* The price of petrol is to drop by 22 cents a liter from Wednesday 4 June, in part due to a stronger Rand, good news for Tourism. (via Kfm news)
* Just when SA Tourism is looking to position South Africa’s tourism product more broadly than just as wildlife and safaris, the Lonely Planet has named our country as the world’s best Wildlife Destination for the third year running!
* The construction work on the expansion of the Cape Town International Convention Centre is going ahead, despite threatening legal action should it do so, the process of the allocation of the tender to the architect consortium being the issue at stake.
Yesterday Western Cape Tourism Minister Alan Winde welcomed tourists to Cape Town and the province, and issued a safety warning to tourists, a surprise in its communication that our region may not be safe.
The timing of the Minister’s media statement is odd, being late in welcoming tourists, who have been in the city and province since the start of the summer season beginning in October. The safety warning would make it appear that Cape Town and the Western Cape are really dangerous destinations, a shame if this is how tourists would interpret the Minister’s safety guidelines. Perhaps the Minister forgets that any crime hotspots (and they are really only Signal Hill at night and hiking tracks in the Table Mountain National Park) will be pointed out to guests of hotels and guest houses, when they discuss their plans for the day, and probably are pointed out in guide books and on websites too. Advising tourists to call 10111 is a bad call, as they would show up the emergency number as the most inefficient service, especially if the tourist were to be Continue reading →
We have seen in the past that Cape Town Tourism likes to blow its own trumpet, so when we received the media release on 31 July to brag about how it ‘uses Crowd-sourcing to clock over 13 million impressions on Twitter‘, it attracted interest. It appears that it exaggerated the impact of the four international travel bloggers who were invited by Cape Town Tourism as iAmbassadors to spend a week in the city, and to share blogging tips at the Getaway Travel Blog Conference.
On Sunday a week ago (29 July) Cape Town Tourism announced a one hour brainstorm (‘crowdsourcing‘) via Twitter from 7 – 8 pm, using the hashtag #LoveCapeTown, requesting suggestions for what the four international bloggers should see and do while in Cape Town. Six questions were asked, relating to typical Cape Town food to eat, places to visit, adventure activities to participate in, places to learn more about the city’s history, people watching spots, and favourite hidden gems. The Cape Town media release claimed that in a 24 hour period #LoveCapeTown generated ‘1500 Tweets, 13521392 impressions and reached an audience of 623041 followers’. On its blog three days later, Cape Town Tourism grew its claim to ‘4000 #LoveCapeTown tweets were sent. As many as 800000 unique Twitter users were reached by the hashtag and 30-million tweet impressions were achieved’ in the one week period.
Not having heard of a Twitter ‘impression‘ measurement before, I Googled the term. It describes the cumulative total of followers of persons who use a hashtag (or specified Twitter address) multiplied by the number of Tweets per Twitter address that used the hashtag. The measurement does not deduct the duplication of the same followers on more than one Tweeter’s list. It also does not measure the actual readership of the Tweet(s), only measuring the potential readership. Newman PR company, one of the oldest in America, wrote on its blog about the dilemma of presenting statistics to its clients, and came to the conclusion that ‘Twitter Impressions can impress, but actually mean little‘, and decided against presenting this information to its clients. ScoopDog’s Blog suggested that ‘Twitter reach calculations should be in the 10 – 12% of a follower list’, according to a Harvard study. The writer calls for reliable benchmark information on measuring performance on Facebook and Twitter, and says that more meaningful measurements should be sales and lead generation. Stanzr Blog says that only ‘Twitter can verify what users actually are online and observing Tweets‘, and that no hashtag measurement company can verify how many users were actually impressed with a hashtag or a Tweet. LoCulReign wrote :“While there are many standardized metrics such as follower, mentions, or even impressions, these metrics are not the end-all answer to the broader question (what is the value of social media), they are simply a slice of the pie. There are many intangible benefits of social media, such as building strong brand awareness or reputation that cannot be measured by total brand mentions or the bit.ly clickthrough rate in a week.”
Not being privy to how Cape Town Tourism generated its statistics (no source is quoted in the media release), we used the Hashtracking.com service to measure the power of #LoveCapeTown in the 24 hours prior to midday on Saturday 4 August. In this period 483 Tweets generated a total of 461399 followers and 2,4 million impressions. This measurement tool shows the source of the top 10 impressions, and 84% of this top 10 list generated just over 2 million of the impressions, being the four international travel bloggers, Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, Cape Town Tourism Communication Manager Skye Grove, Cape Town Tourism, blogger conference organiser Getaway, the @CapeTown aggregator for all mentions of Cape Town, and SA Tourism’s @gotoSouthAfrica. Skye Grove is the Cape Town Tourism Tweeter, so she Tweets the same Tweets on both accounts, usually re-Tweeted by her boss Mrs Helmbold too. It is safe to say, from the Tweets in the timeline, that the bulk of the impressions were Cape Town-based, giving locals a tremendous feel-good about their home city. American and Australasian Twitter followers of the international bloggers may have been asleep at the time of the Tweet-up, and weekend days are poor Twitter days anyway. Of the 11 #LoveCapeTown Tweets printed out alongside the measurement on HashTracking.com, six were spam accounts, showing that potentially #LoveCapeTown Tweets could not have had more than 600000 impressions (instead of the claimed 11 million) last Sunday! To bring the measurement of ‘impression’ closer to home, we ran @WhaleCottage on Hashtracking.com at the same date and time, and found that one Tweet (“Tourism is the bread and butter of economy, says Western Cape Minister of Tourism @AlanWinde”), which was re-Tweeted three times, had achieved 449700 impressions alone.
Mrs Helmbold enthused about the success of the Twitter campaign, saying that it ‘truly let Capetonians ‘sell’ their own city and it added instant authenticity to our campaign’. She added that so many suggestions were received that it proved that tourists need more than one week to visit Cape Town. The numerous suggestions made to the international bloggers via the Twitterthon were not recorded anywhere for future visitors to Cape Town, other than some having been recorded in the media release, showing how short-lived Twitter information is.
During the Getaway Travel Bloggers Conference on Saturday, one of the speakers (@TravelDudes) quantified the value of the 24 hour Twitter coverage at €56564, which was proudly re-Tweeted by Cape Town Tourism. Again, there is no known standard to quantify the value of a Tweet or an impression. Weird is that the hashtag for the Bloggers Conference changed to #gtbc, losing #LoveCapeTown in all Tweets from Saturday onwards, despite Cape Town Tourism having been a sponsor of the Conference.
In the week that the international bloggers spent in Cape Town, disappointingly little was written about Cape Town by the bloggers:
* Keith Jenkins of velvet escape wrote two blogposts last week, one called ‘Iconic Cape Town view’, just containing a photograph of Table Mountain, with a link to a blogpost ‘Ten things to do in Cape Town’ which he wrote in 2009! The other was written on his arrival, requesting participation in the #LoveCapeTown Twitterthon. He Tweeted mainly about Cape Town in the week that he was here, and it was noticeable that he used other hashtags liberally in his non-Cape Town Tweets. He was good at responding to Tweets including his handle, and re-Tweeting. This was his fourth visit to Cape Town, and he called the city his ‘second home‘. He has 16069 Twitter followers.
* Wild Junket’s Nellie Huang wrote ‘We’re off to Cape Town, South Africa’ two weeks ago, inviting suggestions of things to see and do in Cape Town, and writing that she would be ‘cycling through Kayalitsch‘ (sic), hiking up Table Mountain, and going on a wine tour to Steenberg. During the week she wrote two blogposts, one being about Table Mountain, which was a collection of photographs taken from the mountain, including onto Camps Bay, and the other blogpost was a collection of photographs of the villa in which the four bloggers were accommodated in Camps Bay. She has previously visited the city, says she loves Cape Town, and said that ‘I wish that I could live here’. She has 21591 Twitter followers, and was an active Tweeter about Cape Town in the past week, creating dialogue.
* Traveldudes‘ Melvin Böcher is an occasional blogger, it would appear, not having posted more than four blogposts per month, but more commonly only one per month on average. He has not blogged since his arrival in Cape Town. On his website he carries guest posts about various aspects of Cape Town, none written by him. He has 86814 Twitter followers. He is an über-Tweeter, obviously pre-scheduling his Tweets, so that his few Cape Town Tweets were largely lost in his daily average of 50 Tweets about a multitude of international destinations. Noticeable was that he too is a heavy user of hashtags in every Tweet, using non-Cape Town ones for Tweets about other destinations, which must confuse his followers, in receiving so many Tweets about diverse destinations every few minutes every day.
* Matt Long of Landlopers wrote about his forthcoming trip three weeks ago, and also requested input to things to do in Cape Town. He has not written about Cape Town in the past week. He said he did not know much about the city before his arrival (odd for a travel writer), therefore coming in ‘blind’. He writes for Lonely Planet too. He has 16071 Twitter followers. Similarly to Melvin Böcher, he generates about 50 Tweets per day, about a diversity of destinations and they too are heavily (non-Cape Town) hashtagged, once again causing confusion amongst his followers. Few of his Tweets were about Cape Town in the past week. He repeats links to his blogposts and to a competition a number of times per day, one notices in his Tweets. Odd is that he has protected his Tweets, and one must request permission to follow him!
In the past week, the four travel writers were taken to Gansbaai for shark cage diving and seeing whales as well, hiked up and down Table Mountain (Matt Böcher undiplomatically said the ‘gondola was not working’ when he should have been told that it was closed for its annual maintenance), went to Robben Island, cycled through a township, visited Cape Point, Boulder’s Beach, Hout Bay, The Fringe creative precinct which included a stop at Charly’s Bakery, learnt to cook curry in Bo-Kaap, tasted wine at Groot Constantia (they do not appear to have got to Steenberg), visited some unnamed ‘cocktail spots‘, went on a Jazz Safari, visited The Castle, had dinner at Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town, had a drink at the Planet Bar, had a braai at the villa in which they stayed, ate at (unknown) Ethopian restaurant ‘Bebie Rosie’, and had a pizza at Jason’s. What was noticeable was that the program for the travel writers’ visit to Cape Town was pre-planned, as was evident from Nellie Huang’s pre-visit blogpost, and therefore the Twitterthon on 30 July, billed as being a list of suggestions for the writers to experience whilst in Cape Town, was a con! Predictably they saw the usual tourist highlights of Cape Town, and their eagerly anticipated highlight of paragliding off Lion’s Head was cancelled due to the bad weather yesterday. Yesterday afternoon three of the travel writers left for Johannesburg, on their way to Botswana today.
At a cocktail event held on Thursday, invited guests were shown the new one minute video made for Cape Town Tourism by National Geographic called ‘The Sounds of the City’, showing a young girl enjoying different parts of the city, including Bo Kaap, Greenmarket Square, the ocean, penguins, the V&A Waterfront, the view from Signal Hill (but not showing the iconic Cape Town Stadium) and the view over Table Bay from the top of Table Mountain. The sound effects, meant to be the theme of the video, are a vibey rap song ‘Cape Town’, into which are woven the sounds of seagulls, the ocean, lots of minibus taxi hooting, drumming, and a marimba band. As a Capetonian I missed the Cape Town sounds of Friday afternoon mosque prayers, the sound of the South Easter, the foghorn at Mouille Point, and the ship’s horns entering/leaving Cape Town harbour. The YouTube video only has 320 views to date.
It appears that Cape Town Tourism wildly exaggerated the impact of its Twitterthon, and the stature of the international travel ‘bloggers’, who appear to be digital travel editors rather than bloggers, rarely blogging! Mrs Helmbold clearly had not done her homework about her panel of visitors’ blogging habits, or lack of. Interesting is that no blog readership figures were provided for the international visitors, and that their standing was measured only in terms of Twitter following, yet Cape Town Tourism wrote on its blog the following exaggerated and unsubstantiated claim that the writers ‘reach millions of readers each month through their own online channels’! No readership statistics are quoted on any of the four writers’ websites, nor did Cape Town Tourism divulge this in the run up to the Conference, only quoting Twitter follower statistics. One does not know how much Cape Town Tourism paid to bring the international travel writers to Cape Town, and how it will ultimately measure the value of the impressions they made for the Cape Town tourism industry, in translating into creating awareness, leading to enquiries, and generating bookings!
