Tag Archives: Clive Bennett

Cape Town hotel industry loses two stalwart iconic leaders!

imageTwo iconic hotel leaders, Clive Bennett from the One & Only Cape Town and Horst Frehse from the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, are going into retirement, a massive loss for the Cape Town hotel industry. Both Hotel GMs crossed paths when Frehse took over Bennett’s job at the Twelve Apostles in 2010.

Cigar-smoking Horst Frehse was synonymous with the Grande Roche in Paarl Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 25 February

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Design news headlines

*   A total of 10,6 million South Africans use WhatsApp,  a free messaging service which was bought by Facebook last week.  This represents close to half of all adults living in cities and towns.   Facebook usage on mobile phones is at 9 million (45%), Mxit is at 25%, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) (21%), and Twitter 20%, according to a survey conducted last week.

*   The Stellenbosch American Express Wine Routes will be participating at the tourism and travel show ITB in Berlin next month for the first time.  (received via media release from Random Hat Communications)

*   The ATKV-Oesfees will be held at Solms-Delta outside Franschhoek on 22 March, with headline acts including Karen Zoid, Theuns Jordaan, Robbie Wessels, and Loukmaan Adams.  It is the 7th Oesfees on the wine estate, and 100 performers will participate, to celebrate the harvest in the Franschhoek valley with local music and dance.  Last year more than 5000 music fans attended the Oesfees.   Solms-Delta is dedicated to preserving and developing the musical heritage of the Cape, through its Music van de Caab project run by Adriaan Brand.  Entrance costs R130 per adult. (received via media release from Paula Wilson Media Consulting)

*   Food Routes has launched a new Culinary Sensibility Identities (CSI) tool, allowing restaurant goers to match their culinary personality with that of a compatible restaurant on the Food Routes Continue reading →

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

Restaurant Review: One&Only Cape Town ‘High Tea’ good value, but confusing and amateurish

I have evaluated the High Teas at Grand Provence and at the Grande Roche, and popped in at the One&Only Cape Town earlier this week, having noticed their High Tea stand when I went to interview Reuben Riffel about his recent American visit.   The weekday High Tea at the One&Only Cape Town is the best value I have encountered so far, but its service and execution appeared amateurish, with no Vista Lounge/Bar manager visible throughout my visit, and it is a complex offer.

My Twitter friend Michael McKenzie has sent me links to show that it is incorrect to refer to High Tea, as it means our definition of supper, but I prefer ‘High Tea’ to the more correct ‘afternoon tea’.  The One&Only Cape Town does call it “Afternoon Tea” on its website.   One cannot fault the location of the One&Only Cape Town’s High Tea, in their beautiful Vista Lounge just down from the entrance, with a beautiful view onto Table Mountain.  The problem, however, is that one is seated in the lounge area of the hotel, and this means that one sits uncomfortably when eating, as the table is too low for the couch which I chose to sit on.  At the Grand Roche and Grande Provence one sits at restaurant tables and chairs.

The biggest disappointment of all is that the High Tea seems to be an after-thought at the One&Only Cape Town, as it is not featured in the Room Service-type menu which the waiter brought to me.   There is no explanation as to what is included in terms of tea/coffee, nor the names of the treats, which the Grande Roche presents so beautifully in their special gold-ribboned High Tea menu.  The waiter told me that in the High Tea price of R145 a cup of tea or coffee is included (but not a cappuccino!), and that the High Tea treats can be ordered for two persons to share at that price.   At both the Grande Roche and Grande Provence the High Tea costs R95, inclusive of a cup of tea or coffee, and one gets the impression that it is a price per person, and that one is not meant to share.   At R 72,50 per head if one is sharing on weekdays, the One&Only Cape Town High Tea offers the best value of the High Teas I have tried, each person enjoying about 13 treats, even if one has to pay R 16 extra for a cup of filter coffee and R 22 for a cappuccino, bringing the total cost close to the R95 of the other two High Teas, but with a larger variety offered.  The catch is that tea and coffee are excluded during the week, an odd inconsistency, which I only discovered when I read the website to write this review after my visit!  On weekends the High Tea is laid out as a buffet, and one can help oneself to as much as one likes, making this High Tea more expensive as it is charged at R145 per person, but includes tea and coffee.   The One&Only Cape Town serves the High Tea daily, while it is only available over weekends at the Grande Roche and at Grande Provence.   Given the complexity of the offer, here is the hotel’s description of its “Afternoon Tea” on its website:

“An Afternoon Tea stand with carefully selected “sweet pleasures” is served on a classic tree (three?)-tiered cake stand from Monday to Friday each week. The confectionary (sic)selection includes chocolate delice, baked vanilla bean cheese cake, caramel and gold leaf éclairs, tea loaf and macaroons, to name but a few, which is accompanied by individually prepared tea sandwiches of complementing flavors and fine buttermilk scones accompanied with traditional clotted cream and strawberry preserve. All items are prepared in the unique style of the One&Only, originating from the classic French art of patisserie, with our local innovation and inspiration. The Afternoon Tea stand will be offered from 14h30 – 17h30 each day, at R145 per stand which is exclusive of all beverages. A full Afternoon Tea buffet will be available on Saturday’s (sic) and Sunday’s (sic) from 14h30 – 17h30, at R145 per guest, inclusive of selected Tea’s (sic) and Coffee’s (sic)”. 

It took about 15 minutes for the cappuccino and water to arrive, and I started getting worried.  I loved the fancy ‘cup and saucer’ in which the coffee was served.  Three miniature Hillcrest jams were brought to the table, but oddly no butter and cream for the scones (despite the promise of cream from the website above).  A sideplate with a serviette and Robert Welch knife and fork was brought to the table.   Another waiter was instructed by my waiter to write down the names of all the treats, which I received hand-written from American-sounding Congolese waiter Paul on a till slip, even indicating which of the items contain pork and which are vegetarian.  Sharon made her appearance from the kitchen, wearing a Lindt apron, and she asked me if I had been informed of all the names on the High Tea stand.  She talked me through all of them again, and it emerged that Paul had left some out.  She explained the time delay, in that the Banqueting department has to make the savoury part of the High Tea fresh when ordered, whereas the pastries from her side are ready to be put on the stand when the kitchen receives the order.  Sharon was very efficient, and it is clear that she loves her job.

I must have waited for half an hour to receive the High Tea stand, and it is an overwhelming presentation of about 27 items spread over three tiers.   The savoury items cover one of the three tiers, and include brown bread salmon sandwiches, mini chicken hamburgers, feta cheese sandwiches, and bacon and spinach quiches.   The sweet treats are marble cake, a fruit scone as well as a plain scone, macaroons, a butternut biscuit, an Ameretto cookie, a delicious buttermilk panacotta (but served in such a tiny glass that the teaspoon could not get into it – no teaspoon is served for this treat at all, and I used my coffee spoon), passion fruit delice, caramel eclair served with a gold leaf, Tiramisu in a glass (also served in a glass without a spoon, but served in a wider glass which I could access with my coffee spoon), One&Only cheesecake with cocoa crunchies, koeksisters, peanut butter cookie, and white chocolate mousse and chocolate curd slice.  I must praise the scone, which was perfect when I cut it, and did not crumble and fall apart as scones like to do!  In general, the sweet treats were of a far superior quality to the savoury ones.

While I was eating the two items in glass cups, which I could not take home with me, and the scone, Diana Romburgh recognised me and came to say hello.  She and her husband Alan owned the Relais Hotel group, and she said that they are delighted to have sold their business to Tourvest before the World Cup.   Diana was asked by One&Only Cape Town GM Clive Bennett to come and assist him as Guest Relations Manager, and I saw her standing just off the entrance, welcoming hotel guests.    Even though she must have told the staff to not charge extra for the cappuccino, which they did not do on the original bill, a waiter who did not serve me came up to me afterwards, and asked for the payment of the cappuccino, there clearly being communication problems amongst the waitering staff, and misunderstanding about the weekday and weekend High Tea pricing and inclusions/exclusions.

POSTSCRIPT 1/3: Today I received an e-mail from Manley Communications, Communication Consultants to the One&Only Cape Town, to inform me that following this review, the hotel has reverted to an Afternoon Tea Buffet seven days a week, with immediate effect.

One&Only Cape Town, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.  tel (021)  431-5800. (The switchboard at the hotel is a nightmare, or more accurately, the departments they put one through to do not answer!)  http://capetown.oneandonlyresorts.com/default.aspx  R145 per stand weekdays excluding tea/coffee, R145 per person on weekends, inclusive of tea/coffee.  Monday – Sunday 14h30 – 17h30.

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