Tag Archives: Inspirational

Telegraph Travel ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ an improvement, but not error-free!

After writing about the disastrous error-filled and outdated Conde Nast Traveller  Guide to Cape Town earlier this week, it was refreshing to see a link on Twitter about the Telegraph Travel’s  ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’, written by local travel writer and ‘destination expert’ Pippa de Bruyn (author of a ‘Frommer’s Guide’ to South Africa and to India, and of  ‘A Hedonist’s Guide to Cape Town’), resulting in a far more accurate guide for the tourist visiting Cape Town.

The Guide kicks off with the Beauty positioning for Cape Town (the one that Cape Town Tourism has just thrown away by using Inspirational’, as the new positioning for Cape Town, even though it is not unique for Cape Town and has been used by others, including Pick ‘n Pay!), in stating that “Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world”.  It is accompanied by a beautiful shot of Clifton, with the Twelve Apostles as backdrop.  The reasons for travelling to Cape Town are motivated as its ‘in-your-face beauty’; the pristine white beaches; the proximity of nature; spotting zebra and wildebeest on the slopes of Table Mountain; watching whales breaching in False Bay; being ‘halted by cavorting baboons near Cape Point’; being a contender for World Design Capital 2014 with its art galleries, ‘hip bars’, opera, and design-savvy shops; the unique marriage of Dutch-origin vegetable gardening, winemaking introduced by the French (this fact must be challenged, as it was the Dutch who established the first wine farms), Malay slaves’ spices, and English ‘Georgian mansions and Victorian terraced homes’;  its contrasts of pleasure and poverty, of ‘pounding seas and vine-carpeted valleys’, and its award-winning wines and produce offer ‘some of the best (and most affordable) fine dining in the world’.

The ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ includes the following recommendations:

*   travel time is suggested as ‘pretty much any time of the year’, and a warning of wet Julys and Augusts now is inaccurate, given the wonderful non-winter weather experienced in Cape Town during both these months this year!

*   misleading is the claim that Cape Town offers the best land-based whale watching in the world – this positioning belongs to Hermanus, and is corrected a few pages further into the guide.   Also misleading is the claim that the best ‘summer deals’ are available in October and November – most accommodation establishments have the same rate for the whole summer, and do not drop rates at the start of summer.

*   it is up-to-date in that use of the MyCiti Bus is recommended to travel between the airport and the Civic Centre, as well as to the Waterfront.  Train travel between Cape Town and Simonstown is not recommended, due to dirty windows and lack of safety, one of the few negatives contained in the Guide.  The red City Sightseeing bus is recommended, as are bus tours, taxis, Rikkis, and car hire.

*  The ‘Local laws and etiquette’ section does not address either of these two points.  Instead, it warns against crime when walking or driving, and recommends that tourists should not ‘flash their wealth’.  Potential card-skimming in the Waterfront and at the airport is also a potential danger, travellers to Cape Town are told, not accurate, and unfair to these two Cape Town locations.

*   Tourist attractions recommended are Cape Point, driving via the Atlantic Seaboard and Chapman’s Peak; wine-tasting in Constantia; the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens; exploring the city centre on foot, walking from the city centre to Green Point; taking a water taxi from the Convention Centre to the Waterfront; the Footsteps to Freedom Tour; the Company Gardens; the National Gallery; summer concerts at Kirstenbosch; tanning at Clifton beaches; shopping for wines or going on a wine tour; High Tea at the Mount Nelson hotel; going on tours which allow one to meet the ‘other half’  locals;  walking through the Waterfront or taking a sunset cruise; the Two Oceans Aquarium; eating fish and chips in Kalk Bay; going up Table Mountain by foot or cable car; day trips to Cape Point, the West Coast National Park to see the spring flowers, and the Winelands (referring to Franschhoek as the now out-of-date ‘Gourmet Capital of the Cape’, by stating that ‘it is the only place where you have award-winning restaurants within walking distance of each other’, not correct either).

