority:
“I note the detailed response received from Sabine Lehmann, MD of Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) on the referred blog post and trust that her feedback is satisfactory. We have also liaised with TMACC and we are satisfied that everything possible is being done to ensure the best-possible service to visitors. I hope you find the above in order?”
Our reply was that it is not in order!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Last night the largest German TV station ZDF re-flighted ‘Ein Sommer in Kapstadt’ (A Summer in Cape Town), a beautiful movie reflecting the beauty of Cape Town, which was shot in 2009, and was first released in 2010. It couldn’t have come at a better time, when Germans are planning their holidays for the coming European winter.
‘Ein Sommer in Kapstadt’ tells the story of a scorned wife, whose husband comes to Cape Town on a business trip. She follows her husband to Cape Town when she finds him having an affair with a young Capetonian. While the drama evolves, the characters drive across the city, and its magnificent beauty is captured through the filming: an opening shot from Bakoven in Camps Bay, onto the Twelve Apostles mountain range; Lion’s Head; some cute penguins running from the beach into the ocean; two lunches from a Blouberg restaurant right alongside the sea with the waves crashing while they eat; lots of driving in an exotic blue sports car along what could be Scarborough and Kommetjie; in Bo-Kaap on Rose Street opposite Haas; the promenade in Bantry Bay; lovely shots over the city from Signal Hill; lunch at the V&A Waterfront with Den Anker and the Clocktower in the background; Greenmarket Square; a Cape Dutch wine estate; Long Street; the winelands; and going up Table Mountain with the cableway. An AIDS angle is introduced too, penguins being used to teach children the symbol of loyal love by one of the characters in the movie.
The movie is dated only by the main character staying in the Hotel Le Vendome in Sea Point when she first arrives in Cape Town (the hotel closed down last year), and the storyline including the magazine Cape Style, which no longer exists.
One hopes that the movie will encourage German TV viewers to book their next holiday in Cape Town, given the beautiful impression which the city must have made on them. One of the characters in the movie refers to ‘Kapstadt: Das Paradis der Erde’ (Cape Town, the paradise of the world), a wonderful accolade for the city. Given some more damaging German movies shot in Cape Town and shown on ZDF earlier this year, ‘Ein Sommer in Kapstadt’ is a welcome positive showcase of Cape Town.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
February has drawn to a close, and has not disappointed the tourism industry in Cape Town in giving it a welcome confidence and income boost. However, February occupancy in Camps Bay has been on a par with 2011, at just under 90%. February is by far the most popular tourist month of the year now, which it previously shared with November.
February is attractive to the UK market specifically, and to the northern hemisphere generally, to have a break after a long and bitterly cold winter this year. The UK had school half term in this period too, allowing families to travel. The Mining Indaba earlier this month was a tremendous boost for the city. Our statistics for Camps Bay show that the share of the UK market in February was at its lowest level in the past six years, at only 20%, with that of South African visitors having increased dramatically from 9 % in 2007 to 38% this month. The German tourist share at 15 % this month is on a par with 2007 and 2008, a welcome improvement after a decline in the years between 2008 and 2012.
In January occupancy in Camps Bay improved significantly to 72%, from 58% the year before, but it was still below the occupancy achieved in January between 2007 and 2010. A similar trend was evident in December 2011. Hermanus showed a significant recovery in February, with a 40% occupancy, double that of February 2011, the best performance since 2008. Sadly Franschhoek experienced by far its worst February ever in six years, largely due to the sharp decline in the number of weddings which have traditionally been held in the village in February, and German tourists being less interested in visiting Franschhoek, choosing Stellenbosch in preference. The Franschhoek Wine Valley tourism association has done no visible marketing in the past year, other than the hosting of a few events, and its reduced marketing in using the services of a one-day-a-week consultant is not helping!
It was with concern that we read an article in the Weekend Argus last weekend, irresponsibly entitled ‘Tourists flock to Mother City in record numbers’. The article’s claim that ‘Cape Town’s extended summer has translated into the city’s best-ever holiday season, with tourism experts declaring that predictions for a much-improved season have been right on the money’, is misleading, and completely incorrect. The problem probably lies with who the journalist interviewed as so-called ‘tourism experts’.
The article quoted a number of tourism players, and the statements of most would be shot down by the industry, given their own experiences of the past few months, and how these compare with previous years:
* The biggest culprit is Cape Chamber of Commerce President Michael Bagraim, who has enjoyed using his position as President to make media statements about any possible topic, including tourism, about which he has little experience as a labour lawyer. He claimed that the tourism figures ‘were the best he had seen yet for the city’ (our underlining). His statement implies that he may not have seen all potential past tourism information, and it shows in his subsequent quotes to the journalist, including the nonsensical statement that ‘This past summer has certainly been the best, and we hope the upcoming summer will be even better. At the current rate I think Cape Town could easily become the best tourist destination in the world’, not defining how he defines ‘best’! He clearly does not understand the definition of ‘summer’, and that it still has another six weeks to go, with far lower occupancy expected in this period.
Mr Bagraim goes from bad to worse, by praising the World Cup for the good performance: “I believe that we are now experiencing the rewards from the World Cup, the reason being that so many tourists currently in the city were here during that period, and are now returning”. We cannot agree with Mr Bagraim at all, showing that he was completely out of his depth in this interview! He added that word of mouth from those that had attended the World Cup 18 months ago, the resultant media coverage, Table Mountain’s New7Wonders of Nature (not yet confirmed for Cape Town), and being named 2014 World Design Capital ‘would help ensure that Cape Town’s tourist enterprise would continue to thrive’ (our underlining). Mr Bagraim clearly was not aware that the tourism industry experienced a crisis in 2011, and was nowhere near ‘thriving’! He added:‘The one thing to remember about tourism is that it is foreign money which comes into the city, meaning it is new money that gets recycled throughout the economy’ (our underlining). Once again Mr Bagraim has not been briefed about the visitor composition, and that the majority of tourists in the Cape are South African! The rest of his statement would make economists shudder! We can however agree with his declaration that ‘Tourism is certainly the biggest money-spinner for the city, and it will continue to be so for many years to come’!
* Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde quoted improved visitor numbers for ‘Table Mountain National Park’ and Robben Island, but the time period was not stated.
* Calvyn Gilfellan, CEO of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, issued a media statement a week ago, along similar lines of the Weekend Argus article, and the journalist must have sought inspiration for his headline from this irresponsible media statement about the ‘interim summer’ period. Mr Gilfellan is quoted as saying that Table Mountain had seen a 25 % increase in visitor numbers between November – January relative to the same period a year ago. His conclusion is that it proves ‘the impact an international accolade has on the popularity of the attraction’. What Gilfellan neglected to mention was that the improved weather (i.e. reduced number of days on which the Cableway did not operate due to rain and gale force wind) in the past three months relative to a year ago played a huge role in the tourism numbers achieved for Cape Town’s icon.
* Cape Town Tourism’s Communication Manager Skye Grove was also quoted, in a nonsensical linkage made between tour guides and the increased use of technology, ‘which should spur tour guides to up their game’, she is quoted as saying. Further she is quoted as saying that tour guides should maintain high standards of quality and content ‘to keep up both with the challenge of technology, but also with the high tourist numbers’, a statement that does not make sense! Ms Grove sent out a media release last week, sharing informal ‘research’ Cape Town Tourism had conducted amongst its members about their performance in December and January. With the exception of the accommodation members, the sample sizes were not mentioned, yet detailed analyses were provided, and one can assume that the subsample sizes were tiny (only 106 accommodation establishments responded, representing by far their largest member segment). Ms Grove quotes passenger arrival figures at Cape Town International, up on the year before, which was a particularly poor period of arrivals. She quoted Ravi Nadasen, GM of The Cullinan, who stated that accommodation establishments had not experienced the same good performance as had tourism products, due to the oversupply of accommodation in the city, as well as a trend to visitors staying with family and friends.
* Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, Grant Pascoe, is receiving a lot of coverage via Cape Town Tourism’s media releases, in the few that they issue, and his statements in the Cape Town Tourism media release were included in the Weekend Argus article, once again demonstrating how out of touch the Councillor is with tourism in the city. He is quoted as saying that ‘the boost in the number of visitors to the city was a trend that was expected to continue into 2012’, given a number of events in March and April, including the Argus Cycle Tour, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Design Indaba, and the Two Oceans Marathon. Our experience is that events (e.g. J&B Met) have attracted fewer non-Cape Town visitors to Cape Town this year, and even the Argus Cycle Tour has not yet filled Camps Bay, as it has in the past years.
We have previously pleaded for greater honesty and reliability in the reporting of the performance of the tourism industry. The summer season is not yet over, and the past twelve months should not be the only benchmark of tourism performance, given that 2011 was the worst tourism year ever experienced in the Cape. It is no achievement to see tourism improvements relative to 2011!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage