Tag Archives: Joan-Anne Harris

Hermanus Tourism Bureau shock resignation ends Stormy crisis!

What a stormy meeting it was at the Municipal Auditorium in Hermanus last night, when the Special General Meeting, which had been called by a number of members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau to table a motion of no confidence in its committee, commenced with the announcement that the whole committee had resigned.

The resignation in itself was unknown to some of the Committee members, and they only found about it at the meeting, ex-Committee member Fabio Lenzi bringing the house down when he stated that he didn’t know that he had resigned from the old Committee!  It appears that many decisions about the running of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau were made by a handful of members of the Committee, and that such decisions were not minuted, and/or ratified by the whole Committee!  We have written over the past eighteen months  that things have not been well in the tourism industry in Hermanus, and how Committee members/Directors of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing (DMO) advantaged their businesses whilst serving on these two bodies.

Given the anticipated stormy nature of the Special General Meeting, the calling of which resulted from the unfair dismissal of Storm Kreusch as Manager of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau earlier this year, the Overstrand Municipality appointed advocate Professor Henning Viljoen as the independent chairman of the meeting.  He had his hands full, in controlling the accusations of mismanagement from the side of the ex-Committee chairman Charl de Kock, assisted by Joan-Anne Harris, versus the representatives of the members who had called the meeting, being Mary Faure and Pam Nel.  Ms Harris is a feisty lady, but lost severe face in her brave attempts to counter ex-Committee mismanagement allegations.  In general, meeting attendees reported that the Lerm family and the ex-Committee did not come out of the meeting well.  They must have realised that they would not win the No Confidence vote, and surprisingly an e-mail was sent by then-Chairperson Charl de Kock to Hermanus Tourism Bureau members an hour prior to the start of the meeting, with the Subject Line “The Hermanus Tourism Committee – Resignation Letter”, but no resignation was contained in the body of the e-mail.  Instead it contained another pre-meeting attack against Ms Kreusch, and referred to “irregularities” alleged to have occurred during her management of the Bureau. It does request “the new HT committee members elected, if any, to proceed with further investigations and resolve current problems as discovered”.  The issues are listed for the new Committee, and are similar to those contained in an e-mail sent by De Kock to members last Thursday, including the alleged intimidation of Bureau staff, cellphone usage and contracts, sale of cupboards, volunteering, Tourism Grading Council assessor’s alleged ‘misuse of power and possibly transgressing the code of conduct’, and internet abuse.  It was mentioned in the meeting by De Kock that the Bureau had spent R40000 in legal fees to date on the unfair dismissal and CCMA hearing relating to Ms Kreusch.

Some of these issues were discussed in the meeting, and the focus by De Kock was largely on Ms Kreusch, in an attempt to save face.  “It was obvious from the start that the committee were out of their depth as the mismanagement, misinformation, and non-information to members issues were laid bare”, wrote a Tourism Bureau member who attended the meeting.  “As the meeting progressed, it was clear that the committee had not functioned as a unit, were totally dysfunctional, acting independently from each other, making unconstitutional personal decisions out of meetings on matters affecting the members and Hermanus Tourism”, she added.

One of the outcomes of the meeting, although not on the agenda for discussion at the Special General Meeting, was the members’ dissatisfaction with the DMO, the ‘parent body’ of all the Tourism Bureaus in the Overstrand municipal area, stretching from Rooi Els to Gansbaai.  It emerged at the meeting that the icon of Hermanus whale watching, the Whale Crier, has been appointed by the DMO, when he previously reported to the Hermanus Tourism Bureau.  This follows the DMO setting up a membership scheme in competition with the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, as well as an information and booking kiosk closer to the whale watching area.   In a clever move prior to its resignation, the ex-Committee signed a Memorandum of Understanding that gives the DMO the right to appoint Hermanus Tourism Bureau staff, something the Gansbaai and Stanford Tourism Bureaus have refused to do! 

At the meeting the new Hermanus Tourism Bureau Committee was elected: Mary Faure, Jenny Bowes-Meyer, Bill Harling, Ryno Rabie, Quintin Mitchell, Fabio Lenzi, Suzanne Clarke, Pam Nel, Jenna Raubenheimer, and Maurice Douree.  

The way forward for the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and its new committee will remain stormy, as many of the ex-Hermanus Tourism Bureau members serve on the DMO, which means that further clashes and politics can be expected, when the DMO, headed by Clinton Lerm of Misty Waves Hotel and ex-Vice Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, can be expected to ‘punish’ the Hermanus Tourism Bureau for the loss of face it suffered last night!

POSTSCRIPT 19/7:  Mary Faure has been elected Chairman and Fabio Lenzi Deputy Chairman of the new Hermanus Tourism Bureau Committee, which met this morning.

POSTCRIPT 20/7: The Hermanus Tourism Bureau has announced two additional co-opted Committee members, being Nikki Stanley and Neels Terblanche.  As per the Constitution, the DMO Chairman and Deputy Chairman, Clinton Lerm and Dan Acker, respectively, will also serve on the Committee.

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

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

Getaway cannot get away with its errors on Cape Whale Coast Route!

In principle it sounded like a tourism marketer’s dream – a nine page editorial on the new Cape Whale Coast Route, and a front cover with a Southern Right whale and a headline “Cape Whale Coast 30 cool things to do”.  While all coverage is fantastic, it is a shame that the Cape Whale Coast DMO and Getaway magazine got it so badly wrong in many respects. 

The article commences with a route map of the newly created Cape Whale Coast, an excellent example of joint marketing of an 150 km area that spans Rooi Els to Gansbaai, and also includes Hermanus, Betty’s Bay, Kleinmond, Onrus, Stanford and Pringle Bay.  This delineation was created when the municipalities in the area were consolidated and the Overstrand municipality was created about three years ago.  Linked to this was the creation of a joint marketing body for the region, called the Cape Whale Coast Direct Marketing Organisation (DMO), with resultant politics that have been detrimental to the tourism industry in this region, with allegations of conflict of interests, and more. 

Another section of the article describes the annual trek of the Southern Right whales between the Antarctic and the Cape south coast, a journey of 10 – 20 days, as per research conducted by the Mammal Research Institute in Pretoria.  More information about the whales follows, and the guidelines about the distance to be kept from whales.  It is in the editorial content that Getaway journalist Fatima Jakoet makes a grave error, in writing that “The southern right whales stay in our waters for about four to five months (May to September)”.   Anyone who knows anything about whales will know that they stay in Hermanus until the beginning of December.  Ms Jakoet was unable to explain her error, inexcusable for a journalist working for South Africa’s top travel magazine, with a circulation of just under 50000, a readership of 614000, with 27000 Facebook fans and about 5000 Twitter followers.   The error could have a material effect on the business of the tourism and hospitality industry on the Cape Whale Coast, in a year that is seeing the worst ever occupancy and income.

Another section of the article is devoted to the Cape Whale Coast, and the annual Whale Festival (this year it runs from 30 September – 4 October).   For a second time, and on the same page, Ms Jakoet makes the error in writing that ‘the whale season usually lasts from May to September’.  Here a further faux pas occurs, in that she writes “so be prepared to pay a little more for accommodation during these months”,an absurd statement and clearly unresearched!  All accommodation establishments and restaurants are desperate for business, and reduce their rates and prices in the winter months of May – August, increase to Spring rates in September, and to summer rates from October onwards.  Once again, this is a material error which can severely affect the tourism industry on the Cape Whale Coast.  She adds insult to injury, by writing that one could struggle to find accommodation over the Whale Festival in Hermanus.  If this is not enough, Ms Jakoet recommends that one should not come to the Route during the Hermanus Whale Festival : “If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds, it’s best to steer clear of the route during this time”!

The article then offers two pages of accommodation, restaurant, and tourist attraction information on the Cape Whale Coast, and Ms Jakoet makes recommendations, and here the trouble really starts.  Her recommendations are no surprise, given what has been seen about the DMO Board members in the past, and include the following:

*   The Misty Waves Boutique Hotel is listed first in the Accommodation section.  The owners of the hotel are the Lerm family, son Clinton being the Chairman of the Cape Whale Coast DMO and Deputy Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau.  Mother Maxie is a Director of both the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and the Cape Whale Coast DMO, and a newly elected DA councillor. 

*   The only restaurant listed for Hermanus is Bientang’s Cave, which has a great location at the water’s edge, but is not the best restaurant in the village, and not the only one with a sea and whale view!  The owners of the restaurant are Clinton Lerm’s ex-in-laws.

*   Hermanus Beach Villa is owned by Charl de Kock, the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and he serves on the DMO.  On the day that the Cape Whale Coast Route was launched, Ms Jakoet requested accommodation in Hermanus, to give her more time to gather information for her article, and Joan-Anne Harris, DMO Director and Marketing Project Co-ordinator, organised the complimentary accommodation at this establishment, richly rewarded through coverage in the article.

*   Holidayscape lets self-catering accommodation, and is owned by Tom Prinsloo, a Director of the Cape Whale Coast DMO.

*  Hermanus Forest Adventures, a quad biking, treetop sliding and paintballing company, belongs to Clinton Lerm, Chairman of the DMO and Deputy Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau

*   Shark Diving Unlimited –  Marketing Manager Warren Hardenberg is a Director of the DMO

*   Percy Heywood of Percy Tours is mentioned in the article – he serves on the Board of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau

Glaring in its absence is the lack of reference to the Whale Crier, an icon associated with whale watching, and with Hermanus specifically.  Tour operators offering whale watching services, on land and by boat, are not mentioned.  It would appear that Ms Jakoet did not take the trouble to visit the Tourism Bureau in Hermanus for information, nor was she proactively provided information about the towns on the Cape Whale Coast by Ms Harris, the co-ordinator of the editorial coverage.  Hermanus’ unique point of difference, in offering the best land-based whale watching in the world, is not mentioned in the article!

The magazine cover ‘shouted’ ’30 cool things to do’ on the Cape Whale Coast Route, but one has to search for this in the feature, as it is not the headline of any sub-section.  If one counts the number of bold items listed under the half-page “What to do and see” section, one gets to 30, and it includes hiking, swimming, river rafting, tubing and mountainbiking in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, seeing penguins in Betty’s Bay, picnicing in the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, sandboarding on the Blesberg Dunes in Betty’s Bay, canoeing in Kleinmond, playing golf at Arabella, visiting Betty’s Bay chocolatier GaBoLi, winetasting in the Hemel en Aarde Valley, quadbiking, treetop siding and paintballing in Hermanus, hiking in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, kayaking in the harbour, visiting the Whale Museum and the Old Harbour Museums in Hermanus, playing golf at the Hermanus Golf Club, tasting wines on the Stanford Wine Route, river cruising and horse riding in Stanford, hiking and camping at Salmonsdam Nature Reserve, shark-cage diving in Gansbaai, taking a boat trip to Dyer Island, visiting Danger Point lighthouse, and hiking the Duiwelsgat trail.  No information is presented in the editorial about these activities, other than telephone numbers and website addresses.  Interestingly, the same list of 30 activities was the subject of an article by Ms Jakoet in the April issue of Getaway, entitled ’21 things to do on the Cape Whale Coast’ and qualified ‘besides whale watching’, ironic in reducing the importance of whale watching for the route named after the whales!

I called Ms Jakoet on Friday, and she admitted her errors immediately.  She said it was unusual that the article was not proofread by the DMO, their normal procedure.  It is surprising that Ms Harris did not chase Ms Jakoet for the article to proofread, before it went to print.  Ms Jakoet blames this oversight on Indaba, which took place at the beginning of May.  To make matters even worse, the internal Getaway proofreader is Margie (Snoek) Beves-Gibson, the sister of Ms Harris’ partner David Snoek!  Ms Jakoet assures me that Ms Snoek did proofread the article, yet she did not pick up the factual errors in its content.  Ms Jakoet had included the Whale Crier, but it was removed by her editor, in giving too much focus on Hermanus, she told me.  The errors will be fixed with an apology in the August issue of the magazine, and has already been corrected on-line.   We checked the on-line article, and the only correction that has been made is the whale-watching period.  No other factual errors highlighted in this blogpost have been corrected.  Ms Jakoet seemed to tap dance when I asked her on which basis she had made recommendations for the restaurants and accommodation establishments that she had included in the article.  She said that she had used her own experience of restaurants, guest houses and self-catering establishments in the area, as well as recommendations from her colleagues, to compile the list.  She gave contradictory answers as to whether she had paid to stay at the accommodation establishments listed.

Ms Harris has become extremely defensive, and hit the roof when she was told by Ms Jakoet that I had called.  She became heavy and threatening: “The Getwaway is a personal contact that I have developed over many years of ‘wining and dining’ and you have no authority or right to contact her…Your meddling could do this relationship a lot of damage as in future the Getaway may decide not to give us FREE EXPOSURE again, because of all the phone calls and hassles they will get!!!!… Please BACK OFF and stay out of my business and what I do as a volunteer”!  She added in a further e-mail: “I am upset because you contacted MY CONTACT.  You have no right to contact them. And as I mentioned this morning you have done MY RELATIONSHIP with them damage – so stay away from them!!!!”.   Ms Harris does not appear to understand that, in her position as a Director of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, she is accountable for her actions on behalf of the DMO. Naively she wrote to me: “NONE of the coverage that we received was paid for and thus we had no control over what they decided to print”,thereby absolving herself from any responsibility for the errors.  But she is not truthful in writing this, as Ms Jakoet told me that the DMO was meant to proofread the article, and that this had been discussed with Ms Harris.

A further bone of contention is the promotional offer, which will appear in the July issue of Getaway.  Once again, the page has been provided for free, but prizes to the total value of R 35000 had to be offered.  Ms Harris e-mailed tourism bureau members in the area, at short notice, to get them to participate in the give-away.  This promotion was handled by Kirsty of Ramsay Media, the publishers of Getaway, and she said that she was given the details about each participant by Ms Harris, and she was merely a ‘go-between’.  The contentious part was that Ms Harris only selected 4- and 5-star accommodation establishments to participate in the promotion opportunity, instead of all members.  Ms Harris explains her discrimination as follows: “Due to the haste of the ‘last minute’ request of prizes, I was requested to target 4 or 5 star establishments for the Getaway as they have LSM levels of 8 – 10, thus, a more affluent readership that would expect more luxurious accommodation.   The reality is that a wealthy family who fly down from Johannesburg for the weekend will not appreciate a 3 star establishment”.  Wow – quite a statement to make!  Ms Harris appears to not know the profile of the Getaway reader, certainly not being a luxury accommodation guest, but rather a self-drive value for money-seeking South African, probably more likely to be from the Western Cape. She also does not clarify who gave her the instruction about the star grading.

We call on the Cape Whale Coast DMO to appoint a more suitable person to handle the marketing of the Cape Whale Coast, given the poor handling by Ms Harris of this whale of a marketing opportunity for the Cape Whale Coast.  Miss Harris clearly is not suited to this portfolio, and by her own admission “is not a journalist or a wordsmith”. 

POSTSCRIPT 14/6: A recent report in the Hermanus Times highlighted the uniqueness of the Cape Whale Coast Route, in having “more plant species per square meter than anywhere else on the planet”, has three Blue Flag beaches, has one of only three African penguin colonies in Africa, has the best shark diving in the world, according to the Lonely Planet, award-winning wineries, a unique whale crier, and a wealth of whales.  None of these attributes of the Cape Whale Coast Route is reflected in the Getaway article.

Getaway, June 2011 issue.  R29,95. Ramsay Media. www.getaway.co.za   Twitter: @GetawayMagazine

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

Whale of a tourism Storm brewing in Hermanus!

I could not believe what I was told about the storm which is brewing in Hermanus tourism circles about the unfair dismissal of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau Manager Storm Kreusch about two months ago, and how this has become a political issue, given the municipal elections on 18 May.

The first I had heard was an e-mail sent to members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, stating that one should not believe everything one had heard about the dismissal, and that more information would be supplied.  In heavy legalese its Chairman Charl de Kock wrote the following under his first name only:  “We have become aware that certain unfounded & unsubstantiated rumours and slanderous information may have been initiated & circulated, as if they were facts, by members and non-members alike; following the Conciliation meeting with Ms G D (“Storm”) Kreusch, on 05 May 2011.  Kindly be advised that certain matters & issues, arising from the dismissal of Ms Kreusch, remain unfinalised, and that we shall issue an official statement in this regards (sic) as soon as the matter has, in fact, been finalized. We therefore call on Members of Hermanus Tourism to be patient, in the meantime, until the real and accurate facts have, in fact, been published. Lastly, we place on record that the contents of certain malicious and unfounded correspondences have been noted, and that we reserve the right to respond thereto / comment in full thereon, at a later stage, and in the proper forum. Note that all the rights of the Author hereof, Hermanus Tourism Bureau and any of its Directors are, and remain, fully reserved herein. Any response given in the content of this correspondence shall therefore be deemed to have been given without prejudice of any of the said rights”.

To date such information has not been sent to members, but immediately the rumour machine in Hermanus got going, and of course it has created a huge intrigue in this whale village. 

I was interested in the story from one perspective, and that is that the Lerm family appears to be in the midst of this controversy.   I have written about them before  on this blog, and we face a R1,3 million defamation claim from them as a result!   It is no surprise that Hermanus will soon be renamed Lermanus, it is said as a joke, if Maxie Lerm (second left, schmoozing the previous mayor Theo Beyleveldt) wins the election on behalf of the Democratic Alliance in Ward 3 in the Overstrand municipality.  Her son Clinton (second from right) already is Chairman of the Destination Marketing Organisation and Vice Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and both mother and son serve on the Executive Committees of both these bodies, mother Maxie Lerm handles the Public Relations portfolio for the Destination Marketing organisation.  

Someone who thinks that Maxie Lerm won’t win is John Williams, the Chairman of Cope, who is based in Stanford, in ward 11 of the Overstrand.  He has observed what the Lerm family is doing to tourism, and how the family, which owns the Misty Waves Hotel, has used its influence and positions to benefit its own business, directly and indirectly.  Father Henri Lerm (right) and his son Clinton have created a new Hermanus Sakekamer/Chamber of Commerce.  The Hermanus Tourism Bureau recently became a member of the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut Employers’ Organisation, making some Hermanus tourism players suspect that the Lerms want to amalgamate the business and tourism interests in the town, as they have attempted before, so that this time the amalgamated body will fall under their power and control.  Mother Maxie’s success in the municipal election would be the crowning glory to this scenario, controlling the tourism interests of the Overstrand Municipality, the Destination Marketing Organisation, and of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau!  Williams does not mince his words about his political opponent, and he says Mother Maxie is allegedly ‘loathed and despised’ in the region.  Williams has been involved in tourism, and wants to head up the Overstrand municipal tourism portfolio.

The outcome of a conciliatory meeting, called by the Commissioner of the CCMA, was settlement in favour of the Manager of the Tourism Bureau, whereby the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, under the chairmanship of Charl de Kock and mandated by his committee, admitted to a faulty procedure and unfair action in the dismissal process, and agreed to pay her a monetary settlement in full and final settlement of her case of appeal.  Clinton Lerm allegedly stated in a meeting held at the Tourism Bureau that he, as Vice Chairman, would resign should they have been found to not have followed the correct procedure with her dismissal, and he believed that the rest of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau committee should follow suit, but this resignation has not yet been forthcoming.  

The members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau are furious about the suspension of their manager, who was dedicated to tourism for over five years.  A number of the members of the management committee of the Bureau have resigned in the past few months, given the treatment of the Manager by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman.  

Further anger stems from a proposed Memorandum of Agreement which the Destination Marketing Organisation is requesting the tourism bureaus in the Overstrand municipal area to sign.   Disputed is the inclusion of a proposed clause accepting that the Destination Marketing Organisation will hire and fire staff of all the Tourism Bureaus under the Overstrand municipal control.  Also, a promise in September last year by the Destination Marketing Organisation, after a previous furore about the organisation, that members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and those of the Cape Whale Coast would automatically become members of the Destination Marketing Organisation without paying extra membership fees, has not yet been honoured.  It appears that in the past seven months the Destination Marketing Organisation has not yet called a General Meeting to obtain member approval for this constitutional change regarding membership.  

Concentration of power, by a family having a strong private and commercial interest in tourism, is dangerous for any town, and should be stopped in Hermanus at all costs.  What we said almost 18 months ago, more and more Hermanus tourism players are now seeing, and they appear to have reached the end of their tolerance of this blatant abuse of power.

POSTSCRIPT 11/5:  I have been informed that there was similar politicking in Bloemfontein, where the Lerms previously lived, and Maxie Lerm stood for the ANC, amongst others.  They appeared to change their political allegiance regularly.  

POSTSCRIPT 11/5:  It has been discovered that a number of Directors of the Destination Marketing Organisation had their personal businesses represented on the Cape Whale Coast stand at Indaba over the past weekend, including Southern Stroll Marketing and Shark Diving Unlimited.   It is alleged that members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and other tourism bureaux in the Overstrand Were not offered an opportunity to participate in this stand. 

POSTSCRIPT 15/5: The following serves as further input to the above debate, written by John Williams on his blog “Truth about Hermanus“:

The ‘Wonders that never cease’ on the Cape Whale Route are the damaging shenanigans that continue to rock the foundations of the organisation mandated to market this outstanding destination (Hermanus and the Overstrand coastal region) commonly known as the Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau (HTB).

Stormy seas ahead for the Lerm’s!

’The DMO has, in my opinion, made a right mess of things for the tourism industry. They have wasted our money and they have, as far as I can see, only one ambition – and that is to turn Hermanus into the glitziest, cheapest, nastiest destination in the Cape’. ..a comment made recently by a leading tourism personality in Hermanus.

If you didn’t know, Storm Kreusch, manager of Hermanus Tourism Bureau was unfairly suspended and was then subsequently “dismissed” after she has resigned! by the Hermanus Tourism Bureau of which Clinton Lerm (DMO chairman) is vice Chairman (Clinton, having stepped down to position of vice chair of HTB, earlier this year when it became obvious that a conflict of interest was present between his governance of both bodies) Ms Kreusch went to the CCMA and apparently after a conciliation meeting came out as the victor and was awarded compensation!

A very well done Storm! The whole town supports you (except the Lerm family) but now here is the nub. At a volunteer’s meeting at the HTB,Clinton had said that he would resign from the HTB Committee and believes that the rest of the Committee should also resign – (his mother serves on that committee as well as the DMO) should it be proven that the incorrect procedure was followed regarding Storm’s suspension. Rumour has it that Maxie Lerm has already or will now resign due, not to this statement by her son, but due to her DA candidature. Will it be from both HTB and DMO committees we wonder.

So, indeed, we are now waiting for the re-election of the HTB and the DMO committee’s, at a special meeting which will need to be called as soon as possible! 

Background to the formation of the DMO in 2007/8. This marketing body was put in place to, among other duties (and not necessarily in order) to undertake as follows:

1. Advertise the Cape Whale Coast generically in whatever media possible; 

2. Administer the grant from the Overstrand Municipality (OM) and any funds generated to the local Whale Coast Tourism Bureau’s via the management committee of each bureau, thereby maintaining (not managing) effective tourism bureaus; 

3. Be nominated and be represented on the management committees of the various Bureau’s.

N.B. All businesses who paid rates and taxes/previous business levy/ were eligible to be members of the DMO (2007/8 constitution

Background to the DMO the HTB feud over membership and Info Kiosk

The Hermanus Tourism Bureau had been lobbying for at least 5 years to have a satellite information kiosk on the seafront. This kiosk would also act as a shelter for the Whale crier during the rainy months. The Kiosk was granted to HTB by Mayor Beyleveldt in Sept 2009 at the AGM. In Dec 2009 the DMO hi jacked the kiosk from HTB, for DMO use and membership, thus generating income for the DMO. At this stage Clinton Lerm and his mother Maxie Lerm were serving on both committees and Clinton was Chairman of both. There was an outcry by many members regarding the loss of the kiosk. Most members showed a lethargy regarding the kiosk as they felt it was a battle HTB would never win against the DMO. (little did they realize the tide inevitably changes)

Clinton Lerm seemingly resigned as Chairman of HTB, when it was evident that there was a conflict of interest being chairman of both committees and that DMO had used their powers to “take” the kiosk. A very heated HTB AGM in Sept 2010 ensued and it was agreed that DMO was to return the Kiosk to HTB as soon as possible.

A formal announcement was then made in the Hermanus Times, by means of a letter from DMO, written by Lerm, that the DMO was to hand over the Kiosk, back to HTB in due course.

But what then followed was an extended idiotic squabble – all in very poor taste (astoundingly small minded and uncharitable behaviour by the DMO) when they continued to trade the Kiosk through the peak season and according to Lerm the criteria for membership of DMO had changed, constitutionally.

It became evident to the whole Whale Coast that the kiosk was only going to serve a “select few” – The DMO had pronounced that in order to get bookings via the Kiosk, HTB members now had to join and pay for membership to the DMO. In a nutshell – two memberships to partake in two “official” municipally funded Information Offices. One office trading on the doorstep of the other.

Progress to resolve conflict between DMO and HTB

It must now be understood that Clinton Lerm had promised in September 2010 in the same article in the HermanusTimes to take the issue of membership of the DMO to his committee and get the membership criteria changed to include all TB members of the Whale Coast. Apparently council had approved this change. It is now mid May 2011 and the membership issue has not yet been put in place. He once again made mention earlier this year that a special general meeting was to be called possibly in April to put the matter right and get approval from his small database of DMO members to change the constitution before taking on the Tourism Bureau members of the Whale Coast. Nothing has been affected to date!

The Kiosk was returned to the HTB during March/April and the HTB has been crisis managed by the committee ever since Ms Kreusch’s resignation, much to the member’s disgust.

There’s talk the Lerm clan is under siege and will finally realise that ‘vested interest’ actually disqualifies them from holding multiple posts in these tourism and marketing organisations.TheIr track record proves this to be the case (see below for some ‘hand to hand’ combat with the accommodation industry.” 

POSTSCRIPT 18/5: Today the Hermanus Tourism Bureau Chairman Charl de Kock has sent an e-mail regarding the ‘Storm”-saga, and has stated that they have received a written apology – Joan-Anne Harris has demanded one from ourselves (see Comments to this blogpost), but we have not sent one.  The final laugh is that Charl encourages members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau to vote today – we all know that Maxie Lerm is the DA candidate for Ward 3 in the Overstrand, and her connection to the tourism bodies in Hermanus is documented above!  The e-mail is not correct in stating that the CCMA process has not been concluded.  The Hermanus Tourism Bureau representatives signed a document that admits that their dismissal process was ‘fatally flawed’ and that the dismissal procedure was ‘unfair’.  They have reneged on the payment of the R 10000 settlement to Storm Kreusch by the agreed deadline of 12 May 2011.

“Dear Hermanus Tourism Members

We can understand the concerns expressed by members as to what has been happening lately with regards to Storm. 

 A word of thanks to everyone who has indicated that they trust the HT Committee to handle the process correctly and fairly – and allow it to run its course. We would appreciate it if NO ONE will draw conclusions or spread unfounded rumours as it is (sic) only to the detriment of our town.

 Please note that the CCMA case re the Hermanus Tourism Manager is still in process!

As soon as the verdict is confirmed and the case is concluded we will inform all our HT members of the outcome.

The HT Committee has tried to halt the unfounded rumours; however the ongoing personal slander and unsubstantiated accusations continue and have even resulted in a written apology.

Please let us all work together towards a better future for the hospitality industry of this town and assist the committee and personnel in delivering the service excellence that they have aiming for.

The Hermanus Tourism personnel are currently visiting accommodation establishments to get to know your property and everything that you have to offer your guests. This is the first step in the Product Knowledge training that we are implementing to ensure they can market our beautiful area and superb products / companies. 

Yours in tourism:

Charl de Kock and the Hermanus Tourism Committee       

 

POSTSCRIPT 23/5:I have received a copy of the CCMA Settlement Agreement signed between Storm Kreusch and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau representative Charl de Kock, in which R10000 was due to have been paid into Ms Kreusch’s bank account by 12 May.  In an unusual addition, but probably requested by Ms Kreusch’s attorney, the following was added under “Other”: “The employer admits that the process resulting in the dismissal of the employee was fatally flawed and that her dismissal was consequently procedurally unfair.  This agreement settles all or any dispute that had or may arise from the employment relationship between the parties”. 

POSTSCRIPT 30/5:  The Hermanus Tourism members were excited to see the new June issue of Getaway, which has a nine-page spread on its village.  This quickly changed to shock when they saw that the editorial content, guided by the Cape Whale Coast DMO, contained the following errors:

*   The Whale Season is stated as being from May to September, when it fact it stretches until the beginning of December 

*   The article also recommends that visitors to the Cape Whale Coast route that hate crowds should rather stay away – the only crowded period is during the Hermanus Whale Festival, falling around the 24 September public holiday.  Many other options are offered in the other villages along the Cape Whale Coast route, but these are not mentioned.

*   The article says that visitors to the Cape Whale Coast Route should expect to pay more during the whale watching period – this is utter nonsense, as rates are set by season and not be whale activity.  Most guest houses and restaurants have good winter offers until August, then have a spring rate in September, and charge summer rates from October.  Due to supply and demand, the Whale Festival weekend period may have higher rates for the 3 – 4 day duration.

*   Only 4- and 5-star accommodation was allowed to participate in a promotion in July, according to the rules of the Marketing Project co-ordinator of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, Joan-Anne Harris.  Tourism Bureau members were given very short notice to participate in the advertising. 

*   The article does not contain a pay-off line for Hermanus or the Cape Whale Coast (“Best land-based whale watching in the world”).  The editorial does not refer to the Whale Crier, the unique icon for Hermanus.  No Cape Whale Coast branding is visible. 

*   The article contains a number of typing errors relating to e-mail and website addresses, and it would appear that no DMO representative (Joan-Anne Harris of Southern Stroll Marketing is the DMO Marketing co-ordinator) proofread the article. 

Getaway has been contacted by some members, and it appears that no proofreading of the article was done by the DMO nor by the magazine (one wonders who supplied the information to journalist Fatima Jakoet, for it to contain so many errors)! Getaway has promised a correction in its August issue. 

POSTSCRIPT 5/6: The CCMA Settlement Agreement was ‘cancelled’ by Dan Acker, of Holwill Bosman Acker & Associates, writing on behalf of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and a Director of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, on 6 May: “our client shall, with immediate effect, withdraw completely from the said ‘settlement agreement’ and shall hereafter deem said agreement to be null and void”,supposedly justifying why they did not pay Ms Kreusch the settlement of R10000 by the agreed date of 12 May.  This bullying ‘cancellation’ is motivated by a number of points, including that Ms Kreusch ‘breached the clearly expressed confidentiality, purpose and spirit of the said Conciliation discussions and subsequent agreement’ . We have seen the CCMA Settlement Agreement, and it does not contain any confidentiality clause by which the Hermanus Tourism Bureau can give itself the power to cancel the Settlement Agreement!

POSTSCRIPT 8/6: Charl de Kock, Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, wrote a rather strange letter to members of a “Petition Group”, who had signed a petition calling for a Special General Meeting, yesterday afternoon, just before this Group was due to meet.  He reinforces that he acted correctly in respect of Ms Kreusch’s disciplinary hearing, subsequent termination, and CCMA hearing, and blatantly accuses her of deceit: “It is now common knowledge that I was ‘conned’ and that Storm, her lawyer end (sic)Storm’s possible financial backers had no intention of keeping this document (the CCMA Settlement Agreement) confidential. I really believed I was signing an honourable agreement and that Storm wanted ‘to get on with her life’!  He does invite all members of the Group to view the documents, and does agree that the Mayor should ‘call for an impartial meeting where all the facts can be addressed and laid bare for all to see’.   

POSTSCRIPT 8/6:A Top Billing feature on Hermanus appears to include more DMO Director properties.  Once we have seen the detail, we will add it.

POSTSCRIPT 9/6:  At a DA Ward 3 Councillor’s meeting held without announcement to the Ward constituency last night, headed by new DA councillor Maxie Lerm, her husband Henri Lerm and DMO Board member Dan Acker were elected onto the Ward committee, the two ‘gentlemen’ nominating each other!

POSTSCRIPT 10/6: A highly defamatory Comment was sent by the Cape Whale Coast DMO to this blog, in reaction to this blogpost, as well as to our radio interview on Whale Coast FM earlier today.   Clinton Lerm, the Chairman of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, was invited to be interviewed, but refused to participate if he was on the same program as ourselves, based on legal advice.  Hermanus Tourism Bureau Chairman Charl de Kock did participate.  Joan-Anne Harris, a Director of the DMO, tried a number of times to get the topic of the radio programme stopped earlier this week.  We will not yet publish the defamatory comment, and will use it for possible legal action.

POSTSCRIPT 16/6: We believe that it is in the interest of transparency that the Cape Whale Coast Comment sent to this blog be published.  We have been challenged to do so by Joan-Anne Harris’ partner David Snoek :

anonymous
info@whalecoast.info | 198.54.202.210

I think you will all find that HTB is running smoothly, receiving positive feedback from Tourists, and NOT FIGHTING AMONGST EACH OTHER. Chris, however, feels the need to fight with everyone she comes into contact with! Why is this? Is she unhappy? – Or does she fancy herself as a bit of a ‘celebrity’ with all the comments on her blogs? I cannot see that she is any kind of ambassadeur (sic) for Hermanus, what with the amount of bad publicity she attracts. I say out with her! She’s a stirrer, a trouble-maker and horrible person!

POSTSCRIPT 30 June: Noseweek  was alerted to this blogpost, and its July issue contains an excellent article about the Lerm family, and its litigious approach to dealing with criticism!

POSTSCRIPT 10/8: We received the following apology from Fabio Lenci, Vice-Chairman of the new Hermanus Tourism Bureau committee, about the insulting blogpost which came from the now-defunct DMO : “The following is written on behalf of Hermanus Tourism of which we have all agreed and I have been mandated as vice chairperson by the new committee to send you a letter of apology.  Please note that we have exhausted every avenue and to confirm that we cannot trace the individual who used the terminal as it could have been anyone. It is with regret that I have to write you this letter of apology on behalf of the previous dispensation and also the new dispensation would like to extend their sincere apologies for the undesirable comments made on your blog dated May 2011.  We wish to inform you that we have begun with various encouraging motions in the right direction to get HTB and all its members on track in a positive frame of mind and rest assured that we have the backing of the whole of Hermanus. We look forward to a prosperous future with all the positive support while achieving our goals one at a time for the good of Hermanus & all its citizens”.

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