Tag Archives: Hermanus Times

Hermanus tourism politics remain Stormy!

The powers that control tourism in Hermanus are holding on for dear life, and are using every possible means to hold on to their power, at the cost of disparaging their members.  A huge fight for their political life takes place on Monday evening, when a Special General Meeting of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau is held at the request of its members, calling for a vote of no confidence in its current committee.

We have previously reported about the Hermanus Tourism Bureau reneging on its CCMA settlement agreement to pay their ex-Manager Storm Kreusch R10000 (Daniel Acker is the labour lawyer advisor on this matter, and a director  of the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation), and this has been reported in the July issue of Noseweek too.  We have reported about the conflict of interest in that the Deputy Chairman of the Tourism Bureau, Clinton Lerm, is also the Chairman of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, that his mother Maxie serves on both tourism bodies too, and that all tourism meetings are held at the Lerm’s Misty Waves Hotel.  Following from the unfair dismissal of Ms Kreusch, a group of Hermanus Tourism Bureau members signed a petition, calling for a Special General Meeting, in accordance with the constitution of the Bureau.  Given the potential stormy nature of the meeting, the Overstrand Municipality has appointed an independent advocate, Professor Henning Viljoen, to chair the meeting. 

As the honour of the Lerm family is under threat, one can expect some nasty politics ahead and at the meeting.  Earlier this week the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, Charl de Kock, who appears a mere puppet of said family, wrote a denigrating e-mail to his members as a first salvo of attack, headed “Information we think you should know”.  The three-page e-mail alleges:

   *   that some members were “lured to sign a ‘petition’ document whilst not having real facts”

   *   the agenda for the meeting on Monday is based on “one-sided defence and accusations

   *   some volunteers that have helped in the Tourism Bureau offices have sent tourists to their own establishments, proudly adding that members of the management committee “decided not to take any bookings since late last year”

   *   Ms Kreusch’s staff did not collect outstanding monies due to the Bureau by its members, allowed non-paid members to display brochures and to receive bookings, was the cause of ‘wasteful expenditure’ ‘in respect of cellphone contracts and telephone costs, and used the internet for private purposes ‘remotely’ after hours.  Ms Kreusch shared information from meetings with certain members (who were not on the committee).

   *  a member of the ‘petition committee’ intimidated the Bureau staff twice.  “The person is known to us and we will act in due course as it is the policy of Hermanus Tourism to protect personnel from intimidation”!

   *   allegations that the current committee had withheld information from its members, as claimed by the ‘petition committee’, are denied 

   *   the CCMA agreement, accepting responsibility on behalf of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau for unfair dismissal,  was signed by him as “I had compassion (for Ms Kreusch) and was lured into signing a document after being requested by Storm Kreusch to please just allow her to continue her life in this town”!

The e-mail ending stoops to a unprofessional and unprecedented low, and should be reason enough for the current committee to be dismissed by its members: “It is IMPORTANT TO NOTE that if you support the petition, you in fact support each and every action of mismanagement highlighted above and you will therefore be co-responsible for the current turmoil in Hermanus Tourism.  Support for the current committee means that you support the on-going efforts of myself as Chairperson and the current committee to make this one of the most effective tourism organisations in the country”!   The first sentence is libelous, strong words coming from a body that includes the litigious Lerms, who are the essence of the latest Noseweek article, while the second sentence is ludicrous in its claim of perfection!

Mary Faure, the spokesperson of the ‘petition committee’, has responded, by writing that the Special General Meeting has not been called about Ms Kreusch, but is about “several unconstitutional matters”, including mismanagement, lack of integrity, lack of transparency, holding members in contempt (libelous comments have been made on social media), and lack of information, and ‘misinformation’ to members.  One member has already lodged a complaint with the municipality, for the Hermanus Tourism Bureau e-mail implying that some of its members are responsible for ‘criminal activities’, and has asked the Chairman for a public apology.

A complaint about a disparaging comment from the Cape Whale Coast DMO, which was posted on our blog in response to our blogpost about Ms Keusch’s dismissal, was sent to DMO Chairman Clinton Lerm and remains unaddressed more than a month later!  He has delegated the communication with ourselves to his DMO Deputy Chairman, Daniel Acker, who ends every e-mail in legalese, possibly intended to intimidate the recipient: “All the rights of the author, Cape Whale Coast DMO, and its directors are and remain reserved herein. Any response given herein is thus done without prejudice of / to these said rights”.

A further manifestation of the continued serving of self-interest amongst directors of the Cape Whale Coast DMO and Hermanus Tourism Bureau was the invitation of a select number of Hermanus tourism operators, in addition to the DMO committee, to participate in the presentation of their products and services to a  30-strong delegation of travel agents and tour operators visiting Hermanus, a visit sponsored by SA Tourism and SATSA.  The communication was sent to select members by DMO director Joan-Anne Harris of Southern Stroll Marketing, mainly to her clients, it would appear.  The participants were invited ‘to showcase their product/s to the agents and you will be able to network with them and build relationships over the 2 days’, advantaging a select number of members at the cost of the majority who were not invited!  A Hermanus Times photograph of the event includes representatives of Schulphoek Guest House, Walker Bay Adventures, Cliff Lodge Guest House, African Horse Company, White Shark Projects, Misty Waves Hotel as some of the attendees from Hermanus.  The caption reads: “SA Tourism brought 30 tour operators to the Whale Coast this week to give local accommodation establishments, restaurants, tour operators and organisations offering various adventure activities the opportunity to showcase their products”.  It does not declare the elitist selection of participants.  One wonders how Lerm could have thought that including this item in his recent newsletter to members would make the excluded members warm to him and his DMO and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau!

A rare Cape Whale Coast newsletter was sent by Cape Whale Coast DMO Chairman Clinton Lerm two weeks ago, clearly to present a good image in anticipation of the meeting on Monday, and announced that a Special General Meeting of the DMO will be called to address the dual membership of the DMO and of the Tourism Bureaus in the area, which meeting will be held almost a year after Lerm promised it.  He quotes the ‘Municipal Financial Act’ as being the reason for the dual membership, but that is nonsense, as no other tourism bureau we belong to has such a dual membership system.  Lerm writes: ‘a more inclusive membership structure stands to be adopted‘.  Lerm highlighted the marketing activities of the DMO, clearly feeling the need to justify his organisation’s work, and included the launch of the Cape Whale Coast, the contentious Getaway article, coverage in Süedafrika magazine,  attending Indaba (sharing a stand with Southern Stroll Marketing and other DMO directors, another contentious action), a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the DMO and Cape Town Tourism (as a member of Cape Town Tourism we have not seen this communicated to members!), and the visit by the travel agents/tour operators (making it sound as if only the DMO committee members were invited), hardly much to shout home about.  Bravely Lerm has disclosed the hard-to-find-elsewhere names of the nineteen directors of the Cape Whale Coast, but seven of these are co-opted due to their positions as Overstrand Councillors or Tourism Bureau Managers.  Ms Harris is widely rumoured to be the first incumbent of the position of Manager of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, but that will be another story for another day!

POSTSCRIPT 16/7: The Hermanus Times of 14 July says that the events leading up to the meeting on Monday is “the worst tourism crisis ever for the tourism industry in the region, Hermanus Tourism (HT) has been thrown into turmoil”!   It adds that tension has been brewing for some time ‘within the organisation’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Cluver top local Riesling

The 2008 Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest from Elgin has been selected as the top South African Riesling at a recent Just Riesling winetasting, with local and German judges on the panel.

Just Riesling has been established to increase the profile of Riesling, and to communicate how suited it is for “the South African way of life, climate and cuisine”, reports the Hermanus Times.