Tag Archives: MATCH

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 19 August

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Brazilian hotels have been found to be up to five times more expensive than normal, and FIFA accommodation booking agency MATCH has been blamed for excessive accommodation pricing for the 2014 World Cup, with average accommodation prices twice as expensive as those in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup.

*   Durbanville wine estate Diemersdal has won top prize at the South African Young Wine Show for best current vintage wine, a competition which attracted more than 2000 entries.  Thys Louw of Diemersdal is the proud recipient of the General Smuts Trophy, and they were also crowned the Champion Sauvignon Blanc.  The Louw family has been farming at Diemersdal for six generations.  Bon Courage won the Pietman Hugo trophy for Continue reading →

Does Cape Town tourism need transformation to attract South African tourists?

The Cape Times yesterday presented an interesting contrast of views of what tourism in Cape Town needs to cope with the tourism crisis, which could only get worse as the world economies continue to wobble.

Most astounding was the admission by Cape Town Routes Unlimited CEO Calvyn Gelfillan that his organisation has been flawed in neglecting the local South African market in attracting tourists to Cape Town and the Western Cape.  Interesting is that Gilfellan writes now that our industry ‘is also beginning to feel the effects of the fallout’ – one wonders where he has been in the past six months, when the worst-ever tourism year has been written about extensively! Now his organisation thinks that targeting ‘black professionals’ from Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape will solve the region’s tourism woes, and he proudly proclaims that “Cape Town and the Western Cape are going black”!  Gilfellan mentions that our province is seen to be unfriendly to this target market, that it is expensive as far as food and accommodation go, and that Table Mountain and the N2 are not safe.   In his very ‘hip’ article he does not mention at all what his organisation is doing to attract the newly identified target market (not at the expense of existing source markets, he assures readers), nor does he indicate what his organisation is doing to turn around the negative perceptions about tourism friendliness, pricing and safety.

If one were to be a member of the target market of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, one could be offended, as Gilfellan makes it sound that his organisation is only targeting it because the province’s tourism industry is in crisis!  He describes the new target market as “…the emerging black professional class, the section of society that’s upwardly mobile, an area that advertisers home in on when they launch new cars, glossy magazines, or products. You can’t miss them. They’re almost everywhere.  They are the successful face of the new South Africa. They’re also the future and present of tourism”.  He invites the target market to ‘test us‘, and to see why “you have not tasted South Africa if you’ve not been to Cape Town and the Western Cape”. I wonder if this target market will agree, being quite happy to be living in a province like Gauteng one would imagine, where advancement opportunities alone would be more favourable than in the Cape.

Tony Ehrenreich’s views are always good for a laugh, but one must admire him for his dedication and focus to a theme, which he writes about every few months, being about the discrimination in tourism and its ‘apartheid beneficiaries’.  Interesting about his attack on Cape Town tourism is that he is a Cape Town City Councillor, and should be good at making himself heard inside the hallowed halls of the City, and has been a Board member of Cape Town Routes Unlimited in his capacity as general secretary of trade union federation COSATU.  One does not see that he has made much headway in transforming tourism in both these seats to date.

In his Cape Times article Ehrenreich goes on about his pet hobbyhorse of tourism in Cape Town being a ‘white man’s business’, pointing a finger at the big players and beneficiaries of tourism.  His statement implies both criticism of racism and sexism, but it is on the racial side that his article focuses.  He blames the City of Cape Town for not including the ‘local communities’ into the ‘economic opportunities and plans’ for the city.  He points a finger at the ‘old boy’s network of tourism businesses getting the lion’s share of the local tourism cake’.   Having been in tourism for the last fifteen years, I have not been aware of any such chauvinistic benefits going to any specific groups in our province.  It is the ‘old boys’ who have used their money and connections to raise more money, to invest in hotels, restaurants and vehicles, to offer tourism products and services – not one of these ‘old boys’ have been sleeping well in the past year, given the state of the tourism industry in our city!   Ehrenreich also does not give credit to the ‘old boys’ employing a large number of staff who live in the ‘local communities’, as well as training them, so that they can improve their positions and therefore incomes, nor to the informal sector of beggars and car guards who benefit from tourism too.

Ehrenreich also attacks the R40 million sponsorship of Cape Town Tourism, funded by his City of Cape Town, and benefiting mainly ‘white tourist operators’.  While Ehrenreich and I share a criticism of Cape Town Tourism, it is for different reasons – we have seen wasteful expenditure go to projects of friends of staff of the tourism body. I can however ‘defend’ Cape Town Tourism in that the body accepts membership from all  tourism players, irrespective of their skin colour, and Ehrenreich knows that.  He is also critical of Cape Town Tourism’s participation, by means of funding, of the Table Mountain New7Wonders of Nature vote (this was actually funded by the City of Cape Town itself) and the World Design Capital 2014 (which was also funded  by the City of Cape Town via the Cape Town Partnership), without any transformation linked to these projects, he wrote! These two factual errors show how out of touch Ehrenreich is with what his Council is doing in respect of tourism!  Ehrenreich loses credibility when he continues his rant about ‘white  businesses’ being promoted, at the expense of manufacturing, losing focus in his diatribe!   He is stuck in time, in that he writes about the ‘profiteering from mega-events like the World Cup by overcharging customers’, which is deterring visitors from returning to Cape Town.  If there was one body that did exploit our local tourism industry, then it was FIFA’s MATCH, but no local industry can be held responsible for Ehrenreich’s unfair and unfounded attack.

Ehrenreich attacks the money that went into the development of the Green Point Urban Park, which is open to all and well used by residents of ‘local communities‘, and which was part of the Cape Town Stadium budget agreed to and managed by the City of Cape Town.  He calls instead for other City-owned nature reserves such as Zandvlei, Rondevlei and Princessvlei to be developed, and to employ local unemployed residents of nearby communities as eco-tourism guides, as well as to upgrade the facilties used by local communities at Monwabisi, Mnandi Beach, and Strandfontein Pavilion.   Ehrenreich also challenges his own City’s tourism department to develop new tourism products. Ideally Ehrenreich would like to see support for local ‘black entrepreneurs’ to develop new tourism products to ‘compete with the likes of the V&A Waterfront’.   Clearly what Ehrenreich wants developed will not be what Cape Town Routes Unlimited’s new target market will be wanting to experience when they come to Cape Town.

One would hope that the tourism players in our city and province could co-ordinate their tourism strategies and speak as one voice.  One wonders how the City of Cape Town tolerates and allows Ehrenreich to so openly criticise the work that it is doing – surely there is a code of conduct for City councillors to not denigrate the body on which they serve!  The province’s Economic Development Plan appears to be hanging in mid-air, and the time has come to place all Cape Town and Western Cape marketing bodies into one home, with a co-ordinated and streamlined marketing programme.

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

Premier Zille blamed for Cape Tourism Crisis! Fresh new Cape Tourism Marketing body needed!

The ANC’s Lynne Brown (previous Premier of the Western Cape) and Carol Beerwinkel are blaming Premier Helen Zille for having caused the tourism crisis in the province.  The party seems undecided about the exact cause of the crisis.  Just recently the ANC’s City of Cape Town Councillor Tony Ehrenreich blamed the exorbitant prices of crayfish and wines for the tourism crisis!

Writing on Politicsweb, the ANC politicians state that it is the ‘DA’s politicking’ that caused the underfunding of tourism.   The R40 million budget allocated to Cape Town Tourism by the City of Cape Town is too little to ‘properly market and grow the Western Cape as an international desired destination’, they write (the budget goes to the marketing of Cape Town only).  They state that it was Ms Zille, in her role as Mayor, who cut the budget, ‘to plunge the industry into the dire situation it finds itself in now’.  From having been the top tourist destination for local tourists, the Western Cape has slipped to fourth position.   They blame the DA for playing ‘political football’ with an industry that has an important job creation responsibility.  This led to Cape Town Routes Unlimited and Cape Town Tourism being divided, which meant that Cape Town could not capitalise on the World Cup, ‘with many tourism products like hotels and restaurants underutilised‘, they write.  ‘Today we see a fragmented and scattered messaged marketing plan which is very dangerous to the industry’,  they write in poor English.  The writers conclude that ‘no amount of money in the short term will fix the problem, if some basic problems are not addressed in the industry’, and they call for an Indaba to allow the transformation of the industry.

During Ms Zille’s tenure as Mayor of Cape Town, the Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Simon Grindrod, appointed a consultancy to analyse the success of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and found the organisation to not be meeting its brief adequately.  He motivated the cancellation of the City of Cape Town’s 50 % share of funding to Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and arranged for the amendment of the Cape Town Toruism constitution, to allow Cape Town Tourism to take on the marketing of Cape Town in addition to offering Visitor Information Services.   The Western Cape province, now headed by Premier Zille, funds Cape Town Routes Unlimited with about R15 million, for the marketing of the Western Cape, which includes the duplicated marketing of Cape Town by both tourism bodies.

We absolutely agree with the ANC that the Marketing Plan is poor (being ‘dangerous’, as they describe it, may be an exaggeration), but one wonders how they know what is in the Marketing Plan, as no one in the tourism industry has seen a copy of the Plan, as Cape Town Tourism is refusing to make it available to members, and it has not been posted on their website.  Ms Brown appears to have forgotten the tourism structure in the province. She should know that Cape Town Tourism is only focused on marketing Cape Town (although they do seem to go beyond their geographic boundaries, as with last week’s  ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ competition.)

The poor tourism performance since the World Cup cannot be laid at the door of Premier Zille, but rather must be blamed on the recession, the excessive rates charged by FIFA’s MATCH agency,  and the oversupply of accommodation, developed to cash in on the world’s largest sporting event.

We must also question how the City of Cape Town could have allocated the marketing funds to Cape Town Tourism, without evaluating the Marketing capabilities of the organisation’s CEO, Mariette du Toit-Helmbold.  With no marketing experience, her organisation had to appoint a Marketing Manager, and the first incumbent of the job was Lianne Burton, a journalist with no Marketing experience.  This led to the appointment of a PR Manager and an e-Marketing Manager.  Burton left Cape Town Tourism at the end of June this year, but had already changed her relationship with the organisation to that of a consultant from the beginning of this year, meaning that Cape Town Tourism has been anchorless as far as Marketing goes for the last eight months, at a time when the tourism industry slid into crisis mode, without Cape Town Tourism picking this up.  A new e-marketing manager, Kaanita Coleman, was also recently appointed due to resignation of the previous incumbent, but no past experience of the new Manager detailed by Cape Town Tourism.  Whilst surprising for someone in e-Marketing position, it may be a good thing that she has only written four Tweets on her Twitter account to date, given the excessive time spent on Twitter by Cape Town Tourism’s PR Manager!

We doubt that the newly appointed Executive Marketing Manager Velma Corcoran will make any difference, coming from FMCG brand strategy and research consultancy OIL, linked to the Lowe Bull group, where she headed up its Cape Town office.  Mrs Corcoran’s first faux pas, on the day before joining Cape Town Tourism, was to rant as follows on public medium Twitter (@VelBotha) about SAA, an important partner for tourism in Cape Town, and her turn of phrase in such a senior position is not impressive (she still has her ex-employer profile on Twitter!): “EVERYTHING about makes me grumpy, miserable and pissed off. They seem to take pleasure in making it difficult”. Cape Town Tourism wrote as follows about Mrs Corcoran’s appointment: “..we believe that Velma brings a specialist branding and communications experience to our team at a time when we are committing to a strategy based on a strong urban brand positioning to grow demand for Cape Town locally and globally.  The tourism market is facing considerable challenges at the moment, and competitive and commercial experience was a prerequisite for this position’. We wonder then why Cape Town Tourism needs an Australian Strategetic consultant, when it has employed a local brand strategist.  Interesting is that Cape Town Tourism announced the appointment last week of ad agency Ogilvy, not waiting until Mrs Corcoran started her new job on Thursday, so that she could give the appointment her blessing and approval, given her agency background!

As much as the City of Cape Town evaluated the performance of Cape Town Routes Unlimited in terms of meeting its Marketing mandate, we believe that the City of Cape Town should do the same with Cape Town Tourism, as many tourism players do not believe that they are doing a satisfactory job in marketing Cape Town.   Neither Cape Town Tourism not Cape Town Routes Unlimited has the creativity nor the expertise to devise nor implement a Marketing Plan for the city, and therefore a fresh and new joint city and province tourism marketing body is needed, we believe.

POSTSCRIPT 13/9:  We have removed the content of the comment by Mavis Wilken, under threat of legal action by Webber Wentzel, lawyers of Cape Town Tourism.  On the same day as posting the comment on our blog, Ms Wilken forwarded to us an e-mail she addressed in June to the City of Cape Town’s Nombulelo Mofoko and the Western Cape province’s Theuns Vivian, and subsequently forwarded to Premier Helen Zille and to provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde, alleging irregularities at Cape Town Tourism.

POSTSCRIPT 15/9:  We have just received a further lawyer’s letter from Webber Wentzel, referring to the comment by Maria about Ms Grove, but no demand is made (yet).  In addition, the letter demands again, but not actioned by us, that we apologise to Mrs Helmbold for Mavis Wilken’s alleged ‘defamatory comment‘, that we promise never to write any ‘defamatory’ comments about Cape Town Tourism on Twitter, Facebook and on this Blog in future, and that we provide the full name and contact details of the commenter Mavis Wilken, so that they can take action against her!

POSTSCRIPT 15/9:  We have written an Open Letter to Mr Ian Bartes, the Chairman of Cape Town, after receiving his letter of threatened membership termination of our Whale Cottage Camps Bay, due to our Blog generally, and the comments received on its specifically!

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

Majority of Cape Town hotels not reacting to tourism crisis!

Three months ago we conducted a survey of top-end hotel rates in Cape Town.  Given the tourism crisis in the Cape, I repeated the survey on Monday, calling the same hotels, asking them for their August rates.  Ellerman House remains the most expensive Cape Town hotel by far, starting at R5000 per room, and the Peninsula All Suite Hotel remains the least expensive 5-star hotel, at R1500 per room.  The survey found that the average rate of the sixteen 5-star Cape Town hotels is R 2715 per room, just under R1400 per person, an average decrease by 8% relative to the May rates.   Across all 27 hotels surveyed, the average rate per room is R2227, or just over R1100 per person, only 8 % lower on average than in May. 

Once again it was interesting to hear how the calls were handled, most hotel reservation departments asking careful questions, to identify if the caller was a travel agent/tour operator or a corporate caller, the questioning being very specific in this regard. Holders of a South African ID book or a Protea Hotel Prokard would have had different rates quoted.  Few hotels called had a rate sheet from which to quote immediately, having to access their computer for the ‘best available rate’ information, costing time.  I was shocked at the poor quality of the call handling and quoting by the hotel Reservations departments, quoting odd rates (i.e. not rounded off) very quickly, making it difficult to understand and record them accurately; interrupting while one was still speaking;  having a radio blaring in the background, affecting their ability to understand and hear the request; not all quoting rates with breakfast included, despite being asked for this rate (Protea Hotels quote room only, and refused initially to quote the add-on breakfast rate); an hotel line rang engaged three times; another hotel line was not answered at all; one hotel had a trainee answer the phone, and she did not know that hotel’s telephone number;  one staff member sounded in the depth of depression, as if she hated her job; one hotel did not disclose that it is undergoing major renovations, and its rates have not changed due to the renovations; and one hotel switchboard put me through to the kitchen when I asked for reservations, and I had to call again, as they could not transfer me back to the board.  Worst of all for the hoteliers whose rooms the staff have to sell is that only one (Victoria Junction Hotel) of the 27 hotels I called had a call to action, asking if I would like to book!

