*. Despite the Rand exchange rate being at its best ever for international visitors, no surge in tourism bookings is being seen. The after-effect of last year’s Ebola crisis, and the new visa regulations, have affected tourism numbers from China, India, and Brazil in particular. Hotelier Arthur Gillis said that the golden opportunity of the exchange rate was negated by the visa regulations, and said that we ‘shoot ourselves in the foot’.
*. Ad agency J.Walter Thompson subsidiary Innovation Group has identified trends in the beverage industry. Consumers are supporting trends to regional and seasonal foods and beverages. In the USA cocktails have added Kobe beef fat and cheese liquor, for example, demonstrating that consumers are willing to experiment more. ‘Hybrid drinks’ are on trend too, wines being aged in whisky barrels, and a ‘Bourbon-infused Continue reading →
On Friday afternoon Haarlem & Hope was officially opened in the Company’s Garden, now operated by the Madame Zingara Group, having won the tender from the City of Cape Town. The restaurant opens to the public tomorrow.
Owner Richard Griffin is an excellent showmaster, which we have seen in his quirky restaurants such as the Bombay Bicycle Club, and his Madame Zingara shows are a must-see in acrobatics, entertainment, and food served with precision for hundreds (perhaps Eat Out can contract him to handle the catering for the Eat Out Restaurant Awards in 2015)!
The name comes from the Dutch ship Nieuwe Haarlem, which was shipwrecked at the Cape in 1647. Crew members stayed at the Cape for a year before being picked up by another passing Dutch ship, and in that time the crew planted vegetables, which they bartered for fresh meat from the Khoi living here already. Jan van Riebeek arrived five years later, expanding the vegetable gardening to create the Company’s Garden.
The first thing one notices on arrival is the weaver bird nest-like hanging baskets at the right of the entrance, made Continue reading →
* Travelers have barely heard of ‘sharing’ services such as Uber and Airbnb, and they are not yet a threat to established accommodation and taxi services, a Travel Weekly Consumer Trends survey has found. More than two-thirds of the respondents had not heard of the services, and only 8% had used them. The target age group of sharing services appears to be the 18 – 23 year olds, highest users of these services.
* Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde has announced the new members of the Board of the tourism, investment, and trade agency Wesgro: Professor Brian Figaji (previously of Pentech) is the new Chairman, while other Board members are Paul Continue reading →
This is one of the hardest blogposts I have written, with a moral dilemma of being an invited guest at what one expected to be a social highlight for the year. The Gala Dinner for Cape Town hosting World Design Capital 2014 turned out to be an embarrassment in poor organisation and food! We trust that Cape Town Design NPC, the company operating the year-long design accolade, will forgive its frankness.
The Gala Dinner was the first substantial function organised for World Design Capital 2014, the New Year’s Eve concert having been an event shared with the City of Cape Town, and was intended to be for all the people of Cape Town. Only 270 guests were invited to the Gala Dinner, and included Cape Town Mayor de Lille and Stellenbosch Mayor Conrad Sidego; Minister of Science and Technology Derek Hanekom; sponsor company representatives such as Media24 Chairman Ton Vosloo; members of the diplomatic corps; top designers; members of the Board of Cape Town Design NPC; and a large media contingent, both local and international. Given the calibre of the guests, the fact that almost everything was wrong with the evening was an embarrassing disaster! The dress code was formal with a touch of yellow, given the World Design Capital 2014 colour for the year. The men seemed better in adding the yellow touches via gold or yellow ties and bow ties, while the ladies struggled to find something yellow in their wardrobes, including Cape Town Design NPC CEO Alayne Reesberg. Surprising was how many guests wore jeans and open shirts, despite the dress code specification.
The dinner was set up in a temporary structure for the Guild Fair, the decor exhibition which is running in conjunction with the Cape Town Art Fair at The Lookout in the V&A Waterfront. Tables seating 20 guests each were set up in long rows, with no decor other than sets of three yellow/gold Monkeybiz beaded animals on the tables. The last time I was in the neighbouring The Lookout venue was for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards in November, and the New Media Publishing team had done a fantastic job in decorating the massive venue. On Friday night there were no design features at all, and lighting was big industrial spotlights, Continue reading →
* Airbus has used research conducted by The London Sleep Centre to widen its seats to 18 inches (45,72 cm), the perfect seat size which allows passengers on long-haul flights to sleep more comfortably and enjoy a deeper sleep.
