Yesterday Leeu Collection announced that it has acquired a new property, its first in London. The current office block 55 Newman Street is to be turned into an 100-bedroom luxury hotel, planned to open its doors in 2019. Continue reading →
Less than a year after opening in Franschhoek, Leeu Estates has been featured on the 21st edition of the Condé Nast 2017 HOT LIST, the only South African accommodation property to make the list of 75 accommodation properties, and one of only seven properties in Africa. The accolade complements the five star boutique hotel making the 2017 Travel + Leisure It List. Continue reading →
* SAA would consider a partner to assist it in running its loss-making operation, the Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown said earlier this week. The airline’s application for more funding was recently rejected.
* Wines of South Africa (WOSA) has opened a Hong Kong office to market our country’s wines to all of Asia, and will be managed by Michaela Stander, who has managed the region from South Africa for the past six years. South African wine sales into China grew by 5% and to Japan by 12% in the past year. The marketing program includes consumer education, a sommelier competition, dinners, and offering wines by the glass. It will be visible at the HKTDC fair in Hong Kong next week, and at ProWein China from 12 – 14 November.
* Franschhoek Wine Valley has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Barossa Valley, having similar wine tourism goals and characteristics. Both wine regions have excellent wines, top restaurants, and good accommodation. Tourism and wine industry expertise will be shared between the regions, and programs planned include exchanges for chefs, winemakers, sommeliers, and cellar assistants. Experience of festivals, customer service benchmarking, sustainable wine-making, and wine tourism practices will be shared. (received via media release from Smart Communications & Events)
* A hard-hitting video from USA asks ‘How much has really changed on South Africa’s wine farms?‘ since the protests in De Doorns two years ago, critical not only of some farm owners but also of the government.
* The FIFA World Cup, which kicks off next week, will generate $4 billion for the soccer federation, 66% up from the revenue it earned from the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
* Noble Hill wine estate on the outskirts of Franschhoek has brought the Japanese Hitachino Nest beer range to our country, Continue reading →
Coca Cola’s anthem for the Middle East for the 2014 soccer World Cup is really odd, entitled ‘The World is Ours’. The music video tells the story of three friends from Algeria, Egypt, and Tunisia meeting up at the airport in Brazil, for the World Cup soccer, and having a good time getting to enjoy the vibe of the country. However, the video was shot in its entirety in Cape Town and surrounds, representing the ‘vibrant and colourful Brazilian landscape‘, according to the production company. The video starts off with a park with palms, and features the view from Signal Hill looking down onto Sea Point, Cape Town International, Bo-Kaap, dancing on the rooftop of a building in the city centre with Lion’s Head as a backdrop, street food stalls, and having fun on a beach (most likely to be Camps Bay). The production was by Silver Lining Pictures (in conjunction with Fortune Promoseven Cairo), and the post production was done by Searle Street Post, both from Cape Town. The anthem interpretation is vibey, and its tune catchy, much nicer than the FIFA official anthem by Pitbull. The Coca Cola Middle East music video achieved close to 2 million views on YouTube within 48 hours of being Continue reading →
Minister Alan Winde has encouraged the Western Cape Tourism industry to offer its clients excellent service. ‘We cannot have any of our attractions and destinations not operating at 110%’, he told a media conference on Monday, given that Tourism generates R18 billion per year in revenue from 1,4 million tourists for the Western Cape.
Minister Winde would like to grow the Tourism numbers and revenue, saying that this is only possible if ‘we all work Better Together’. Addressing the axing of SAA’s London-Cape Town Route, Minister Winde said he would welcome the reinstatement of the route (intimated by the new SAA CEO last week), and that the focus is on bringing tourists from other parts of the country and Africa directly to Cape Town. He mentioned that Lufthansa’s new Cape Town – Munich direct flights need to be well-filled for the service to be continued. Flights from Northern Italy are also being considered.
The Tourism Act 2004 is in the process of being repealed, and the Wesgro Act is being amended. A new Western Cape Tourism Trade and Investment Bill is in draft form, and input is being sought from roleplayers in the province.
Latest Tourism arrival statistics presented by national Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk continue to astound Western Cape operators, who are not seeing the reported 10,5% growth for the first half of this year relative to the same period in 2011, with 4,4 million arrivals, of which 1,2 million were international tourists, according to Fin24. Growth was strong from Brazil and China in particular, as well as from India. ‘We are very encouraged to see that our carefully formulated tourism growth strategy to increase tourist arrivals to South Africa is yielding the desired results, with excellent growth achieved in the markets where we are actively marketing destination South Africa, and good returns being realised in markets that we have identified as sources of strong tourism potential for our country’, said Minister van Schalkwyk. In a rare reference to the Tourism industry, President Jacob Zuma congratulated his Department of Tourism and the industry on the good growth performance!
A report entitled ‘South Africa Travel and Tourism Market 2016 Forecast’, prepared by ReportsnReports.com, provides the following feedback about our country’s Tourism trends:
* South Africa is the second most visited country in Africa, after Morocco
* Domestic Tourism has declined from 36 million trips to 24 million in the past five years.