Some hotels have not changed their rates in the past three months, or only by a small percentage.  The Protea Hotel Fire & Ice increased its rate by an astounding 64 % to R1480 per room, making this 3-star hotel more expensive than a number of 4-star hotels.  Interesting is that a number of 4-star hotels are more expensive than some 5-star hotels.  The Queen Victoria Hotel rate has increased by 25 % relative to its opening special rate.  However, only eleven of the surveyed 27 hotels dropped their rates, noticeably the Newmark Hotels’ The Ambassador and Dock House (by 35%), and V&A Hotel (by 40%). The Cullinan Hotel has also dropped its rate sharply, by 30%, as have the Westin Grand Cape Town Arabella Quays, the Twelve Apostles, and the Crystal Towers hotels.

The rates were checked for 3 – 6 August per room for 2 adults sharing and inclusive of Breakfast per day, so as to compare the rates fairly.  We added breakfast to the rates where these were quoted separately.   We have ranked the hotel rates from most to least expensive, and reflect the rate change relative to our survey for May 2011 in brackets:

Ellerman House, 5 star, R5000 – R15700 (the new villa has 2 rooms offered at R48600 and 3-rooms at R60500), Tel (021) 430-3200 (no rate change)

Cape Grace Hotel, 5 star, R 4980 – R 14 530 for the penthouse, Tel (021) 410-7100 (10% rate increase)

Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, 5 star, R 3590 – R20816 for the Presidential Suite.  Tel (021) 430-0500 (1% rate increase)

One&Only Cape Town, 5 star, R3489 for South Africans – R5590 for non-South Africans. Tel (021) 431-5888 (10 % rate decrease)

Table Bay Hotel, 5 star, R3166  Tel (021) 406-5000 (International rate dropped, no rate change)

Mount Nelson Hotel, 5 star, R 3000 – R 9000. Tel (021) 483-1000 (no rate change)

15 on Orange Hotel, 5 star, R 2620 – R 2820, Tel (021) 469-8000 (5 % rate decrease)

Dock House, 5 star, R2430 (but pay for 2 days, stay for 3 days offer). Tel (021) 421-9334 (35% rate decrease)

Queen Victoria Hotel, not graded yet but seeking 5 stars, R 2350 – R 2715, Tel (021) 418-1466 (25 % rate increase from its opening special)

Twelve Apostles, 5 star, R  2190 – R  3940.  Tel (021) 437-9000 (24% rate decrease)

Westin Grand Cape Town Arabella Quays, 5 star, R 2160 – R 3640. Tel (021) 412-9999 (27 % rate decrease)

The Taj Hotel, 5 star, R 2150 – R 2650. Tel (021) 819-2000 (2% rate decrease)

Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa, 5 star, R 1700 – R3250.  Tel (021) 525-3888 (20% rate decrease)

V & A Hotel, 4 star, R 1640 – R1905 (but special pay 2 days stay for 3 days offer), Tel (021) 415-1000 (40% rate decrease)

Commodore Hotel, 4 star, R1600 – R 7780.  Tel (021) 415-1000 (no rate change)

Portswood Hotel, 4 star, R 1600 – R 3960.  Tel (021) 415-1000 (no rate change)

Bay Hotel, 5 star, R1600 – R2100 for South Africans, R 2600 – R 5500 for non-South Africans.  Tel (021) 438-4444 (no rate change)

Cullinan Hotel, 5 star, R 1515 – R 3400.  Tel (021) 415-4000 (30 % rate decrease)

Peninsula All Suite Hotel, 5 star, R 1500 – R 3240.  Tel (021) 430-7777 (4% rate decrease)

Protea Hotel Fire & Ice Hotel, 3 star, R 1 480 – R 2300, Tel (021) 488-2555 (64% rate increase!)

Winchester Mansions Hotel, 4 star, R 1470 – R 3390.  Tel (021) 434-2351 (no rate change)

President Hotel, 4 star, R 1460 – R 2550. Tel (021) 434-8111 (no rate change)

Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, 4 star, R1450 – R 3000. Tel (021) 409-4000 (17% rate decrease)

Cape Sun Hotel, 4 star, R1300 – R 5500.  Tel (021) 488-5100 (13% rate decrease)

Ambassador Hotel, 4 star, R 1250 – R 1950 (but stay for 3 and pay for 2 nights offer), Tel (021) 439-6176 (35% rate decrease)

Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, no star grading, R 1220 standard, R1465 business rooms. Tel (021) 406-1911 (5% rate decrease)

Victoria Junction Hotel, 4 star, –  Tel (021) 418-1234 (Only re-opening in September, with rate of R1990)

On Moneyweb yesterday, the FEDHASA hotel association was quoted as saying that the ‘hotel industry is being hard hit by the economic climate and there is very little light at the end of the tunnel’. FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan, who tried to sell South African hotels down the MATCH river for the World Cup, is quoted as saying that hotel rates have come down ‘dramatically’ (by about 10%, according to him) in the past three years, and that hotel occupancy has decreased by 10%.  The African Sun hotel group, which operated the 5-star The Grace and The Lakes Hotel and Conference Centre in Johannesburg, has not renewed its operating agreement with these two hotels, saying that the 5-star hotel industry in Johannesburg is ‘no longer sustainable’!  The Southern Sun on Grayston Drive in Sandton is also expected to close its doors next year.  Singing a somewhat different tune, to that of a few weeks ago, Arthur Gillis, CEO of Protea Hotels, expressed his optimism for the industry.  Location is the prime asset of a hotel, he said. “I don’t think the industry is in trouble.  I think certain individuals and institutions are in trouble”, he said.  Many would disagree!

POSTSCRIPT 3/8: Cape Town Tourism has sent the following response to this blogpost: Cape Town Tourism met with hoteliers recently to review the value proposition of luxury hotels in Cape Town in particular. The outcome of our meeting and position on price, value and demand will be included in our next industry communication and feedback given at the industry sessions scheduled for next week.  As alluded to by MEC Winde, business will react to pressures in different ways as they see fit in terms of their own strategies, market demands and business imperatives. It is common knowledge that published rates are not necessarily what are achieved, particularly in the current climate. Whilst we can offer advice, intelligence, guidelines and input in terms of customer feedback and trends, the market will dictate and business will adjust to market demands as they see fit. Our concern must be with the over-all value proposition of the destination i.e. full pallet of accommodation, experiences, restaurants and services rather than too much focus placed on one segment of the industry. Here is an extract from our industry communication to be published:  It is clear that the current depressed nature of arrivals has more to do with externalities and the consumer climate than with accommodation pricing. Cape Town boasts an exceptional, quality product offering and if you look at the complete pallet of accommodation and, experiences on offer, excellent value. We don’t want to undermine the strength of our destination brand by devaluing it. Visitors to Cape Town leave the destination overwhelmingly impressed and willing to return. Post World Cup figures found that 92% of foreign visitors said they would recommend South Africa to others and 96% said they would return. This does not suggest a fundamentally flawed product or pricing problem.  Cape Town boasts some of the world’s best small hotels, B&B’s and guest houses that are competitively priced and offer excellent value for money. The fact that Cape Town has a luxury hotel offering that compares with, and in many instances exceeds, our competitors in terms of quality and setting is an asset to our destination. It is commonly recognised that destination price perceptions are driven more by travel time and distance (transportation costs) than by in-destination costs. There is no evidence to suggest that Cape Town’s in-destination costs have detracted from its value proposition. If we can address the demand problem we face, then the cost of flights should become more competitive.”

POSTSCRIPT 3/8 : Provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde has responded as follows:It is always interesting to see how markets and management react to these pressures. I am also very interested in the new season where we have seen new airlift directly to CT. From France, Switzerland, UAE, Zambia and more in negotiation at the moment. I have asked for a report on our market fact into these places. This will only be good news if we see bums in seats. I will keep you posted once I get the report”.

