Tag Archives: KLM

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 15 August

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  The Eat Out Gala Dinner, at which the country’s Top 10 Restaurants will be announced, will be held at Thunder City on 16 November.  Mercedes-Benz is the new title sponsor of the Awards.

*   The charity ‘Chefs who Share’ dinner, to be held in the City Hall on 11 September, will have seven pairs of top local chefs cooking for guests, each team paired with a local sommelier as well as an international Michelin star chef.  The international chefs are Gerd Kastenmeier from Kastenmeier Dresden, Alfred Miller from Wirtshaus Schöneck Innsbruck, Andreas Meyer from Schloss Prielau, Christoph Geschwendtner from Schlosshotel Fiss, Anton Schmaus from Restaurant Storstad, Bernard Reiser from Restaurant Würzburg, and Christian Grainer from Christian’s Restaurant.  (received via media release from Amplicon PR)

*   Table Bay Boulevard is to be named after former President FW de Klerk, it has been recommended by the City of Cape Town’s Naming Committee, subject to a public participation process.  The recommendation has been supported by Premier Helen Zille and former Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

*   Huffington Post’s Travel Blog interviewed Chef Luke Dale-Roberts of Eat Out top restaurant Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 9 June

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  Economists are not all in agreement with Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus as to whether or not our country is sliding into recession, although she did express her concern about the economy, reports The New Age.

*   Delaire Graff  Coastal Cuvée won the Nestle Pure Life Trophy for Best Sauvignon Blanc at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show.  The wine estate’s Delaire Graff Sauvignon Blanc 2013 has been listed in Business Class of KLM for the third year running. (received via media release from Delaire Graff)

*   The mixologists who have made the Diageo Reserve World Class National Final, to be held at the Marly Hotel from 1 – 3 July, are Jeff Lopes and Simphiwe Ngcobo from The Michelangelo Hotel, Brent Perremore and Assaf Yechiel from Orphanage Cocktail Emporium,  Steven Saunders from The Oyster Box, Haroon Haffajee from Harry’s Cocktail Bar, and Marson Strydom of Buena Vista Social Café.  The national winner will compete in the Diageo Reserve World Class Global Final in July/August.(received via media release from Communication Services Africa) Continue reading →

Prices of international direct flights to Cape Town deterrent to tourism! Cape Town talks Turkey!

Doing research about Turkish Airlines’ direct flights to Cape Town, the subject of a recent trip to Turkey by a 10-person Cape Town Tourism and City of Cape Town delegation, we found that many direct flights are exorbitantly priced,  and that Turkish Airlines is one of the more expensive flights to Cape Town from Europe! One wonders why the City delegation did not visit all the cities in Europe that offer direct flights to Cape Town, or those offering more reasonably priced flights.

The dates chosen for the cost comparison of the airlines flying direct to Cape Town from Europe was departure on 1 November and return on 8 November, with the lowest airfare reflected below:

Air France  (Paris)                                            R 7775

KLM (Amsterdam)                                            R 8085

SAA (London via Johannesburg)                  R 11457

Virgin Atlantic (London)                                 R 11542

BA (London)                                                        R 12002

Turkish Airlines (Istanbul)                             R 13545

Edelweiss (Zurich)                                            R 16489

Lufthansa (Munich)                                         R 27453

Lufthansa (Frankfurt)                                     R 27630

Given that a maximum of 4800 tourists could arrive in Cape Town on four weekly flights from Istanbul per month, at exorbitant flight prices, the justification by Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold for her team’s recent trip to Turkey does not make sense.  Writing that Turkish Airlines (but not knowing their correct name) is introducing four direct flights from Istanbul to Cape Town per week, she said that her visit was to ‘promote bilateral trade and tourism’. Other goals were to ‘showcase Cape Town’s natural and urban offerings, investment opportunities, as well as the city’s creativity and our appeal as World Design Capital 2014’, she wrote. Trade promotion is not the mandate of Cape Town Tourism, nor is it that of the City of Cape Town and its newly formed Tourism, Events and Marketing (TEAM) Directorate!  Marketing World Design Capital 2014 is not the mandate of Cape Town Tourism either!  She continued her justification:

During the nine-day trip a twin city agreement will be signed between Cape Town and Izmir. The City of Cape Town has been officially invited by the mayors of both Istanbul and Izmir for bilateral meetings on trade and tourism promotion. The trip includes pre-organised business meetings and experiences, as well as a dinner event for key stakeholders, including tourism boards and destination marketing organisations, embassies and consulates, as well as Turkish Air (sic) and key media.  Just as Cape Town is the gateway to Sub-Saharan Africa, Turkey is an access point to Europe and Asia. Turkish Air’s (sic) decision to fly direct to Cape Town from October is a great opportunity to collaborate in growing arrivals from both new and established markets. This trip is the perfect opportunity to showcase Cape Town as both a leisure and business tourism destination and to build new partnerships. Turkey has a vast creative economy which includes everything from food to fashion, architecture, retail, jewellery and art. It is a beautiful country that relies heavily on its natural assets, and so it is fitting that we sign a twinning agreement with a city which is in many ways quite like our own. We hope to collaborate on increased responsible tourism and leveraging our creativity, and we go with the aim of increasing tourism and trade between our two regions. This group expedition is the first trip jointly undertaken by tourism, business and city officials, illustrating how serious Cape Town is about positioning the city as an urban destination open for commerce in all areas of business”.

Interesting is that since the return of the delegation to Cape Town almost a month ago, the City of Cape Town and Cape Town Tourism have not issued a media statement nor a report about the wasteful Turkey trip, to share with the ratepayers of Cape Town and the members of Cape Town Tourism exactly what they have learnt, what they achieved, and how many tourists we can expect from Turkey!  Only one ‘business’ person was a member of the delegation, Peter Ayub, who owns the cookery school Sense of Taste in Istanbul and in Cape Town!  His role appeared to be to find the best places for the delegation to eat at.  At the AGM on Thursday, Alderman Patricia de Lille dedicated two sentences in her speech to the Turkey trip: “Recently, I have had the privilege of leading a City delegation, including representatives of Cape Town Tourism to Turkey.  During this visit it was again evident that Turkey and related markets hold enormous potential for increasing tourist arrivals into Cape Town”. No further detail was provided, and the ‘related markets’ were not defined.   City of Cape Town Executive Director for Tourism, Events and Marketing Anton Groenewald also referred to the trip in his speech at the AGM, echoing a similar message, the Mayor’s speech probably written by his directorate!

SA Tourism, Wesgro, and Cape Town Tourism have never defined Turkey as a target market for tourism to our city or country!  The potential tourism numbers seem far too low to have justified the time and financial cost of the delegation’s visit.  The delegation obviously did not do a good enough job of informing Turkish Airlines about our city, its website profile of Cape Town stating that ‘Cape Town is one of the cities that will host the 2010 FIFA World Cup’! Provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde recently agreed that the smarter marketing of Cape Town would have been to invite the Turkish tour operators and media to Cape Town!

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

Is SAA heading for a crash-landing? Disaster for Tourism!

SAA has been in the news in the past few days for all the wrong reasons, eight of its eleven Board members having resigned in what must signal the lack of confidence in the management of the airline and its future.  As our tourism industry is strongly reliant on SAA to bring tourists to the country, and to Cape Town specifically, the SAA situation is of vital importance to all tourism players.

Cheryl Carolus, Chairman of the SAA Board, is one of the Directors who resigned, with Bonang Mohale, Russell Loubser, Louis Rabbets, Jabulani Ndhlovu, David Lewis, Teddy Daka, and Maggie Whitehouse, but she has not motivated her decision.  Russell Loubser has been vocal, saying that SAA, SA Express, and Mango deserve the support of the South African government, being its largest shareholder, but that they are not receiving it, reported The Citizen. Loubser called for emotional, financial, and moral support, given the economic downturn and the competitive airline industry. The operations of the company have had to be executed in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act, he said, which meant that they could not run the company as a commercial enterprise, in which they would ordinarily hire and fire staff, or change routes. ‘But a company like SAA which is totally dependent on the government requires in return the total support of the shareholder. And right now it is finding it difficult to work with the shareholder’.  Issues that have been tabled for months do not get resolved, Loubser explained, particularly the burning issue of an additional R6 billion which the airline requested from the government to execute a strategic plan which had been approved by the government. He said that in the past three years since he had been a member of the SAA Board, the company had ‘never been properly capitalised’.

The resignations were precipitated by the delay in the tabling of SAA’s Annual Report by the deadline of 30 September, as the auditors had not finalised the financial statements, and the funding request not having been finalised with the Treasury, reported The Times. The funding requested is to cover fleet replacement costs, the introduction of a premium economy class, and the extension of business class cabins on long-haul flights. Yet Ms Carolus stated that the Minister is ‘lying’, as the financial statements have been completed, and withholding them is ‘illegal’, reflecting on the Board directors, reported The Times today. The Annual Report for SA Express was also delayed.  Last year the financial statements for SA Express had to be withdrawn, when found to be ‘materially misstated’. Last month the Minister fired all except one Board member of SA Express, for accounting errors going back to 2008!

Earlier last week Ms Carolus had summarised the Board’s achievements as flying to new destinations, sacrificing domestic routes to the benefit of international routes, modernising and increasing the fleet, and in addressing fraud and corruption.

Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba appointed eight new directors to caretake the Board positions, with Vuyisile Kona as the new Chairman, and Andile Mabizela, Andile Khumalo, Bonisizwe Mpondo, Dr Rajesh Naithani, Carol Roskruge, Raisibe Lepule, and Nonhlanhla Kubeka as the new Directors, representing expertise in the fields of aviation, management, state governance, and finance, and which he said would assist the government in ‘propelling the airline to greater heights‘!  The Minister issued a statement, describing the resignation timing as ‘bizarre’, and condemned ‘the leakage of confidential government information’ as an ‘abuse of free speech’, without explaining what information leak he is referring to.  The Minister also explained that the term of most Board members would have come to an end anyway, at the scheduled AGM on 15 October.  The Minister assured staff, passengers, and suppliers that the Board resignations would not disrupt the operations of SAA.

Cape Town’s tourism industry was badly hit by SAA’s decision to close down its Cape Town – London direct flight route in mid-August, selling one of its three slots at Heathrow, and creating a Southern African hub in Johannesburg, forcing all international SAA flights to land in Johannesburg, and then connect to Cape Town on a domestic flight.  This strategy is proving fatal for tourism, as we continuously receive feedback that international flights arriving simultaneously at OR Thambo airport are causing Passport Control and Baggage Collection congestion, meaning that the connecting flights are missed by international visitors, for which SAA tries to cash in on ticket change charges!  This is a dreadful first tourist impression of our country!

The declining quality of SAA’s food and beverage service and poor hostess service was well-documented by German wine writer Mario Scheuermann, who flew from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, to attend CapeWine 2012 in Cape Town last week.  He wrote that the wines were of sub-standard quality, and ran out two hours after take-off, that the food was dreadful (his photograph), and that the mineral water had run out before landing in Johannesburg.  The party of German VIP visitors missed its connecting flights due to the congested airport facilities, and had to wait for three hours to catch a new connecting flight to Cape Town!

Despite this sounding unpatriotic, we would encourage international visitors to fly to Cape Town with any airline other than SAA, and to avoid flying into the country via Johannesburg at all costs!  Direct Cape Town connections are or about to be offered by BA and Virgin from London, by Edelweiss from Zürich, by Lufthansa from Munich, by Emirates from Dubai, by Air France from Paris, by Turkish Airlines from Istanbul, and from Amsterdam by KLM.  Maybe  the cancellation of SAA’s Cape Town-London route is a blessing in disguise for our city, given the poor reports about the airline’s service and quality!

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Swedish guests checking in at Whale Cottage Camps Bay today praised the ease of connection via Swiss from Copenhagen to Zürich, and then the direct flight by Edelweiss to Cape Town, for its friendly service and fantastic price of R 5500 each for the full return trip.

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Today it was announced that the government has given SAA a ‘guarantee’ of R5 billion!

POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Southern African Tourism Update has published a letter today from a tour operator reporting on two client flight cancellations due to overbooking, handled unsympathetically by SAA staff.

POSTSCRIPT 3/10: Mario Scheuermann has shared the details of his return journey on SAA two days ago.  The food quality was slightly better, there was more wine available but the quality offered still was poor.  There was a problem with the cooling, so all beverages were warm, i.e. not cooled!  The service was equally poor.  Interesting would be to hear the evaluation of the food and wine offering by the SA Culinary Olympics team, which was on the same flight to Frankfurt!

POSTSCRIPT 7/10: The Times reports that the smaller independent airlines are furious that SAA has been given a R 5 billion lifeline by the government, saying that this is driving low-cost airlines out of business. Nine out of 11 airlines that started operating locally in the past 20 years have gone into liquidation, mainly due to an oversupply of domestic seats, ‘a legacy of the optimism of 2010’. Now 1time wants a bail-out by the government too.  The small airlines are asking for a cut in the fuel levy, as well as reduced fees for ACSA, Air Traffic Navigation Services, the SA Weather Service, and the Civil Aviation Authority.

POSTSCRIPT 10/10: Southern African Tourism Update reports this evening that the new Chairman of the SAA Board is questioning why the Cape Town – London route was cancelled, and is apparently in talks with the Mayor of Cape Town Patricia de Lille to reinstate the route.  One wonders why he is not talking to our Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde, the CEO of Wesgro Nils Flaatten, and/or Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold!  One of the three SAA slots at Heathrow have been sold, which may make the reinstatement difficult.

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

Marine Stewardship Council ecolabel shows restaurants care about seafood sustainability

I have only recently become aware of the (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) and its good work in trying to retain and enhance endangered fish and shellfish species, through a consumer awareness campaign which helps fish shoppers and restaurant patrons to identify which of the fishes they eat are green, orange or red, depending on their degree of endangeredness.   Last week I spent a most interesting day with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an international organisation that encourages seafood sustainability by conducting audits of seafood products, from the catch until it appears in the supermarket or on the restaurant table.  Each of these steps is audited, which results in being awarded the MSC’s ecolabel, guaranteeing fishlovers that the fish they are eating is sustainable in its availability, as well as its fishing method, its processing, and transport to and use in restaurants as well as sales in supermarkets.

The Mission statement of the MSC is as follows:”to use our ecolabel and fishery certification program to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognising and rewarding sustainable fishing practices, influencing the choices people make when buying seafood and working with our partners to transform the seafood market to a sustainable basis”.

The South African branch of the MSC, with the pay-off line “The best environmental choice in seafood”, hosted the workshop, which was held at Giggling Gourmet Jenny Morris’ Cooks’ Playground in De Waterkant last week.   The MSC “is a global non-profit organisation promoting solutions to the problem of overfishing”.  Its blue ecolabel is an environmental standard reflecting “the world’s leading sustainability certification for wild-caught fish”.  Consumers are encouraged to choose MSC ecolabel fish products when shopping, to help in reversing the decline in fish stocks.  In South Africa brands such as I&J and Sea Harvest carry the MSC ecolabel.

Restaurants have been slow in coming on board the sustainability boat, and we are only aware of WildWoods in Hout Bay and Blowfish in Blouberg that actively promote SASSI on their menus, particularly the latter.    Those restaurants buying their fish from MSC certified fish suppliers are encouraged to display the MSC ecolabel on their menus.  This will require an annual audit by independent auditors.  At the workshop the Shoreline Café at the Two Oceans Aquarium won a free MSC sustainable seafood audit.   The work of the MSC internationally has already changed the habits of a leading chef such as Jamie Oliver, who only selects sustainable fish from the MSC website for his dishes now. Raymond Blanc, Chef Patron at Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons in the UK, says about MSC:  “I passionately believe that it is up to each of us, be it consumer or chef, to make a responsible choice.  By supporting MSC, I am ensuring that as a chef, I am helping to ensure fish stocks will be replenished for generations to come.  I also hope that many more chefs will join this worthy cause”. 

Internationally, the following companies have become involved in the MSC seafood sustainability programme:  Walmart and Asda (pledged to be 100% certified for fresh and frozen fish by next year); Carrefour; the Dutch Retail Association, representing 99% of retailers in Holland, has committed to 99% of wild seafood sold will be MSC certified by next year;  Sainsbury’s; Marks and Spencer; Aldi; Dansk; Compass; Sodexo UK; Iglo; Bird’s Eye, John West; KLM; and many more. 

Internationally 5500 product lines from 1100 companies carry the MSC ecolabel, in 66 countries, at an estimated retail value of $1,5 billion.   In July 92 fisheries around the world were MSC-standard certified, representing 4 million metric tons of fish, with another 120 fisheries undergoing assessment, representing a further 3 million metric tons.

The MSC certification programme has helped SASSI in its work, according to Dr Samantha Petersen of SASSI: “The MSC certification provided a platform and an incentive for us to work together. Prior to that, the industry was more suspicious of us.  Once MSC status was on the cards, it gave us a common goal and opened up a dialogue that was not there before.” 

After some demonstrations by Jenny, the workshop participants grouped into teams, and I was lucky to be paired with Ingrid Gold from Caxton Magazines and Eat Out reviewer Greg Landman.  Greg is clearly a creative cook, especially when I saw him add honey to the hake he prepared for our team!   It was delicious, and it was a good way to get involvement by the participants.  Jenny’s team had prepared the most amazing seafood and salad buffet, with salmon and mussels, and we were spoilt with the wonderful looking display and tasty food.  I loved Jenny’s paper thin crispy fried butternut slices.  Then followed the most delicious seared tuna, as well as a dessert. 

What made the lunch really special was the mix of persons at our table.  Martin Purves, the Southern Africa Programme Manager for the MSC; Odette Herbert, a photographer and blogger; chefs from Bodega at Dornier wine estate, the Arabella at Kleinmond and the Shoreline Café at the Two Oceans Aquarium; and Ingrid and Greg. 

Marine Stewardship Council.   www.msc.org  Tel (021) 551-0620.  The MSC also has offices in the UK (its head office), as well as in Japan, Australia, and the USA.

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