*   in the ‘Cape Town Hotels’ section, it states disturbingly (and information out of date) that ‘Cape Town isn’t cheap’, and therefore suggests that clients stay in Oranjezicht, Tamboerskloof, Higgovale, and Bo-Kaap  (but none of these suburbs have restaurants, something guests would like to walk to by foot from their accommodation), as well as De Waterkant, the V&A Waterfront (probably one of the most expensive accommodation areas!), and ‘Greenpoint’ (sic).  Self-catering and ‘B&b’ (sic) accommodation is recommended.  Hotels previously reviewed by The Telegraph are listed: the Mount Nelson, Ellerman House, the Cape Grace, Cascades on the Promenade, Four Rosmead, An African Villa, Rouge on Rose, Fritz Hotel, and The Backpack hostel, an interesting mix of hotels, and not all highly-rated in its reviews. No newer ‘World Cup hotels’ are recommended. 

*   For nightlife, Camps Bay’s Victoria Road, Long Street and Cape Quarter are recommended.  Vaudeville is strongly recommended, but has lost a lot of its appeal.  Other specific recommendations are Asoka on Kloof Street, Fiction DJ Bar & Lounge, Crew Bar in De Waterkant, Julep off Long Street, and the Bascule bar at the Cape Grace.  The list seems out of date, with more trendy night-time spots being popular amongst locals.

*   The Restaurant section is most disappointing, given the great accolade given to the Cape Town fine-dining scene early in the guide. Four restaurants only are recommended, and many would disagree that these are Cape Town’s best, or those that tourists should visit: The Roundhouse in Camps Bay, Willoughby & Co in the Waterfront, 95 Keerom Street, and ‘Colcaccio (sic) Camps Bay’!  A special note advises ‘gourmet diners’ to check Eat Out and Rossouw’s Restaurants  for restaurants close to one’s accommodation.  Stellenbosch restaurants Overture, Rust en Vrede and Terroir are recommended, as are Le Quartier and Ryan’s Kitchen in Franschhoek, and La Colombe in Constantia.

*   Shopping suggestions include the city centre, Green Point, Woodstock, De Waterkant, and Kloof Street, the latter street not having any particularly special shops.  The Neighbourgoods Market in the Old Biscuit Mill is recommended as the ‘best food market in the country’ (locals may disagree, with the squash of undecided shoppers, and increasingly more expensive), and may recommend the City Bowl Market instead).  Art galleries are also recommended.

While the Telegraph Travel  ‘Cape Town City Break Guide’ is a massive improvement on the Condé Nast Traveller  Cape Town guide, even this guide contains unforgivable errors, which a local writer should not be making.  One would hope that Cape Town Tourism will get the errors fixed.  We also suggest that they recommend the addition of Cape Town’s many special city centre eateries, and that the accommodation list be updated.  The exclusion of Robben Island on the attraction list is a deficiency.   The delineation between recommendations for things to do in Cape Town is blurred in some instances with recommendations in towns and villages outside Cape Town, which may confuse tourists to the Mother City.  Overall, the Guide appears superficial and touristy, and does not reveal all the special gems that Cape Town has to offer.

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

So who the ‘bloody hell’ is Cape Town Tourism’s new Australian strategy consultant?

I have been intrigued by the appointment by Cape Town Tourism of its new strategy consultant from Australia, ever since the city’s tourism body had him on the stage to part-present the so-called ‘Strategic Plan’ for Cape Town almost two weeks ago. The more I have searched for information about consultant Ian Macfarlane, the less I have found!

My first impression of him at the meeting was one of being patronised by an Australian comedian, cracking jokes with a ‘dof’ Cape Town tourism audience which knows nothing.  We were served obvious information about the state of the international tourism world, and told to focus on ‘urban tourism’.  We were told controversial things, such as the exchange rate has no bearing on tourism arrivals, quoting research.  He contradicted himself, being scathing about market research as a discipline, yet when it suited him, he quoted it in support of his statements. We spoke after the presentation, walking to the car park together, and he told me that he has ‘been involved’ with Nielsen and TNS Research.  In preparing this blogpost, I wondered exactly what this meant – has he been a client, or an employee of these international market research companies?

It was his business card that started to intrigue me, which he handed to me when I asked him for it.  Billed by Cape Town Tourism as a brand strategy development specialist, I was surprised when his business card, for his company Strategetic Consultants, has a web address www.strategetic.co, a non-existent address, as it misses the ‘.com.au’.  Can his attention to detail be so poor that he cannot get his company website address correct on his business card?

Macfarlane was presented to Cape Town Tourism members as follows in an e-mail on 28 July: “Cape Town Tourism consulted Ian MacFarlane, brand strategy development specialist and MD of Strategetic Consultants, regarding the business case for Brand Cape Town and a strategic plan for Cape Town Tourism to deliver its implementation. Ian was employed as Marketing Director for Tourism New Zealand from 1998 to 2004 where his team spearheaded the highly successful ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ campaign, where after he was the Marketing Director for Tourism Australia and subsequently launched Strategetic Consultants where he has worked with a number of tourism destinations (only two, as per below) on their brand strategies”.

Ian Macfarlane’s biggest ‘claim to fame’, it would appear, which would have motivated Cape Town Tourism to appoint an international consultant, is his ‘involvement’ (that word again!) with the ‘100% Pure New Zealand” and “So where the bloody hell are you?” campaigns for Tourism New Zealand and Tourism Australia, respectively.  I could find documentation for Macfarlane writing about the ‘100% Pure’ campaign, as the Marketing Director of Tourism New Zealand. In doing the Google search about the Aus$ 180 million Tourism Australia campaign, I had to laugh when I read on Wikipedia that this campaign was a miserable failure, and had to be canned, as the UK media refused to flight it, due to its headline! Tourism numbers dropped as a result of the campaign, not quite what they had planned, one would think.  Surely this is not what Cape Town Tourism wants for Cape Town?  Macfarlane’s tenure as head of Gold Coast Tourism is not mentioned in any of his ‘Bios’.

The appointment by Cape Town Tourism was not pre-announced, odd as he has worked with Cape Town Tourism for the past eight weeks already.  It is the type of news the PR department of a tourism body would have put out.  His name is no longer visible on the Cape Town Tourism website, appearing to have been removed in the past few days.  As a Cape Town Tourism member, Macfarlane’s appointment signalled to me that Cape Town Tourism is incapable of writing a Strategic Plan and a Marketing Plan for Cape Town, having been entrusted with R40 million by the City of Cape Town to market Cape Town as a business and leisure tourism destination, and even more so when I heard Mrs Helmbold’s response at the ‘Strategic Plan’ presentation to my question about Cape Town’s proposed positioning as ‘Inspirational’.

My Google search about Ian Macfarlane interested me from a Marketing perspective, because a strategy consultant with such a strong marketing ‘involvement’ could be expected to be reasonably good at marketing himself and his consultancy services. His profile on Linked-In lists him as MD of Strategetic Consultants since 2007, past Principal at International Marketing Strategy (the previous name of his current consultancy), and past Marketing Director at Tourism New Zealand.  He did tell us that he grew up in Cape Town, and he still sounds very South African, but with an Australian lilt at the end of each sentence.  He studied at UCT for one year in 1985 (MBA?), and his ‘Bio’ on his company website includes B.Comm and M.Phil degrees, not mentioned on his Linked-In profile.  He was a Marketing Director at Tourism New Zealand from 1998 – 2004, says his Linked-In profile.  There is no timing given for his tenure at Tourism Australia as their Marketing Director, but it would appear that he went to Gold Coast Tourism in 2004, and then to Tourism Australia before he started his consultancy in 2007.  He has also been MD of Young & Rubicam Cape Town, and GM of the Lubricants Division of Engen Petroleum.  The only other mentions of his name on Google are a Cape Argus article about Cape Town Tourism’s new ‘strategy’, our blogpost about the ‘Strategic Plan’ presentation, and a fleeting mention in an in-depth article entitled ‘Cape Town Tourism: delivery time!’ by Carl Momberg on his oddly-named blog ‘A Spaniard in the Works’ !  What is interesting is that Momberg does not question Macfarlane’s credentials, but he does write that he requested an interview with Macfarlane via Mrs Helmbold, but that it was subsequently cancelled by Mrs Helmbold, motivated as follows: “…he isn’t a spokesperson for CTT (Cape Town Tourism) and I should put questions for him in writing to her first”, writes Momberg.  If my alarm bells weren’t already ringing, this action by Mrs Helmbold certainly enhanced my concerns, and one wonders what she would be wanting to hide about Macfarlane!