* The FIFA World Cup 2010 led to an oversupply of accommodation, causing occupancy to plummet, a problem prevalent in Cape Town.
The industry has been critical of the national Tourism Minister’s information, not reflecting the experience of tourism operators, but the Minister stands by his statistics. One must then ask the provincial Minister why so few of these international tourists are making it down to the Cape, and what he and Wesgro are doing about the lack of seats on SAA to Cape Town from Johannesburg on Fridays, given his goal to grow tourism to our province.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Chairman: Cape Town Tourism
15 September 2011
MEMBERSHIP OF CAPE TOWN TOURISM
Thank you for your letter regarding the status of our Whale Cottage Camps Bay membership of Cape Town Tourism, dated 8 September 2011. In your 9-page letter you request us to motivate why Cape Town Tourism should not terminate our membership due to our Blog, and more specifically, selected comments on it!
I thank you for the opportunity to set the record straight in terms of the allegations you make about our alleged ‘barrage of cyber-criticism’, ‘cyber attacks’, and ‘CTT bashing’ in your letter, and for the challenge to revisit our policy as far as comments on our Whale Cottage Blog goes. As the criticism is about our Blog, I am posting my reply to you on our Blog, so that members of Cape Town Tourism should be informed of your proposed action, and allow them to participate in the debate about Social Media and its responsible use in tourism marketing, being a public interest matter.
For the background, you will no doubt know that my PR company Relationship Marketing previously, and now my Whale Cottage Camps Bay, have been a member of Cape Town Tourism for about 20 years, motivated by our belief that it is the right thing to be a member of one’s local tourism bureau, and we have adopted this policy in the four towns in the Western Cape in which we have Whale Cottages. In addition, I was a Board member of Cape Town Tourism for a number of years, of its previous (still not yet wound-up) Section 21 company, and was its Deputy Chairman, working closely with then-CEO Sheryl Ozinsky to run the most successful tourism bureau in the country at the time. Our loyalty towards Cape Town Tourism has been visible to your CEO, in that we assisted her to get her current job, and in that I invited her to address members of our Camps Bay Accommodation association, which I head up, to motivate our members to become members of Cape Town Tourism. In fact, we made it mandatory for members of our association to be members of Cape Town Tourism, until our members regrettably voted against this membership criterion a few months ago, due to their dissatisfaction with the benefits of membership of Cape Town Tourism, leading most Camps Bay guest houses to not renew their membership of your organisation.
You may also know that we have written a WhaleTales newsletter for the past ten years, and it is a tourism newsletter, including general news about tourism in Cape Town and the Western Cape, and news about local restaurants, the wine industry, the film industry, whale watching, and any other news that is related to tourism. Our Whale Cottage Portfolio Blog was started three years ago, and we publish a daily post about a tourism-related topic. Our blog is known for its honesty, and achieved the honour of a Top 10 listing of ‘Most Controversial Blog’ in the SA Blog Awards last year. You will note our blog credo is “independent.incisive.informative”, and we have lived up to this at all times. Over time, both the newsletter and blog have achieved a substantial readership. Our writing has not changed over the past ten years, and Cape Town Tourism has been allowed to contribute input and response over the years. In the past three months (i.e. out of 92 blogposts), we have written nine blogposts about Cape Town Tourism and its marketing activities, and another 21 have referred to Cape Town Tourism in a secondary manner.
It is therefore a surprise that we should receive your letter of allegations relating to our recent writing about Cape Town Tourism, given that it is no more or less in quantity than before. What has changed in content is that we have become more critical of the Marketing activities (or rather, lack of) by Cape Town Tourism, after it became clear to us that there was no recognition of nor action by your management of the tourism crisis in our city, until we wrote about it on our Blog, and it was then picked up as a front page story by the Cape Argus. In our capacity as a member of Cape Town Tourism, as a ratepayer of Cape Town, and as a writer, it concerned me greatly to hear your CEO answer a question about the positioning of Cape Town at the ‘strategic plan’ presentation at the Baxter Theatre recently, which reflected her obviously uninformed Marketing understanding. The fact that she had to call in consultants to write the plan, and Australian ones at that, deserved intense debate in the interest of the industry.
Our response to your adverse allegations about our Blog is as follows:
* No Code of Conduct has ever been sent to us as members, and therefore not signed or agreed to in acceptance. In the past week your offices have not been able to honour our request to send us such a signed document.
* Your nine-page letter refers repeatedly to us not treating Cape Town Tourism, its staff, and its representatives with ‘honesty, respect and dignity’, as per the Cape Town Tourism Code of Conduct, in six comments and two blogposts on our Blog, for which you present examples of alleged ‘disrespect’, but no allegations of dishonesty nor loss of dignity are made or substantiated by you. We reject these allegations with contempt, given that our blogposts and comments have not been designed to prejudice Cape Town Tourism and its agents.
* You write about the ‘immense volume, intensity and frequency of the criticism’ (clause 5.1.1), ‘frequency and intensity of these cyber-attacks’ (clause 5.1.2), and ‘torrent of criticism’ (clause 5.1.3), and it demonstrates your lack of understanding of Social Media. None of these alleged criticisms of frequency by yourselves are contrary to any code of conduct nor to Social Media practice, and cannot be linked to an alleged ‘attempt to denigrate CTT (Cape Town Tourism)’, as claimed by you.
* You refer to “Twitter posts” (the word is ‘Tweets’) as being a problem, yet present no evidence of this!
* You (mistakenly) refer to a commenter on our blog as a ‘follower’, implying that we have a special relationship with our commenters! Most commenters are unknown to us, especially as they use false names and/or gmail addresses. Interesting is how you take one comment out of hundreds on our blog out of context, to support your ‘argument’! You have not fairly highlighted the numerous replies to comments that I have written, defending our relationship with your CEO, and stating over and over again that nothing that we write is meant personally about her or her colleagues. We have also expressed over the years our respect for your CEO and the good work that she and her team has done in amalgamating the Visitor Bureaus in Cape Town. This does not mean, however, that some activities by your organisation are not worthy of criticism.
* Your clause 5.1.3. is devoid of all logic
* Your clause 5.1.4. alleges ‘CTT bashing’, which you link directly to comments being disallowed on our blog. As the owner of a blog, one has the right to disallow defamatory, disparaging, and dishonest comments. Whenever we post a blogpost about Cape Town Tourism, we receive what can be described as ‘hate speech’ towards ourselves, and while they may state their support for Cape Town Tourism, they also ‘bash’, to use your word, myself and my Whale Cottages, which is not what comments are intended for. A question begging an answer is how you would know that (unpublished) comments have been sent to our blog, given that comments are not visible until I allow them? Could it be that the sending of comments in support of Cape Town Tourism has been encouraged by your PR department, or dare I allege, even written by Cape Town Tourism, using pseudonyms and gmail accounts?!
* It is the comment we received from Mavis Wilken (clause 5.2.1) that appears to be at the crux of your letter, as we received a separate letter from your lawyers Webber Wentzel on the same day, threatening legal action if her comment is not removed from our Blog in its entirety. We had edited the comment soon after it was allowed (30 hours is an extreme exaggeration), to protect your CEO. The comment was received on the same day as Ms Wilken forwarded an e-mail to us which she had sent to the tourism representatives of the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government, alleging mismanagement by Cape Town Tourism in a number of respects. Under threat of legal action by yourselves, but not in admission of any wrong-doing, we have removed Ms Wilken’s comment in its entirety.
* The remark made by Ian Macfarlane, the Australian ‘Strategetic consultant’ of Cape Town Tourism, was written by me in a positive manner, and was expressed by him as a compliment to your CEO in her ability to obtain funds from the City of Cape Town and other sources. To read an allegation of ‘corruption’ , defamation, and disparagement into this compliment is preposterous, and is disparaging in itself!
* We have noted a surge in disparaging comments from a small collection of commenters (Marco, Mike, and Jeremy Claasen in the main, the latter sometimes writing the same comment six times a day, in the mistaken belief that it will be published), all in support of Cape Town Tourism, and wildly disparaging towards ourselves, whenever we publish a blogpost about Cape Town Tourism. We have had to increasingly request these commenters to rewrite their comments by editing out their disparagement, and we delete these comments if they are not rephrased. It is our Blog, and quite frankly we can write on it what we wish (you appear to have little problem with its content, and more with its comments), and can allow reasonable comments. For the first time we have edited two commenters’ comments, both of these edits relating to blogposts in which Cape Town Tourism is mentioned, received from Ms Wilken and Maria. No disparagement was intended nor implied in our reply to Mike’s comment (clauses 5.2.3 and 5.2.4). To read into our reply to him that Cape Town Tourism ‘…is deserving of no support…’, as alleged by you, and that it is an ‘..attempt on your part to undermine and cause embarrassment to the organisation’ is ludicrous, and is rejected with contempt! Being a member of the tourism industry, it would be ludicrous for me to defame or disparage the good name of an industry association that my company is a member of.
* The comment we made about your CEO’s lack of support of the Grand Prix in Cape Town was exactly as you stated it, made in ‘jest’ (clause 5.2.5). No allegation was made that your CEO is ‘…not of sound mind and sober senses’, and cannot be deduced from our writing. We reject your allegation.
* You appear to be looking for allegations of implied ‘corruption’ in reading our Blog and its comments. The ‘corruption’ link you make to my observation about your Board members Nils Heckscher and Susanne Faussner-Ringer, in their capacity as previous Board members of FEDHASA Cape, and their irresponsible attempts at coercing the accommodation industry to sign with MATCH for the FIFA World Cup last year, is far-fetched and incomprehensible (clause 5.2.6). It therefore cannot be seen to be ..‘unfounded, unsubstantiated and patently disparaging’, as alleged by you, as the tourism industry knows about the financial loss it suffered as a result of signing with MATCH on the recommendation of these two directors, and it is ironic that the loss suffered included the properties managed by Mr Heckscher and Mrs Faussner-Ringer! It is also rather obvious that your organisation is using the same threatening technique to terminate our membership, as FEDHASA Cape attempted to two years ago, when we spoke out against MATCH!
* Your response to our claim that Cape Town Tourism ‘planted’ the ‘100 Women 100 Wine’ blogpost comment from ‘Thandiwe Motse’ is factually incorrect, as I did not write that it emanated ‘..from the offices of CTT’, as alleged by you. Comments can be sent to a blog from any computer, and after hours too (clause 5.2.7). Cape Town Tourism’s link to this comment is clear, especially given that no Google reference exists for ‘Ms Motse’, that she provided an incorrect e-mail address for herself, very odd for a businessperson, and that her surname was incorrectly spelt in both the comment and Cape Town Tourism Tweets about this event. ‘Ms Motse’ would have been welcome to e-mail and to call me, to express her point of view to me directly, as the owner of the Blog, rather than to complain via her ‘friend’ about our Blog to Cape Town Tourism! No racial slur was implied, as alleged by you! We have proof that your PR Manager has directed an (unpublished) comment to our Blog, using a false name.
* Over and above the specific denials we have made against your allegations, we categorically deny your allegations of ‘bad faith’, ‘malicious intent’, ‘evident satisfaction in what you perceive to be failings…’ , as well as of ‘disparaging, undermining and even defamatory comment and criticism’.
Lastly, comments have become the bane of blogs, and are increasingly disparaging, rude, and even crude, not always aimed at the subject matter of the blogpost, but often at the blog owner too. Initially our policy was to allow most comments, in the interest of freedom of speech without prejudicing tourism, but soon it became evident that commenters saw our Blog as a means of ‘blog bashing’ us in the main. As the blog is a voluntary unpaid-for activity we do for the love of it, we see no reason to post such disparaging comments.
We are delighted that you support that ‘..our members are entitled to engage in debate about the direction, strategy and performance of CTT, and that this debate may be ‘robust’. We believe that we have acted within these guidelines, as well as the Freedom of Speech which is ensconced in the Constitution of our country. We feel that your organisation’s CEO may be over-sensitive to Social Media, which spares no one, including myself and my company!
While you and I are debating ‘respect‘ in the main, I believe that respect is a two-way courtesy, and therefore we have the right to demand respect, and that we should not be disparaged or defamed by your organisation, its CEO, and staff too. Consider the following examples of disrespect which have been shown to ourselves as a member of Cape Town Tourism, and as a blogger listed on your Cape Town Tourism media list:
* The Re-Tweet in October last year by your PR Manager Skye Grove of a Tweet by Naashon Zalk, of which the content was defamatory to ourselves, making her guilty of defamation too. A complaint lodged to your CEO about the defamation was rejected, reflecting your CEO’s lack of understanding of the law of defamation. Another defamatory Tweet by @Lesterkk was also Re-Tweeted by Ms Grove on 22 November 2010.
* The acceptance by Cape Town Tourism of a complaint lodged against our Whale Cottage Hermanus (not a member of Cape Town Tourism), by Mr Zalk about our warning to our guest house colleagues in Hermanus about an attempt by him and his House & Leisure editor wife Naomi Larkin to defraud us, instead of it being passed on to the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, as would have been the correct procedure. Cape Town Tourism attempted to bring us into disrepute with the provincial Consumer Protector, by passing on Mr Zalk’s complaint to them. We have never heard from them again about the matter, after explaining Mr Zalk’s alleged fraud attempt against us.
* Ms Grove attempted to have our website www.whalecottage.com, which was hosted with Hetzner, closed down last year, which led us to move it to an American server, at a cost to ourselves.
* The accusation on 22 November 2010 by Ms Grove, in a comment posted on the ‘Spaniard in the Works’ blog, that I had ‘unlawful‘(ly) taken down Martin Hatchuel’s website is defamatory. It was clear, by Mr Hatchuel’s own admission, that his refusal to delete a defamatory comment on his website, leading to a complaint against his site, had led Hetzner to close down the website. In the same comment, Ms Grove disparages my ‘lack of journalistic quality and substance’! Further content in her comment to this blogpost, as well as on the Salma Gandi blog, demonstrates the personal issues she has with ourselves, something a ‘professional’ PR Manager should not express of a member of Cape Town Tourism, or any other person for that matter, on a public platform!
* In the past three months Whale Cottage has made a concerted effort to improve its Facebook presence. Proactive suggestions by Facebook about prospective persons to ‘befriend’ led us to Ms Grove, and so we sent a Facebook Friend request. The immediate message we received from her questioned why we would want to be a friend. Ms Grove never accepted the Friend request, as is her right. However, later that day, she Tweeted that she could still taste the vomit in her mouth from the Friend request that she had received earlier that day!
* Your CEO, new Marketing Manager Velma Corcoran, and PR Manager have blocked us on Twitter, but your CEO reconsidered her action, and unblocked us. Blocking is a severe sign of disrespect on Twitter. It is such a shame that your managers should be missing out on my pearls of wisdom contained in my Tweets about Cape Town!
* We have good reason to believe that Ms Grove is part of the team writing the disparaging, libelous, and defamatory ‘Whalespotter’ Twitter campaign about Whale Cottage and myself. A Tweet on Monday this week referred to your letter by implication, which Ms Grove would have inside knowledge of.
* In the past month your CEO has refused to respond to our e-mails, which have requested information for input to our blogposts, despite an invitation by the City of Cape Town representative on your Board, Ms Mkefa, to direct any question to Mrs Helmbold. Your CEO Tweeted on 31 August that she would only answer questions from us via the Cape Town Tourism website, and a few days later a detailed justification for the appointment of the Australian Strategetic Consultants was posted on your website. When one receives no reply to e-mails, the negative inference is that the organisation is trying to hide something.
* Cape Town Tourism has not reacted to the blogposts that you refer to in your letter, having the opportunity to do so via a comment to each blogpost, as would any other commenter. In the past we have posted all comments received from your CEO, either in the blogpost, or as a comment.
* Your City of Cape Town Mayoral Executive Committee member for Tourism, Grant Pascoe, directly responsible for the R40 million allocation of the City’s monies to your organisation, has refused to return our calls or to respond to our e-mails relating to Cape Town Tourism.
No blog forces readership of it on anyone, and therefore your CEO and staff are welcome to save their valuable time and to not read our Whale Cottage Portfolio Blog in such detail, and to rather focus that time on marketing Cape Town, given the severity of the tourism crisis.
It would appear that you hold me solely responsible for criticism of Cape Town Tourism’s performance. However, blogger Carl Momberg recently wrote a critical piece, also questioning your organisation’s ability to market Cape Town. The Cape Times picked this up and ran with the story, quoting additional tourism players expressing their dissatisfaction with the performance of your organisation. Will you also be attempting to censor Mr Momberg?
Surely the monies of Cape Town Tourism should more wisely be spent on marketing Cape Town, and not on lawyers’ fees? Surely your organisation would want to retain members and not lose even more members? Surely you do not want Cape Town Tourism to be perceived as the ‘big bully’ of tourism media censorship?
Earlier this year your membership officer Mrs Cathy Alberts begged us to rejoin as a member of Cape Town Tourism, and I explained to her my reservations to do so, given the unprofessional behaviour and disrespect I and my company have experienced from Cape Town Tourism and its staff, as detailed above. We were surprised about Mrs Alberts’ insistence that we rejoin Cape Town Tourism, and it was our ‘patriotism’ to Cape Town, and loyalty to Cape Town Tourism, that made us rejoin.
Given the disrespect which Cape Town Tourism, your CEO Mrs Helmbold, your PR Manager Ms Grove, and you as Chairman with your Board of Directors, through this one-sided disparaging letter, have shown Whale Cottage, coupled with the lack of delivery on the promised Cape Town Tourism membership benefits, we have decided to not renew our membership of Cape Town Tourism, which expired at the end of August 2011, for the next year. We reserve the right to re-apply for membership in future. We will continue the debate about the marketing of Cape Town, and will continue to write about the activities of your organisation, as well as any other body handling the marketing of Cape Town. I am available to share my tourism and marketing experience with your organisation’s management at any time that it is needed, in the interest of our common passion for our beautiful city Cape Town!
Warm whale wishes
Chris von Ulmenstein
Whale Cottage Portfolio cc
POSTSCRIPT 15/9: We have just (11h41) received a follow-up letter from Webber Wentzel, Cape Town Tourism’s lawyers, making a demand that we apologise to Mrs Helmbold for Ms Wilken’s alleged ‘defamatory comment’, promise to “…desist from, in the future, publishing any further such defamatory comments about our clients on the Blog and/or any other cyber-medium used by you to communicate to the public including,but not limited to, Twitter and Facebook”, and provide the ‘correct and full name’ of ‘the so-called Mavis Wilken’, so that they can take ‘steps on behalf of our clients against the author’. We are shocked that Cape Town Tourism could be setting itself as the Tourism information censor! We await with interest their reaction to our Open Letter!
POSTSCRIPT 18/9: In an interview with the Cape Argus published today, Cape Town CEO Mrs Helmbold is quoted as saying that Whale Cottage Camps Bay is still a member of Cape Town Tourism, as our membership has not been resigned by letter. There is no form that we are aware of to complete to resign one’s membership, and one would have thought that the last paragraph to this blogpost, addressed to its Chairperson, motivating why we will not be renewing our long-standing membership, as well as the non-payment of the annual membership fee, for the period 1 September 2011 – August 2012, would have been a clear communication that we have no intention to renew our membership for the next year! We are considering our legal options regarding a defamatory Tweet sent by Cape Town Tourism on 15 September, and Re-Tweeted by Mrs Helmbold, stating “Whale Cottage Membership Termination“.
POSTSCRIPT 19/9: We have posted our new policy on comments received to blogposts written about Cape Town Tourism today, in the light of the letter we received from the Chairman of Cape Town Tourism, as well as two letters received from the lawyers of Cape Town Tourism.