* The Cape Town Partnership is displaying its work at 6 Spin Street from 6 – 12 November. Entrance is free. (received via media release from Rabbit in a Hat Communications)
* Top Stellenbosch chefs are putting the wine town and its food and wines on show today at Summer Place, a ‘pop-up collaboration of restaurants, wine producers, art, music and fashion’. Every wine on show is paired with a signature dish by Christian Eedes. Chefs on show are Bertus Basson of Overture, Michael Broughton of Terroir, George Jardine of Jordan Restaurant, Christiaan Campbell of Delaire Graff Estate, and Grégory Czarnecki of Waterkloof restaurant, all on the Continue reading →
* Creative Week Cape Town forms part of the Loerie Awards being held from 14 – 22 September, with a range of ‘crowd-sourced’ events on offer at no charge. Cape Town will be turned ‘inside out’ , offering film, yoga, night time bicycle rides to street art installation, artist’s tours and talks, gatherings, poetry,and public space pop-ups. (received via media release from Rabbit in a Hat)
Last week two senior members of staff left the services of Cape Town Tourism, being its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, and its PR and Communications Manager Skye Grove. A new era lies ahead for the tourism body, which can hopefully get on with the focused marketing of Cape Town and its tourism industry again.
Given how badly Cape Town has been marketed as a tourism destination in the past few years, it is a fantastic opportunity for new CEO Enver Duminy to show what he can do to deal with the city’s terrible problem of Seasonality with barely any business in the winter months, which is unique to Cape Town, compared to South Africa’s other major cities. Every year Mrs Helmbold has paid lip service to the problem, and promised to tackle the problem, but she never did, and business has become progressively worse every winter.
Shocking was the blatant exploitation in the past ten days by Mrs Helmbold to actively market the services of her new destination marketing consultancy whilst still in the employ of Cape Town Tourism. She announced that she would establish a consultancy in April after her resignation from Cape Town Tourism became public in February. As if Tweets on her own Twitter account were not enough to market the new consultancy whilst still working for Cape Town Tourism, Cape Town Continue reading →
A concern about the future marketing of the tourism industry in the Western Cape, given the closure of Cape Town Routes Unlimited and its incorporation within Wesgro, and the departure of its CEO Calvyn Gilfellan on 31 March, motivated me to call Wesgro and request an appointment with its CEO Nils Flaatten. Despite the busy and short week prior to Easter, he made time for the interview on 5 April.
The hurdles put in my way to meet Mr Flaatten were considerable, and demonstrated the personality of the organisation and told me more about the company than the time I spent with Mr Flaatten. It also demonstrated how far removed Wesgro, the Western Cape Trade promotion and Investment agency, is from the Tourism industry, if ‘customer service’ is anything to go by. When I called to set up the interview, Mr Flaatten’s secretary insisted that I follow ‘protocol’ and e-mail her the meeting request, and tell her who I am. I had done this telephonically, and it became a power struggle, with constant interruptions from her, before she accepted my meeting request telephonically. She indicated that it would take a considerable time to get an appointment date, which she would e-mail me! A Tweet to express my dismay about this lack of approachability by our province’s new tourism head, combined with an e-mail to Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Development, Finance and Tourism, led to a call directly from Mr Flaatten, offering a meeting for a few days later at 11h30, or so I heard. Mr Flaatten called at 7h45 on that day, asking where I was, having expected me at 7h30! As a late night blogger and guest house owner I would never have accepted such a time slot, which seemed very ‘Johannesburg’ to me! Mr Flaatten said he would be out of town for two weeks, and could only reschedule a meeting thereafter. Yet his secretary called later in the morning, and offered me a midday meeting, which I accepted with gratitude. For the first time, she offered parking, and took all the relevant details telephonically. I arrived at the building half an hour early, wanting to make sure that I arrived on time, but I was not allowed into the building as Wesgro had not alerted the parking garage staff at the boom! They refused to let me in, and traffic problems were caused with other garage users wanting to enter. I had to call Wesgro to ask them to let me in. However, all the staff were in a meeting, and Mr Flaatten’s secretary could not be contacted. I was told that I would be called back. No such call came, and I had to call again after 20 minutes of being trapped at the boom, and having been threatened by the parking staff that the traffic department would be called if I did not move my car! I was given a bay number by the Wesgro switchboard and relayed this to the boom operator, but it was refused because it had not been sent to them on the prescribed form! Needless to say, this incompetent stakeholder-unfriendly introduction to Wesgro twice in one week made my heart sink, and realise how much smarter and visitor-friendly the Western Cape tourism industry is.