POSTSCRIPT 11/8: The danger of sponsoring travel writers became evident today, when Melvin Böcher of Traveldudes Tweeted a link to blogger Michael Hodson’s blogpost ‘New 7 Wonders of the World: the scam behind the sham’, knocking the New7Wonders of Nature competition, and billing it as a money-making scam. In Hodson’s blogpost he slates most of the Top 7 list, including our Table Mountain, saying it isn’t even a ‘Top 7 mountain…let alone a top 7 natural wonder’, and he has a beautiful photograph of the mountain in his blogpost. It raises the question of the loyalty one would expect from guest who was brought to Cape Town, and his services paid for. The blogpost was written by Hodson on 14 November last year, and even more odd that Böcher should Tweet the link nine months after it was written, and less than two weeks after he himself had hiked up Table Mountain!
POSTSCRIPT 15/8: Last night we received an e-mail from Anton Groenewald, Executive Director of Tourism, Events, and Marketing at the City of Cape Town, the funders of Cape Town Tourism. Initially I offered him anonymity, in recognition of the support I had received from him, but he wrote an e-mail this morning, saying that he is happy for it to be made public. This is what he wrote last night: ‘Thanks very much for an insightful analysis and critique of the bloggers visit. I share much of your scepticism in regards to this issue’.
POSTSCRIPT 15/8: Cape Town Tourism issued another media release to justify the #LoveCapeTown Twitter campaign today, and one can assume that it is meant as a response to this blogpost (they have not posted a comment to it on this blog). In the media release they have changed their tune, admitting that there is no standard way to measure the success of Social Media marketing: ” Whilst the #LoveCapeTown hashtag ultimately clocked up over 36 million Twitter impressions, it is still difficult to measure the impact of these statistics. Says Du Toit-Helmbold; “We know that this campaign was a success from many points of view. It was instant – and yet there are still many more blogs and tweets that will follow as a result to ensure maximised exposure and reach for Cape Town. It also crossed over onto many other platforms (blogs, Twitter, facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) as today’s social media influencer is multi-channelled. The campaign was followed with interest by traditional media, but the biggest success of this campaign was the citizen engagement it led to. For us, it proves that often we should just initiate and guide the conversation, setting up platforms where it can unfold. Cape Town knows how to sell itself!”
In terms of actual return on investment, Cape Town Tourism agrees that there is no one reliable tool to measure the value of social media, but there is no denying the importance of digital media marketing. Says Du Toit-Helmbold; “We see this campaign as one in which we piqued interest and that was our intention. Now we have to convert that interest into a community that can help us drive more awareness and ultimately conversion and more visitors to Cape Town. People do not just arrive in a destination; they do research beforehand and social media – as an extension of word of mouth – is influencing more and more travel decisions. We are acutely aware that word of mouth through social media is the most powerful tool for any destination marketer today and if we can continue to mobilise more local voices to help promote Cape Town through their own on-line networks of friends and followers, we have a winning recipe. Our work in digital media marketing is attracting global attention and we will be presenting case studies at the forthcoming World Travel Market in London.”
POSTSCRIPT 27/8: @Traveldudes has close to 90000 followers today, yet the Klout score of Social Media influence is only 67 out of 100 (ours is 65, by comparison). This begs the question of the value of a high number of Followers. At the Blog Conference Klout was not mentioned as a measurement of Blogging or Tweeting success.
POSTSCRIPT 29/8: A Tweet by Melvin Böcher about his #TOTT (Travel Talk on Twitter) hashtag success took me to his seldom-written Traveldudes blog, and a blogpost about the success of the hashtag. It makes for fascinating reading, in that he bragged on 19 July already (i.e. 10 days before coming to Cape Town) about the hashtag having created 30 million impressions, exactly the same figure Cape Town Tourism used in its media release a few days later about their misleading one hour #LoveCapeTown Tweet-Up, which included Böcher! The question style of asking five questions is the same Böcher uses, which means that he organised the Tweet-Up and how it was run, and calculated the ‘impressions’. It explains why he has taken exception to this blogpost, and his childish reaction to it. Ironic however is by his own admission that ‘impressions’ mean nothing! “Every single week #TTOT reaches up to more than 2 Million users on Twitter and creates with the #TTOT hashtag around 30 Million impressions! Just to get you back on the floor… If someone tries to tell you what this number is worth… It’s worth NOTHING! :). Travelers join events like #TTOT, as they are looking to socialize with each other, not to get a special deal for this or that. It’s about the fun sharing experiences and everybody can be part of it. And the best is… For Free!“
POSTSCRIPT 30/8: In News24 yesterday, an interview which they had conducted with Melvin Böcher of Traveldudes was published. He clearly is very taken with the quantification of the value of Tweets and blogging, something we have not seen quantified by anyone to date! He answered about the quantification in reply to a question about the biggest challenge he has had to overcome since starting his website: “The biggest challenge is, that people still don’t have a clue about the real value blogging, social media, or the internet in general provides. Who would have guessed that a single tweet of mine would be valued at more than EUR 160 – right!? Or that I can provide a ROI of over EUR 20 000 when promoting a destination in 5 days via writing about it on Traveldudes.org. But this problem is a general one, which all magazines, newspapers and bloggers have”. One wonders what he charged Cape Town Tourism for his services.
POSTSCRIPT 21/9: In a Mail & Guardian article written by Mrs Helmbold herself today, she refers to the four international ‘travel bloggers’ as ‘Travel Twits’, an absolute insult!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Cape Town received wonderful coverage in a three-part article in the UK The Guardian on Saturday, praising in particular the beauty of the city, and the gourmet and wine wealth of the near-by towns in the Winelands, which should be good for attracting visitors from the UK to our city, given the weaker Rand.
The writer of the trio of articles is Gloria Hunniford, a highly regarded mature Northern Ireland radio and TV presenter, writer (including ‘Gloria Hunniford’s Family Cookbook’,) a travel writer for The Guardian and The Telegraph, and presenter of travel guides for National Geographic. In the fineprint it is clear that the articles were sponsored by SA Tourism.
Gloria reports about her first ever visit to Cape Town, a city that she says she has never heard a bad word spoken about, and about which she had heard ‘glorious stories about the weather, the food, the wine, the people and, of course, Table Mountain’. Worried that her high expectations could be disappointed, she writes that ‘it is more beautiful, more dramatic, and more extraordinary than anything I had imagined’. She writes that she was at a loss of words on top of Table Mountain, and fell in love with a dassie.
During her visit to the Cape, Gloria saw the Twelve Apostles, Cape Point, Lion’s Head, the city centre, the floral diversity of 2000 species on Table Mountain, Chapman’s Peak (exhilaratingly experienced on the back of a Harley Davidson), and stayed at the Camps Bay Retreat. She enjoyed the Camps Bay restaurants and its strip and beach, about which she wrote: “…you would be forgiven for thinking you were on a remote, palm-fringed island, not in South Africa’s second most populous city“! She refers to Cape Town being ranked second in the Lonely Planet’s world 10 best beach cities (after Barcelona and ahead of Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, and Miami), an accolade for Cape Town I had not heard about nor seen publicised by our tourism authorities. She mentions the surfing beaches of False Bay, the ‘remote beaches’ of the South Peninsula, ‘fashionable Clifton’, and the ‘sundowner-haven of Llandudno’. She was taken to Bo-Kaap, to eat Cape Malay food at the home of Zainie. She also ate at the Cape Grace, and was served fresh fish in Camps Bay. She highlights Kirstenbosch as the perfect picnic venue, having recently been named by National Geographic as one of the top 10 places in the world to have a picnic.
In the Winelands, Gloria visited L’Omarins in Franschhoek, enjoying its Cape Dutch architecture, flower paradise, and a wine-tasting. Gloria saw a chocolate-making demonstration at Huguenot Fine Chocolates, raving generally about Franschhoek, with its ‘atmospheric shops and sampling the great food and wine on offer is a must for every visitor’s itinerary‘. She had lunch at Delaire Graff, praising it highly for its setting in the Helshoogte Pass: ‘It’s sheer bliss. To be embraced by the sheer luxury of this elegant, beautiful crafted estate, sipping on fabulous wine and indulging in the tastiest food around, is what dream holidays are made off (sic).” Then she tastes wines at Spier, calling it one of ‘South Africa’s oldest, biggest and most tourist friendly estates’, and its wines as being affordably priced and winning awards. A highlight for Gloria was stroking Hemingway, the cheetah, at Spier. She enjoyed her gourmet picnic at Warwick, writing about it: ‘Our picnic basket is filled to the brim with delicious salads, cold meats, bread, smoked salmon, and sweet treats, a far cry from the picnics I am used to…. It introduced us to more South African culinary treats, from snoek pate to biltong’.
Despite being sponsored articles, it is Gloria’s concluding paragraph that is sure to connect with potential visitors to our city, and her valuable endorsement should be of benefit to tourism to Cape Town and the Winelands: “The last few days have been happy, happy days, thanks in no small part to the people of South Africa who have been so open and friendly and made us feel so welcome. It is the people of a country who can really make an experience memorable. They are so proud of their country and it is this enthusiasm and South Africa’s sheer beauty that I will take away with me”.
POSTSCRIPT 25/10: Today Cape Town and the Winelands received further favourable coverage, this time in the Mail Online, in an interview with Suzi Perry, BBC motor sports correspondent and presenter of the Channel 5 ‘The Gadget Show’. She described her honeymoon in South Africa last year as her ‘most memorable holiday’, having stayed in Camps Bay (staying at Cape View Villa), went on Safari at Richard Branson’s lodge Ulusaba in Sabi Sands, and went winetasting in Franschhoek, staying at Rickety Bridge. She loved going up Table Mountain, recommending abseiling down it, hiked up Lion’s Head at full moon, raved about the vineyard picnics, she saw whales in Hermanus, and ‘baboons on the cape (sic)’.
POSTSCRIPT 27/10: Cape Town has been selected as runner-up as ‘Favorite City World-wide’ in the Telegraph Travel Awards announced yesterday, won by New York, and alongside Venice. La Residence in Franschhoek was a runner-up with Shangri La’s Barr Al Jissah in Oman for ‘Favorite Hotel World-Wide’, a category won by Villa d’Este at Lake Como in Italy.
POSTSCRIPT 27/10: Cape Town is basking in the spotlight, and now the New York Times has written an article “36 hours in Cape Town’, published on-line today, and to appear in print on Sunday. It opens as follows: “Cape Town overwhelms the senses. Its cultivated side, the bright lights and big buildings of the city centre, collides with its geography – the dazzle and danger of the wind-whipped mountains and the two oceans that embrace it.” Writer Elaine Sciolino writes that prices soared in the city during the World Cup, and that the ‘tourist trade since then has disappointed‘, that some businesses have closed down, and some constructions sites stand unfinished. ‘Despite the grinding poverty in the townships on the city’s outskirts, this is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world’, she writes. Sciolino’s 36 hours in Cape Town were action-packed, and included a visit to the District Six Museum, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Table Mountain (stating that it is to Cape Town what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, defining and dominating the ‘cityscape’), dinner at Marco’s African Place, followed by drinks at Café Caprice and clubbing at St Yves in Camps Bay, which has just re-opened. On Saturday it’s an ostrich burger for brunch at the Biscuit Mill, shopping at Greenmarket Square, and then off to ‘wine sipping’ at Groot Constantia, eating sushi at Sevruga in the V&A Waterfront, and then to Asoka on Kloof Street for cocktails, followed by Fiction DJ Bar and Zula Sound Bar. On Sunday morning it’s a drive to Cape Point (Cape of Good Hope), stopping at Simonstown and Boulders’ Beach on the way, returning via Chapman’s Peak. The article links to a travel guide, with accommodation (Mount Nelson and V&A Hotels strongly recommended) and restaurants (Africa Café recommended of all the 27 restaurants listed, but sadly out of date, with Jardine still listed) recommended.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
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
Cape Town’s fellow Top 10 party cities are Belgrade in Serbia, Montreal in Canada, Buenos Aires in Argentina, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Thessalonika in Greece, La Paz in Bolivia, Baku in Azerbaijan, Auckland in New Zealand and Tel Aviv in Israel.
One wonders if the editor came to the South Africa, in its overstated evaluation of Mossel Bay, and its incorrectly stated distance between Mossel Bay and Cape Town! The Lonely Planet accolade for Cape Town is as follows: “With the 2010 World Cup bringing a global audience to South Africa, the partying will only get harder as travelers converge on a city already well known for nightlife. Luxuriate on some of the world’s best beaches by day and kick back under the moonlight at suave cocktail bars by night. Two hours east, in the Indian Ocean, lies the elegant beach village of Mossel Bay, with more great beaches and chic flair. Visitors must try some of the wines crafted by South Africa’s world-renowned vintners, either at a Cape Town bar or at one of several wineries nearby”
For the full Reuters article, click here.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com