POSTSCRIPT 23/9: In response to our lawyer’s letter to Cape Town Tourism, to confirm that our Letter to its Chairman Ian Bartes posted on our Blog above is confirmation of our non-renewal of our membership of Cape Town Tourism for the next year, Cape Town Tourism lawyers Webber Wentzel have sent a three-page lawyer’s letter, accepting our non-renewal, which somehow had not been clear to Cape Town Tourism from our blogpost above! One wonders why Cape Town Tourism is wasting its scarce financial resources on legal fees against a past member of Cape Town Tourism!
POSTSCRIPT 6/10: Under pressure from ourselves, Cape Town Tourism has revised its misleading and defamatory statement about our membership of Cape Town Tourism on its website, confirming their acceptance of our communication that we have chosen to not renew our membership for 2011/2012.
If it weren’t about such a serious topic, one would be amused by Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, two bodies ludicrously tasked with the marketing of Cape Town, fighting a PR war, with media releases coming from them in rapid succession, even on weekend evenings!
Historically Cape Town Routes Unlimited was given the mandate to market Cape Town and the Western Cape as a tourism and business destination, but the marketing funds for Cape Town were withdrawn by the City of Cape Town by its then Tourism Councillor Simon Grindrod, due to the unsatisfactory marketing performance by Cape Town Routes Unlimited. The City’s R15 million was then allocated to Cape Town Tourism, which body originally only had the mandate to run Visitor Information Services in Cape Town and in Somerset West. Cape Town Routes Unlimited did not stop marketing Cape Town, and now we see both bodies market Cape Town, and appearing to compete against each other for column centimetres in the local newspapers. Strangely, Cape Town Tourism did not issue a media release about the volcano ash cloud disrupting air traffic on Saturday, as Cape Town Routes Unlimited, with the provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde, had sent a media release that same evening, unheard of for a public body to be so proactive in providing news. However, The Finalist status of Cape Town for World Design Capital 2014 has not been acknowledged by Cape Town Routes Unlimited, as Cape Town Tourism was involved in the bid preparation, and announced the news via its media releases and member newsflash on Tuesday.
Cape Town Tourism had not reacted to the tourism industry’s perilous current state. While it did write that the city’s tourism industry would only pick up by 2014, it focused more on brand Cape Town, and how it needs to be re-positioned, Cape Town Tourism having been responsible for its current (unknown) positioning in the first place, having led the marketing of the city for three years already. Last week we criticised Cape Town Tourism’s lack of reaction to the tourism crisis in our city, to which no response was received from its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold. Yesterday the Cape Times screamed in its headline: “City’s tourism sector in crisis”, having picked up Cape Town Tourism’s 2014 recovery release, and linking it to the Bureau of Economic Research findings of the worst ever accommodation confidence level of 25%, which we referred to as well, which the journalist mistakenly called ‘occupancy levels’ (occupancy of 25 % would have been most welcome now!). Incidentally, the article also stated that the City of Cape Town was meeting yesterday to decide whether a grant of an astounding R40 million will go to Cape Town Tourism to market the city. No outcome of this meeting decision has been made public. We have been vocal about our dissatisfaction with the apparent lack of visible marketing of Cape Town, other than the CEO and PR Manager’s Twitter presence.
Cape Town Tourism reacted to the Cape Times with a media release today, trying to downplay the severity of the situation and denying the ‘crisis’ in the tourism industry, and incorrectly deducing that it is seasonality that is to blame. It refers to the good publicity that Cape Town has received recently (which has not brought any enquiries at all), and that the FIFA World Cup was never meant to be a quick fix for the marketing of the city. It blames ‘out-of-date’ marketing of the city, for which Cape Town Tourism is to blame! The media release demonstrates how out of touch the organisation is, in that it is the forward bookings that are not coming in at all, for many accommodation establishments, up to 50 % of their bookings having come from the UK in the past, and this enquiry level will not be repeated this summer. Interestingly, the release uses the ‘silo’ terminology of Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism, which he used in a speech at FEDHASA Cape last week, but in a different context! Here is a section of the Cape Town Tourism Media release:
“Cape Town Tourism cautions against alarmist statements about a tourism crisis. “We are in the middle of winter, traditionally a very tough time for the tourism sector in Cape Town. This is reflected in the low occupancy levels currently experienced by the majority of the industry. The increased supply, decreased demand and lingering recession add to the challenges the tourism sector faces,” says Cape Town Tourism CEO, Mariëtte du-Toit Helmbold. There are signs of recovery, albeit at a slow rate of 3-4%, which will mean that recovery could take significantly longer than initially anticipated unless we change tactics.”
“We cannot ignore the real danger the tourism sector faces by reverting to tried, tested and out-dated marketing methods and continuously operating in silo’s as tourism, business, investment and government. Neither should we stop investing in our traditional markets, which we depend on for the lion’s share of our visitors and revenue, to focus all our attention on growing domestic and business tourism. Tourism remains one of the biggest business sectors and employers for our region. It needs continued investment and a more balanced approach that will see tourism working together with business, investment and other sectors under the powerful and consolidated brand positioning of inspiration and within a single minded economic strategy for our region. The World Cup taught us much about communicating better with visitors, alternative source markets and about focusing on the customer when developing our brand and marketing messages. Cape Town has a long way to go before the majority of our citizens can call it a great place to live, but the World Cup was a good launch pad for the future. We are a better, brighter, more world-friendly city than before and we have to credit the World Cup with this legacy. Let us build upon this platform created.”
Cape Town Routes Unlimited jumped the gun on Cape Town Tourism last week, in its media release which urged hoteliers to slash their rates, but also demonstrated that the organisation’s CEO, Calvyn Gilfillan, is also not in touch with the industry, in knowing that most accommodation establishments reduce their winter rates by up to 50 %!
We would urge Cape Town Tourism, Cape Town Routes Unlimited, Alan Winde, the provincial Minister of Tourism, and Grant Pascoe, the City of Cape Town’s new Councillor responsible for Tourism, to meet, to find a solution out of the tourism crisis, and to sing off the same song-sheet!
POSTSCRIPT 23/6: The Cape Argus today reports that Cape Town Tourism’s grant of R40 million was approved yesterday, and that Cape Town Tourism will use the monies to stage off-peak season events as well as a ‘technological campaign to target potential tourists’. The sad reality is that the Marketing Plan was written before Cape Town Tourism realised that the tourism industry is in crisis – one hopes that they have the flexibility to adapt their plan to cater for the poor summer season lying ahead! “Cape Town Tourism is committed to playing a leadership role in ensuring that our tourism industry embraces technology. We will continue to invest significantly in this area, building upon the solid foundation laid in the run-up to the World Cup, and keeping up with global trends, with the focus on mobile and smart phone travel applications for Cape Town”, Cape Town Tourism’s CEO is quoted as saying. This is hardly the solution to the crisis in the tourism industry in Cape Town!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
In preparation for the FIFA World Cup, the Telegraph newspaper in the UK has selected its choice of top 10 South African wines. South Africa is the world’s 9th largest producer, according to the report, and has more than 600 wineries and 6 000 wines. It has a 12 % market share in the UK, closely following France and Italy.
The largest volume of sales of South African wines is of Arniston Bay and Kumala. But high-end wines such as Hamilton Russell, Vergelegen, Boekenhoutskloof, Meerlust, Thelema, Toakara, Kanonkop and Rustenberg are also imported into the UK.
The top 10 list of South African wines for wine writer Jonathan Ray, are the following, with his rationale and food-pairing suggestions:
“1 2009 Ken Forrester Cape Breeze Chenin Blanc, 13%vol, South Africa (£4.98; Asda)
Ken Forrester knows his chenin blanc inside out, and his so-called FMC (Forrester Meinert Chenin) is a much-loved classic (and highest-ever scoring South African white in Wine Spectator). This entry-level version might sound like a shampoo or a Duluxpaint, but it’s a great value introduction to the grape, with crisp, sweet-edged fruit and a dry finish. An ideal crowd-pleaser for parties.
2 2009 Flagstone Noon Gun Dry White, 13.5%vol, South Africa (£4.99 reduced from £6.99 until Dec 1; Tesco)
Bruce Jack, one of the nicest and quirkiest of all SA winemakers, shocked many by signing up with the world’s largest wine producer, Constellation. Flagstone, housed in a former dynamite factory, is his baby, though, and he vows he’ll be left to his own devices. This chenin blanc/viognier/sauvignonblend is a typical Jack charmer, being light, aromatic and fruity. Delicious with grilled sea bass.
3 2008 Beyerskloof Pinotage, 14%vol, South Africa (£5.99 if you buy 3, otherwise £8.99; Wine Rack)
Pinotage, a cross between cinsault and pinot noir, is South Africa’s USP, loved for its fruit by some, dismissed as tired and redolent of burnt rubber by others. In the hands of Beyerskloof’s Beyers Truter, one of the grape’s most vociferous supporters, it works a dream. Here, his entry-level version is ripe, juicy and full of spicy plum fruit, withno hint of rubber. Enjoy with slow roast belly of pork.
4 2009 Stellar Organics Syrah RosÃ©, 13.5%vol, South Africa (£6.05; Asda, Budgens, Londis, Spar)
South Africa is strong on Fairtrade and Stellar was the first organic winery in the world to be so accredited. The winery gets its fruit from farms along the northern boundary of Olifant’s River and processes around 4,500 tons of organic grapes a year. This pink syrah is hardly complex, just delightfully fruity and off-dry in the mouth, with a dryish, peppery finish. Serve it well-chilled at parties, or with stuffed red peppers or roasted root vegetables.
5 2007 Bellingham Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc, 14.5%vol, South Africa (£8.99; Majestic)
Chenin blanc does better in South Africa than anywhere else outside the Loire Valley, and this from Bellingham’s Bernard Series (formerly the Maverick range) is a first-rate example of real style. Made from 40-year-old, high-altitude bush vines, it has wonderfully concentrated rich, ripe fruit withhints of peach, apricot and cream. A touch full-flavoured for an aperitif, it works really well with fish pie or creamy mushroom pasta.
6 2007 Paul Cluver Weisser Riesling Noble Late Harvest, 12%vol, South Africa (£11.49 per 37.5cl; selected Waitrose stores and www.waitrosewine.com)
Andries Burger of Paul Cluver Estate makes smashing wines and I’ve long been a fan of the estate’s pinot noir and their classy gewÃ¼rztraminer. This is a corker too: a late-picked, botrytised, cool-climate riesling, packed with concentrated honeyed apple/peach flavours and a zingy acidity. It’s great with desserts such as tarte tatin, but even better with gooey blue cheese.
7 2005 Iona The Gunnar, 14%vol, South Africa (£11.95 – £14.95; Really Fine Wine Co 0131 669 7716, Swig Wines 08000 272272, Hic Wines 01977 550047)
Iona is celebrated for its chardonnays and sauvignons and does a fine syrah, too (and a brand new Noble Late Harvest sauvignon, which is gorgeous). This blended red, from cabernet, merlot and petit verdot, is a belter as well. Inimitably SA of course, it also has a touch of Left Bank Bordeaux style and is smoothand rounded with luscious ripe fruit. Enjoy with roast loin of venison.
8 Graham Beck Brut NV, 13%vol, South Africa (£12.99; Waitrose, Wholefoods 020 7368 4500, DJ Foodfare 020 8748 5974)
I’ve always enjoyed Graham Beck’s sparklers, made in the champagne method under the supervision of the legendary Pieter “Bubbles” Ferreira. This 50-50 blend of chardonnay and pinot noir from the Robertson region is about as good as it gets for a non-champagne fizz, being crisp and clean, but toasty and brioche-like too. A cracking aperitif.
9 2001 Morgenhof Cape Late Bottled Vintage, 17.5%vol, South Africa (£16.99; Cellar Door Wines 01727 854488, Wright Wine Co 01756 700886)
This is scrumptious stuff, the Cape’s answer to the Douro Valley. Made from 100 per cent tinta barroca, one of port’s major grapes, and aged for four years in French oak, it has raisins, liquorice and ripe damsons on the palate and a rich, succulent finish. Enjoy as you would any LBV port, with cheese, chocolate puddings or a hearty Cuban cigar.
10 2007 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir, 13%vol, South Africa (£24.99; Wine Society, Harvey Nichols)
The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, near Hermanus, is home to some fascinating wines. Although nobody agrees on exactly where the prime valley starts and ends, it’s fair to say that Hamilton Russell put the region on the map with its pinots and chardonnays. Known as the most “Burgundian” of SA’s pinots, this is as elegant and silky as they come, with a touch of vegetalspice and dark berry fruit. Perfect with chicken and truffle risotto”
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com
A recent letter to the Cape Argus by reader Merle Kaplan about rising prises and decreasing levels of service in Cape Town over the Festive season was food for thought. Our response to her letter, sent to the Cape Argus, was as follows:
“While not a restaurant owner, but a frequent restaurant user, I cannot agree with Ms Kaplan about price increases. I want to commend our restaurants for holding their prices in these difficult times – they probably have no choice anyway. I must immediately exclude the mad prices charged for New Year’s Eve dinners and entertainment, with up to R 2 000 per head charged for 3 or 4 courses, 2 free glasses of bubbly, and some entertainment.
A sensitive point raised is that of staff. If Ms Kaplan had any idea about how difficult it is to run a hospitality business, then she would be more sympathetic to the staffing problems our industry experiences. Realities are no-shows of staff – something else comes up or they want to go out with their friends, who are all on holiday. Staff move from one job to another on the basis of a few Rands, without giving the required notice period, as per their contracts and the Department of Labour’s Sectoral Determination for the Hospitality Industry. Students are a fantastic source of help, but they need to be trained. Students do not appear to be as “hungry” as they used to be, and they too would prefer to spend the Christmas and New Year’s days with their family and friends and forego the income. Unfortunately not arriving at work is not a “dismissible offence”, as Ms Kaplan claims – one can issue 3 letters of warning and then hold a disciplinary hearing before one can even contemplate firing an employee. Then the restaurant owner is still guaranteed to be called to the CCMA, or the Department of Labour.
But hardest of all, is the extreme short-term nature of customers’ decision-making. Last minute bookings, or arrivals without a booking, must be a restaurateurs’ worst nightmare, as they cannot predict how many customers they will have each day – this affects planning for stocks and staffing. Restaurants experience good and bad days, and there is no pattern to predict when they will be busy and when not.
I also think that after a quiet year due to the credit crunch, during which everything went at a slower pace, it is hard for restaurants and their staff to pick up the pace and deal with full restaurants again. All our businesses have become leaner, due to the credit crunch. Cape Town’s hospitality industry must get out of the credit crunch mode, and must gear up to face the busiest June and July ever during the World Cup.”
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com