Tag Archives: Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation

Looking back: 2011 the worst year ever?

2011: what a year it’s been for the world, South Africa, and Whale Cottage – unpredictable, up and down, and a year in which one had to rethink every way in which one has run one’s business and life.  Most would say that it’s been one of the worst years ever!  But despite the tough times, there has been a lot to be grateful for as well.  I have summarised some of the high and low lights of the year:

1.  The knock which tourism took, especially from May – August, in being one of the worst winters ever experienced, had an effect on all sectors of the economy.  Restaurants frantically offered specials to gain cashflow, guest houses went back to dropping rates as they do in winter, and few took rate increases in summer, unlike their hotel colleagues, who suffered poor occupancy too.  More hotels and restaurants closed down than ever seen before. The recession in the UK hit South African tourism and wine sales badly, previously our major source market. From 50 % of our business in the summer months in Camps Bay, the UK business will be no more than 5 % this summer.  High airfares and the crippling UK airport taxes have not helped. The tourism situation was so bad that we wrote an Open Letter to national Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, as Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited were not aware of how bad things were in the Cape, and therefore did nothing to market the region and to help the tourism industry. Cape Town Tourism spent all its energy on Twitter, not yet the medium of communication of our average tourist, and on wasteful promotions, and therefore we did not renew our 20 year membership. The welcome increase in German tourists has not made up this shortfall, but we have been delighted to welcome many more South African guests.   The World Cup has become a swearword, the reality of its lack of a tourism benefit becoming clear. A blessing from Santa has been a much improved festive season, with no snow-bound tourists or strong south-easter wind, as happened last year.

2.  Events are hugely beneficial for business, and the Argus Cycle Tour, J&B Met, and Cape Town International Jazz Festival attracted out of town guests. The U2 and Coldplay concerts helped fill beds and delighted Cape Town audiences.  A fantastic outcome of Coldplay’s performance is that the music video for ‘Paradise’ was filmed in our city, the Boland and the Karoo – no better part of the world could have been chosen for this song!

3.  Cape Town has had an exceptional year, the darling of the world, winning the World Design Capital 2014 bid, Table Mountain being named one of New7Wonders of Nature (amid some controversy and as yet subject to verification), named top destination in TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Destination (for what it was worth!), and featuring strongly in the new James Bond book ‘Carte Blanche’.  Our city hotels, especially the Cape Grace and Steenberg Hotel, featured on international top hotel lists. Good news was the sale of the V&A Waterfront to a local company, which is investing in the upgrade of and addition to the country’s most popular tourist destination.

4.   Despite the doom and gloom, there were more restaurant openings, and chef and restaurant staff changes this year than in many years: The Pot Luck Club, Hemelhuijs, Dash, Casparus, Dear Me Foodworld, The Franschhoek Kitchen, Il Cappero, Café Benedict, The Kitchen at Maison, Sotano by Caveau, Knife, De Oude Bank Bakkerij, Ryan’s Kitchen, Caffe Milano, Mozzarella Bar, Cassis Salon de Thé, Power & the Glory, Haas Coffee, Johan’s @ Longridge, Skinny Legs & All, KOS Coffee & Cuisine, Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet, Le Coq, Act and Play Bar at the Baxter, Sunbird Bistro, Societi Brasserie, Jason’s, Bird Café with new owners, Maria’s after a long renovation closure, Toro Wine & Aperitif Bar, Valora, Café Le Chocolatier, Haute Cabriere Cellar Restaurant after a renovation and chef change, Art’s Café, Spice Route, Mitico, Knead on Kloof, Chez Chez, La Bella, 5 Rooms, Terbodore Coffee Bar, Wale Rose Lifestyle, The Black Pearl, Bistro on Rose, Slainte, Babel Tea House, Rhapsody’s, Café Extrablatt, Harvest, McDonalds in the V&A,  The Mussel Bar, The Franschhoek Food Emporium, Makaron, F.east, Bean There Fair Trade, Sabrina’s, Harbour House in the V&A, MCC Franschhoek, Clarke Bar & Dining Room, Roberto’s, French Toast, Saboroso, Mezepoli, Rocca in the Cape Quarter, and Roca in Franschhoek opening their doors, and new suppliers Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants and The Creamery opening too.

5.  Sadly, the recession was noticeable as it hit restaurants, and it was some of the newer restaurants that were badly hit, including What’s On Eatery, The Olive Shack, Bella Lucia, Blonde, Jardine, Caveau at the Mill, Nando’s in Camps Bay, The Sandbar, The Bistro, Restaurant Christophe, Doppio Zero in Green Point and Clarement, shu, Oiishi Delicious Caffe, Hermanos, The Kitchen Bar, Wildwoods, The Green Dolphin, De Huguenot restaurant, Wildflour, Depasco, Kuzina, and 221 Waterfront.

6.  The eating highlight of the year was the tribute dinner to the closing of El Bulli, one of the world’s best restaurants, by Tokara, Chef Richard Carstens excelling in serving a 13-course meal to a packed restaurant on 30 July, earning him and his team a standing ovation.  This meal alone should have made Chef Richard South Africa’s top chef in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards, but sole judge Abigail Donnelly proved that she was incapable of handling this new role and responsibility, not only in excluding Chef Richard from her Top 10 list, but also in awarding the new Boschendal Style Award to her client Makaron.

7.   Franschhoek evolved as THE wine region, Boekenhoutskloof being recognised as South Africa’s top winery by the Platter Guide, and La Motte the top wine estate in South Africa by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.  In the latter competition, Tokara was selected as top wine estate restaurant in the country. The sale of the Franschhoek Graham Beck farm was announced, and the operation closes mid-year in 2012. The winemaking will take place at Steenberg and at Graham Beck in Robertson, while a Graham Beck tasting bar Gorgeous will open at Steenberg in February.

8.   Hermanus was in the tourism marketing spotlight, when miraculously both the committee of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau resigned, and the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation was disbanded by the Overstrand Mayor.  We had written about the self-interest which had been served by the previous leaders of these two bodies in ‘Lermanus’!  A welcome product for Hermanus is the recently created Hermanus Wine Route, marketing of which will be in the capable hands of Carolyn Martin of Creation.

9.   The Consumer Protection Act was introduced in April, and has shown benefits in product deficiencies and returns.  Little effect has been seen for the tourism industry.  The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa tried to change its accommodation assessment standards, which caused a huge outcry.  Despite changing back to what they had before, many accommodation establishments lost faith in the organisation, and have not renewed their accreditation.

10.  The wedding of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlène in July put South Africa in the world spotlight, not only due to the televised broadcast of the wedding, but also as they celebrated their wedding with a second reception, at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga, now the country’s best known hotel.

11.  This year proved that the ‘social’ in Social Media is a misnomer in many respects, but it is the marketing platform which cannot be excluded.  We celebrated the 10th anniversary of our WhaleTales newsletter, the 3rd year of blogging, and our 1000 th blogpost this year.  We are grateful to our Facebook friends and likers, Twitter followers, and blog and newsletter readers for their support.

It is hard to predict 2012, and we will go with the flow.  2011 has made us tougher and even more thick-skinned, we have learnt to change with changed tourism times.  We look forward to a stable world economy, politics, as well as weather in 2012!

POSTSCRIPT 2/1: The most read posts on our blog in 2011 were the restaurant winter specials, the Festive Season packages, the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Charléne, the review of Casparus, the restaurant summer specials, the review of Gaaitjie in Paternoster, the death in Cape Town of the President of Ferrero Rocher,  the listing of restaurant openings and closures, the Consumer Protection Act, and Table Mountain making the New7Wonders of Nature.

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

Stormy Cape Whale Coast tourism politics come to an end!

The tourism industry in Hermanus is delighted that the stormy reign of tourism on the Cape Whale Coast has finally come to an end, with the Mayor of the Overstrand Municipality, Mrs Nicolette Botha-Guthrie, cancelling the Service Level Agreement between her municipality and the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) two days ago.

The demise of the DMO brings to an end the controversial attempts by the Lerm family to control tourism in Hermanus and the Overstrand area, and to benefit from it for their own businesses.  Clinton Lerm was the Chairman of the DMO and of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and stepped down to become Vice Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau when allegations of conflict of interest were first raised.  His mother Maxie Lerm also served on the executive of both tourism bodies, and many tourism-related meetings were held at the Lerm’s Misty Waves Hotel, felt by many to be inappropriate.  Many fingers were pointed at Clinton Lerm’s management, or lack of, of the DMO, and the politicking that took place.  In the end it was the DMO’s attempt to make a Tourism Bureau of the DMO, in competition with the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, that was the beginning of the end of the DMO.  Lerm promised to call a Special General Meeting, at which he would consolidate the membership of the DMO and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, but after a year he had not managed to call such a meeting.

The Lerm family have had a nightmare week, both mother and son having been members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau committee that resigned, to prevent being voted out in a ‘No Confidence’ motion at the Special General Meeting called by its members last Monday.  Now both Lerms have lost their powerful DMO positions, especially given that Maxie Lerm was handling PR and publicity for the DMO, allowing the family the advantage of media contacts for their own business interests, it is alleged!  Maxie Lerm is now a DA member of the Overstrand Municipality, and fortunately has not been given the Tourism portfolio, given that the family has overplayed its hand in dominating all tourism bodies in the region.

Ironically, Clinton Lerm a month ago called an Annual General Meeting of the DMO for next week, at which he wished to table two constitutional changes:

   *   a change in the definition of a ‘member’, it being proposed that it become ‘any citizen registered in the voting districts of the Overstrand and/or a tax contributor not in arrears on any municipal services’ – this would have meant that every resident of Hermanus, including occasional users of their holiday homes in the region, would become a voting member of the region’s most powerful tourism body, without necessarily having an interest in tourism!  It was never the intention that the DMO have members – Cape Town Routes Unlimited is also a DMO, but does not have any members!

   *   a confusing ‘additional constitutional point’ concerned voting procedures and rules, the DMO wanting the current constitutional requirement of only allowing members of 60 days or longer standing to vote at the meeting to be overturned, but no resolution was defined for this for the meeting.

The Chairman also announced that the AGM would not include an election, normally an agenda item of an AGM, stating that an election date would be set a month after the AGM, in consultation with the Overstrand municipality. Now the AGM will no longer be held, and instead the DMO ‘as a seperate legal entity (still) has to be wound up’.

In a media release issued by the Overstrand Municipality yesterday, it uses the Municipal Finance Management Act as the reason for disbanding the DMO, in writing that ‘a greater degree of direct control by the Municipality over the distribution and use of the funds allocated, is required’.  Interesting is the sentence which politely points a finger at the upheaval caused by Clinton Lerm and his Board in running the DMO: ‘The envisaged new system will facilitate such control whilst at the same time ensuring that there is a greater degree of cohesion and synergy within the whole Municipality as a tourist destination.’ 

The Municipality also announced that a ‘dedicated tourism officer’ is needed, reporting to its Directorate of Economic Development, and co-ordinating the ‘activities of the various Tourism Bureaux and to establish a single tourism marketing strategy for the whole of the Overstrand.‘  When the DMO was established, its Constitution stated that a Marketing Manager be appointed, but this never happened in the four year existence of the DMO!  The Municipality intends to form an ‘advisory committee from the community to advise the Municipality on all tourism related matters’.  The committee would consist of Cape Whale Coast tourism bureaux representatives, and tourism players, to allow the ‘voice of all role players and stakeholders will be best heard and effect given to the advice received’.  The Municipality intends to implement its new tourism dispensation from 1 September, the start of the summer season in the area, and leading up to the Whale Festival at the end of September.

While it is fantastic news that the Cape Whale Coast DMO is no more, and that a brand new Hermanus Tourism Bureau committee was elected last week, it will take time to appoint the municipal Marketing Manager, at a time when the region desperately needs to attract tourists after a terrible winter and a poor summer lying ahead.  One hopes that the municipal Marketing Manager will not be bogged down by municipal red tape, and will be strong enough to focus on doing what is best for the Cape Whale Coast, and not for personal interests – it will make a refreshing change.  With the stormy politics now at an end, the Cape Whale Coast can now focus on marketing its wonderful assets!  

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

Hermanus Tourism Bureau shock resignation ends Stormy crisis!

What a stormy meeting it was at the Municipal Auditorium in Hermanus last night, when the Special General Meeting, which had been called by a number of members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau to table a motion of no confidence in its committee, commenced with the announcement that the whole committee had resigned.

The resignation in itself was unknown to some of the Committee members, and they only found about it at the meeting, ex-Committee member Fabio Lenzi bringing the house down when he stated that he didn’t know that he had resigned from the old Committee!  It appears that many decisions about the running of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau were made by a handful of members of the Committee, and that such decisions were not minuted, and/or ratified by the whole Committee!  We have written over the past eighteen months  that things have not been well in the tourism industry in Hermanus, and how Committee members/Directors of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing (DMO) advantaged their businesses whilst serving on these two bodies.

Given the anticipated stormy nature of the Special General Meeting, the calling of which resulted from the unfair dismissal of Storm Kreusch as Manager of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau earlier this year, the Overstrand Municipality appointed advocate Professor Henning Viljoen as the independent chairman of the meeting.  He had his hands full, in controlling the accusations of mismanagement from the side of the ex-Committee chairman Charl de Kock, assisted by Joan-Anne Harris, versus the representatives of the members who had called the meeting, being Mary Faure and Pam Nel.  Ms Harris is a feisty lady, but lost severe face in her brave attempts to counter ex-Committee mismanagement allegations.  In general, meeting attendees reported that the Lerm family and the ex-Committee did not come out of the meeting well.  They must have realised that they would not win the No Confidence vote, and surprisingly an e-mail was sent by then-Chairperson Charl de Kock to Hermanus Tourism Bureau members an hour prior to the start of the meeting, with the Subject Line “The Hermanus Tourism Committee – Resignation Letter”, but no resignation was contained in the body of the e-mail.  Instead it contained another pre-meeting attack against Ms Kreusch, and referred to “irregularities” alleged to have occurred during her management of the Bureau. It does request “the new HT committee members elected, if any, to proceed with further investigations and resolve current problems as discovered”.  The issues are listed for the new Committee, and are similar to those contained in an e-mail sent by De Kock to members last Thursday, including the alleged intimidation of Bureau staff, cellphone usage and contracts, sale of cupboards, volunteering, Tourism Grading Council assessor’s alleged ‘misuse of power and possibly transgressing the code of conduct’, and internet abuse.  It was mentioned in the meeting by De Kock that the Bureau had spent R40000 in legal fees to date on the unfair dismissal and CCMA hearing relating to Ms Kreusch.

Some of these issues were discussed in the meeting, and the focus by De Kock was largely on Ms Kreusch, in an attempt to save face.  “It was obvious from the start that the committee were out of their depth as the mismanagement, misinformation, and non-information to members issues were laid bare”, wrote a Tourism Bureau member who attended the meeting.  “As the meeting progressed, it was clear that the committee had not functioned as a unit, were totally dysfunctional, acting independently from each other, making unconstitutional personal decisions out of meetings on matters affecting the members and Hermanus Tourism”, she added.

One of the outcomes of the meeting, although not on the agenda for discussion at the Special General Meeting, was the members’ dissatisfaction with the DMO, the ‘parent body’ of all the Tourism Bureaus in the Overstrand municipal area, stretching from Rooi Els to Gansbaai.  It emerged at the meeting that the icon of Hermanus whale watching, the Whale Crier, has been appointed by the DMO, when he previously reported to the Hermanus Tourism Bureau.  This follows the DMO setting up a membership scheme in competition with the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, as well as an information and booking kiosk closer to the whale watching area.   In a clever move prior to its resignation, the ex-Committee signed a Memorandum of Understanding that gives the DMO the right to appoint Hermanus Tourism Bureau staff, something the Gansbaai and Stanford Tourism Bureaus have refused to do! 

At the meeting the new Hermanus Tourism Bureau Committee was elected: Mary Faure, Jenny Bowes-Meyer, Bill Harling, Ryno Rabie, Quintin Mitchell, Fabio Lenzi, Suzanne Clarke, Pam Nel, Jenna Raubenheimer, and Maurice Douree.  

The way forward for the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and its new committee will remain stormy, as many of the ex-Hermanus Tourism Bureau members serve on the DMO, which means that further clashes and politics can be expected, when the DMO, headed by Clinton Lerm of Misty Waves Hotel and ex-Vice Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, can be expected to ‘punish’ the Hermanus Tourism Bureau for the loss of face it suffered last night!

POSTSCRIPT 19/7:  Mary Faure has been elected Chairman and Fabio Lenzi Deputy Chairman of the new Hermanus Tourism Bureau Committee, which met this morning.

POSTCRIPT 20/7: The Hermanus Tourism Bureau has announced two additional co-opted Committee members, being Nikki Stanley and Neels Terblanche.  As per the Constitution, the DMO Chairman and Deputy Chairman, Clinton Lerm and Dan Acker, respectively, will also serve on the Committee.

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

Hermanus tourism politics remain Stormy!

The powers that control tourism in Hermanus are holding on for dear life, and are using every possible means to hold on to their power, at the cost of disparaging their members.  A huge fight for their political life takes place on Monday evening, when a Special General Meeting of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau is held at the request of its members, calling for a vote of no confidence in its current committee.

We have previously reported about the Hermanus Tourism Bureau reneging on its CCMA settlement agreement to pay their ex-Manager Storm Kreusch R10000 (Daniel Acker is the labour lawyer advisor on this matter, and a director  of the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation), and this has been reported in the July issue of Noseweek too.  We have reported about the conflict of interest in that the Deputy Chairman of the Tourism Bureau, Clinton Lerm, is also the Chairman of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, that his mother Maxie serves on both tourism bodies too, and that all tourism meetings are held at the Lerm’s Misty Waves Hotel.  Following from the unfair dismissal of Ms Kreusch, a group of Hermanus Tourism Bureau members signed a petition, calling for a Special General Meeting, in accordance with the constitution of the Bureau.  Given the potential stormy nature of the meeting, the Overstrand Municipality has appointed an independent advocate, Professor Henning Viljoen, to chair the meeting. 

As the honour of the Lerm family is under threat, one can expect some nasty politics ahead and at the meeting.  Earlier this week the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, Charl de Kock, who appears a mere puppet of said family, wrote a denigrating e-mail to his members as a first salvo of attack, headed “Information we think you should know”.  The three-page e-mail alleges:

   *   that some members were “lured to sign a ‘petition’ document whilst not having real facts”

   *   the agenda for the meeting on Monday is based on “one-sided defence and accusations

   *   some volunteers that have helped in the Tourism Bureau offices have sent tourists to their own establishments, proudly adding that members of the management committee “decided not to take any bookings since late last year”

   *   Ms Kreusch’s staff did not collect outstanding monies due to the Bureau by its members, allowed non-paid members to display brochures and to receive bookings, was the cause of ‘wasteful expenditure’ ‘in respect of cellphone contracts and telephone costs, and used the internet for private purposes ‘remotely’ after hours.  Ms Kreusch shared information from meetings with certain members (who were not on the committee).

   *  a member of the ‘petition committee’ intimidated the Bureau staff twice.  “The person is known to us and we will act in due course as it is the policy of Hermanus Tourism to protect personnel from intimidation”!

   *   allegations that the current committee had withheld information from its members, as claimed by the ‘petition committee’, are denied 

   *   the CCMA agreement, accepting responsibility on behalf of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau for unfair dismissal,  was signed by him as “I had compassion (for Ms Kreusch) and was lured into signing a document after being requested by Storm Kreusch to please just allow her to continue her life in this town”!

The e-mail ending stoops to a unprofessional and unprecedented low, and should be reason enough for the current committee to be dismissed by its members: “It is IMPORTANT TO NOTE that if you support the petition, you in fact support each and every action of mismanagement highlighted above and you will therefore be co-responsible for the current turmoil in Hermanus Tourism.  Support for the current committee means that you support the on-going efforts of myself as Chairperson and the current committee to make this one of the most effective tourism organisations in the country”!   The first sentence is libelous, strong words coming from a body that includes the litigious Lerms, who are the essence of the latest Noseweek article, while the second sentence is ludicrous in its claim of perfection!

Mary Faure, the spokesperson of the ‘petition committee’, has responded, by writing that the Special General Meeting has not been called about Ms Kreusch, but is about “several unconstitutional matters”, including mismanagement, lack of integrity, lack of transparency, holding members in contempt (libelous comments have been made on social media), and lack of information, and ‘misinformation’ to members.  One member has already lodged a complaint with the municipality, for the Hermanus Tourism Bureau e-mail implying that some of its members are responsible for ‘criminal activities’, and has asked the Chairman for a public apology.

A complaint about a disparaging comment from the Cape Whale Coast DMO, which was posted on our blog in response to our blogpost about Ms Keusch’s dismissal, was sent to DMO Chairman Clinton Lerm and remains unaddressed more than a month later!  He has delegated the communication with ourselves to his DMO Deputy Chairman, Daniel Acker, who ends every e-mail in legalese, possibly intended to intimidate the recipient: “All the rights of the author, Cape Whale Coast DMO, and its directors are and remain reserved herein. Any response given herein is thus done without prejudice of / to these said rights”.

A further manifestation of the continued serving of self-interest amongst directors of the Cape Whale Coast DMO and Hermanus Tourism Bureau was the invitation of a select number of Hermanus tourism operators, in addition to the DMO committee, to participate in the presentation of their products and services to a  30-strong delegation of travel agents and tour operators visiting Hermanus, a visit sponsored by SA Tourism and SATSA.  The communication was sent to select members by DMO director Joan-Anne Harris of Southern Stroll Marketing, mainly to her clients, it would appear.  The participants were invited ‘to showcase their product/s to the agents and you will be able to network with them and build relationships over the 2 days’, advantaging a select number of members at the cost of the majority who were not invited!  A Hermanus Times photograph of the event includes representatives of Schulphoek Guest House, Walker Bay Adventures, Cliff Lodge Guest House, African Horse Company, White Shark Projects, Misty Waves Hotel as some of the attendees from Hermanus.  The caption reads: “SA Tourism brought 30 tour operators to the Whale Coast this week to give local accommodation establishments, restaurants, tour operators and organisations offering various adventure activities the opportunity to showcase their products”.  It does not declare the elitist selection of participants.  One wonders how Lerm could have thought that including this item in his recent newsletter to members would make the excluded members warm to him and his DMO and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau!

A rare Cape Whale Coast newsletter was sent by Cape Whale Coast DMO Chairman Clinton Lerm two weeks ago, clearly to present a good image in anticipation of the meeting on Monday, and announced that a Special General Meeting of the DMO will be called to address the dual membership of the DMO and of the Tourism Bureaus in the area, which meeting will be held almost a year after Lerm promised it.  He quotes the ‘Municipal Financial Act’ as being the reason for the dual membership, but that is nonsense, as no other tourism bureau we belong to has such a dual membership system.  Lerm writes: ‘a more inclusive membership structure stands to be adopted‘.  Lerm highlighted the marketing activities of the DMO, clearly feeling the need to justify his organisation’s work, and included the launch of the Cape Whale Coast, the contentious Getaway article, coverage in Süedafrika magazine,  attending Indaba (sharing a stand with Southern Stroll Marketing and other DMO directors, another contentious action), a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the DMO and Cape Town Tourism (as a member of Cape Town Tourism we have not seen this communicated to members!), and the visit by the travel agents/tour operators (making it sound as if only the DMO committee members were invited), hardly much to shout home about.  Bravely Lerm has disclosed the hard-to-find-elsewhere names of the nineteen directors of the Cape Whale Coast, but seven of these are co-opted due to their positions as Overstrand Councillors or Tourism Bureau Managers.  Ms Harris is widely rumoured to be the first incumbent of the position of Manager of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, but that will be another story for another day!

POSTSCRIPT 16/7: The Hermanus Times of 14 July says that the events leading up to the meeting on Monday is “the worst tourism crisis ever for the tourism industry in the region, Hermanus Tourism (HT) has been thrown into turmoil”!   It adds that tension has been brewing for some time ‘within the organisation’

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

Getaway cannot get away with its errors on Cape Whale Coast Route!

In principle it sounded like a tourism marketer’s dream – a nine page editorial on the new Cape Whale Coast Route, and a front cover with a Southern Right whale and a headline “Cape Whale Coast 30 cool things to do”.  While all coverage is fantastic, it is a shame that the Cape Whale Coast DMO and Getaway magazine got it so badly wrong in many respects. 

The article commences with a route map of the newly created Cape Whale Coast, an excellent example of joint marketing of an 150 km area that spans Rooi Els to Gansbaai, and also includes Hermanus, Betty’s Bay, Kleinmond, Onrus, Stanford and Pringle Bay.  This delineation was created when the municipalities in the area were consolidated and the Overstrand municipality was created about three years ago.  Linked to this was the creation of a joint marketing body for the region, called the Cape Whale Coast Direct Marketing Organisation (DMO), with resultant politics that have been detrimental to the tourism industry in this region, with allegations of conflict of interests, and more. 

Another section of the article describes the annual trek of the Southern Right whales between the Antarctic and the Cape south coast, a journey of 10 – 20 days, as per research conducted by the Mammal Research Institute in Pretoria.  More information about the whales follows, and the guidelines about the distance to be kept from whales.  It is in the editorial content that Getaway journalist Fatima Jakoet makes a grave error, in writing that “The southern right whales stay in our waters for about four to five months (May to September)”.   Anyone who knows anything about whales will know that they stay in Hermanus until the beginning of December.  Ms Jakoet was unable to explain her error, inexcusable for a journalist working for South Africa’s top travel magazine, with a circulation of just under 50000, a readership of 614000, with 27000 Facebook fans and about 5000 Twitter followers.   The error could have a material effect on the business of the tourism and hospitality industry on the Cape Whale Coast, in a year that is seeing the worst ever occupancy and income.

Another section of the article is devoted to the Cape Whale Coast, and the annual Whale Festival (this year it runs from 30 September – 4 October).   For a second time, and on the same page, Ms Jakoet makes the error in writing that ‘the whale season usually lasts from May to September’.  Here a further faux pas occurs, in that she writes “so be prepared to pay a little more for accommodation during these months”,an absurd statement and clearly unresearched!  All accommodation establishments and restaurants are desperate for business, and reduce their rates and prices in the winter months of May – August, increase to Spring rates in September, and to summer rates from October onwards.  Once again, this is a material error which can severely affect the tourism industry on the Cape Whale Coast.  She adds insult to injury, by writing that one could struggle to find accommodation over the Whale Festival in Hermanus.  If this is not enough, Ms Jakoet recommends that one should not come to the Route during the Hermanus Whale Festival : “If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds, it’s best to steer clear of the route during this time”!

The article then offers two pages of accommodation, restaurant, and tourist attraction information on the Cape Whale Coast, and Ms Jakoet makes recommendations, and here the trouble really starts.  Her recommendations are no surprise, given what has been seen about the DMO Board members in the past, and include the following:

*   The Misty Waves Boutique Hotel is listed first in the Accommodation section.  The owners of the hotel are the Lerm family, son Clinton being the Chairman of the Cape Whale Coast DMO and Deputy Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau.  Mother Maxie is a Director of both the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and the Cape Whale Coast DMO, and a newly elected DA councillor. 

*   The only restaurant listed for Hermanus is Bientang’s Cave, which has a great location at the water’s edge, but is not the best restaurant in the village, and not the only one with a sea and whale view!  The owners of the restaurant are Clinton Lerm’s ex-in-laws.

*   Hermanus Beach Villa is owned by Charl de Kock, the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and he serves on the DMO.  On the day that the Cape Whale Coast Route was launched, Ms Jakoet requested accommodation in Hermanus, to give her more time to gather information for her article, and Joan-Anne Harris, DMO Director and Marketing Project Co-ordinator, organised the complimentary accommodation at this establishment, richly rewarded through coverage in the article.

*   Holidayscape lets self-catering accommodation, and is owned by Tom Prinsloo, a Director of the Cape Whale Coast DMO.

*  Hermanus Forest Adventures, a quad biking, treetop sliding and paintballing company, belongs to Clinton Lerm, Chairman of the DMO and Deputy Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau

*   Shark Diving Unlimited –  Marketing Manager Warren Hardenberg is a Director of the DMO

*   Percy Heywood of Percy Tours is mentioned in the article – he serves on the Board of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau

Glaring in its absence is the lack of reference to the Whale Crier, an icon associated with whale watching, and with Hermanus specifically.  Tour operators offering whale watching services, on land and by boat, are not mentioned.  It would appear that Ms Jakoet did not take the trouble to visit the Tourism Bureau in Hermanus for information, nor was she proactively provided information about the towns on the Cape Whale Coast by Ms Harris, the co-ordinator of the editorial coverage.  Hermanus’ unique point of difference, in offering the best land-based whale watching in the world, is not mentioned in the article!

The magazine cover ‘shouted’ ’30 cool things to do’ on the Cape Whale Coast Route, but one has to search for this in the feature, as it is not the headline of any sub-section.  If one counts the number of bold items listed under the half-page “What to do and see” section, one gets to 30, and it includes hiking, swimming, river rafting, tubing and mountainbiking in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, seeing penguins in Betty’s Bay, picnicing in the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, sandboarding on the Blesberg Dunes in Betty’s Bay, canoeing in Kleinmond, playing golf at Arabella, visiting Betty’s Bay chocolatier GaBoLi, winetasting in the Hemel en Aarde Valley, quadbiking, treetop siding and paintballing in Hermanus, hiking in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, kayaking in the harbour, visiting the Whale Museum and the Old Harbour Museums in Hermanus, playing golf at the Hermanus Golf Club, tasting wines on the Stanford Wine Route, river cruising and horse riding in Stanford, hiking and camping at Salmonsdam Nature Reserve, shark-cage diving in Gansbaai, taking a boat trip to Dyer Island, visiting Danger Point lighthouse, and hiking the Duiwelsgat trail.  No information is presented in the editorial about these activities, other than telephone numbers and website addresses.  Interestingly, the same list of 30 activities was the subject of an article by Ms Jakoet in the April issue of Getaway, entitled ’21 things to do on the Cape Whale Coast’ and qualified ‘besides whale watching’, ironic in reducing the importance of whale watching for the route named after the whales!

I called Ms Jakoet on Friday, and she admitted her errors immediately.  She said it was unusual that the article was not proofread by the DMO, their normal procedure.  It is surprising that Ms Harris did not chase Ms Jakoet for the article to proofread, before it went to print.  Ms Jakoet blames this oversight on Indaba, which took place at the beginning of May.  To make matters even worse, the internal Getaway proofreader is Margie (Snoek) Beves-Gibson, the sister of Ms Harris’ partner David Snoek!  Ms Jakoet assures me that Ms Snoek did proofread the article, yet she did not pick up the factual errors in its content.  Ms Jakoet had included the Whale Crier, but it was removed by her editor, in giving too much focus on Hermanus, she told me.  The errors will be fixed with an apology in the August issue of the magazine, and has already been corrected on-line.   We checked the on-line article, and the only correction that has been made is the whale-watching period.  No other factual errors highlighted in this blogpost have been corrected.  Ms Jakoet seemed to tap dance when I asked her on which basis she had made recommendations for the restaurants and accommodation establishments that she had included in the article.  She said that she had used her own experience of restaurants, guest houses and self-catering establishments in the area, as well as recommendations from her colleagues, to compile the list.  She gave contradictory answers as to whether she had paid to stay at the accommodation establishments listed.

Ms Harris has become extremely defensive, and hit the roof when she was told by Ms Jakoet that I had called.  She became heavy and threatening: “The Getwaway is a personal contact that I have developed over many years of ‘wining and dining’ and you have no authority or right to contact her…Your meddling could do this relationship a lot of damage as in future the Getaway may decide not to give us FREE EXPOSURE again, because of all the phone calls and hassles they will get!!!!… Please BACK OFF and stay out of my business and what I do as a volunteer”!  She added in a further e-mail: “I am upset because you contacted MY CONTACT.  You have no right to contact them. And as I mentioned this morning you have done MY RELATIONSHIP with them damage – so stay away from them!!!!”.   Ms Harris does not appear to understand that, in her position as a Director of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, she is accountable for her actions on behalf of the DMO. Naively she wrote to me: “NONE of the coverage that we received was paid for and thus we had no control over what they decided to print”,thereby absolving herself from any responsibility for the errors.  But she is not truthful in writing this, as Ms Jakoet told me that the DMO was meant to proofread the article, and that this had been discussed with Ms Harris.

A further bone of contention is the promotional offer, which will appear in the July issue of Getaway.  Once again, the page has been provided for free, but prizes to the total value of R 35000 had to be offered.  Ms Harris e-mailed tourism bureau members in the area, at short notice, to get them to participate in the give-away.  This promotion was handled by Kirsty of Ramsay Media, the publishers of Getaway, and she said that she was given the details about each participant by Ms Harris, and she was merely a ‘go-between’.  The contentious part was that Ms Harris only selected 4- and 5-star accommodation establishments to participate in the promotion opportunity, instead of all members.  Ms Harris explains her discrimination as follows: “Due to the haste of the ‘last minute’ request of prizes, I was requested to target 4 or 5 star establishments for the Getaway as they have LSM levels of 8 – 10, thus, a more affluent readership that would expect more luxurious accommodation.   The reality is that a wealthy family who fly down from Johannesburg for the weekend will not appreciate a 3 star establishment”.  Wow – quite a statement to make!  Ms Harris appears to not know the profile of the Getaway reader, certainly not being a luxury accommodation guest, but rather a self-drive value for money-seeking South African, probably more likely to be from the Western Cape. She also does not clarify who gave her the instruction about the star grading.

We call on the Cape Whale Coast DMO to appoint a more suitable person to handle the marketing of the Cape Whale Coast, given the poor handling by Ms Harris of this whale of a marketing opportunity for the Cape Whale Coast.  Miss Harris clearly is not suited to this portfolio, and by her own admission “is not a journalist or a wordsmith”. 

POSTSCRIPT 14/6: A recent report in the Hermanus Times highlighted the uniqueness of the Cape Whale Coast Route, in having “more plant species per square meter than anywhere else on the planet”, has three Blue Flag beaches, has one of only three African penguin colonies in Africa, has the best shark diving in the world, according to the Lonely Planet, award-winning wineries, a unique whale crier, and a wealth of whales.  None of these attributes of the Cape Whale Coast Route is reflected in the Getaway article.

Getaway, June 2011 issue.  R29,95. Ramsay Media. www.getaway.co.za   Twitter: @GetawayMagazine

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

Bellavista Country House Sweet and Cape Whale Coast DMO Sour Service Awards

The Sweet Service Award goes to Bellavista Country House and Panorama restaurant, located between Stanford and Gansbaai, and neighbouring Grootbos, a surprise oasis of 5-star accommodation luxury and excellent cuisine, owned by Swiss national Georg Schwegler, for inviting WhaleTales to experience the property.   Set high up against the Waterkop mountain, the property has a lovely view onto Walker Bay, and the fynbos of the farm below.   The popular Panorama restaurant, visited by guests from Hermanus and Gansbaai, has a fine-dining menu which is reasonably priced and the food was excellent.   The restaurant is run by two chefs who previously worked at Allee Bleue in Franschhoek, and the service was professional and reactive, if a little withdrawn, whilst the wine list is extensive, with two wine list choices – top-end wines and more affordable wines. 

The Sour Service Award goes to the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation, for reacting to its Sour Award of 28 December by sending a lawyer’s letter stating that “not only is the content of your publication concerning our client plainly untrue, but also slanderous.   You published these statements with the obvious and clear intentions to defame our client, and bring our client’s work, standing, good name and reputation into disrepute”.  The letter demanded “an unequivocal apology in respect of all untrue and defamatory matter concerning our client.  In such written apology, you are to acknowledge the untruthfulness of your earlier statements, withdraw all imputations made, and express your regret that they were ever made”.  The writer gave 7 days for this demand to be implemented (but sent the letter to the wrong address, so it was only received 10 days later), failing which the DMO threatened to issue a summons for damages and apply for an interdict!   Nowhere in the lawyer’s letter did it state which parts of the long article it deemed to be “untrue” or “defamatory”.  WhaleTales has been around the block long enough, and has written for the media, and knows what can/may be said.  Information sources were the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, an e-mail sent to all members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, the DMO constitution, and the DMO website itself.   The blog post that the DMO is contesting can be read here.   The DMO seems to be short of funds, yet seems to deem it important to waste its money on a threatened court case with no foundation, and does not appear to value the country’s Constitutional freedom of speech!

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.