I was shocked when I saw the reception area in which I had to wait for Mr Flaatten, which doubled up as an office, with two ugly red chairs. Mr Flaatten’s office did not look much better, the same style ugly red chairs serving as visitor chairs with a rather nice blue desk, but the blue not matching Wesgro’s corporate blue, the functional office having no warmth or professionalism. Mr Flaatten seemed professional but distant, not giving one the feeling that one could ever have a collegial relationship with him in his new role as provincial tourism head. He has headed up Wesgro for the last two years. I was surprised when he asked me to tell me who I am, not what the interview was about, and he made it appear that he knew nothing about me at all! I at least had Googled his name, and had found out that he went to school in Stellenbosch, served in the South African Navy, and had worked in investment banks in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong.
I told him that other than its name, and having only a broad idea of what Wesgro does, I knew nothing more, and that I wanted to know what its role will be in taking over the duties of Cape Town Routes Unlimited. Wesgro is governed by the Wesgro Act, and has three duties according to the Act:
* to attract and retain foreign investment in the Western Cape
* to grow exports
* to increasingly attract business to the city and the province
Wesgro is funded by both the City of Cape Town (R10 million) and the Western Cape government (R18,4 million), the R25 million which Cape Town Routes Unlimited received from the Western Cape government being added to give a total of R53 million, larger than the budget of Cape Town Tourism. The organisation services the province, ultimately reporting to Minister Winde. It also works with the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee member Belinda Walker, doing strategy planning. The organisation’s operations include:
* hosting inward trade missions, at which they try to ‘matchmake’ the visiting delegation members with local businesses via ‘speed dating’
* outward missions travel overseas, promoting trade with the Western Cape, benefiting from sponsorships for flights and other travel costs from the Department of Trade and Industry.
Any Western Cape business is seen to be a ‘member’ of Wesgro, although one does not take out or pay for a membership. The organisation also looks to stimulate the setting up and development of ‘SMME’s’ (small businesses), including entrepreneurs, emerging entrepreneurs, and start-up businesses. They also look to grow sectors of Western Cape businesses, and a number of such sector development agencies have been developed, for IT, Craft and Design, etc. Geographically, Wesgro is concentrating on the ‘West African Trade Corridor’, which includes Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, Namibia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “The Headquarter for African business should be Cape Town”, Mr Flaatten said. He shared that a trip to Accra the week before had seen distribution agreements signed with 20 companies represented in the trade delegation. It was at this point that Mr Flaatten justified his organisation’s take-over of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, saying that Wesgro already has links to the chambers of commerce and influential players in these West African countries, so in the same way they can engage with the leading tourism players in these countries to attract more West African tourists to Cape Town and the Western Cape. He added that the Northern Hemisphere countries of the UK, the USA, Europe and Japan would only show a 1,5 % growth, labelling them as ‘concentration risk’. Currently most of the Western Cape exports go to the UK, to the Netherlands, and to Germany, in that order. Mr Flaatten also said that 73% of South Africa’s foreign direct investment in Africa comes from Cape Town businesses, mainly being in the financial services, real estate, and hospitality sectors. He added that by 2030 there would be more middle income earners in Africa than in India. He also emphasised the potential of the BRICS countries. Further high growth high income countries are Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates. Inward missions coming to Cape Town are from the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, and they offer marketing services, sales support, and call centre services.
