Tag Archives: Councillor Grant Pascoe

December Cape Town tourism performance information contradictory!

Tourist attractions in Cape Town reported an increase in visitors during December, but Cape Town International airport bucked the trend, announcing a reduction in passenger arrivals in December 2012 relative to December 2011.

Cape Town International saw a 10% decline in passenger arrivals, which the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry has blamed on SAA cutting its London – Cape Town route.  The Chamber has been known to make incorrect statements relating to the tourism industry in the past, especially in the term of its previous President Michael Bagraim, not appearing to have a good grasp on the Cape tourism industry.  We have not had any feedback from tourists complaining about not being able to get to Cape Town, given that BA and Virgin fly direct from London to Cape Town, and a number of other direct flight options as well as those via Johannesburg are available to tourists at varying prices.  A report by the Cape Times quotes Airports Company South Africa Deirdre Davids as saying that passenger arrivals increased by 7% in December 2012, and that international arrivals increased by 17%, but it does not state which period the increases are relative to.

Quick to jump on the tourism bandwagon, but not always knowledgeable about the industry he is meant to represent on the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee, is Councillor Grant Pascoe, who issued a media release in December about the City’s November tourism performance, adding up the visitor numbers for the Big Six City tourist attractions, and coming up with a figure of ‘over 2 million people’, without taking duplication of attraction visits into account!  The media release comes from the City of Cape Town’s ‘Integrated Strategic Communication and Branding Department’, but does not have an author, its poor writing comparing with the poor media releases generated by Cape Town Tourism!

The media release reported the following visitor numbers in November 2012:

*   V&A Waterfront: ‘over’ 1,8 million

*   Table Mountain (Cableway, one assumes that this is the measured entity, but it is not specified by Pascoe): ‘just over’ 90000

*   Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens: 70745

*   Cape Point: 37600

*   Robben Island: 31870

*   Groot Constantia: ‘over‘ 20000

The Cableway reported that it had achieved its best ever ticket sales of 119000 in December 2012 (it ran a price reduction promotion for locals to thank them for voting Table Mountain as a New7Wonders of Nature at the beginning of December!), and on Boxing Day 7500 visitors went up the mountain, its best day of the month.  Similarly Kirstenbosch increased its numbers, at 82000.  Robben Island ticket sales have been on a downward trend since 2010.  The V&A Waterfront claimed to have received 3 million ‘visitors’ in December 2012, reported Business Day, an increase of 10% on December 2011, claimed the V&A Waterfront CEO David Green.  This implies a 67% increase relative to November 2012! One wonders how the Waterfront measures the ‘visitor numbers’, and what percentage of these are in fact Capetonians shopping there, and going to the movies or eating out, as we have written before.  The V&A used to have a counter on the road at its entrance, but it is not visible any more.  This could make the V&A figures misleading as far as its tourism visitorship is concerned!

If Cape Town International is reporting a 10 % decline for December, and the local tourist attractions reported an increase in visitor numbers, it means that the Cape had more local (Western Cape) visitors to Cape Town, and South Africans who drove instead of flying to Cape Town, possibly due to excessive airline prices, even for domestic flights, and car rental costs.

Once again Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold referred to Seasonality, paying lip service to fixing the problem, as she does year after year: ‘We need to work really hard and continue the effort to promote Cape Town as a year-round destination and encourage visitors to travel out of the peak season so we can extent (sic) our season all year round‘, reported EWN!  Interesting is that Cape Town Tourism admitted that Cape Town could not cope with the tourism numbers over the Festive Season, with rental cars sold out, limited parking, and increased traffic, said its PR and Communications Manager Skye Grove, according to a report in the Cape Argus, a predictable problem, but one which Cape Town Tourism did nothing about, all its top management having been on holiday over this period!

The publicity surrounding the December tourism performance is interesting, as the month has a summer seasonality component, as we are seeing for each of the summer months, with the exception of February.   So, for example December had two very poor weeks in the first half, and Cape Town only filled up just after Christmas, therefore containing only a small Festive Season tourism component.  Our Whale Cottage Camps Bay occupancy figures show that the December 2012 occupancy of 61% fell from the 70% in December 2011, and is still far below the record occupancy of over 84 % and higher in 2009, 2008, and 2007!  Pascoe’s claim that ‘the City’s tourism industry has been enjoying a steady annual increase in visitor numbers’ is misleading and factually incorrect!

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

Cape gets AFCON 2013 cold shoulder, no tournament tourism benefit!

Today the Africa Cup of Nations draws to a close, when Nigeria takes on little known Burkina Faso of West Africa, in the final to be played this evening at 20h30, after the Closing Ceremony commences at the (temporarily AFCON renamed) National Stadium at 18h45.  While Johannesburg and Durban appear to have benefited from the African soccer tournament, Cape Town has seen no tourism bookings during or even for after the tournament.

Cape Town lost out on being a Host City for AFCON 2013, Councillor Grant Pascoe, responsible for Tourism, Events, and Marketing, appearing to have asked too many questions of the Local Organising Committee, especially about the guarantees from government.  This cost our city the opportunity to be a Host City, to see top soccer being played, and denied the tourism industry much needed income. Pascoe tried to offer Cape Town soccer fans a consolation prize of a Bafana Bafana friendly against Norway prior to the AFCON 2013 kick-off, which had no tourism benefit at all.  Pascoe also explained that the City had committed to other events at the same time as AFCON 2013, and couldn’t cancel these events.  The only event was the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, which had booked the soccer stadia in Johannesburg and Cape Town during the AFCON 2013 period. Cancelling the concerts due to AFCON would have cost R90 million.  The ‘reckless management’ of the venue for the band’s performance at the National Stadium in Johannesburg was criticised, in impacting on its pitch, but it was judged to be acceptable for today’s Final earlier this week.

The smaller venues appear to not have as done as well as those in cities.  Last night’s third place play-off between Ghana and Cape Verde in Port Elizabeth was disappointing, with many unsold seats, it was reported. Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium was sold out for all its matches in which Bafana Bafana played, as well as for the semi-final earlier this week, reported The Mercury.   Durban has proudly stated that its R60 million cost of participating as an AFCON 2013 Host City has generated benefits in excess of the expenditure, estimated at R100 million already.  Tourism benefits must have been disappointing, for Durban admitting that ‘Afcon was not on the scale of the World Cup, and we did not see thousands of foreign soccer fans fill our hotels to capacity’. AFCON 2013 has been a very localised African tournament, with little international coverage.  On Germany’s leading TV station ZDF, for example, there has not been a mention to date.

Citing its success in selling out all Bafana Bafana matches, Durban challenged the Local Organising Committee to give it opening or closing ceremonies in future.  It proclaimed itself as the ‘best Afcon 2013 host city’, and bragged that the television coverage in Africa would position Durban as a ‘leading sports and tourism destination‘, hardly a positioning Cape Town would like to see go to Durban.  Durban seized the opportunity to sign a R4,4 million deal with Eurosport, on which inserts about Durban, and its sport celebrities such as Chad le Clos, and the Sharks rugby players, were featured.

Yesterday Kfm presenter Ian Bredenkamp shared in his radio show that the Cape Town Stadium, at which the Stormers vs Boland rugby match was played yesterday afternoon, had been an ideal venue for a rugby match, compared to Newlands Stadium.

Councillor Pascoe proudly Tweeted that he is on his way to London ‘to meet with 4 Premier Division Clubs’, obviously to attract them to play at the Cape Town Stadium.  Pascoe would have been fired from his position in a corporation for his faux pas in causing Cape Town to lose out as Host City.  However, as a senior DA politician in Cape Town, he is strong enough to retain his position as Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing, despite not having much knowledge about the portfolio he controls, and therefore he has had to call in Anton Groenewald to run the show for him!

POSTSCRIPT 10/2: SA Tourism says it is ‘happy’ with visitor numbers attracted by AFCON 2013, according to Standard Digital News. Whilst actual tourism numbers are not yet available, the expectation was that 150000 soccer fans would have attended the tournament, generating $154 million for the economy.  The tourism authority focused its soccer marketing on Kenya, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria.  Hosting AFCON 2013 cost South Africa $53,5 million.

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

Cape Town Tourism CEO departure could benefit City tourism!

Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, will be leaving the organisation in July, she announced on Thursday, after nine years at its helm. While she wrote in the media statement that she had not renewed her contract with Cape Town Tourism, we believe that it is her organisation’s funder, the City of Cape Town, that may have decided to not renew her contract, Councillor Grant Pascoe finding her to be ‘inedible’, as per its original media release!

Mrs Helmbold took over the reins at Cape Town Tourism when the previous Section 21 Cape Town Tourism company was closed down by the City of Cape Town by bleeding it dry financially.  At that time Sheryl Ozinsky was the CEO of the organisation, and I served on the Board as its Deputy Chairman. I remember the sad day for Mrs Helmbold at that time, when the V&A Waterfront’s Tourist Information Centre, headed up by her, was closed down, and we tried to help mop up her tears.  Much has changed since then, Mrs Helmbold having grown in confidence when she was lucky to have been appointed as CEO of Cape Town Tourism, to step into Ms Ozinsky’s shoes.  Mrs Helmbold is a friendly person, and a good networker, but she never had the energy of Ms Ozinsky, who was able to generate reams of free publicity for Cape Town with a close to zero marketing budget at the time.  In the nine year period Mrs Helmbold became very powerful, and received support and protection from the DA powerfrau team of Premier Helen Zille and Mayor Patricia de Lille. She must have felt very safe with the support, allowing herself to slip in her performance levels over time, especially in the past two years:

*   She took long maternity leave for the birth of her daughters, over two busy summer seasons, and little marketing happened in her absences.  Her priorities had clearly changed, and she increasingly ‘mommy Tweeted’ photographs of her children, on a Twitter account that is widely read by the tourism industry as she uses it when she comments about Tourism.  Her personal Twitter account has a link to the Cape Town Tourism website.  These days she hashtags her #MommyTweets, almost in proud defiance!

*   She has had inappropriate relationships with some of her staff, treating Skye Grove and Vel Corcoran as friends rather than as colleagues.  Ms Grove took photographs of Mrs Helmbold’s children at birthday parties, and was thanked via Twitter.

*   She appears to not have been able to reprimand her staff, particularly Ms Grove, who does not hide her personal agendas relative to others in the tourism industry, in retweeting disparaging Tweets, blocking tourism players, not retweeting all positive Tweets relating to Cape Town but only those of a select few, completely unacceptable in her role as the PR and Communications Manager of Cape Town Tourism.   She allowed Ms Grove to work for outside events, such as ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ two years running, in handling the media coverage for the organisers,  and even paying a R20000 sponsorship towards the event in the first year.

*   She appointed Ms Grove to handle Public Relations, without testing her capabilities. The media releases, written by Ms Grove, have been poor, with grammatical errors, inane comments attributed to Mrs Helmbold, and poor proof reading!  The media release announcing Mrs Helmbold’s departure contained a major error, which led to a correction having to be issued, Councillor Grant Pascoe not having found Mrs Helmbold to be ‘inedible’, as per the original media statement sent out.  The media statement should have been checked by Ms Grove, Mrs Helmbold, Councillor Grant Pascoe, and Cape Town Tourism’s PR company Rabbit in a Hat Communications, yet it still was issued with the error!

*   She threatened legal action against ourselves for the criticism we and tourism commenters posted on our blog about her organisation’s poor marketing performance, using Cape Town Tourism’s limited financial resources to brief the organisation’s lawyers to issue a legal threat, which came to nothing. She tried to have our membership of Cape Town Tourism cancelled, at a time when it had expired and we had decided to not renew it, due to the poor marketing performance by Mrs Helmbold’s marketing team, despite the appointment of Mrs Corcoran as its Marketing executive.  Similarly, Mrs Helmbold allowed Ms Grove to brief the same legal firm to threaten us with legal action recently about our blog and comments posted by others.

The real thorn in Mrs Helmbold’s side has been the establishment of the City of Cape Town’s own Tourism, Events and Marketing department, in opposition to Cape Town Tourism, one could say.  This meant that Destination Marketing was removed from Cape Town Tourism’s mandate, and with it a few million Rand from the budget too, seen by many in the industry as a vote of no-confidence by the City in Mrs Helmbold’s leadership. The City is using the reduced Cape Town Tourism monies to fund its own marketing of the City (none of its work is visible yet)!  At the time that Mrs Helmbold went on the Turkey trip last September we had already heard that the City was considering not renewing Mrs Helmbold’s contract.

While one can speculate that Mrs Helmbold’s departure will be good for tourism as there can only be more marketing done than by Mrs Helmbold, and less Tweeting and politicking, as Mrs Helmbold had increasingly taken to. What is a concern though is that Mrs Helmbold leaves in five months, and the City will be advertising her position.  We know from Wesgro, the provincial tourism marketing body, that it is extremely difficult to find a suitable tourism leader, Wesgro still not having found a Tourism CEO in the past ten months since the previous Cape Town Routes Unlimited was amalgamated into Wesgro!  This is bad news for Cape Town and the Western Cape, if both bodies are leaderless – even with leaders no marketing has been visible for our region, so this will just get worse, one can predict!

The Cape Town Tourism media release highlighted Mrs Helmbold’s achievements, including the amalgamation of the various tourist information bureaus across the City and Somerset West, and many marketing campaigns she is praised for, which we have seen generating little benefit for our tourism industry!  Sabine Lehmann, Chairman of the Cape Town Tourism board, described Mrs Helmbold as ‘fearless’ (the context is not explained and we can not think of examples), and passionate about Cape Town (yet she did an intensive PR job for Istanbul when she was part of the Turkey delegation, and Tweets about Pringle Bay all the time).  Councillor Pascoe thanked Mrs Helmbold for her ‘leadership, commitment, and dedication to (sic) promoting Cape Town, both locally and internationally.  She has left an indelible mark on Cape Town and the tourism industry’, as if Mrs Helmbold has left the organisation already!

Mrs Helmbold leaves Cape Town Tourism at the end of July, the media statement says, but her contract expires at the end of June.  She will still present the organisation’s Annual Report at its AGM in October, where she will ‘hand over the reins to the new CEO‘!  She is said to start her own tourism consultancy business.

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

City of Cape Town misleads tourism industry on ‘winter’ performance!

One wonders what Councillor Grant Pascoe, the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing, hopes to achieve by bragging about a supposed positive‘winter’ performance, having ‘defied the odds, with visitors flocking to the city’, as reported by the Cape Argus yesterday, when the industry experience is that business this winter has been worse than the very poor 2011 winter!

The first error in the article is defining ‘winter’ as the April – June months. April is not a winter month, containing a mix of summer until Easter, and then going into autumn, and generally has an above average occupancy, given its large number of public holidays, which is normally good for tourism business.  In May winter starts and stretches until the end of August.  This means that the City of Cape Town and Councillor Pascoe are adding apples and pears to come up with meaningless performance information, which excludes the very wet and cold July and August, which were detrimental to the tourism and hospitality industries, to make himself and Cape Town Tourism look good! Yet the article did admit that ‘Cape Town Tourism’s report for April to June found that seasonality remained a challenge. A drop in visitor numbers during winter was an ongoing problem. In response to this, the city needed to find a way to make sure it was an all-year destination’. Every year the tourism authorities blame Seasonality for the poor winter performance, promise to create and encourage more events in this period, and nothing changes, with winter occupancy levels decreasing rather than increasing.

Councillor Pascoe referred to a survey which Cape Town Tourism conducts amongst its members, very poorly as we have seen when participating in the unprofessionally designed questionnaires in the past, and used airport arrival figures as well as visitor information numbers to try to justify his positive message. He also referred to the so-called success of the Thompson’s campaign, based on three poorly designed Cape Town Tourism ads placed in the Sunday Times in June, and the Manchester United and Ajax Cape Town match, which we reported had made no tourism impact at all (he was clever enough to not make a tourism story out of the failed ‘booby prize’ Eight Nation Under 20 soccer Tournament, in return for having lost the bid to host the Africa Cup of Nations in Cape Town early next year)!

Councillor Pascoe praised Cape Town Tourism for ‘having started drafting plans well ahead of winter’, yet its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold had to admit in March that due to budget constraints many of the marketing programs presented to the industry at its AGM in October had to be cut. “We put in a lot of effort and are happy that some of these things are coming into fruition. And we are glad that they worked out favourably.”  Few tourism players will agree that anything has ‘worked out favourably‘ this winter!

Ever the optimist, Councillor Pascoe forecast that Cape Town would be able to ‘double the numbers by next winter‘!  He said: “We will push hard. We know we’re up against many other cities, but these numbers show we can compete with the best of them.”  We have asked in the past, and request again, that tourism officials present an honest picture of the tourism industry, and not mislead those that have a far better overview of the reality of the tourism industry performance than the City of Cape Town and Cape Town Tourism have! (In similar vein, tourism operator Colin Bell has written to Southern African Tourism Update about the exaggerated tourism statistics coming from SA Tourism)!

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