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

Open letter to Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk

Dear Minister

We have been very happy to have you as our Minister of Tourism, especially when your portfolio became a dedicated one. Since May, however, I sense that our tourism authorities in cities, SA Tourism, and your department are seeing the development of a crisis in our tourism industry, but that nothing is being done about it.   I remember a song Jeremy Taylor once sang about the Ministers that ‘minis’ – I feel that you and your department are ‘minis-ing’, not playing open book with us, and that you are deserting us in our time of need.   Here is why:

1.  You appointed tourism consultancy Grant Thornton, who created fantastic forecasts of how many tourists would come to South Africa for the World Cup.  The recession hit the world in 2008, and at no stage did Grant Thornton revise its forecast for the event attendance.  On the basis of their projections, Cape Town alone saw the addition of 9 new hotels and 1500 beds, not to talk about the numbers of apartments that were hastily vacated and renovated, for letting purposes.  We all painted and polished our guest houses, yet the soccer fans that came to stay were just like all our other tourists in the end.  Home and flat owners, taken by Seeff’s campaign with Gary Bailey as a spokesperson, sat with empty accommodation when they cancelled leases with their existing tenants to make a quick buck.

2.  You allowed us to be ripped off by MATCH, a FIFA affiliate hospitality company, who milked us with unheard-of commissions of 30%, with your blessing!  And then they cancelled the largest part of the booked stock, on their own favourable cancellation terms, just eight weeks or less prior to 11 June 2010. 

3.  You sent the Mickey Mouse team from Disney  to quickly spruce up our service excellence, at a cost to taxpayers of R9 million or so, a waste of time for all that attended.  Our nation is one known for Ubuntu, and we were recognised for it as one of our success factors – we did not need Disney to teach us that!

4.  But it is the current post-World Cup crisis, which Cape Town Tourism confidently tells us a year down the line was predictable, given the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games example, that is getting to all of us.  The Bureau of Economic Research survey results released earlier this week shows us that confidence in the Accommodation sector is at its lowest ever, at 25 % (even estate agents are more confident at 41%, and they are not having a great time!). There has been no growth in confidence since 2007, even though we knew that the World Cup was coming in 2010.

As the most senior official driving tourism in our country, we would have expected that you would guide and lead us, that you would tell us what drastic steps your department and SA Tourism are taking to help us to get international tourists to our country, and local ones to our cities and provinces.  All we hear from you is how successful South Africa has been, and how the World Cup has contributed to this success. For the first time you have acknowledged that things are not going so well, and that “growth in the tourism sector is expected to slow down towards the end of 2011“, reports Eye Witness News about your address to FEDHASA Cape earlier this week.  You are reported to have said at that same meeting that ‘visitor number (sic) still look good following the country’s successful hosting of the soccer showpiece.  The minister replied by stating some establishments invested too much in catering for an influx of tourists prior to the tournament”!  Sir, with respect, it was your consultants that guided us on visitor numbers.  Now the proverbial has hit the fan, and there will be none of us left in this industry if you are saying that it will get even worse towards the end of this year! 

5.  I feel for you, being reliant on those on the ground to feed back to you how bad things really are, and that you are misinformed and misled by some.  I cringed when I read that FEDHASA Cape Chairman Dirk Elzinga put the poor booking situation down to the usual Cape winter seasonality, demonstrating that he is not a hotelier, and does not have a clue about the hospitality industry, having headed up the Cape Town International Convention Centre previously.   I was depressed by Cape Town Tourism’s long-winded acknowledgement that something mustbe done about changing how Cape Town is marketed, as if we have months and years to do so.  Cape Town Routes Unlimited has been the most proactive in talking to our industry via the media, in asking us to slash our rates, but clearly they do not know that we charge rates of up to 50 % less in winter, and have done so for the past 15 years or more.  Many ofus have not increased our summer rates since 2007, yet costs are rising continuously.

6.   Your own consultants Grant Thornton are saying that not enough local and international marketing is being done, especially in the newly opened markets of China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.  I like that you have addressed the ‘silo’ mentality of the tourism industry, as reported in the Cape Argus, and even see this at our local level.  Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited are operating independently, and without apparent collaboration.  High airfares are one of the reasons for the poor tourism performance – please help us to get SAA to price flights realistically, so that we can get the tourists to our country.  Help us to get direct flights to Cape Town, instead of via Johannesburg.  It is interesting that you identified that the power of tourism is in the hands of a small number of powerful operators. Share the tourism pie with all of us.  Please open the doors, and create dialogue between the different sectors that feed and sustain the tourism industry. I was shocked to hear that the Board of Directors of Cape Town Routes Unlimited is now hand-picked by provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde- what happened to getting privatesector input, via nominated Board candidates?  All we are getting is the same perpetuation of provincial-friendly players and their thinking, and most Board members that were newly elected in April are unknown to us! 

We are receiving no guidance from your Department, SA Tourism and our local tourism authorities about how we keep our businesses afloat, and how we prevent a bloodbath of restaurant, hotel and guest house closures in the next few months, which has already started.  It does not help to hear that your CEO of SA Tourism, Ms Thandiwe January-McLean, has just resigned, and will leave at the end of August, in a time that we need SA Tourism desperately. 

Sir, we need your help.  Help us with negotiating extensions of bond repayments at the banks; help us by not allowing the Reserve Bank to increase interest rates; help us with better tax breaks; help us by getting electricity increases suspended; help us with loan facilities to help us survive and to continue to offer employment to our staff; help us with an urgent campaign to encourage locals to travel – it has been talked about but we are not seeing its impact; help us by pushing PR internationally, to not allow South Africa, and the Cape in particular, to lose visibility when New Zealand hosts the Rugby World Cup in September and October; and lastly, be honest with us – do not give us false hope by telling us how fantastic our industry is right now.  We are bleeding Sir, and we need your help!

POSTSCRIPT 16/6Business Report today quotes the Minister as saying: “Although tourism had continued to grow since the World Cup ended last July, the industry was slowing down worldwide.”  He is also quoted as saying that international tourism growth to South Africa will continue but that we must “be more competitive than our opposition”.   He added: “Our prices and products must remain competitive, and unnecessary cost drivers must be identified.”  He would not be issuing price guidelines, and he confirmed that the traditional source markets remain Europe, the UK and the USA, due to their longer holiday period, but recognises the longer-term value of the Asian market.  He urged that visa applications for tourists be made easier, and even become electronic.   The Minister’s Department of Tourism is to set up a conventions bureau, to spread the business ‘beyond the three main cities’, and he indicated that benefits could flow from the expiry this year of the current system of granting air traffic rights to fly into South Africa. 

POSTSCRIPT 17/6: Southern African Tourism Update  reports that the Minister is to have also said at the FEDHASA Cape AGM that local tourism authorities should not market internationally, as SA Tourism is doing so already, and that they should focus on local marketing instead.  He quoted the example of KZN Tourism, which has a marketing office in Gauteng.  Was he addressing Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited? 

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

World Cup anniversary: focus on ‘CapeAbility’- infrastructure benefit, tourism loss!

Today the World Cup 2010 started a year ago.  While many may remember the wonderful 30-day period nostalgically, the hard reality of this largest world event is attracting criticism in its impact on the hospitality and tourism industry, which has reached its lowest low, something other mega-event cities have experienced before.  The event was commemorated yesterday with the launch of a new coffee table book ‘CapeAbility: Stories and Successes from the 2010 FIFA World Cup’.

The infrastructure benefits of the World Cup cannot be denied : Cape Town has a renewed station building, a world-class airport, and far improved access into and from the city on its N1 and N2 highways. It has a beautiful Cape Town Stadium, which has become a tourist icon for the city in itself.  It has a most wonderful Green Point Park, which was developed next to the Stadium, as well as a general upliftment of the Green Point and Mouille Point area.  It led to the roll-out of the recently completed and far improved public transport MyCiti service.  It added more international hotel brands to the city’s five-star hotel portfolio.  It created an Ubuntu amongst Capetonians and the city’s visitors, on its festive flag-decorated Fan Walks.  It positioned Cape Town, and South Africa with it, as a safer country than had been perceived before.

But the downside appears to outweigh the benefits a year down the line: there is no operator for the Cape Town Stadium since SAIL Stade de France reneged on its contract with the City of Cape Town.  Cape Town ratepayers will have to carry the cost of operating the Stadium, not making ends meet with the few events that have been hosted in the venue since July last year.   The tourism industry suffered poor pre- and post-event bookings last year, and  was led to believe that it would benefit from a tourism boom that would last for years to come.   The industry was conned by MATCH, the FIFA accommodation booking agency, with massive cancellations just days before the start of the Wold Cup.  Surprisingly, the industry is experiencing its worst ever year, and even more surprisingly, Cape Town Tourism told its members yesterday that it was to have been expected, given the Sydney experience – a 5-year slump after the 2000 Olympic Games, largely because the city tourism authorities assumed that no marketing was required after the widely publicised event.  Cape Town appears to have made the same mistake, an error which is compounded by the poor UK economy, the largest tourism source market for the city, the strong Rand, and high airfares.

Not unsurprisingly, tourism consultants Grant Thornton, who badly overestimated the World Cup tourism numbers, praised the R40 billion national capital expenditure on the World Cup, the consultancy’s Gillian Saunders saying it was money “well spent, with some areas still to be leveraged”, reports the Cape Times. She states that the infrastructure benefit had ‘significant legacy value leading to a better quality of life and provided long-term valuable assets’.  She admitted that the slow recovery from the global recession was responsible for the lack of the tourism boom which had been predicted.  Yet she said that “a large number of tourism businesses would not have survived the economic slump if it weren’t for the event”.  She reminded the industry that R3,6 billion revenue had been generated and that just more than 100000 tourists had visited the Western Cape, and just more than double this number visited Gauteng.

Cape Town Tourism has blamed SA Tourism for focusing too much on wildlife and the natural beauty of the country, and too little on its cities, in its marketing of the country.  The World Cup had created a greater city focus, but this has not been sustained by SA Tourism in its post-World Cup marketing, Cape Town Tourism says.  To strengthen brand Cape Town, Cape Town Tourism proposes that the “city’s urban identity, innovative outlook, entrepreneurial spirit, academic excellence and pioneering medical and science sectors must be added to the brand palette in order for it to effectively compete in the domestic and global market”, in addition to its leisure tourism positioning, it is reported in BizCommunity.com.

The Cape Argus yesterday ‘shouted’ in a headline:”Post-World Cup tourism boom ‘non-existent'”, stating that the benefits have been the international performers who held concerts in the Stadium, the city’s improved infrastructure, and the survival of a number of tourism businesses.  It quotes Cape Town Tourism as saying that Cape Town is in a ‘brand vacuum’.  The annual operating cost of the Stadium is quoted as being R57 million.  Two concerts have been booked, and a further two are in the pipeline, according to the city’s new head of Tourism, Grant Pascoe.   Talks with Western Province rugby continue, he said.   He added that the city is receiving more event applications than it did prior to the World Cup. Developing the Fan Walk into a 24/7 facility is also being considered.  The oversupply of hotel accommodation can be attributed to nine new hotels with 1500 rooms in total, which were built for the World Cup, says Dirk Elzinga, Chairman of FEDHASA Cape.  He naively states that many hotels have already received repeat World Cup business, and that the ‘extremely low occupancies’ of some hotels ‘was normal for the off-season’!

Launched by Premier Helen Zille and Mayor Patricia de Lille, the ‘CapeAbility’ book documents the ‘planning, delivery and effect’ of the World Cup on the Western Cape, says BizCommunity.com.   The book “makes every effort to extract honest lessons to understand the hosting of such mega-events better.  It is designed therefore not as a memento of the event, but a review of what worked, what didn’t and what could be done better and become a guide to hosting future events”.   “The book is meant to play a marketing role and points out that it is crucial that opportunities, such as the World Cup, are converted into more than just short-term profits for a small tourism and events sector, but into huge brand building opportunities for a country”. 

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

Social Media and Freedom of Speech: Censorship of Comments

Over the weekend this blog was in the news, when it was taken to pieces by the (now ex) ‘friend’ who introduced me to blogging more than two years ago.   It raised a number of interesting issues about blogging in general, blogging ethics, and the censorship or not of comments on blogs and website.

Background

Carl Momberg wrote a tourism newsletter CapeInfo for many years, and it was a cutting edge, incisive and often biting overview of the tourism industry.  He has no direct tourism experience, to our knowledge.  He was like a wolf at the doors of premiers and ministers of the province and of the mayor of the city, criticising their every tourism move.   He was very well connected, and had the good journalistic practice in those days of requesting comment from the persons he wrote about. 

I started my WhaleTales tourism newsletter 9 years ago, and could never match Momberg for his sting.  We often debated issues, but presented different perspectives, and we were both passionate about the retention of the then-Cape Town Tourism, of which I was the Deputy Chairman.  As Momberg wrote, I even offered the then-CEO Sheryl Ozinsky money to pay the salaries of staff and other running costs to keep Cape Town Tourism alive, but the City of Cape Town was bent on bleeding the tourism body dry financially, until it capitulated and became part of the new regime, which resulted in a new Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, costing Cape Town the loss of its best marketer ever, being Sheryl Ozinsky!  

Carl travelled with his pet wolf Akela, about which he blogged.   We continued writing the WhaleTales newsletter,  and have been told that it has become the definitive tourism newsletter, with 25000 readers.   Momberg’s newsletter is irregular in its publication, and has lost its bite.  

More than two years ago Momberg invited me to blog on his website, and not knowing better, I accepted.   He clearly was looking for increased traffic to his site via my blog contribution.  When he started interfering with my writing style and content, setting conditions about what I was allowed to write about or not (to protect his own financial interests and relationships with the tourism industry), I started my own Whale Cottage blog and paid Momberg for the hosting of the blog and for his assistance for the short time that he had done so.  It is the best thing I could have done to not work with Momberg any more, and many asked me why I had associated with Momberg in the first place.  I love blogging and my blog, and have never looked back in the 26 months of writing it.  Momberg invited other bloggers to blog on his site too, but they have all left him and gone on their own, probably for the same reasons.

To create a stir, climb on a dubious bandwagon, and possibly to gain some new readers for his blog, Momberg has written a slanderous post about my alleged hand in closing down a tourism website.  He did not stop there – he has turned every word and action in our ‘friendship’ into a negative, and brought in other unrelated issues, to paint as dark a picture as possible.   He has forgotten the good journalistic practice of asking for my input and comment to his blog post before publishing it, and spewed forth malicious misinformation.  For the record, we have last spoken to each other more than two years ago!  My response to aspects of his blog post follows. 

Closure of Tourism website

I nor anyone else has any power to tell a server what to do or not to do.  As a website owner one usually deals with a webmaster, who has a relationship with the server, so that one cannot contact them directly.

Recently I spotted three defamatory comments made about me and Whale Cottage, by three persons whom I have never met and who have never stayed in my guest houses, in response to a comment I had written about my terrible stay at Sante Hotel and Spa.   The commenters wrote that Sante should ignore my comment, as I do not know anything about hospitality, it was claimed, and then made further defamatory comments.  As they were untrue and damaging, I followed the procedure of contacting the owner of the website, and requested the removal of the three comments.  He refused.  I then contacted the association of server companies in South Africa, and followed their procedure to request the removal of the three comments.  They contacted Hetzner, the server of the tourism website, and Hetzner in turn contacted the owner of the website, and gave him a specified period in which to remove the three comments, or face the closure of the website if he did not comply.   He refused to comply with the request from the Hetzner Abuse Department’s Gunther Breuninger, and the tourism website was closed down by Hetzner.   The owner has told Breuninger that he is moving to another server and reopening.   This website closure was laid at my door as an opening shot by Momberg, as if it was my doing.  He even implies that Breuninger is lying in his communication with him about this matter.

Fedhasa Board membership

I have written on this blog about the devious attempts made by then-FEDHASA Cape chairman Nils Heckscher to keep me off the Board of directors, when I had been nominated in the Small Accommodation category.  When I was elected to the Board, he made our Board meetings hell, constantly criticising my WhaleTales newsletters (prior to the days of blogging), and made me feel that we were having Whale Cottage instead of FEDHASA Cape Board meetings!   Heckscher was a very biased partial Chairman, and hand-picked his successor when his controversial reign was over to ensure that I did not get elected as Chairman!   From day one of being a  Board member I told my FEDHASA Cape Board colleagues that the MATCH terms and conditions were bad for small accommodation establishments.  I was ridiculed for this view, and was ultimately forced off the Board when the rest of the Board members cancelled my membership because of my anti-MATCH sentiments expressed in my newsletters.   

As they say in the classics, the rest is history – “MATCH” is the most hated word in the hospitality industry, and Hecksher got his karma returned, in that the hotel (Winchester Mansions) he is the GM of suffered one of the biggest cancellations of accommodation bookings by MATCH.

Momberg has been at odds with Fedhasa in the past, and therefore I am surprised that he included them in the post.  He was highly critical of the accommodation booking website for the World Cup, started by FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan, and slanderously described our national “Minister of Tourism and his Department (DOT) as a bunch of blundering idiots”for dealing with Dungan!

Restaurant bannings

Grasping at straws, Momberg writes on the basis of hearsay about the fact that I am not allowed into some restaurants in Cape Town, mentioning Beluga specifically.

Restaurateurs in Cape Town are a sensitive lot, and luckily it is only a few that cannot stomach feedback and the reality of a review.   Let me list them:

1.   Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek – long before my blogging and restaurant review days, whilst I was living in Franschhoek, I regularly went to then-bistro iCi.  A comment I made to a manager about declining value for money went to owner Susan Huxter, resulting in the barring from Le Quartier Francais and to Bread & Wine (the winefarm Moreson belongs to Huxter’s brother Richard Friedman).  Huxter tried to get other Franschhoek restaurants to follow suit, but while she has a strong influence over Franschhoek, none of her restaurant colleagues complied with her request.   I have tried to meet with her to discuss her heavy-handedness and discrimination against me, and she has refused all contact.  Twice in the past three months I have been invited to attend the opening of art exhibitions at Le Quartier Francais, only to be uninvited again on the instruction of Huxter, demonstrating the unprofessionalism and pettiness of this business owner!   

2.   Beluga/Sevruga/Blonde– I attended a Cape Times book launch at Sevruga last year, and gave the restaurant a Sour Service Award for its poor ability to handle a group of 150 women who were offered a very restricted “chicken or beef” type menu choice.  I received no response from owner Oskar Kotze or Marketing Manager Samantha Obery to it.  Six months later the Camps Bay accommodation association, which I head up, was invited to Beluga, to try out their Christmas and New Year menus, as a PR exercise, so that the guest houses should recommend the restaurant.  We were seated, and then Obery came to me, asking me to leave the restaurant, as owner Oskar Kotze did not want me there, due to the Sevruga Sour Service Award.  I said that I was happy to speak to him, as this was surely a mistake, but he was not there.  I gave her my cell number so that he could call me, but he refused.  I then called him on his cellphone, and he refused to take the call.   In the end Obery was instructed by Kotze to call the police, to escort me out of the restaurant.   Beluga received a Sour Service Award for this “PR exercise”, in full view of the guest houses that they were meant to be impressing.

3.   Sotano by Caveau –  a week ago I posted a review of the newly opened Sotano by Caveau in Mouille Point.  It was a fair review, and highlighted teething problems, with the full knowledge that they would be fixed.  I wrote about going back to finish writing about the winelist, as this was not yet available on the day that I was at the restaurant.  When I returned the following day, the Operations Manager Ross Stillford told me that the owners had asked me to not return to Caveau and to Sotano by Caveau, due to my Sotano by Caveau review.  To add insult to injury, one of the owners, Brendon Crew, tweeted about the barring and referred to me as a “bitch”.   This caused a furore, and more than 50 comments have been posted to this review, mainly scathing about Caveau and its owner’s behaviour, with 1253 readers (best read review ever)having read the review in the past week.

4.  Carne – our exposure about the dishonest claim by owner Giorgio Nava of only serving organic lamb, beef and game from his farm in the Karoo led him to remove this fraudulent claim.

We have written more than a hundred restaurant reviews, and all of them have fairly documented our experiences in those restaurants. It is a poor reflection on the handful of restaurant owners listed above, that they are so small-minded to not be able to take valid feedback. 

We have helped restaurants in Cape Town and in the Winelands who ran winter specials  and are currently running summer specials  in publicising these, and we know that our list is extensively consulted by those seeking good value.  Even though we have been barred from Beluga and Sevruga, their specials are on our list, demonstrating that we bear no grudges against these restaurants.  We tweet a link to the Specials page on this blog every day, as a community service.  We also tweet and blog Restaurant news and information about new specials being added.

Reviews of Crush!

We have written about Crush!1, 2 and 3, and Momberg questions my right to do so.  We note that it is Michael Olivier, editor of Crush!, who first posted the link to Momberg’s blogpost on Twitter.   The Crush! team of Olivier,  and his contributors Andy Fenner (JamieWho? blog, now ex-contributor) and David Cope of The Foodie blog, as well his designers who tweet as @Crush_Online, initiated the terrorising Twitter campaign against me at a Crush! dinner party at Sophia Lindop’s house on 16 October, which has run non-stop for five weeks, with added input by Clare McKeon and Eamon McLoughlin of Spill blog, and to which Cope has added an SMS stalking campaign.   

Censorship of Comments

Most blogs allow comments to blog posts.   Early in my social media experience I experienced the vitriol and abuse of commenters to comments made on leading blogs such as Relax-with-Dax, Food24 and Rossouw’s Restaurants.  As I was honest enough to reveal my name, the comments became personal attacks against me as the commenter and lost track of the actual restaurant that was being commented upon.  JP Rossouw agreed to remove these, on the basis of a promise I made to him to never comment on his site again.   This may be why he has changed his review website, and one cannot see the latest comments listed anymore.   Dax Villanueva too has removed derogatory comments over time, and allows criticism up to a point.  He is receiving a fair amount of abuse himself at the moment.  Clare McKeon of Spill blog told me that she too has received critical comments, and deletes them when they disparage her or cause her blog embarassment, given that she is wanting to gain as many advertisers as possible on her site, even if it is at the cost of losing her readers.

The vitriolic attacks by other commenters has led almost all commenters to comment anonymously, only the inexperienecd commenters using their own name.   This means that comments can be even more scathing than if the real name is used.  When we are uncertain about the credentials of the commenter, we send an e-mail to the address provided, and have often found the e-mail address to be a bogus one.

As a topic, comments and censorship thereof, has been receiving a fair amount of airtime in our Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings.  General agreement has been that some comments are vitriolic and abusive towards the writer of the blog or to the commenters, not what one would want to have associated with one’s blog.  We have decided that it is perfectly in order to not accept abusive and disparaging comments on our blogs, and that we have the right to excise these from our blog.  No commenter has the right to expect to have such abusive comments published.   But having said that, we encourage debate – comments are good for web traffic, bring in new readers, and present different perspectives.  Such an example is Sotano by Caveau, where the action of the owner has led to a stream of mainly negative comments about the parent restaurant Caveau. 

We will be interested to see how Momberg copes with comments to his blogpost, and whether he will resort to censorship.  He has already censored a word used by a commenter and has refused to allow commenter “Dieter” to comment.   He has already received criticism from outspoken blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs about not posting her comment, and therefore she has written her intended comment on her own blog.  Momberg has just closed down comments and one must register to comment, a new form of censorship –  “Due to increasing violations of CapeInfo’s Terms of Use with fraudulent emails being provided, we have introduced the requirement that only logged in users may post comments. You need to register on CapeInfo before you can log in. That you do near the top of the page. For help, please click on Frequently Asked Questions under the “Help” navigation tab.  Where people hide behind fraudulent email addresses, one can assume that they have something to hide and cannot participate in open discussion and debate. We do not censor content although we reserve the right to edit.”  Could it be that Momberg does not like comments which may be written in support of this blog?   He has allowed two Caveau staff (Sabrina – SD and Kirstie) to post comments unrelated to his content to his blog post which I refused to my Sotano by Caveau review! 

While he sets himself up as the “judge” of the tourism industry, Momberg has no ethics when he presents a one-sided perspective containing dishonest information on his subject matter!

We deplore the backstabbing and bitching taking place in social media, and while we recognise its importance in the marketing mix, we cannot agree with the low levels of personal attack that are allowed by companies such as Twitter and in blogs in the interest of Freedom of Speech.  Given the amount of disinformation being put out into the cyberspace, I welcome any questions you may have or comments you wish to make: info@whalecottage.com.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11: Martin Hatchuel, the editor of the Tourism website that has been taken down by Hetzner, has written a newsletter which Carl Momberg has distributed for him today.  In it Hatchuel writes: “I responded by refusing to remove the ‘offending’ material because it is my reader’s right to say what they want (within reason, of course – and only the courts can really decide what that reason should be). As a publisher, I can choose to let comments ride, and as a reader, you can choose to take offence – but if you don’t like what’s there, you do have recourse to the courts.  I felt that if von Ulmenstein can say nasty stuff about others, why shouldn’t others be able to say what they wanted about her?”.   We are shocked that Hatchuel is so unprofessional that he would allow untruthful abuse and disparagement to be posted as comments, when he writes that he has the right to edit and refuse commments, exercising his own censorship, exactly the issue he is complaining about in respect of Hetzner’s actions!  He cannot have read our newsletters or blog posts if he describes my writing as “nasty stuff”.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Reading the few comments to the Momberg blog post it is interesting to see that ex-Fedhasa Board colleagues and Cape Town Tourism Board members Nils Heckscher and Susanne Faussner-Ringer, and Cape Town Tourism PR Manager Skye Grove (recipient of a Sour Service Award for her unprofessional behaviour) have written disparaging comments – interesting in that Whale Cottage Camps Bay is a member of Cape Town Tourism! 

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Now Momberg is crying wolf in that he has turned to Hetzner to complain about this blog post, and I have had to remove part of a sentence about him!  Wasn’t his blog post about my complaint to Hetzner about the removal of comments on Hatchuel’s website, widely publicised by him?!  Double standards!  His website is hosted in London, disallowing us to have defamatory comments removed from his blogpost – makes you think, as Nedbank used to say!

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Skye Grove has also approached Hetzner, and has asked for the removal of our post about her Sour Service Award, awarded to her for retweeting a defamatory Tweet, motivating it as follows: “This has adversely affected my professional integrity”.  One wonders why she retweeted the Tweet, in the knowledge that it is defamatory, given her position as PR Manager of Cape Town Tourism.  She also has requested Hetzner to close down our blog.  She has not held back in her opinion about our blog in her comments on Momberg’s site, as well as on other sites, and retweets whatever negative she can find written about us – clearly a vendetta, and another case of double standards!   Our complaint about Ms Grove’s defamatory Tweet was rejected by her boss Mariette du Toit-Helmbold.  Ms Grove has no problem in disparaging Cape Town Tourism’s funder, the City of Cape Town, in terms of its supply of services to Cape Town residents.

POSTSCRIPT 22/11:  Hetzner appears to have realised that it was too heavy-handed in its dealings with the Tourism website, and has reinstated it.  We welcome this move.  Momberg has not updated his blogpost to announce this, and it basically removes the foundation of his blogpost!   We await his apology for the defamatory comments made. 

POSTSCRIPT 23/11:  Skye Grove has returned to Hetzner, after we made an amendment.   She has now called for the removal of all references to her name on our blog.  Yet she has disparaged us widely in comments on other blogs and by retweeting defamatory Tweets.   She incorrectly blames me for the “(unlawful) action” of Hetzner in closing down the Tourism site (it is clear that this was Hetzner’s doing, and that the site has been reinstated), refers to our blog in its “lack of journalistic quality and substance thereof”, and to my lack of “journalistic ethics or standards”!  Her boss Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold has written a long comment about Social Media and Freedom of Speech, which we have published in the Comments section to this blogpost.  She calls for “honesty, transparency, respect, privacy, relevance, and responsibility within the social media communications realm”, yet her PR Manager Skye Grove does not play by these rules.   Today I declined a request for donating accommodation to the Cape Town Tourism staff function, given Ms Grove’s behaviour.

POSTSCRIP 23/11:  David Cope has also turned to Hetzner, wanting any reference to his name removed, and the whole blog closed down.  It is ironic that Cope complains to Hetzner about…. “damaged my reputation, but has brought my business name into disrepute”.  Yet Cope has had no shame in sending 285 shockingly disparaging Tweets about me, terrorised me with an sms stalker campaign, and retweeted defamatory Tweets.

POSTSCRIPT 23/11:  Carl Momberg has also returned to Hetzner’s door, complaining that I have not removed more content about him.  He incorrectly makes the deduction that my partial removal signals that I “acknowledged” publishing incorrect content – no Mr Momberg, I am subject to the same threat by Hetzner to have my website closed down if I do not make amendments, as was your friend Mr Hatchuel!  He contests almost every reference to him in this blogpost, describing them to be “untrue” , “misleading” and “she cannot prove otherwise”!   He demands of Hetzner : “I demand the whole post be taken down.  If there are further snide and defamatory comments about me or CapeInfo, I will issue further taken down requests, pending legal action”!   Momberg has not apologised for his defamatory blogpost, nor made any amendments, yet expects me to remove the whole blogpost in response to his!

The double standards of Cope, Grove and Momberg is interesting, in that they are quite happy to disparage me and my blog, yet do not want me to write about their actions.  We will not remove any further material from this blogpost or blog.

POSTSCRIPT 24/11: Michael Olivier, editor of Crush!, is also crushed by our blog, and has requested that it be closed down, that all current content relating to Crush! be removed, and that any future writing about Crush! by me be disallowed!   Olivier writes a number of untruths, despite having to declare his information to be “true and correct”, to motivate the closure of my blog:  my reviews of Crush! are “full of incorrect information”; I did not consult him – we used e-mail, sms’s, phone calls and our blog to invite Olivier to respond and participate in each of our three reviews, all with no response; that I have created false comments about his magazines on my blog, which is devoid of all truth and is libellous; he claims that I have “affected the livelihoods of restaurants, publications (I have not written about any other than Crush!) and businesses”, a libellous claim once again; that I had This Tourism Weekly website taken down – we know that it is Hetzner that took down the site as Mr Hatchuel, its owner, refused to heed the Take-Down notice; that he is “missing out on important functions which I will not attend due to her presence”; and that he has lost clients for Crush! and his radio programme due to my writing.   Double standards once again, as Olivier was the first to Tweet the link to The Tourism Weekly disparaging blogpost by Momberg on Saturday.

POSTSCRIPT 28/11: We have decided to follow the example of Momberg and Hatchuel, in moving our website to an international server.   This ensures our freedom of speech, and that the likes of Momberg and his merry men (and woman) will not have any power to have any content removed from our blog, nor for them to have our blog closed down!  Predictably, Momberg is furious about our move.   Again, we deplore Momberg’s double standards in defaming and disparaging us, yet crying wolf when we write the truth about him. 