Mr Flaatten gave his views of our tourism industry by saying that it has a number of outspoken characters in it, implying that this would be something he would have to get used to! Wesgro has taken over the 25 Cape Town Routes Unlimited staff, who were in the same building, and will be assimilated into his team, retaining the benefits, and terms and conditions at which they were employed originally. Wesgro will ‘capitalise on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited’ marketing knowledge, Mr Flaatten said, but I was concerned that he could not tell me the name of the most senior marketing executive (we think it is Debbie Damant, not known to most) that he has ‘inherited’, especially given that the marketing of Cape Town Routes Unlimited had been strongly driven by its then CEO Calvyn Gilfellan. The Board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, now led by ACSA’s Deon Cloete due to the move of its previous Chairman Peter Bacon to Mauritius, will oversee the activities that are in the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Annual Performance Plan, until the organisation with its Board is dissolved when the Western Cape Tourism Act of 2004 is repealed. Similarly, the Wesgro Act must be amended, to allow it to additionally manage destination marketing for the Western Cape.
Mr Flaatten requested the industry to give him a month, so that he can get to know his new staff, and what the capacity requirements are, not wanting to be irresponsible in becoming unnecessarily large. First he must stabilise the staff situation, and then they must focus on planning for the following financial year. They have already hosted a workshop with 100 regional and local tourism bureaus, seeing them as ‘subject matter experts’, and not wishing to duplicate their work, he said. He will also engage with industry representative bodies such as FEDHASA Cape, SATSA, etc, but I left him with a reminder that the tourism industry consists of a large number of small businesses, many not belonging to the big tourism associations, and that their voices should be heard too. Listening to the tourism industry will be the biggest challenge for him currently, Mr Flaatten said. He realises that the ‘Cape Town & Western Cape’ brand is a problem ‘which will not be easy to fix’.
The Board of Directors of Wesgro raises interesting questions. Board members Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette Du Toit-Helmbold, its Board Vice-Chairman and CEO of the Cape Town Partnership, Bulelwa Ngewana, and Board member Guy Lundy, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town and Wesgro Vice Chairman, may prevent duplication of marketing activity between Wesgro and Cape Town Tourism, but ideally should remain independent tourism bodies, so that the industry benefits from the best of both bodies. Ravi Naidoo, organiser of the Design Indaba, is well-known and highly regarded. Interesting too is that Alderman Belinda Walker is on the Board, but does not deal with Tourism matters in the City of Cape Town, which could lead to duplication of tourism management within the City. One could be concerned about two Boards of Directors managing the duties of Wesgro, until Cape Town Routes Unlimited is closed down legally, and about the incestuous duplication of Board members of Wesgro and Cape Town Tourism.
For an organisation that had a number of months warning of taking over Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and that had taken over its operations four days prior to my visit, I was concerned about the general lack of marketing insight, terminology (other than the branding issue), and discussion that I heard from Mr Flaatten during our lengthy interview. He did not mention Cape Town Tourism, and how Wesgro will avoid duplication of marketing activities with the city tourism marketing body. The Wesgro website only shows an amended logo, in that the new duty is incorporated in its descriptor underneath it: ‘The Western Cape Destination Marketing, Investment and Trade Promotion Agency’, and contains a block of information to state that it has taken over the duties of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, with a link to the now defunct tourism body’s website! I was concerned about the very business-like Wesgro culture, which does not appear ‘customer friendly’ nor service-orientated in simple requests of setting up a meeting and honouring a parking arrangement, which does not auger well for our tourism industry. The offices are functional but unattractive, not matching the tourism industry image. I was concerned that Mr Flaaten did not seem to know anything about Minister Winde’s EDP, which I thought would reside in Wesgro, and would eventually become the home of most Western Cape industry development bodies, the products and services of which Wesgro appears to market. Mr Flaatten was very responsive in providing the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Annual Performance Plan which they will be working to achieve. The 27 page Plan lists the mission as marketing the Western Cape as a desirable leisure, business and events tourism destination, and its main goal is to ‘position Cape Town and the Western Cape as a premier leisure, events and business tourism destination in Africa’. However, none of the defined goals are measurable. The budget breakdown is disconcerting, with about 50% going to staff salaries, and only 24% going to marketing expenditure. Much of the performance is measured in terms of the number of meetings held, the number of convention bids presented, and the only tourism related measurement targets are the number of international arrivals (1,6 million) and domestic arrivals (3,2 million) for the current financial year, Cape Town Routes Unlimited only expecting to generate 5% of each kind of tourist through its marketing efforts, which begs the question as to why it existed in the first instance!
We will give Wesgro the month that has been requested, and await the way forward for the marketing of the Western Cape with trepidation.
POSTSCRIPT 18/4: In a media release sent out by Wesgro a week ago (but not to contacts on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited media list!), Nils Flaatten said that he would continue to report to the Wesgro Board of Directors, and to the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board on a quarterly basis about ‘expenditure and performance against predetermined objects’. “Flaatten assured tourism industry stakeholder (sic) that there would be no ‘disruption to the delivery of the tourism destination function in our province'”, the media release added. It also stated that Cape Town Routes Unlimited and Wesgro will continue to occupy their respective offices in their current building, and that the telephone and e-mail details of the Cape Town Routes Unlimited staff ‘will remain in operation until further notice’.
This Tourism Week asked some critical questions about Wesgro’s new role in handling the Tourism marketing responsibility for the Western Cape in its newsletter on 13 April.
Wesgro, Waldorf Arcade, 80 St George’s Mall, Cape Town. Tel (021) 487-8600. www.wesgro.co.za Twitter: @Wesgro
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
In order to attract investments to the Western Cape, and to create jobs, the ‘province would have to market itself smartly’, the Cape Argus reported Premier Helen Zille to have said in her State of the Province speech last year. This initiative is called ‘Future Cape’, she said.
The newspaper report about ‘Future Cape’ is the first that we have seen about the provincial marketing initiative, about which Premier Zille said: “For this reason, we are undertaking a process involving all stakeholders designed to position us attractively in the world economy”. A Google search did not provide any further details about ‘Future Cape’ however. The development of the Western Cape Economic Development Agency has been widely reported, a joint body to represent 18 marketing agencies, including Cape Town Routed Unlimited, which has been reported is to merge with Wesgro in April.
In the 9 January Cape Argus report, however, the CEO of the Western Cape tourism marketing body Cape Town Routes Unlimited, Calvyn Gilfellan, referred to the amalgamation as a ‘possible merger’, and added: “Later this month, we will meet and discuss if and how it will be done.” (our underlining). He expressed his support of a single marketing agency, ‘as long as destination marketing is kept alive. It is the lifeblood of the Western Cape economy’. As a tourism player one could be concerned about Gilfellan’s choice of words, indicating scepticism about the planned Wesgro merger, and then being incorporated into the Economic Development Agency, Cape Town Routes Unlimited thus losing its branding and identity.
The Steering Committee for the Economic Development Partnership (confusing are name changes, with the words ‘Agency’ and ‘Plan’ used too) consists of Cape Town Routes Unlimited Chairman Peter Bacon, UCT Graduate School of Business Director Walter Baets, and Michael Bagraim, President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce. The convenor of the establishment of the EDP is Andrew Boraine, the CEO of the Cape Town Partnership. Provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde motivated the merged marketing agency with the specific purpose of addressing unemployment in the province. He urged tourism players and Western Cape businessmen to work together, rather than each individually seeking the same business:“We have to look at ways of hunting in a pack to ensure further growth and investment”.
It will be intersting to see how the Economic Development Partnership will be structured, and how it deals with tourism marketing, of vital importance as it is the sector that makes the largest contribution to the economy of the Western Cape. Doing away with Cape Town Routes Unlimited may not be in the best interest of tourism in the Western Cape, despite the criticism that the organisation has received from the tourism industry in the past. Even more interesting is how Cape Town Tourism will link to the new EDP, it not yet having been mentioned as one of the agencies to be incorporated into the EDP! Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited duplicate their marketing activities, costly to the ratepayers of Cape Town and the Western Cape, and sending out schizophrenic marketing messages about our destination!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage