Tag Archives: Cape Whale Coast

Hermanus with Cape Whale Coast named UNESCO City of Gastronomy, the first in Africa!

 

Hermanus, and neighbouring towns in the Cape Whale Coast region, has recently been named the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) City of Gastronomy, in a bid led by Darryl David, surprisingly from KwaZulu-Natal. Hermanus takes its place alongside top international cities of Gastronomy, such as Parma, Italy; San Antonio in the USA; Phuket, Thailand; and Bergen, Norway.

 

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Bob Skinstad new Tourism Ambassador for Overstrand, first for Western Cape!

Bob Skinstad - Overstrand tourism ambassadorFor the first time in the Western Cape a Tourism Ambassador has been appointed.  Bob Skinstad, South African rugby hero and commentator, is the new Tourism Ambassador for the Overstrand, encompassing the municipal region stretching from Kleinmond-Hangklip to Gansbaai, via Hermanus and Stanford.  The area is also known as the Cape Whale Coast.

The concept of a Tourism Ambassador was the idea of Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten, who felt that Bob’s interaction with top rugby fans locally, as well as internationally would stand the Overstrand region in good stead if it was recommended by him as a holiday destination on his travels.  Bob grew up in ‘Southern Rhodesia‘, but loved coming on holidays to Hermanus with his parents, and they now live in the seaside town (with his parents-in-law too), giving Bob’s endorsement even greater credibility.  A Memorandum of Agreement has been signed for 12 months between Bob and the Overstrand municipality, confirming which services he will render, and how many packages of products from the area he can use for marketing purposes.   He wants the region to become more Social Media savvy, and recommended ‘We Chat’ as a huge free Continue reading →

WOSA’s world-wide wine week at CapeWine 2012 and Vindaba benefits Cape Town!

The world’s leading winelovers, wine experts, wine traders, sommeliers, and wine journalists have started arriving in Cape Town for the three day Cape Wine 2012, being held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from tomorrow until Thursday, and Vindaba running alongside it.

More than 5000 wines from 300 wine estates are on show at CapeWine 2012, and more than 30 international wine journalists are expected to attend, having a tourism benefit for Cape Town and the Western Cape.  Delegates are attending from Europe, the UK, the USA, other African countries, South America, China, and Japan.  For the first time SA Tourism, in conjunction with WOSA (Wines of South Africa), have organised Vindaba, an exhibition of wine tourism products in the Western Cape.

CapeWine 2012 is held every two years, but was not held in 2010 due to the soccer World Cup, and is one of the largest marketing events organised by WOSA.  For the first time WOSA has gone green to reflect ‘the South African wine industry’s environmental consciousness’.  This includes booking guests into hotels within walking distance of the convention centre; only recycled paper will be used for printing, if printing is required at all; the stands are made from recycled boards; most stands will not use electricity, but rather LED lighting; all bottles, corks, and screw caps will be recycled; no bottled water will be available;  cork supplier Amorim will create a lounge made from recycled cork; media information will be made available in bamboo memory sticks; VIP bags have been made from recycled advertising banners; lanyards have been made from ‘sunbaked paper’; all fish served at the Green Tie event will be SASSI certified, and all eats will be made from local produce; the ‘green ties’ which allow entry to the event have been made from discarded plastic; solar lighting will be used for the Green Tie event; furniture for the Green Tie party has been made from recycled wooden pallets, and will be donated to a crèche afterwards; the plates at the Green Tie party are those from CapeWine 2008, and the cutlery is made from bamboo.

CapeWine 2012 will reflect the development of our local wine industry in wine growing, wine making, and wine marketing since South African wines were opened to international trade almost 20 years ago.  Tastings, seminars, workshops, and a Producer’s Soapbox will focus on changes in wine styles, reaction to climate change, the management of scarce natural resources, and the protection of old vines.

Su Birch, CEO of WOSA, said that interest in CapeWine 2012 was growing, as ‘South Africa has distinguished itself both in terms of quality and pioneering programmes to promote eco-sustainability. This has earned global recognition for the country on both fronts, from the market and environmentalists, particularly in recent years’. Mrs Birch added that CapeWIne has a solid reputation as a trade exhibition.

The organisation of the first ever Vindaba has been driven by SA Tourism, having sponsored the exhibition, and is project managed by Susannah Holz.  SA Tourism has identified that wine tourism is ‘one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative sectors of the global tourism market‘, says Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism.  Wine tourism can make an important contribution to the country’s economy, the Minister said.  International as well as local media focusing on wine, travel and lifestyle are expected to attend.  The objective is to increase the income of wine tourism, only $41 per capita in our Winelands, compared to $188 in Napa Valley in the USA.  Seminars at Vindaba will focus on gastro-tourism, and tailor-made wine tours to the 17 wine routes in the Western Cape will expose the international visitors to the diversity and quality of their offerings.  The eco-friendly green focus of the Vindaba exhibition reflects that of CapeWine 2012.  The Vindaba exhibition organisation has not been without controversy, SA Tourism having been blamed for not being proactive enough in spreading international media across the different wine routes, having instead allowed them to choose where they want to visit, meaning that the majority have opted for Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.  Lesser-known wine routes, such as those in Paarl and Wellington,  will therefore remain exactly that!

Tonight WOSA is hosting a ‘Green Tie Event‘ for the opening of CapeWine 2012, and even this function is going green, in that invitees have been asked to park at the Cullinan Hotel, and will be bused in collectively or will be guided by a ‘Green Guide’ in walking to the function venue in the V&A Waterfront.  The evening promises a ‘sampling of our finest wines, paired with the freshest and most delicious local cuisine, and accompanied by a showcase of local music, song and dance‘.  The wine week will be concluded with the prestigious Nederburg Auction, which takes place on the Paarl wine estate on Saturday.

CapeWine 2012: 25 – 27 September, 10h00 – 17h00, Cape Town International Convention Centre. www.capewine2012.co.za

Vindaba: 24 – 27 September, 10h00 – 17h00, Cape Town International Convention Centre. www.vindaba.com

POSTSCRIPT 24/9: This evening about 720 guests, of which about 50% were international wine writers, sommeliers, wine buyers, and wine trade, attended the ‘Green Tie Event’ for the opening of CapeWine 2012. Initially one heard more ‘American’ than local English spoken!   The Who’s Who of the wine industry attended. Met German wine writers Mario Scheuermann (a Facebook friend) and Eckhard Supp, and Mike Veseth, the guest speaker at the Nederburg Auction on Saturday.  Neil Pendock, who received a late invitation from WOSA to attend the event, was the most spruced up we have seen in years, having had a hair cut today in honour of the event, it would seem!  The green theme of CapeWine 2012 was carried through in the event, with lighting made from recycled milk cartons. Excellent wines were served.   Even the food was ‘green’ and locally sourced.  The salmon cream on cucumber canapes were excellent.  The calibre and quantity of international wine visitors in Cape Town and the Winelands is an exceptional wine tourism marketing opportunity for our country.

POSTSCRIPT 26/9:  Yesterday I visited CapeWine 2012, and was impressed with the best looking exhibition in the Cape Town International Convention Centre. More than 300 wine estates have pulled out all the stops to package and present their wines to the top level local and international attendees.  The highlight was tasting a preview of the new Delaire Graff Laurence Graff Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, not yet labelled, an icon wine made in honour of the owner of the wine estate, its GM Johann Laubser said.  It will be the first South African wine to sell at $200 a bottle.

The Botanica Wines’ label design, reflecting the brand name, impressed once again, and the Chenin Blanc is likely to do well at Platter this year, its owner-winemaker Ginny Povall hinted.  The label designs come from botanical drawings by Mary Delany, seen by Ginny at the Yale Centre for British Art.  One of the largest stands was that for Fairview, which focused attention on its Fairview, La Capra, Goats do Roam, and Spice Route labels, as well as on its Fairtrade connection.

POSTSCRIPT 26/9: Vindaba, the first wine tourism showcase, is very disappointing, not having any of the design quality or professional look of CapeWine 2012, with few visitors.  Its location in an open space at which the banqueting is normally done is not ideal.  The Wine Routes are not collectively branded, and it is not clear as to where they start and end.  Some of the Wine Routes had individual products alongside them too. All are manned by very friendly staff, and include Wellington Tourism, the KWV Sensorium (a first in pairing art works with wines), Franschhoek Tourism, Spier, Elegantly Elgin, Mellesat (in Paarl, now famous due to the write up by Neil Pendock in the Sunday Times on Sunday), Neil Grant representing the South African Sommeliers Association and manning a stand of white blends, the Cape Whale Coast sharing with Hermanus Wines, Grande Roche, Durbanville Wine Valley, Cape Town Tourism, Solms-Delta, Laborie, and more. Creation was running the Cape Whale Coast/Hermanus Wines stand, but this is rotated over the three day exhibition.  By yesterday afternoon the Cape Town Tourism brochure bags had already run out, and no attempt had been made to supplement them.

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

Whale of a Two Oceans Hermanus Whale Festival pairs foods and wines

For the 20th year the Two Oceans Hermanus Whale Festival will be paying tribute to the Southern Right whales, who visit Walker Bay in Hermanus from May – December to mate and give birth, giving Hermanus the enviable reputation of offering the best land-based whale watching in the world.  Food and wine pairing forms a strong foundation of the Festival this year, sponsored by Two Oceans for the first time, the brand also supporting the SASSI (Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) responsible eating of fish.

Billed as an ‘enviro-arts’ festival, the Two Oceans Whale Festival starts tomorrow and runs until Tuesday 4 October. On the environmental side, the focus will be educational, incorporating whales, sharks, dolphins, penguins and seals, the ‘Big 5′ for the Cape Whale Coast.  A strong focus is on education for children.  Saving the endangered rhinos has been incorporated into the Festival too.

On the arts side, the Festival is mainly music-focused, with concerts by well-known performers such as Chris Chameleon, Dr Victor and the Rasta Rebels, Steve Hofmeyer, and Prime Circle spread over six music venues. Many concerts are free of charge.  A Classical concert by the Odeion Quartet takes place at Bouchard Finlayson in the Hemel en Aarde Valley on Friday evening, while the Fidelio Trio will perform in the Municipal Auditorium on Saturday evening.  A Quilters’ exhibition can be viewed at the Dutch Reformed Church, and there is a craft marquee too.   In addition, a vintage car show, a Mardi Gras, as well as a number of sport activities such as a mountain bike race, a half marathon, and a Harbour to Harbour swim will take place.  The sport events run from 4 – 9 October.  Kfm will be broadcasting live from Hermanus.

It is the food and wine pairing that is of particular interest, and has far more focus than in past years.  At the Two Oceans Food Court at Market Square, a number of food vendors will focus on seafood, and other marine-themed and speciality dishes. In addition, local produce, artisanal cheeses, bakery items, charcuterie, as well as chocolates will be available to taste and buy.  Two Oceans’ wines will be sold at R45 a bottle. Giggling Gourmet Jenny Morris, entertainer and Checkers cheese spokesperson Nataniel, and actresses Shaleen Surtie-Richards and Brumilda van Rensburg will be doing cooking demonstrations, and allowing visitors to taste their food as well as wine for free at the Checkers’ Living Table, at different time slots.  A new Mountie Fisherman’s Market will be held in Mount Pleasant, offering fresh fish, snoek, fishcakes, and Cape Malay delicacies for sale. Throughout September twenty members of the Hermanus Restaurant Owners’ Forum, under the chairmanship of restaurateur Fabio Lenci, have been offering a special on Two Ocean’s wines, at R55 per bottle and R15 per glass, and this will continue throughout the Festival. Each of the participants will offer a combination food item with a bottle of Two Oceans’ wine at a special price.

Festival visitors are advised to leave home early, and to expect a traffic build-up coming into Hermanus. Last year 133000 whale lovers visited Hermanus, and this year 150000 are expected to attend the Whale Festival. Tomorrow Tourism Month will be officially concluded with the opening of the Two Oceans Hermanus Whale Festival by Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, with Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde also attending.  The Whale Festival, and the Southern Right whales with it, have received fantastic coverage, on the front page of the Sunday Times last week, and daily on Kfm this week.   SABC2 is broadcasting about Hermanus and the Whale Festival from 6h00 – 8h00 tomorrow morning, and its camera crews have been in Hermanus, filming the beautiful assets of the region, including whales and the Hermanus Wine Route, for most of September.

Two Oceans Hermanus Whale Festival, 30 September – 4 October.  Tel (028) 313-0928.  www.whalefestival.co.za. Music tickets can be booked via www.computicket.com

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

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

Whale of a tourism Storm brewing in Hermanus!

I could not believe what I was told about the storm which is brewing in Hermanus tourism circles about the unfair dismissal of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau Manager Storm Kreusch about two months ago, and how this has become a political issue, given the municipal elections on 18 May.

The first I had heard was an e-mail sent to members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, stating that one should not believe everything one had heard about the dismissal, and that more information would be supplied.  In heavy legalese its Chairman Charl de Kock wrote the following under his first name only:  “We have become aware that certain unfounded & unsubstantiated rumours and slanderous information may have been initiated & circulated, as if they were facts, by members and non-members alike; following the Conciliation meeting with Ms G D (“Storm”) Kreusch, on 05 May 2011.  Kindly be advised that certain matters & issues, arising from the dismissal of Ms Kreusch, remain unfinalised, and that we shall issue an official statement in this regards (sic) as soon as the matter has, in fact, been finalized. We therefore call on Members of Hermanus Tourism to be patient, in the meantime, until the real and accurate facts have, in fact, been published. Lastly, we place on record that the contents of certain malicious and unfounded correspondences have been noted, and that we reserve the right to respond thereto / comment in full thereon, at a later stage, and in the proper forum. Note that all the rights of the Author hereof, Hermanus Tourism Bureau and any of its Directors are, and remain, fully reserved herein. Any response given in the content of this correspondence shall therefore be deemed to have been given without prejudice of any of the said rights”.

To date such information has not been sent to members, but immediately the rumour machine in Hermanus got going, and of course it has created a huge intrigue in this whale village. 

I was interested in the story from one perspective, and that is that the Lerm family appears to be in the midst of this controversy.   I have written about them before  on this blog, and we face a R1,3 million defamation claim from them as a result!   It is no surprise that Hermanus will soon be renamed Lermanus, it is said as a joke, if Maxie Lerm (second left, schmoozing the previous mayor Theo Beyleveldt) wins the election on behalf of the Democratic Alliance in Ward 3 in the Overstrand municipality.  Her son Clinton (second from right) already is Chairman of the Destination Marketing Organisation and Vice Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and both mother and son serve on the Executive Committees of both these bodies, mother Maxie Lerm handles the Public Relations portfolio for the Destination Marketing organisation.  

Someone who thinks that Maxie Lerm won’t win is John Williams, the Chairman of Cope, who is based in Stanford, in ward 11 of the Overstrand.  He has observed what the Lerm family is doing to tourism, and how the family, which owns the Misty Waves Hotel, has used its influence and positions to benefit its own business, directly and indirectly.  Father Henri Lerm (right) and his son Clinton have created a new Hermanus Sakekamer/Chamber of Commerce.  The Hermanus Tourism Bureau recently became a member of the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut Employers’ Organisation, making some Hermanus tourism players suspect that the Lerms want to amalgamate the business and tourism interests in the town, as they have attempted before, so that this time the amalgamated body will fall under their power and control.  Mother Maxie’s success in the municipal election would be the crowning glory to this scenario, controlling the tourism interests of the Overstrand Municipality, the Destination Marketing Organisation, and of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau!  Williams does not mince his words about his political opponent, and he says Mother Maxie is allegedly ‘loathed and despised’ in the region.  Williams has been involved in tourism, and wants to head up the Overstrand municipal tourism portfolio.

The outcome of a conciliatory meeting, called by the Commissioner of the CCMA, was settlement in favour of the Manager of the Tourism Bureau, whereby the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, under the chairmanship of Charl de Kock and mandated by his committee, admitted to a faulty procedure and unfair action in the dismissal process, and agreed to pay her a monetary settlement in full and final settlement of her case of appeal.  Clinton Lerm allegedly stated in a meeting held at the Tourism Bureau that he, as Vice Chairman, would resign should they have been found to not have followed the correct procedure with her dismissal, and he believed that the rest of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau committee should follow suit, but this resignation has not yet been forthcoming.  

The members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau are furious about the suspension of their manager, who was dedicated to tourism for over five years.  A number of the members of the management committee of the Bureau have resigned in the past few months, given the treatment of the Manager by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman.  

Further anger stems from a proposed Memorandum of Agreement which the Destination Marketing Organisation is requesting the tourism bureaus in the Overstrand municipal area to sign.   Disputed is the inclusion of a proposed clause accepting that the Destination Marketing Organisation will hire and fire staff of all the Tourism Bureaus under the Overstrand municipal control.  Also, a promise in September last year by the Destination Marketing Organisation, after a previous furore about the organisation, that members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and those of the Cape Whale Coast would automatically become members of the Destination Marketing Organisation without paying extra membership fees, has not yet been honoured.  It appears that in the past seven months the Destination Marketing Organisation has not yet called a General Meeting to obtain member approval for this constitutional change regarding membership.  

Concentration of power, by a family having a strong private and commercial interest in tourism, is dangerous for any town, and should be stopped in Hermanus at all costs.  What we said almost 18 months ago, more and more Hermanus tourism players are now seeing, and they appear to have reached the end of their tolerance of this blatant abuse of power.

POSTSCRIPT 11/5:  I have been informed that there was similar politicking in Bloemfontein, where the Lerms previously lived, and Maxie Lerm stood for the ANC, amongst others.  They appeared to change their political allegiance regularly.  

POSTSCRIPT 11/5:  It has been discovered that a number of Directors of the Destination Marketing Organisation had their personal businesses represented on the Cape Whale Coast stand at Indaba over the past weekend, including Southern Stroll Marketing and Shark Diving Unlimited.   It is alleged that members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and other tourism bureaux in the Overstrand Were not offered an opportunity to participate in this stand. 

POSTSCRIPT 15/5: The following serves as further input to the above debate, written by John Williams on his blog “Truth about Hermanus“:

The ‘Wonders that never cease’ on the Cape Whale Route are the damaging shenanigans that continue to rock the foundations of the organisation mandated to market this outstanding destination (Hermanus and the Overstrand coastal region) commonly known as the Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau (HTB).

Stormy seas ahead for the Lerm’s!

’The DMO has, in my opinion, made a right mess of things for the tourism industry. They have wasted our money and they have, as far as I can see, only one ambition – and that is to turn Hermanus into the glitziest, cheapest, nastiest destination in the Cape’. ..a comment made recently by a leading tourism personality in Hermanus.

If you didn’t know, Storm Kreusch, manager of Hermanus Tourism Bureau was unfairly suspended and was then subsequently “dismissed” after she has resigned! by the Hermanus Tourism Bureau of which Clinton Lerm (DMO chairman) is vice Chairman (Clinton, having stepped down to position of vice chair of HTB, earlier this year when it became obvious that a conflict of interest was present between his governance of both bodies) Ms Kreusch went to the CCMA and apparently after a conciliation meeting came out as the victor and was awarded compensation!

A very well done Storm! The whole town supports you (except the Lerm family) but now here is the nub. At a volunteer’s meeting at the HTB,Clinton had said that he would resign from the HTB Committee and believes that the rest of the Committee should also resign – (his mother serves on that committee as well as the DMO) should it be proven that the incorrect procedure was followed regarding Storm’s suspension. Rumour has it that Maxie Lerm has already or will now resign due, not to this statement by her son, but due to her DA candidature. Will it be from both HTB and DMO committees we wonder.

So, indeed, we are now waiting for the re-election of the HTB and the DMO committee’s, at a special meeting which will need to be called as soon as possible! 

Background to the formation of the DMO in 2007/8. This marketing body was put in place to, among other duties (and not necessarily in order) to undertake as follows:

1. Advertise the Cape Whale Coast generically in whatever media possible; 

2. Administer the grant from the Overstrand Municipality (OM) and any funds generated to the local Whale Coast Tourism Bureau’s via the management committee of each bureau, thereby maintaining (not managing) effective tourism bureaus; 

3. Be nominated and be represented on the management committees of the various Bureau’s.

N.B. All businesses who paid rates and taxes/previous business levy/ were eligible to be members of the DMO (2007/8 constitution

Background to the DMO the HTB feud over membership and Info Kiosk

The Hermanus Tourism Bureau had been lobbying for at least 5 years to have a satellite information kiosk on the seafront. This kiosk would also act as a shelter for the Whale crier during the rainy months. The Kiosk was granted to HTB by Mayor Beyleveldt in Sept 2009 at the AGM. In Dec 2009 the DMO hi jacked the kiosk from HTB, for DMO use and membership, thus generating income for the DMO. At this stage Clinton Lerm and his mother Maxie Lerm were serving on both committees and Clinton was Chairman of both. There was an outcry by many members regarding the loss of the kiosk. Most members showed a lethargy regarding the kiosk as they felt it was a battle HTB would never win against the DMO. (little did they realize the tide inevitably changes)

Clinton Lerm seemingly resigned as Chairman of HTB, when it was evident that there was a conflict of interest being chairman of both committees and that DMO had used their powers to “take” the kiosk. A very heated HTB AGM in Sept 2010 ensued and it was agreed that DMO was to return the Kiosk to HTB as soon as possible.

A formal announcement was then made in the Hermanus Times, by means of a letter from DMO, written by Lerm, that the DMO was to hand over the Kiosk, back to HTB in due course.

But what then followed was an extended idiotic squabble – all in very poor taste (astoundingly small minded and uncharitable behaviour by the DMO) when they continued to trade the Kiosk through the peak season and according to Lerm the criteria for membership of DMO had changed, constitutionally.

It became evident to the whole Whale Coast that the kiosk was only going to serve a “select few” – The DMO had pronounced that in order to get bookings via the Kiosk, HTB members now had to join and pay for membership to the DMO. In a nutshell – two memberships to partake in two “official” municipally funded Information Offices. One office trading on the doorstep of the other.

Progress to resolve conflict between DMO and HTB

It must now be understood that Clinton Lerm had promised in September 2010 in the same article in the HermanusTimes to take the issue of membership of the DMO to his committee and get the membership criteria changed to include all TB members of the Whale Coast. Apparently council had approved this change. It is now mid May 2011 and the membership issue has not yet been put in place. He once again made mention earlier this year that a special general meeting was to be called possibly in April to put the matter right and get approval from his small database of DMO members to change the constitution before taking on the Tourism Bureau members of the Whale Coast. Nothing has been affected to date!

The Kiosk was returned to the HTB during March/April and the HTB has been crisis managed by the committee ever since Ms Kreusch’s resignation, much to the member’s disgust.

There’s talk the Lerm clan is under siege and will finally realise that ‘vested interest’ actually disqualifies them from holding multiple posts in these tourism and marketing organisations.TheIr track record proves this to be the case (see below for some ‘hand to hand’ combat with the accommodation industry.” 

POSTSCRIPT 18/5: Today the Hermanus Tourism Bureau Chairman Charl de Kock has sent an e-mail regarding the ‘Storm”-saga, and has stated that they have received a written apology – Joan-Anne Harris has demanded one from ourselves (see Comments to this blogpost), but we have not sent one.  The final laugh is that Charl encourages members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau to vote today – we all know that Maxie Lerm is the DA candidate for Ward 3 in the Overstrand, and her connection to the tourism bodies in Hermanus is documented above!  The e-mail is not correct in stating that the CCMA process has not been concluded.  The Hermanus Tourism Bureau representatives signed a document that admits that their dismissal process was ‘fatally flawed’ and that the dismissal procedure was ‘unfair’.  They have reneged on the payment of the R 10000 settlement to Storm Kreusch by the agreed deadline of 12 May 2011.

“Dear Hermanus Tourism Members

We can understand the concerns expressed by members as to what has been happening lately with regards to Storm. 

 A word of thanks to everyone who has indicated that they trust the HT Committee to handle the process correctly and fairly – and allow it to run its course. We would appreciate it if NO ONE will draw conclusions or spread unfounded rumours as it is (sic) only to the detriment of our town.

 Please note that the CCMA case re the Hermanus Tourism Manager is still in process!

As soon as the verdict is confirmed and the case is concluded we will inform all our HT members of the outcome.

The HT Committee has tried to halt the unfounded rumours; however the ongoing personal slander and unsubstantiated accusations continue and have even resulted in a written apology.

Please let us all work together towards a better future for the hospitality industry of this town and assist the committee and personnel in delivering the service excellence that they have aiming for.

The Hermanus Tourism personnel are currently visiting accommodation establishments to get to know your property and everything that you have to offer your guests. This is the first step in the Product Knowledge training that we are implementing to ensure they can market our beautiful area and superb products / companies. 

Yours in tourism:

Charl de Kock and the Hermanus Tourism Committee       

 

POSTSCRIPT 23/5:I have received a copy of the CCMA Settlement Agreement signed between Storm Kreusch and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau representative Charl de Kock, in which R10000 was due to have been paid into Ms Kreusch’s bank account by 12 May.  In an unusual addition, but probably requested by Ms Kreusch’s attorney, the following was added under “Other”: “The employer admits that the process resulting in the dismissal of the employee was fatally flawed and that her dismissal was consequently procedurally unfair.  This agreement settles all or any dispute that had or may arise from the employment relationship between the parties”. 

POSTSCRIPT 30/5:  The Hermanus Tourism members were excited to see the new June issue of Getaway, which has a nine-page spread on its village.  This quickly changed to shock when they saw that the editorial content, guided by the Cape Whale Coast DMO, contained the following errors:

*   The Whale Season is stated as being from May to September, when it fact it stretches until the beginning of December 

*   The article also recommends that visitors to the Cape Whale Coast route that hate crowds should rather stay away – the only crowded period is during the Hermanus Whale Festival, falling around the 24 September public holiday.  Many other options are offered in the other villages along the Cape Whale Coast route, but these are not mentioned.

*   The article says that visitors to the Cape Whale Coast Route should expect to pay more during the whale watching period – this is utter nonsense, as rates are set by season and not be whale activity.  Most guest houses and restaurants have good winter offers until August, then have a spring rate in September, and charge summer rates from October.  Due to supply and demand, the Whale Festival weekend period may have higher rates for the 3 – 4 day duration.

*   Only 4- and 5-star accommodation was allowed to participate in a promotion in July, according to the rules of the Marketing Project co-ordinator of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, Joan-Anne Harris.  Tourism Bureau members were given very short notice to participate in the advertising. 

*   The article does not contain a pay-off line for Hermanus or the Cape Whale Coast (“Best land-based whale watching in the world”).  The editorial does not refer to the Whale Crier, the unique icon for Hermanus.  No Cape Whale Coast branding is visible. 

*   The article contains a number of typing errors relating to e-mail and website addresses, and it would appear that no DMO representative (Joan-Anne Harris of Southern Stroll Marketing is the DMO Marketing co-ordinator) proofread the article. 

Getaway has been contacted by some members, and it appears that no proofreading of the article was done by the DMO nor by the magazine (one wonders who supplied the information to journalist Fatima Jakoet, for it to contain so many errors)! Getaway has promised a correction in its August issue. 

POSTSCRIPT 5/6: The CCMA Settlement Agreement was ‘cancelled’ by Dan Acker, of Holwill Bosman Acker & Associates, writing on behalf of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and a Director of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, on 6 May: “our client shall, with immediate effect, withdraw completely from the said ‘settlement agreement’ and shall hereafter deem said agreement to be null and void”,supposedly justifying why they did not pay Ms Kreusch the settlement of R10000 by the agreed date of 12 May.  This bullying ‘cancellation’ is motivated by a number of points, including that Ms Kreusch ‘breached the clearly expressed confidentiality, purpose and spirit of the said Conciliation discussions and subsequent agreement’ . We have seen the CCMA Settlement Agreement, and it does not contain any confidentiality clause by which the Hermanus Tourism Bureau can give itself the power to cancel the Settlement Agreement!

POSTSCRIPT 8/6: Charl de Kock, Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, wrote a rather strange letter to members of a “Petition Group”, who had signed a petition calling for a Special General Meeting, yesterday afternoon, just before this Group was due to meet.  He reinforces that he acted correctly in respect of Ms Kreusch’s disciplinary hearing, subsequent termination, and CCMA hearing, and blatantly accuses her of deceit: “It is now common knowledge that I was ‘conned’ and that Storm, her lawyer end (sic)Storm’s possible financial backers had no intention of keeping this document (the CCMA Settlement Agreement) confidential. I really believed I was signing an honourable agreement and that Storm wanted ‘to get on with her life’!  He does invite all members of the Group to view the documents, and does agree that the Mayor should ‘call for an impartial meeting where all the facts can be addressed and laid bare for all to see’.   

POSTSCRIPT 8/6:A Top Billing feature on Hermanus appears to include more DMO Director properties.  Once we have seen the detail, we will add it.

POSTSCRIPT 9/6:  At a DA Ward 3 Councillor’s meeting held without announcement to the Ward constituency last night, headed by new DA councillor Maxie Lerm, her husband Henri Lerm and DMO Board member Dan Acker were elected onto the Ward committee, the two ‘gentlemen’ nominating each other!

POSTSCRIPT 10/6: A highly defamatory Comment was sent by the Cape Whale Coast DMO to this blog, in reaction to this blogpost, as well as to our radio interview on Whale Coast FM earlier today.   Clinton Lerm, the Chairman of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, was invited to be interviewed, but refused to participate if he was on the same program as ourselves, based on legal advice.  Hermanus Tourism Bureau Chairman Charl de Kock did participate.  Joan-Anne Harris, a Director of the DMO, tried a number of times to get the topic of the radio programme stopped earlier this week.  We will not yet publish the defamatory comment, and will use it for possible legal action.

POSTSCRIPT 16/6: We believe that it is in the interest of transparency that the Cape Whale Coast Comment sent to this blog be published.  We have been challenged to do so by Joan-Anne Harris’ partner David Snoek :

anonymous
info@whalecoast.info | 198.54.202.210

I think you will all find that HTB is running smoothly, receiving positive feedback from Tourists, and NOT FIGHTING AMONGST EACH OTHER. Chris, however, feels the need to fight with everyone she comes into contact with! Why is this? Is she unhappy? – Or does she fancy herself as a bit of a ‘celebrity’ with all the comments on her blogs? I cannot see that she is any kind of ambassadeur (sic) for Hermanus, what with the amount of bad publicity she attracts. I say out with her! She’s a stirrer, a trouble-maker and horrible person!

POSTSCRIPT 30 June: Noseweek  was alerted to this blogpost, and its July issue contains an excellent article about the Lerm family, and its litigious approach to dealing with criticism!

POSTSCRIPT 10/8: We received the following apology from Fabio Lenci, Vice-Chairman of the new Hermanus Tourism Bureau committee, about the insulting blogpost which came from the now-defunct DMO : “The following is written on behalf of Hermanus Tourism of which we have all agreed and I have been mandated as vice chairperson by the new committee to send you a letter of apology.  Please note that we have exhausted every avenue and to confirm that we cannot trace the individual who used the terminal as it could have been anyone. It is with regret that I have to write you this letter of apology on behalf of the previous dispensation and also the new dispensation would like to extend their sincere apologies for the undesirable comments made on your blog dated May 2011.  We wish to inform you that we have begun with various encouraging motions in the right direction to get HTB and all its members on track in a positive frame of mind and rest assured that we have the backing of the whole of Hermanus. We look forward to a prosperous future with all the positive support while achieving our goals one at a time for the good of Hermanus & all its citizens”.

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

South Africa has become ‘high price, low value’ tourist destination!

The annual Tourism Destination Conference, organised by Cape Town Routes Unlimited on behalf of the Western Cape Department of Tourism, on “Elevating our Destination’s Global Profile”, was held in the Waterfront yesterday, and had a sobering message for tourism players – South Africa, and the Cape with it, has become too expensive!   Tourism players were encouraged to relook their rates, and contain their costs, to see how they can offer better value.  Ironically the theme of the Conference focused on global marketing, but more than one speaker encouraged the industry to invest in domestic marketing, rather than international marketing, even at provincial level. 

The Conference was intended to provide “a platform for the tourism industry to engage on relevant topics that could enhance our destination’s competitve advantage to contribute towords industry growth”, Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan  Winde said ahead of the Conference.  Cape Town Routes Unlimited CEO Calvyn Gilfellan added that “Platforms such as the Cape Town and Western Cape Destination Conference are critical to ensuring that everyone in the industry is working towards a common goal: the enhancement of the Western Cape tourism industry”.

Western Cape Minister  Winde said pertinently that Cape Town is not cheap, and despite the oversupply of accommodation, the resultant effect of the law of demand and supply in leading to lower rates is not evident in the Cape.  He said that a comparative study of hotel prices locally and internationally will be conducted by FEDHASA, the hotel association.  Winde said that the focus of his department’s marketing is to increase the market share of the Western Cape, which has been overshadowed by KwaZulu-Natal.  Africa as a source continent is vital for Cape Town, but there are no direct flights between Cape Town and major African cities, all African tourists having to fly via Johannesburg.  Asked how a region like the Garden Route, which is suffering extremely low tourism numbers, can improve its performance, the Minister encouraged players in regions to work together, to attract tourists, Cape Town residents in particular.  He mentioned the example of Knysna and Franschhoek, who are ‘tourism twined’ now, and are going on marketing trips to Gauteng and to the USA, to benefit both towns.  The recently created Cape Country Meander passes on its visitors to the next towns, and includes Elgin/Grabouw, Bot River, Caledon, Villiersdorp, and Greyton.  The recently signposted Cape Whale Coast route shows how tourism players can work together to share more broadly their tourism success.   Minister Winde said that many players in tourism are insular, and think they are ‘the centre of the universe’.  To meet President Zuma’s goal of 5 million jobs to be created by 2015, the tourism sector would have to grow four to five times.  But he said the responsibility cannot be placed on corporates alone to achieve this goal, and that small and medium sized businesses must show growth, to achieve growth in employment.

National Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, encouraged the tourism players to evaluate what Cape Town can do more to allow it to compete with the best in the world.  South Africa had its best ever tourism performance last year, with 8 million foreign arrivals, and a 15 % growth.   Now the country needs to capitalise on the top of mind awareness that was created for it through the World Cup, and meet the goal of 15 million arrivals by 2020, and to increase tourism’s contribution to the economy from R190 billion in 2009, to R499 billion in 2020.  Awareness needs to translate into sales, he said.   Tourism is now one of the six cornerstones of economic growth and job creation, and the success of the tourism industry must lead to the greater economic benefit for the South African population.  Minister van Schalkwyk urged the provincial tourism marketing bodies to focus more on domestic marketing, given the restricted marketing funds.   The Minister indicated that the traditional markets of the USA, the United Kingdom and Europe are the largest source countries of tourism, but are still strongly influenced by the recession.  He highlighted the importance of Africa as a tourism market, showing a growth of 4 – 7 %.  The tremendous potential shown by the Chinese market has been recognised, and direct flights between Beijing and Johannesburg will be introduced by SAA later this year.  SA Tourism will allocate a share of its marketing budget to attract Chinese tourists.  The Minister also said that whilst 50 airlines service South Africa currently, more are needed to fly to the country, so that supply and demand can drive down the cost of flying to this destination.   Airport tax increases were identified as a deterrent to tourism growth.

The biggest challenge that Minister van Schalkwyk threw to the industry was ‘green tourism’.  By going beyond talking about sustainability and biodiversity, and taking the lead in creating low carbon cities, a competitive advantage can be created for South Africa.   “…as the world changes around us, it is imperative that we as a travel and tourism industry in South Africa stay one step ahead.  This will mean challenging ourselves in terms of how we understand the environment, our responsibilities, our markets and our consumers.  It means innovative and strategic thinking in terms of how we plan for the future, as well as the flexibility to adapt to rapidly evolving circumstances” he concluded.

Peter Bacon is an industry player, and was a previous CEO of Sun International, and currently is the Chairman of Cape Town Routes Unlimited and of the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.   He said that South Africa is doing better than most long-haul destinations in respect of tourist arrivals.   It was good to hear him say that Cape Town is the ‘jewel in the crown of S A Tourism’.   Cape Town does not suffer a decline in demand, explaining the decline in accommodation occupancy, he said, it is suffering from an oversupply of accommodation created by the opening of six hotels in the last two years.   Coupled to this is that corporate demand for accommodation is down severely, as businesses come to grips with their policies on company travelling.  It was Bacon who said that South Africa’s image has changed from being a  ‘low cost, high value’ destination to one that is ‘high cost, low value’.  Overall average tourism spend is down compared to the past, and the average tourist stay is two days shorter.   He urged the industry to package Cape Town ‘beyond the beach’, and to address the poor value image.  He did understand that rising costs, especially those for electricity, make it difficult to cut rates, but South Africa must be competitively priced, and our destination is not!   Bacon also urged that domestic marketing take the foreground.  Bookings are increasingly on-line, and he urged the accommodation industry to be where the bookings are, on Hotel.com, Expedia.com etc.  Cape Town, and South Africa with it, is a world class destination, and its tourism marketing must be aligned.  He also requested event organisers to not program events in the Cape on the same days – e.g. the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, and the Cape Epic taking place this past weekend.  He said: “We need to package our destination and the diversity of its attractions and experience more effectively.  We need to address the value proposition by differentiating South Africa from other long-haul destinations”.

The presentation by Dr Nikolaus Eberl, a branding consultant to the World Cups in Germany and South Africa, was one that attracted me to attend the Conference, but it was disappointing that he went back to the past, focusing largely on the success of the World Cup, and then showed video clip after video clip of Hawaii’s cliff-diving industry, neither addressing the topic of the Conference.  He did remind the audience that South Africa’s World Cup FIFA score of 92 %, 4 percentage points higher than Germany, was an exceptional performance record, and that South Africa could be Plan B to Brazil!   What did make the World Cup such a success was the ‘ubuntu’ of the South African nation, radiating its friendliness and care to visitors and locals alike.  An interesting case study presented was that of the Harley Davidson Club, showing how a ‘brand community’ can be created around a product or service that consumers naturally concentrate around, mentioning the example of the now dead polar bear Knut, who received a world following in the Berlin Zoo.   He talked about creating Brand Ambassadors, which is what visitors to Cape Town become, through word of mouth and social media communication, and this can lead to a ‘brand community’, he said.  

Although the most eloquent speaker, the City of Cape Town’s Pieter Cronje’s talk disappointed in not revealing which other mega events are lined up at the Cape Town Stadium or elsewhere in the city, other than Neil Diamond’s concert in April. He did say that the city would bid for the Olympics, but not for 2020, as Cape Town’s public transport system is not yet ready to handle such an event.  He also indicated that Cape Town has seen an increase in the number of event proposals since the World Cup, which will be good news for the tourism industry if they are staged.   He said what all in the room know already – events create money for the economy, and benefit all tourism players.

With tourism contributing 10 %  to the Western Cape economy it has a significant effect on economic growth and job creation.   The Conference had a contradictory outcome, in that its theme was global marketing, yet its message was one of domestic tourism marketing first.

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

Whale Coast tourism DMO refuses to make minutes a-whale-able!

For the past six weeks all attempts at obtaining minutes of two Special General meetings called to change the Constitution of the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) have failed, with an e-mail from its Vice-Chairman, Daniel Acker, refusing access to the minutes both in my capacity as a member of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and as a writer of this blog, without approval at the next Board meeting!  We question what the Cape Whale Coast DMO is trying to hide by not making the minutes of the two meetings available.  Maybe the Cape Whale Coast payoff line ‘wonders never cease’ is apt, given that the DMO is working with municipal funding generated from Overstrand ratepayers, and therefore transparency should rule!

More than two years ago the Cape Whale Coast DMO was established by the Overstrand Municipality, which is responsible for the municipal services of the area stretching from Rooi Els in the west to Gansbaai in the east.  The DMO is based in Hermanus, and half of the Board members are from Hermanus, under the Chairmanship of Misty Waves Hotel Manager Clinton Lerm.

When the Cape Whale Coast DMO was established, its constitution automatically made all business owners along the Overstrand members of the DMO, if they were paying rates and taxes.  No membership fee was payable.  The DMO’s main task, as per its name, was to market the Overstrand towns as a joint tourism destination and to manage the tourism bureaus in each of these towns .  The same constitution contained a directive that a CEO would be appointed, to manage the DMO.  This appointment still has not happened.   This means that a Board of 14 Directors manages a Section 21 company with only one staff member, and therefore the directors of the Board have taken over management positions for the DMO.  For example, Lerm’s mother Maxie handles Marketing and Public Relations for the DMO, and Clinton Lerm and Daniel Acker (of People Management Solutions Group, a labour practitioner in Hermanus, with no tourism business interests) represented the DMO in May at the ITB tourism trade show in Berlin, and another in Russia (an insignificant tourism market for Hermanus!).

Earlier this year the DMO changed its Constitution of 28 November 2007, at a second Special General meeting held on 8 March at the Lerm’s Misty Waves Hotel, with a resolution seconded by Chairman Clinton Lerm’s father and Director Maxie Lerm’s husband Henry (after a first Special General Meeting on 1 March had failed due to not attracting a required quorum of 100 attendees – only 14 members attended).  The change to the constitution was motivated to the DMO members on the basis of the changes made to the ‘Municipal Finances & Companies Act’ (no such Act exists – it is called the Municipal Financial Management Act, and it does not appear to contain any clauses that would have necessitated the constitutional changes made), the minutes of the meeting of 1 March stated!   The major change was that Overstrand ratepayers no longer were automatically members of the DMO, and allowed the DMO to set up membership of its tourism body in competition to the tourism bureaus in the Overstrand area.   The minutes of the 8 March meeting are very brief, and do not state who attended the meeting – bizarrely the Constitution allows a second Special General Meeting to be held a week after the first one if it fails to attract a quorum, and can conduct its business as long as at least one member is present!

What attracted attention to and the first criticism of the DMO was that the DMO has set up a kiosk near the key whale-watching area in Hermanus, from which it was taking accommodation bookings only for its members, and not for all members of the Overstrand tourism bureaus.  These members are now asked to pay a double membership, to belong to both bodies, yet each tourism bureau reports to the DMO, an unheard of model of tourism marketing, if Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the provincial marketing body, is the role model for the DMO.  Even more curiously, the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, which has an unfortunate location at the old railway station building, had to vacate its offices due to construction work close by, and was not given the kiosk, so that it can be easily found by tourists requiring accommodation and other tourism information.

Even more odd is that as a result of two competing tourism bodies in Hermanus, the town now has two whalecriers!   The original whalecrier of Hermanus, who was an appointee of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, had his appointment terminated due to an offence, just as the DMO was heading for Berlin.  Desperate to have a whalecrier on show, the DMO appointed the whalecrier, and took him to Berlin at short notice.  He has been appointed by the DMO to man its kiosk, and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau has appointed its own whalecrier!

Late last year we questioned these actions of the DMO,coupled with the conflict of interest in Clinton Lerm being both the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and of the DMO.  This resulted in a letter from the DMO’s lawyers, threatening legal action.  Nothing came of this threat, probably as the DMO management realised that a number of dissatisfied Overstrand tourism bureau members feel as I do.

In July the DMO held its AGM, and on the basis of its constitutional amendment, disallowed any Overstrand tourism bureau members from attending the meeting if they did not hold DMO membership, and were also not allowed to be nominated or elected to the Board of the DMO.  This is when I started asking questions, requesting a copy of the DMO Constitution (previously this was freely available on the Overstrand website www.overstrand.gov.za), and the minutes of the meetings approving the constitutional changes.  It took four weeks to receive the e-mailed copy of the Constitution, and two days ago the following officious and somewhat threatening e-mail was received from Daniel Acker (all correspondence had been addressed to Clinton Lerm!):

“This response is done without prejudice of the rights of the author, Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation (herein after referred to as ‘CWC DMO’), or the Overstrand Municipality. All rights of these personae therefore remain reserved herein.

Your email herebelow (sic) has been read, and the tone & content thereof has been noted. We place on record herewith that we shall not respond thereto in full, at this time, and reserve the right to do so at a later stage and in the appropriate forum.

Regarding your request, related to the minutes ‘minutes that approved the change of the Whalecoast DMO’ . We assume that you refer  herein to the minutes related to changes to the Constitution that were presented to, and approved by, the Counsellors (sic) of the Overstrand Municipality. These minutes are available to members of the CWC DMO, and our records show that neither you, nor your establishment, are members of the CWC DMO. Your request in this regard shall therefore have to be tabled at the next full board meeting, for consideration.”

 

What the members of the tourism bureaus in the Overstrand want is to be part of the DMO by virtue of their membership of the tourism bureaus which report to the DMO, and that bookings will be taken at the kiosk for all members of tourism bureaus in the Overstrand at no charge of membership, but on payment of a standard 10 % commission of the booking value (the DMO charges 12% commission in addition to its membership fee).    Neither the old nor the amended constitution of the Cape Whale Coast gives the DMO the duty to run a tourism bureau in opposition to those already operating in the Overstrand.

Furthermore, the Constitution does not prescribe that nominees for the Board must be members of the DMO (for example, a representative of the Overstrand Municipality is specified as having to be a director), nor does it prescribe that only DMO members can vote for the election of its Board of Directors, or on any other matter – it was confirmed that Hermanus Tourism Bureau members were not allowed to be nominated as Directors, nor voted for at the recent DMO AGM, according to an e-mail sent to me by Daniel Acker.   Members furthermore question why the Misty Waves Hotel features so prominently as the venue of the DMO meetings, and how two co-owners of the hotel can serve on the DMO Board, one of them handling the PR and Marketing for the DMO.  Whilst the Constitution defines the role of the Chairman of the DMO to be to lead the Board, to induct the directors, to plan meetings, and to ‘support the CEO’, it is questioned why Chairman Clinton Lerm, and not his mother Maxie, went to Berlin and Russia to represent the DMO, and why Daniel Acker had to go as well.  The duplication in tourism offices and in whale criers is also questioned, all being wasteful expenses.

It would appear that pressure on Chairman Clinton Lerm may be leading to some changes, and it is rumoured that he has resigned as Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, due to the conflict of interests in heading both bodies, something we pointed out in our blog post of 28 December already. However, he has not yet formally announced his resignation, nor confirmed it when we requested this of him by e-mail.

POSTSCRIPT 2/9:  The Comments section for this blog post makes for interesting reading, in setting out two points of view – two guest house owners’ perspectives, who argue along the lines of this post, and that of a Director of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, who protects the interests of the DMO.

Furthermore, the Hermanus Tourism Bureau has e-mailed its members an article which appears in the Hermanus Times today, written by Clinton Lerm.  It justifies what has happened constitutionally, and announces that members of the Overstrand tourism bureaus will automatically become members of the DMO, once this constitutional change has been approved at a Special General meeting of the DMO.  Taking bookings at the Market Square kiosk for all Overstrand tourism bureau members is also receiving the DMO’s consideration – we applaud the DMO for listening to their “customers”, and wonder why this was not dealt with correctly from the word go!

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

Power-ful war on Cape Whale Coast!

 

The Chairman of the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO), and also Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, Clinton Lerm, has done an about-turn in his support of an anti-nuclear power plant campaign in the area of his jurisdiction, reports the Cape Times.  

The two proposed ESKOM nuclear power stations are to be built at Bantamsklip, 4 km from Buffelsjagsbaai and 6 km from Pearly Beach, on the Cape Whale Coast beyond Gansbaai.  The “site lies within the hottest internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot”, the Save Bantamsklip website says, and is regarded as a SA Natural Heritage Site and is a Historic Monument.  It is adjacent to Dyer Island Nature Reserve, breeding ground of the penguins, and to the Great White Shark Marine Sanctuary.

Tourism and marine life conservation bodies have been up in arms about the proposed nuclear plant, and Lerm in November expressed his support on behalf of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau to the Save Bantamsklip awareness campaign.  Furthermore he pledged R 1 000 to the campaign, and offered his services and those of his members to participate in a march against the proposed power plant in December, at which time a petition opposing the construction of the power plants was delivered to the Overstrand Municipality in Hermanus.   The petition was signed by the Managers of the Hermanus and Gansbaai tourism bureaus, which report to the DMO.

Now Lerm has withdrawn his support of the campaign, after he was called to a meeting with the Mayor of the Overstrand Municipality, the R 2,5 million funder of the Cape Whale Coast DMO.   

Last week the Mayor of the Overstrand, Theo Beyleveldt, released a statement to state that “his inquiries had found Save Bantamsklip had been “dishonest” in claiming that several organisations had supported its views.    Beyleveldt claimed that Dyer Island Cruises had also turned against the Save Bantamsklip campaign, but its head Wilfred Chivell angrily negated this, saying :”There is no way I will back off from supporting Save Bantamsklip.  This nuclear power station will be horrible for tourism and I will fight this menace”!  Chivell is a founder member of Save Bantamsklip. 

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