A call to Cape Town Tourism yesterday was most interesting.  The switchboard assistant told me that Macfarlane was no longer at Cape Town Tourism, and that he ‘had gone back’.  She put me through to Mrs Helmbold’s secretary Elana Theunissen, who became very stroppy when I asked questions about how I could get hold of Macfarlane.  She told me that he has left Cape Town, to return to New Zealand, and will return for ‘Phase 2’ on 5 September.  I questioned the ‘New Zealand’ return, as his business card says that he is based in Sydney, but she assured me that it is where he returned to.  The more I questioned her, the more agitated she became, and then said that she had told me previously that Macfarlane is not the official spokesperson of Cape Town Tourism – I have not spoken to her in months, and this information was in Momberg’s blogpost, clearly showing that Macfarlane is becoming an issue at Cape Town Tourism, and someone they no longer want to expose!  I could not help but get the feeling that she was very cagey and suspicious, asking me why I was asking all the questions!  Just ten days ago Macfarlane told me at the presentation that he will be in Cape Town until November.

As a ‘brand strategy development’ consultant, Macfarlane’s website for Strategetic Consultants, when I worked out how to find it, given the incomplete web address on his business card, is very lean on information.  Its home page has the most information, stating that the company is a group of consultants specialising in brand auditing, strategy development, and marketing strategy assessment for ‘high involvement brands’ (one questions whether ‘Cape Town’ is such a brand).  Naively, it assures the prospective client that its consultants ‘have extensive experience and are well qualified in the discipline of marketing’!  Its philosophy is the consultants’ belief that ‘success is predicated on efficient and effective functional relationships within and external to any organisation. This requires focused strategy and co-ordinated implementation’. The Consultancy’s guiding principle is ‘Strategy and implementation optimisation without incremental costs’! It states that its Approach is: “We have adopted a framework which makes maximum use of resources and information already available to the client organisation.  The process is adjusted to meet specific client requirements and modified in accord with investigation findings“, with a diagram showing the flow of a project from Project specification, to Analysis, to Consolidation (the Report, it explains), to Feedback, and finally to Recommendations.  The website information is all very simple (too simple for comfort!), and without any ‘consultant-speak’!  Five consultants are listed in addition to Macfarlane, whose ‘Specialist Area’ is denoted as ‘Strategy Development’.  On the ‘Projects and Assignments’ page, the Strategetic Consultants’ website lists Quick Engen shops, Hertz, Goodyear, J&B, and Smirnoff as South African brand projects, as well as Tourism Australia, Tourism New Zealand, City of Adelaide, Sydney Olympic Park, and the City of Sydney.  A Blog page has a latest blogpost by Macfarlane on Brand Equity, written in October 2009!   Interestingly the Contact page has only an e-mail contact form, without a telephone number, e-mail address, or physical address!

I found only one further website with a link to this particular Ian Macfarlane, being Veridian Media, an Australian social media consultancy.  On this site Macfarlane’s ‘Bio’ (confirmed by Veridian Media CEO David Warwick as being the same Ian Macfarlane as being used by Cape Town Tourism) is listed as an academic, but not one of these university sites offer any link to this Ian Macfarlane when one does a search: he is listed as ‘Adjunct Professor’ at ‘University of Victoria’ (actually the name of a Canadian university – the Australian one is called ‘Victoria University’!); member of the Advisory Board of the University of South Australia’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Sciences; and lecturer at the School of Marketing at the University of New South Wales, which is part of their un-mentioned Australian School of Business.  He is also said to have ‘provided strategy and management services’ to Sydney Olympic Park, Tourism Australia, ‘J&B Whiskey’ (sic), Engen Petroleum, and Hertz, as listed on his Strategetic Consultants website.  Interesting is that his work for Tourism New Zealand, City of Sydney, and City of Adelaide, is not mentioned, as per his Stategetic Consultants’ website, and that clients are listed, which are not listed on his company website, being SAS Software, the Delta Motor Corporation, and surprisingly, Discovery Channel, one of the communication channels proposed for Cape Town Tourism!  Macfarlane and I spoke about Twitter as we walked to the car park, and he told me that he was surprised at how big Twitter is in Cape Town, it being insignificant in Australia.  The Veridian Social Media website’s most recently recorded Tweet is a month old!

What interested me too, the more I thought about the mystery consultant, was the questions I posed to Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold (and to the City of Cape Town Executive Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, Grant Pascoe, who did not reply), in the interest of transparency, to which Mrs Helmbold replied as follows:

1.  “Why was an Australian consultant used, and not a Cape Town or South African one? “Strategetic’s proposal addressed all elements raised in the RFP (Request for Proposal) and presented the most cost-effective fee structure based on a risk-sharing model.  In summary, the Board approved Strategetic’s proposal because it best addressed the RFP criteria, proposed consultant/s had the most appropriate actual global destination marketing and brand campaign experience, of importance to CTT in the light of the need to grow demand in global markets, and the fee-structure was the most competitive”.

2.   What exactly are Ian Macfarlane’s credentials that make him suitable to work with Cape Town Tourism? The managing consultant proposed for this project was Ian Macfarlane, B.Com (sic), MBA., M.Phil., who has extensive international experience having developed and executed brand and marketing strategy for New Zealand, Australia, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Sydney and Abu Dhabi (This city is not mentioned in any of Macfarlane’s ‘Bio’s’). Furthermore, he has a solid understanding of the local environment, having worked and lived in Cape Town for 18 years in various senior management positions in the corporate sector. It is likely  he will be assisted by Lyska Nelson B.Sc. MSc., previously Marketing Research Manager Tourism New Zealand, Catriona Fraser (formally Marketing Director of Tourism New South Wales and The Australian Tourism Commission),  and Carolyn Childs, previously Tourism Director of TNS Research”.

3.   How much is he costing Cape Town Tourism?  “At least 63% of the remuneration would be ‘at risk’ (not explained)…for hard costs and a percentage of time (termed basic fee) , at predetermined intervals between July and December, not exceeding R170 000; on a commission basis (termed commission) for successful generation of third party campaign contributions (payable ex contributions and not ex CTT (Cape Town Tourism) budget)”.

4.   What exactly is his mandate? Over the next few months CTT will be required to execute both strategy development, operational activities and engage with extra-organisation partners. The required scope of work includes the following elements:

a.  Strategy development in association with the CEO with input from the Board of Cape Town Tourism and management including the following key considerations:

i. The drafting of a consolidated “future-fit” destination marketing and brand strategy

ii. 3 Year Operational Plan developed

iii. Budget revisions made

iv. Alternative funding channels identified

v. Action plan developed and implemented

vi. Concluding three cities marketing strategy which should reflect an urban city strategy, collective and individual plan, timetable and funding model, South African Tourism engagement plan and an individual and collective support plan.

vii. Development of the CTT support programme, which stipulates and arranges the necessary private and public sector support for the destination strategy as well as funding requirements.

viii. Development and implementation of the programme funding plan.

b.   Support of partner activities. Irrespective of the strategic programme; CTT is required to perform against its mandate. In this regard, the organisation will be required to shift its marketing activities and focus in the immediate future. This will require a number of activities alongside those, which will inevitably be executed in the day-to-day execution of tasks at hand. These incremental activities are likely to focus on partners who will assist and contribute to the campaign development and execution. Activities could include:

i. The selection, appointment and overseeing of an advertising agency to execute the brand campaign.

ii. Media plan; the development of a core media plan including the assessment of channel options and most appropriate media owners

iii. Budget reformulation: A process to reassess and attain Board approval for a revised budget”

5.   Can you confirm that he will be working with you until November?  “The Board approved the appointment of Strategetic in July 2011 for a 6 month period (until end December 2011)”

We question whether, as an Australian ‘tourism consultant’, Ian Macfarlane is the right man to have been appointed to prepare a ‘Strategic Plan’ for Cape Town, and what credentials he has specifically to do this job in preference to a Capetonian or South African consultant, particularly as he lists Sydney as a client, a city which is a significant competitor to Cape Town!  The actual scope of the project sounds vague and even academic in many respects, and could be a concern in itself, as a poor brief could lead to a poor plan.  The domestic market must be an important focus, one would think, in these trying times, but it is not mentioned in the Cape Town Tourism brief at all.  Given Macfarlane’s poor ability to market himself, his business, and Australia, we seriously question his ability to do this for Cape Town!

POSTSCRIPT 16/10: It is interesting to note that the website for Macfarlane’s Strategetic Consultants is now a blank one, especially poor for a marketing consultancy!

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

Wine and crayfish to blame for Cape Tourism Crisis!

When the ‘Clown Prince’ of Labour opens his mouth, one is bound to have a good laugh at his absurd views.  Yesterday the Southern African Tourism Update reported on the latest absurdity to come from the Provincial Secretary of COSATU (The Congress of South African Trade Unions), Tony Ehrenreich, City of Cape Town councillor, and the city’s failed mayoral candidate for the ANC.

Mr Ehrenreich blames the ‘crisis in tourism’ on overcharging international tourists: “The exorbitant prices for wines and crayfish are contributing to visitors feeling ripped off.  And so the important word of mouth that underlies a tourist destination’s success is not assisting the South African industry.”

Mr Ehrenreich also attacks provincial Minister of Tourism, Alan Winde, in excluding workers from the recently elected board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited: “As Cosatu we will insist that the workers’ interests be directly represented by a labour representative, before the funding to support the industry is released. We will further call for an independent body to examine the crisis, as the industrial players have been colluding with government at a local level.  This collusion is demonstrated by the City Council giving the tourism industry R40 million to spend on themselves”!  Mr Ehrenreich seems to have lost the plot in what he is stating, in mixing up the roles of Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited:

*   Cape Town Tourism received R40 million from the City of Cape Town last month, for marketing Cape Town for the next twelve months.  We do share Mr Ehrenreich’s concern about how this money will be spent, given that Cape Town Tourism does not appear to understand that the city’s tourism industry is in crisis.  The organisation is also without a Marketing Manager at a time when marketing is needed most.  It has been criticised for choosing the positioning of ‘Inspirational’ for Cape Town, when it is not unique to the city, having been previously claimed by Edinburgh and Korea!  Mr Ehrenreich is a Councillor of the City of Cape Town, and he could have voiced his dissatisfaction with the Cape Town Tourism budget at the time it was debated in Council. 

   *   Minister Winde recently handpicked the Cape Town Routes Unlimited board, without advertising for nominations.  It appears that the Minister chose largely the same directors, with the exception of the FEDHASA Cape representative now being Rey Franco, the hotel association’s Deputy Chairman.  Mr Ehrenreich served on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board for two years until two years ago, and embarrassed the tourism industry as well as Cape Town Routes Unlimited when he made inappropriate and widely reported media statements, claiming that the Waterfront was charging rip-off prices, referring to the cost of crayfish at Panama Jack, which is not even located in the V&A Waterfront!  He had to be silenced during the remainder of his term as director, due to the damage he caused the tourism industry.  Minister Winde has no say over the City of Cape Town’s R40 million allocation to Cape Town Tourism.

*   Cape Town Tourism will have presented a budget to the City of Cape Town, and it will have included continuing the PR and trade marketing for Cape Town in the UK, Germany, Holland, and in the USA, despite the national Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, advising regional and local tourism bodies to leave international marketing to SA Tourism.  Social media marketing is part of the budget too. Unfortunately Cape Town Tourism has not shared its marketing plan and R40 million budget allocation with its members to date.

*   If the Tourism Crisis would be so easy to attribute to wine and crayfish pricing, one could do something about it.  Being’ ripped of’ for these delicacies is the least of the worries of potential tourists – rather it is being ‘ripped off’ by the airlines in terms of their fares that is their real concern. It shows that Mr Ehrenreich is completely out of touch with the reasons for the current crisis in the Tourism industry – high domestic and international airfares, the strong Rand, severe economic recession in the UK (Cape Town’s major international source market), future uncertainty about Greece’s ability to repay its debt and other European countries experiencing similar problem, the current financial crisis of the USA, the oversupply of accommodation, and crippling cost increases whilst rates have remained the same or are being slashed!

It will be interesting to see how Mr Ehrenreich will get shot down in flames by the tourism industry, for his ridiculous claims!  However, he is a determined man, and will not easily give up on his mission, to stay in the news!

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

Tourism Business Confidence continues downward slide!

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa FNB Tourism Business Index continues its downward trend, the reading for the second quarter showing a decline to 74,5, from 79 in the first quarter of 2011, and 89 in the last quarter of 2010, the first time that the Index was introduced, reports Business Report.  An Index of 100 is one of normality.

What is scary is that the tourism industry representatives interviewed in the first quarter of this year anticipated an increase in the Tourism Business Index for the second quarter of 94 – instead the Tourism Business Index fell by 20 points!   May and June were two extremely depressed tourism months, and a slight pick-up in accommodation bookings is being experienced at the moment, in part linked to the almost spring-like weather that the Cape experienced in the last two weeks.

