Tag Archives: ‘Carte Blanche’

Outcry over Film & Publications Board plans to control and censor Internet content, including Blogs, Facebook!

imageOn Carte Blanche last night the proposed pre-censorship role of the Film & Publications Board was discussed, a role which is contained in the Draft Online Regulation Policy, gazetted in March this year. It intends to ‘police‘ everything published on the Internet, including Blogs, websites, posts on Facebook, and more!

The Proposed policy calls on any person wishing to distribute any Continue reading →

Deafening silence from Tourism Ministry about disastrous effect of visa regulations effective from today!

PassportsDespite the tourism industry being up in arms about the implementation of the Immigration Regulations pertaining to children travelers, which are effective from today, Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom has been silent about the matter, which he was asked to address twelve month ago already when he became the Minister of Tourism.

The new regulations prescribe that children under the age of 18 years have to travel with an unabridged birth certificate, which must specify the names of both parents. Travelers (adults and children) from countries for which visa applications have to be made, such as India and China, must apply in person, so that biometric details can be Continue reading →

Carte Blanche Sweet and Woolworths Sour Service Awards!

Carte BlancheThe Sweet Service Award goes to M-Net and its investigative program Carte Blanche, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last week, with Derek Watts being in the hot seat from the outset in 1988.  Sunday’s program paid tribute to some of the top stories which the program has researched, including the death of Brett Kebble, the danger of Social Media, Rael Levitt and Auction Alliance,  the Thuli elephants, the alleged fraud by Mama Jackie, and many more.  The programme will Continue reading →

Noseweek Sweet Service and Gibson’s ‘Gourmet’ Burgers & Ribs Sour Service Awards!

Noseweek 20th birthday Whale Cottage PortfolioThe Sweet Service Award goes to Noseweek and its editor Martin Welz, for 20 years of service to South Africans, for identifying corruption amongst bankers, lawyers, business persons, and government officials, for speaking the truth, and ‘for exposing unethical behaviour in our society’, Mayor Patricia de Lille said at the anniversary celebration at Catharina’s restaurant at Steenberg last night.  The role of the publication in helping the ordinary (wo)man in the street was saluted by a number of speakers, but it was the moving talk by Erma Viljoen from Pretoria, whose story was featured in the June issue of the publication, that demonstrated the unselfish service and dedication to a story by Mr Welz and his team.  Mrs Viljoen worked at the University of Pretoria, and has a rare disease Mitochondrial Cytopathy, which rendered her unable to work, therefore running out of sick leave and annual leave. For the past five years she has fought for her right to be compensated by the university and its provident fund for losing her job, and approached Mr Welz more than two years ago.  Noseweek Erma Viljoen Whale Cottage PortfolioNew Pretoria-based Noseweek journalist and ex-Carte Blanche investigative journalist Susan Purèn wrote the story, each sentence backed up by information proving what was written. An offer of a R40000 payout was increased to R1,3 million by the university and paid, but Mrs Viljoen is eligible to receive much more than that, the publication believes. The University reacted to the article by submitting a complaint to the Press Council, highlighting 88 errors in the three page article, literally one per sentence in the article, Mrs Viljoen shared, sitting at the same table last night.  The article has led to an advocate offering his services to Mrs Viljoen (many Pretoria lawyers Continue reading →

Graham Beck MCCs sparkling celebrity celebration choice!

Graham Beck’s Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) has made headline news in the past ten days, when it appeared on the menu of a lunch hosted by Bono for American First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as on the menu of the wedding celebration dinner of Princess Madeleine and her husband Chris O’Neill, putting Graham Beck’s MCCs on a par with French champagnes in celebrating celebrity occasions! Continue reading →

Pearl Culture Sweet Service and Native Sour Service Awards!

The Sweet Service Award goes to Pearl Culture in Canal Walk, and its shop assistant Hanile Hugo, for whom nothing was too much trouble in restringing a bracelet in 20 minutes, so that I did not have to return to Canal Walk a few days later to fetch it again.  A pearl bracelet which I bought in their sale was lengthened by Hanile while I waited too, without a charge for the added pearls.    It is sad news that the retail outlet will close down later this year, as it has been a reliable source of pearls, and their restringing service is one of few available by jewellers in Cape Town.  She was friendly and a pleasure to deal with.

The Sour Service Award goes to ‘digitally-led full-service marketing agency‘ NATIVE (who in South Africa would choose such an inappropriate company name?), and its Cape Head Ben Wagner.  Wagner wanted to get hold of a guest of ours, and called us to speak to him.  I explained that we do not have telephones in the rooms, as all guests have cellphones, that all calls are diverted to my cellphone, and that I had left the guest house for the day.  I asked him to contact his friend directly on his German cellphone number as I would only see the guest the next morning – surprisingly he did not have his friend’s number, and neither did I.  Wagner was enraged that he could not get the message to his friend immediately, and was rude and demanding on the phone.  His reaction was beyond the norm for an annoyed person, and he unleashed a Twitter tantrum, with extreme abuse to ourselves!  We had to ask our security company for extra protection of our guest house in Camps Bay, as he tried to gain access to our property.  One wonders how abusive he could become if he were to be annoyed by his clients, including Distell, Foschini, Pernod Ricard, and Pick ‘n Pay, judging by his abusive behaviour towards ourselves.  Wagner’s Twitter Bio states that his Tweets express his own opinions, yet it has the link to the NATIVE website!

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.

How reliable are the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards?

Every year around this time, the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards are announced, resulting in a flurry of media releases to praise achievements in various categories.  TripAdvisor sceptics know how easy it is to generate both positive and negative false reviews on the world’s largest travel customer feedback site, and therefore take the results with a pinch of salt.

This year the Cape Grace hotel made it to the number two rank on the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards 2013 Top 25 Hotels in the World category, and is ranked top hotel in Africa.  The Africa list included the Twelve Apostles Hotel at 14th position, the Mount Nelson Hotel at 18th place, The Oyster Box at 19th place, the One&Only Cape Town at 21st place, Kapama River Lodge at number 22, and the Table Bay Hotel at 23rd position.

Ironic for the Cape Grace hotel is that in the same week as the TripAdvisor award ranking was announced, yet another scandal hit the hotel, this time a hotel guest from the UK allegedly having been drugged by having her drink spiked, filmed in a comprising position in her hotel bedroom with her tour guide, and subsequently robbed of all her money, computer equipment, and jewellery over the festive season, reported the Sunday Times.   The hotel shot to ‘fame’ for all the wrong reasons when it was the honeymoon home of Shrien Dewani, who allegedly organised the murder of his bride Anni from the hotel two years ago.  The hotel’s most famous guests to date have been ex-USA President Bill Clinton and his wife Hilary, and James Bond, in the latest ‘Carte Blanche’ 007 novel by Jeffery Deaver.

Out of her depth in the wording she used in a media statement, Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold is quoted as saying: ‘The Cape Grace has always been an exemplary hotel and a benchmark for the best in Cape Town hospitality. We are so pleased  that it has been recognised in such an authoritative way‘ (our underlining), immediately offending many other top Cape Town hotels!

The TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards do not reflect the results of the highly regarded Conde Nast Travelers’ Awards, in which the Steenberg Hotel was voted as the best hotel in Africa in 2011, and was ranked 9th on the continent last year.

It is fortunate that TripAdvisor does not do a similar Restaurants Awards list, as a week doesn’t go by that a restaurateur in Cape Town and Franschhoek does not refer to colleagues posting false positive TripAdvisor reviews about their own establishments, or posting false reviews about restaurants near the top of the list in their city or village, to topple them from the top position.  ‘Reviews’ by aggrieved ex-employees are another source of negative reviews, as are customers who are angry when they do not receive refunds when they contravene agreed cancellation policies.

Anyone that reads and believes TripAdvisor reviews deserves to get what they receive when they make their accommodation and restaurant choices based on this website! TripAdvisor is a particularly important reference guide for tourists from the UK, and it is shame that they allow themselves to be deceived by so much false information.  TripAdvisor would enhance its credibility vastly if it had a review verification system, and demanded a response from the owner or manager of the establishment, before posting any review, to allow both sides of the story to be presented jointly and fairly.

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

MasterChef South Africa: has Season 1 been a success?

It is interesting to analyse how successful MasterChef South Africa has been, its final 19th episode being broadcast this evening, the winner of the first season being announced in the special 90 minute Grande Finale.  It would appear that the reality TV cooking program has been enjoyed by many South Africans, yet some aspects about it were disliked.

To judge the success of MasterChef SA we looked at quantitative information:

1.  Audience Ratings (ARs) are used by the South African advertising industry to quantify the success of a TV program.  ARs = Reach x Frequency, or the % of the Target Market reached.  It was explained by a media strategist that the AR statistics do not reflect viewership of M-Net repeats, and therefore they do not reflect the full number of viewers.  The AR of 0,8 achieved for MasterChef SA exceeds the expectation of 0,5 on an ‘All Adults’ target market filter, she said, and described the program as ‘world class’, ‘professional’, and with good production values.  A food TV producer felt the opposite, saying that M-Net must be very disappointed with the viewership achieved, its ultimate goal having been to sell more decoders.

2.  On Twitter the @MasterChef_SA account has grown to 11253 Followers.  One may have expected more Followers, for the stature of the programme.  When one reads the Timeline after an episode, the mix of South African Tweeters is evident, attracting commentary from male and female viewers, and from different language groups.  @RobertsonsSpice has only achieved 733 Followers, a very poor performance.  @Woolworths has 33 466 Followers, an exceptional number, but had embraced Twitter prior to its MasterChef SA sponsorship.  @Nederburg only has 1265 Followers, also disappointing for this sponsor.

3.  On Facebook the MasterChef SA page has 8511 likes, Robertsons Herbs and Spice has 1373, Nederburg 7544, and Woolworths an amazing 193676 likes!

4.  The YouTube videos of the Robertsons’ Masterclasses by Chef Reuben Riffel show the viewership, and it is understandable that some of the earlier videos would have the highest viewership.  The first Masterclass in week 1 (16 March) was for a ‘Cheesy Garlic Bread’, and has achieved 4154 views in the past four months.  ‘Stuffed Chicken Breast’ (30 April) has 3335 views to date. ‘Crepes’ (20 March) achieved 3201 views. ‘Pepper Sauce’ (19 March) was seen by 2882 viewers. ‘Chocolate Braaied Bananas’ (16 March) has achieved 2864 views. ‘Milktart’ (2 May) has 2732 views to date, and ‘Roast Chicken’ (15 May) has 2252.  The other videos have had lower viewership, some extremely low.  The viewership figures must be disappointing for Robertsons, and we could see a sharp drop-off in viewership growth two months ago, midway through the series. The dishes demonstrated by Chef Reuben were hardly of a ‘Masterclass’ stature!

5.  Arnold Tanzer was the leader of the MasterChef SA culinary team of eleven, which included Chef Vanie Padayachee from Le Quartier Français too, working behind the scenes in testing every recipe that the Finalists had to prepare, often more than once, checking the preparation times, and making sure that the challenges were ‘doable’.   Interesting was the article in the Sunday Times, detailing the quantities of food and liquid that the 19-series programme went through, supplied by Woolworths in the main: 62 kg mussels, 300 kg fish, 500 kg beef, 400 kg lamb, 165 kg chicken, 2592 free-range eggs, 250 kg of cheese, 215 kg of fresh herbs (mainly mint, thyme, and dill – there is no mention of Robertsons’ herbs and spices, which are not stocked by Woolworths), 100 kg mushrooms, 100 kg butter, 600 l Ayrshire milk, 200 kg onions, 240 l sunflower oil, 144 l olive oil, and many more ingredients.  These quantities used benefited the suppliers of these products.

6.  Twitter was a new social medium to most MasterChef SA Finalists, and they were encouraged to open Twitter accounts.  Deena Naidoo has by far the largest number of Followers at 1986, followed by Sarel Loots (1331), Jade de Waal (1254), Ilse Fourie (1019), and Lwazi Mngoma (1018). The other Finalists have very much lower Follower numbers.

Qualitatively, it was interesting to observe:

1.  Initially, no one went out on Tuesday evenings, being glued to their TV screens.  From Twitter one could see that after the first four weeks life started getting back to normal, and event organisers were not afraid to schedule functions on Tuesday evenings any longer.  The hype about MasterChef SA never reached that of the Australian series when flighted locally.

2.  Many TV viewers, especially men, were initially not interested in watching the program, but the talk on Twitter and in social circles enticed them eventually to watch the program. Towards the end of the series we saw fewer proactive Tweets about MasterChef SA, and fewer people talking about the reality series socially.

3.  Most restaurant staff were unable to watch, as they were working at the time of the program.  If they had access to a PVR, they watched a recording afterwards. Most of them do not seem to own a M-Net decoder, and seemed surprisingly uninformed about the reality TV series, or were not interested in it, most chefs seeing it as ‘amateurish’.

4.  Viewers expressed their extreme dissatisfaction with the judges’ decision to eliminate Guy Clark and not Jade de Waal in episode 9.  There was talk on Twitter about the elimination choice being a ‘production decision’, and many said that they would no longer watch the program due to the perceived rigged choices made.

5.  The program sponsorship will have benefited Woolworths and Nederburg, but the impact on Robertsons’ sales is not expected to be significant:

*   Woolworths has run superb food advertising during the MasterChef SA episodes, well matched to the theme of each episode, and creating amazing appetite appeal. In the episodes too the Woolworths Pantry was well-branded when the Finalists had to source their ingredients. Significant discounts offered to Woolworths card holders must have brought more feet into their stores. The sponsorship is said to have taken attention away from the embarrassing Frankies beverages debacle. Surprisingly the in-store branding of their sponsorship of the reality TV series was low key, with small banners at the tills.  The initial uproar caused by two recipes of the Woolworths Pantry guest food bloggers appeared to have blown over quickly.  The Woolworths sustainable seafood commercial linked to the seafood episode shot at Paternoster caused controversy, because the content of the advertisement was not reflected in its stores.

*   A media strategist interviewed for this blogpost fed back how she had started buying Nederburg wines again, now finding it trendy to do so, as a result of watching MasterChef SA. Despite the show being filmed at the wine estate, there was little Nederburg branding in the episodes.  Its commercials were less impactful than those of Woolworths, and many say that the ‘ingredient’ composition of the Nederburg wines shown in its commersials, to demonstrate the flavours of the wines, may have been taken literally, if viewers did not know better. Surprising was the low key product placement of Nederburg wines, given that the MasterChef SA kitchen was built for the show on the wine estate. A bottle of Amarula received prominence in a Mystery Box for a dessert, one episode focused on food and Nederburg wine pairing, which highlighted that Deena had little wine knowledge, and one episode featured the celebration of the harvest at Nederburg. Disappointing for Nederburg would be Deena Naidoo winning MasterChef SA tonight, as he does not appear to be a wine drinker, given that the prize includes a sommeliers’ course, and a year’s supply of their Winemasters Reserve range wines.

*   Robertsons went through the Social Media wars since MasterChef SA started in March, its endorsement by Chef Reuben Riffel having raised credibility and advertising honesty questions, and its Social Media Manager Sonia Cabano having been dismissed soon after she took on the job.  The end result is that Chef Reuben’s Robertsons’ endorsement has cost him credibility as a chef, and he appears to now be written out of the Robertsons’ advertising, only one of the five or six spice brand TV commercials featuring him in each of the last few episodes. A further blow to Chef Reuben’s credibility is his very recent endorsement of Rama margarine, also a Unilever brand. Robertsons did not manage its sponsorship well, in that registered ‘members’ of their Masterclass page were sent recipes unrelated to the previous day’s MasterChef SA episode, a marketing failure. In general, Robertsons went through a torrid time, and ‘MasterChef SA‘ must be a swearword inside its hallowed halls!  Its attempt at Social Media was a miserable failure in many respects, and appeared poorly managed, despite its use of the Liquorice social media marketing agency.

6.  The MasterChef SA series benefited sponsors Woolworths and Nederburg, jointly creating two wine brands specifically for the series (Grenache 2010, and a Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend). It also opened the door for Nederburg to sell its Winemasters Reserve range in Woolworths stores over the four month MasterChef SA broadcast period.  There was no cross-benefit between Woolworths and Robertsons, the retailer having to publicly admit on Twitter that it does not stock Robertsons spices and herbs.

7.  Initially the response to our competitions to predict the overall winner of MasterChef SA and the weekly Finalist leaving the show was surprisingly low, but increased the closer it got to the Finale, and the fewer the options for elimination and winning the grand prize became. The readership of our weekly MasterChef SA episode summary the day after the show saw an increase week by week. Restaurant staff working on Tuesday evenings, international readers, and local non-subscribers who cannot view M-Net, and surprisingly even viewers of the program, fed back that they read our MasterChef SA weekly write-ups. We got hooked onto MasterChef SA, loving writing up each episode, and will miss the Tuesday evening programmes.

8.  MasterChef SA dislikes focused strongly on the judges, particularly the expression on Chef Andrew Atkinson’s face, his dress, and his stare at the Finalists when judging their dishes. Chefs who have met him, however, say that this is not him at all, and praise his culinary skills.  Chef Pete Goffe-Wood attracted negative criticism from the second half of the series onwards. Chef Benny Masekwameng was the most loved judge by far, always kind and supportive to the Finalists. In general chefs felt that the chef judges should have worn chef outfits, and not worn earrings and piercings, to set a good example to young chefs.  Interesting is that every guest chef wore a chef’s outfit in the series.   Initial feedback at the start of the series was critical of all the chef judges being male. After Chef Margot Janse’s appearance, she was judged by Twitterers to have been an ideal judge.

9.  The program series has been criticised for the poor quality food that the Finalists prepared for many weeks, although this criticism subsided in the last few programs, when the Finalists had to replicate dishes made by top chefs Michel Roux Jnr of La Gavroche, Peter Tempelhoff of The Greenhouse, and Margot Janse of Le Quartier Français.  Linked to this is the chefs’ criticism about the prize of a year-long (now extended to two years) contract at MondeVino restaurant at Montecasino, saying it is irresponsible, as none of the Finalists could step into the shoes of a restaurant chef, who has had years of training and experience, and said that it is demeaning to their career to imply that little or no training is required.

10.   There is no doubt that MasterChef SA has stimulated an interest in cooking, and in trying out more complicated dishes.  It probably has stimulated interest in eating out at restaurants such as Terroir, The Greenhouse, Biesmiellah, Sel et Poivre, and The Tasting Room, all featured in the series.

11.  The most gratifying end result of MasterChef SA has been the growth in the Finalists’ cooking skills, in what they learnt from the judges, and the Masterclasses held by the visiting chefs. They also grew vastly in confidence. Chef Arnold Tanzer fed back in the Sunday Times that ‘you could see the change in people as the series went on, particularly how their perception of food changed‘.  He added that he was surprised that even the film crew members were excited about what they had filmed, and wanted advice on how to make some of the dishes. A number of the Finalists have made the best of their MasterChef SA participation:  Berdina Schurink has opened Bella Sophia Culinary Café in Pretoria; Thys Hattingh has changed jobs, now working at the Compass Group as a staff restaurant consultant; Guy Clark changed careers, and now is a chef for the Madame Zingara group, at Café Mozart and at Bombay Bicycle Club; Charles Canning and Samantha Nolan have a stand at the Old Biscuit Mill market on Saturdays, following in the footsteps of Chef Pete; and Lungi Nhlanhla is now deputy food editor at Drum magazine. There is not one Finalist that has not benefited from his or her participation in MasterChef SA, being a springboard to living their passion for cooking.  Tonight it will be Sue-Ann Allen or Deena Naidoo who will walk off with the MasterChef SA 2012 crown, and one of their lives will change forever!  We wish them both the best of luck.

POSTSCRIPT 28/7: A furore has been created by The Citizen, reporting yesterday that MasterChef SA winner Deena Naidoo was unhappy about the misrepresentation of his Tsogo Sun MondoVino restaurant prize, damaging the image of the reality TV series, M-Net, its sponsors, Finalists, and chef judges.

POSTSCRIPT 28/7:  Times Live has published audience figures, to highlight the success of MasterChef SA TV series: MasterChef SA had the 5th highest viewership on M-Net between its start in March and 24 July, beaten by ‘Carte Blanche’ (265939 viewers), ‘Lincoln Lawyer’ movie with Matthew McConaughey (221411), ‘CSI Miami’ (202102), and ‘Idols’ (196698).  The reality cooking show beat ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ on viewership.  M-Net had capitalised on the trend to viewership of cooking programs in producing the local MasterChef SA TV series.  No decision has been made about producing a Season 2 of MasterChef SA next year.

POSTSCRIPT 29/8: If the article from Channel 24 is correct (it is part of the same media group that owns M-Net), there will be a season 2 of MasterChef SA, another measure of the success of the reality TV series. M-Net has not confirmed this.

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

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

Tourism Seasonality in the Cape: it’s getting worse!

Every year Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, both bodies tasked to market Cape Town, tell the tourism industry that Seasonality is a problem unique to the Western Cape, and that they have planned events for the quieter months and scheduled more advertising, to address the problem which swallows up in the winter months the income generated in the summer months.

To evaluate Seasonality for our Whale Cottages, we went back to our Occupancy information as far back as 2007, and found interesting trends:

*   Occupancy for Whale Cottage Camps Bay was at 72 % on average in 2007, 70 % in 2008, and dropped every year, to 63 % in 2009, 56% in 2010 and 41% this year to date.

*   During the period May – August, the Cape winter season, Whale Cottage Camps Bay Occupancy declined year on year, from 54 % in 2007, to 45% in 2009 and 2010, to 28% this year, an almost 50 % decline in Occupancy between 2007 and 2011!  Despite an average Occupancy of 70 % over the World Cup, from 11 June – 11 July last year, the World Cup had no effect on 2010 Winter Occupancy, as the good June and July performance was negated by a sharp decline in Occupancy before (19 % in May, being the lowest Occupancy ever in the five year period) and after (36% in August last year, vastly down compared to previous years) the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

*   Every individual month has seen a decline in Occupancy for Whale Cottage Camps Bay over the past five years, February 2011 showing the least decline in Occupancy (88% in 2011, our best month by far this year, compared to 97% in 2007), and September 2011 showing the most drastic Occupancy decline (28% in 2011, compared to 60 % in 2007).

*  These trends apply to Whale Cottage Hermanus and Whale Cottage Franschhoek too, both towns having seen Occupancy in 2007 (on average around 50%) halve this year for the period January – September.

*   Hermanus recovers from Seasonality more quickly in winter, due to the arrival of the Southern Right whales from May.  However, in the last two winters the average Occupancy was around 10% (despite the World Cup, which made no impact on business to this town), compared to 40 %  on average in 2007).

*   Franschhoek shows a similar Seasonality decline, but is at a far lower level in winter, dropping by half from 16 % in 2007, to 7%  this winter.  The World Cup made no impact on business.  The village has seen a decline in the number and size of weddings, and despite an increased activity in hosting events, which fill up the guest houses for the two days of the event, the remaining 28 days remain close to empty!   The trend is for a vastly reduced Occupancy, from 41 % on average in 2007, to 13% on average this year, for the period January – September.  September has been the month with the most drastic decline in Occupancy in the past five years, but Occupancy declined consistently year on year in each of the months.

*   The Occupancy trends reflect the changed tourism pattern, with more international tourists staying in Cape Town, and not travelling to inland towns to stay over, doing a day trip to Hermanus and Franschhoek at best.  Cape Town Routes Unlimited is responsible for marketing the Western Cape, and it appears to have failed in its work, if our figures are taken as a benchmark.  It shocked me to hear that Cape Town Routes Unlimited has lost both its Marketing Executives David Frandsen and Itumeleng Pooe, and that all marketing is now handled by the CEO Calvyn Gilfellan.  Cape Town Tourism’s Marketing Manager Velma Corcoran has only been in the job for a month, and has not made her mark in any way.  She has no tourism marketing experience specifically, and no marketing experience generally.

Not having a firm statistic as to the contribution of UK tourists to our Whale Cottage business, we checked our country of origin statistics over the past years.  This source market has represented as much as 53 % (November 2007) of our bookings over the past five years, but the average has been at around 33%.  It is this percentage of bookings which we will miss this summer, as bookings from the UK are extremely rare, due to the economic woes of the United Kingdom.  German bookings for Camps Bay have represented as much as 24 % (December 2007), but have seen a steady decline over the past five years, averaging at about 10 – 15 %. Our forward bookings show a strong increase in German bookings for this summer. Not surprising is that the proportion of South African bookings has climbed steadily, as we have lost international business, and this may also be due to our Whale Cottages still charging affordable 2007 rates, and discounting rates by close to half in the winter months.

A Carte Blanche programme on Sunday highlighted the tourism crisis.  Portfolio of Places CEO Liz Westby-Nunn spoke about 52 of her client establishments having closed down in the past year.  She has been in business for about 25 years, and business is so bad that she has consolidated her three Portfolio Guides into one, and has dropped her advertising rate by about 50%, just to hold on to her clients.  Mrs Westby-Nunn has been a feisty business person, who took 20 % advertising rate increases year on year in the past.  Clive Bennett, Managing Director of the One&Only Cape Town, said that “We aren’t seeing growth we should be seeing, and you couple that with the surplus number of beds, sadly there are going to be closures”. Bennett added that the recession had hit South Africa post-World Cup. Shamwari’s Tom Jager said that business for them has seen ‘a big drop’.  SA Tourism’s Chief Marketing Officer Roshene Singh said she would look at the impact of the tourism industry’s poor performance on jobs at the end of this year.  SATSA President Heather Guiterrez was controversial in stating that blaming the recession is a convenient excuse:  “There is 4% tourism growth within tourism worldwide, and we’re not seeing it in South Africa. In fact, we are seeing a huge decline of tourism into South Africa”.  She blames the lack of post-World Cup marketing for the current status.  ‘South Africa went dead. People don’t go to a country that goes dead’, she said.  SA Tourism defended its work, stating that April had seen a 7,5 % increase on the year before.  Ms Guiterrez said that SA Tourism does not have enough marketing money to market South Africa on international TV, and this was confirmed by Ms Singh, stating that their marketing budget is minuscule relative to their main competitors.  Mrs Westby-Nunn was critical of the official arrival statistics, stating that the 8 million figure should be closer to 1 million. The tourism players interviewed said that the impact of the decline in tourism is its effect on job creation, the target of 250000 having been set, and would not be achievable.  Both Bennet and Protea Hotels CEO Arthus Gillis called for more flexibility in the airlines, allowing charter flights, and making SAA the tourism loss leader, to bring as many tourists to the country as possible.  Gillis says his business is predominantly focusing on domestic tourists, being their ‘saviour’.

We received the following response to our latest WhaleTales newsletter from Herbert Henrich, a fellow guest house owner in Franschhoek, and he hits the nail on the head in confirming the poor state of the guest house industry: “Thank you for your most comprehensive ‘Tales’ and the detailed information contained therein. For one, like me, sitting on the hospitality industry outer parameters, your reports provide much insight in what would remain obscure otherwise. Our business suffers. The reasons are probably a) global recession and b) lack of exciting promotion of South Africa as a special tourist destination. The most remote parts of the world are being offered to potential  tourists on TV almost daily. Very little – if anything – from the RSA. But promotion alone will not re-instate what once was a flourishing industry. There will still be the economic millstone around the consumers’ neck. Hence, business will shrink and establishments will close down, bringing about further lack of income and loss of jobs. Our operational cost go up, however, irrespective of the business slowing down. Municipal rates, levies, electricity, taxes – you name it, will be collected whether there is income or not. I would suggest that it is time that the government will consider easing up on us somewhat. Why do we still have to pay inflated rates for business premises which bring no business? Is it not time the government supports those who do not close down in order not to increase the number of job-less ? Those who actually subsidize the government rather than the other way around ? I think the hospitality industry, which has no alternative replacement business option , should make a united appeal to provincial and national government departments to reduce their every increasing fiscal demands and allow some time to regroup and allow the business to come back to some sort of reasonable level”.

We once again call on Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited to involve our industry in utilizing our information as a predictor of tourism activity for the season ahead, and to focus on the domestic market, in getting them to Cape Town.  Our tourists are not on Twitter and Facebook, in our experience, and need good old-fashioned advertising and articles in newspapers and magazines to attract them to our beautiful Cape.

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