The Tourism Business Council said that “Business in the travel and tourism sector continued to operate under heavy strain in the second quarter of 2011.  “When compared to the expected industry performance index of 94,1 for the second quarter, the industry performed significantly worse than expected …”.  The Council blames low international arrival numbers, low domestic leisure and business demand, the strong Rand, rising costs, changing travel patterns, high fuel prices, and the large number of public holidays “that failed to deliver the expected travel spend on domestic travel” as the major reasons for the poor confidence in the Tourism Industry. We wrote an Open Letter to national Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk last month, to share with him how poorly the tourism industry is doing, when he was communicating information that reflected the opposite! 

The Tourism Business Index is a national measure of current and future performance of the tourism and travel industry, and sub-sectors within the sector.   Looking ahead, the Index ‘forecast’ for the third quarter of this year is 81.  However, accommodation establishments forecast the Index at only 74, meaning that they see no improvement in business between the second and third quarters.  The Southern African Tourism Update writes that it is hotel groups who hold the particularly negative view of business performance in the next quarter.

It is sad to see how out of touch the Tourism Business Council is in not recognising the negative impact of international and domestic airfares on tourism to the Cape.  After sending out our WhaleTales newsletter last week, we received numerous responses from our past guests about the high airfares to Cape Town, and these were cited as the reason why past guests will not return to our city.  We passed this information on to provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde, Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette Du Toit-Helmbold, and FEDHASA Cape Vice-Chairman Rey Franco, but have not received any acknowledgement of receipt or comment in terms of intended communication with airlines from any of these tourism body representatives!

At a joint meeting of Cape Town Tourism, FEDHASA Cape, SACCI and SATSA yesterday afternoon, to address the poor tourism industry performance in the Cape, it was astonishing to hear that the Cape Chamber of Commerce, which has indices for manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and mining in the Western Cape, has no measure of the performance of tourism in the Western Cape.  When asked about the provincial performance of Tourism, the national Tourism Business Index was referred to.  Given that Tourism is the largest business sector of the Western Cape, one would hope that the Cape Chamber of Commerce will address this information shortcoming urgently.   Cape Town Tourism’s presentation at the meeting was disappointing, as it was about ‘Brand Cape Town’ yet again, despite many industry stakeholders having seen it already.  Even more surprising is that Cape Town Tourism is sticking to its new positioning of ‘Inspirational’ for Cape Town, when this positioning is already owned by Edinburgh and Korea, even more surprising when Mrs Helmbold emphasised that differentiation is key in marketing, especially in tough times! 

POSTSCRIPT 21/7: A very frank letter is addressed to the tourism industry today, by Tony Romer-Lee, the GM of The Collection by Liz McGrath, on the Hotel & Restaurant online site.   He spells out how shockingly bad business is in the tourism industry.

POSTSCRIPT 21/7: The headline of the Cape Argus this afternoon shouts: “Cape Tourism: ‘We are bleeding’, quoting from our Open Letter to the national Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk.  The article also quotes Tony Romer-Lee’s article mentioned in the Postscript above, in asking why “…occupancies across the board are the worst they have ever been?  That thousands of waiters, room attendants, middle managers and hospitality graduates are unable to find work and losing their jobs?”  Why is that owners are closing their businesses and banks are calling in their debts.  Why is that speculators like Protea hotels are announcing that they are looking to buy hotels in distress?  Without doubt every single hotelier or restaurateur will tell you that they have never seen it so bad.  They will also tell you that the outlook for the next couple of years also looks bleak”.  Provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde is quoted as saying: “Definitely there is a sombre mood out there – there’s no doubt we are really feeling the pinch in all tourism-related industries.  But then again, we’re feeling the pinch in all industries”. Winde suggests three ‘urgent remedies’: more aggressive marketing of the good value Cape to Gauteng – the Cape used to be second largest domestic market, but has dropped to 4th place; more aggressive marketing to core markets to counter Greece attracting business from the UK, USA, and Europe away from South Africa; more work on seeking the benefit of now being part of the BRICS alliance.   Naively FEDHASA Cape Chairman Dirk Elzinga clings to his belief that the problem experienced in the tourism industry is merely one of seasonality.  He says: “But, yes, occupancies in hotels are very low. Most hoteliers are saying they have not experienced such low occupancies for a very long time.  It is not happy times out there”.  Elzinga referred to the joint tourism association meeting which was held yesterday afternoon, and said that the industry expressed its criticism of the lack of co-ordination between Cape Town Tourism, Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and SA Tourism in marketing Cape Town ‘to the world’!

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