POSTSCRIPT 29/11:  We have had to edit our writing about David Cope and Carl Momberg above, under threat of closure of the site by our server Hetzner, and also a blackmail threat by David Cope in his abusive Twitter campaign.   The edits we have done in no way reflect acknowledgement by us of any error or defamation, as suggested by Carl Momberg in his complaint to Hetzner.

 

 

POSTSCRIPT 29/11:  We were forced by Hetzner to remove the content of this blogpost until we moved the website to an international server.   Talk about censorship! 

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

Cape Town puts sparkle back into liquor trading

Excellent news for Cape Town hoteliers is that the City of Cape Town has admitted that it has made an error in its proposed restrictive liquor trading hours, and has done an about-turn in extending trading until 2h00, even if accommodation establishments are in residential areas, reports the Cape Times today.  Previously the draft called for liquor sales to close at 23h00, which would have had a devastating effect on the bottom line of hotels in particular, and on the employment of staff and tourism in general.

The draft Provincial Liquor Amendment Bill allows each municipality in the Western Cape to define liquor trading hours for hotels, restaurants and pubs.  If they do not define them within the confines of the proposed liquor law, the Bill sets default liquor trading hours which they must abide by.   The Western Cape Bill is a “test case”, in that other provinces are set to model their own liquor legislation on that of the Western Cape, once it has gone to the provincial legislature.

The proposed draft Bill had set liquor trading hours in accommodation establishments, hotels and pubs at 11h00 – 23h00, only allowing such businesses operating in built up business areas to trade until 2h00.  The City of Cape Town’s councillor Taki Amira acknowledged at a Western Cape Provincial Liquor Conference over the weekend that ‘the city had made a mistake in its trading hours provision when it drew up the Provincial Liquor Amendment Bill, which will be passed before the end of the year’.   The Vineyard Hotel and Mount Nelson Hotel operate within residential areas, and would have had to be rezoned to be able to sell alcoholic beverages until 2h00, a process that could take months.  The City admitted that it did not know that not all hotels in residential areas were not rezoned.

Amira lambasted FEDHASA Cape, the hotel association, for not communicating with the City earlier in the process, as the draft legislation had been published more than two years ago.  Whilst FEDHASA calls itself a lobbying body in the interest of its members, it seems to have become powerless in the past few years, rather wishing to stay non-controversial and in its publics’ good books than criticise negative developments on behalf of its members (signing up with MATCH and then losing the bulk of the bookings is an excellent example).   However, the Cape Times quotes FEDHASA has having described the proposed Bill as ‘draconian’ and ‘verkrampte’, heavy words indeed.   FEDHASA Cape only met with Amira a week ago!

Roy Davies, GM of the Vineyard Hotel, is delighted about the City’s about-turn on the trading hours.  He said that a special plea had also been made about the serving of champagne and sparkling wine with breakfast before 11h00, and it would appear that such an amendment would be made. 

Wine farms were also affected by the proposed draft, in that they were to close their liquor sales at 18h00, which would have affected weddings held at such estates as well as restaurants operating on wine farms, with sales banned completely on Sundays.   It would now appear that Sunday trading will be allowed, and that restaurants and function venues on wine farms can serve drinks until midnight.  

The Western Cape province is that with the highest alcohol-related problems, and sought to introduce the Bill to prevent the rise of alcoholism, and to reduce its impact on alcohol-related accidents.

POSTSCRIPT 26/10: Councillor Amira called this morning, and clarified that guest houses and other non-hotel accommodation establishments may serve alcoholic beverages until 23h00.  A special allowance for sparkling wine to be served, in conjunction with a meal, between 8h00 – 11h00, has also been made.

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

Cape Town to become top 10 world brand

Cape Town Tourism sees one of its goals as developing Cape Town into a world city by 2020.  This was announced at the Cape Town Tourism AGM by its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold earlier this week.

Du Toit-Helmbold sees Cape Town developing into a top world city in 2020 in which to “live, visit, study, work and invest in”, and into a centre of innovation and creativity, welcoming 4 million international visitors annually.  It will become a favourite domestic destination too, and will be known as the ‘events capital of Africa’, she said.   “The city is clean, green and safe – recognised as one of the most livable cities in the world” in 2020, she added.

We welcome her vision that by 2020 “Cape Town now sustains a healthy year-round tourism industry with many direct flights from key markets across the world”, especially as she mentioned that feedback from Cape Town Tourism members shows that “…some establishments reporting alarmingly low occupancy levels” since the World Cup.  Also, she indicated that there was no clear picture yet about the festive season bookings, and reiterated how important it is to address seasonality variations, the winter months being a severe problem.  Events are an important means of countering seasonality, and she announced that with its funder, the City of Cape Town, Cape Town Tourism is working on an Events Strategy for the city, linking already established events with new ones held in “off-peak” season.

Du Toit-Helmbold also said that world cities such as Cape Town, and its tourism brands, must work on their “future fit”, in exploring new markets, and in investing in web, emarketing and technology to ensure that Cape Town Tourism can meet its goal of doubling its economic impact on the city in the next 10 years.   She said that more than 70 % of tourism bookings are made on-line.

On the topic of the suggested amalgamation of Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, which Cape Town Tourism is respectfully resisting, a guest speaker Claes Bjerkne, a destination marketing expert, said that Cape Town is the “ideal master brand as it is one of the better known cities of the world’, on a par with Paris, London, San Francisco and Beijing.  Du Toit-Helmbold said that Cape Town Tourism was seeking an apolitical tourism structure for the province and the city, “driven by the private sector and supported by government”.   “Cape Town Tourism will not compromise our status as an industry-led association, and we remain committed to marketing Cape Town and its unique experience”, she concluded.

At the AGM, new directors were elected/re-elected: quantity surveyor Pierre du Plessis (we question his tourism knowledge), Susanne Faussner-Ringer (who pushed for MATCH bookings for the World Cup with her friend Nils Heckscher, which should have got both of them fired from the Board of Cape Town Tourism for their irresponsible advice to and pressure on the accommodation industry, in our opinion), Bulelwa Nobuzwe Makalima-Ngewana (Deputy CEO of the Cape Town Partnership), Sarah Struys (Events and Marketing Manager of Kirstenbosch), and Claus Tworeck (CEO of City Sightseeing Cape Town).  They join existing directors Sabine Lehmann of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company, Nils Heckscher of the Winchester Mansions Hotel, Guy Lundy of Accelerate Cape Town, and Rashid Toefy, of the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

POSTSCRIPT 10/10 : Southern African Tourism Update provides extra input to the Cape Town Tourism AGM, the future of brand Cape Town, and of the funding of Cape Town Tourism, not mentioned in the Cape Town Tourism media release:

“Keynote speaker, Claes Bjerkne, CEO of Bjerkne & Co, a Swedish destination marketing consultancy, said the city and province should work together to develop a tourism strategy, “but it’s a waste of time not to use the strong city brand”. He suggested: “Let Cape Town be the driving force in the process of developing tourism in the city as well as the province.” He proposed local tourism marketers combine brand Cape Town with topics of interest – such as wine, whales, flowers, culture, golf and wildlife – to entice visitors further into the region.

Pointing out that few people knew the provinces that housed such strong city brands as Berlin, San Francisco, Paris, Beijing, Edinburgh, Amsterdam and London, he said similarly visitors to South Africa didn’t know its various regions but recognised brand Cape Town. This did not mean they would not travel further into the province to pursue their interests. The same was true overseas, he said, where tourists combined San Francisco with the Nappa Valley to taste wine, travelled to the Great Wall of China from Beijing, or left Edinburgh behind to play golf at St Andrews.

CTT CEO, Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, also made a strong case for Cape Town to be the brand for the city and the province and for tourism marketing to remain driven by the tourism industry and not by civil servants. “We will not compromise on the industry playing the leading role,” she said. “Cities are the super-brands of the future. Cape Town has all the potential to become this.”

Cape Town City Council Mayoral Committee for Economic Development & Tourism, Felicity Purchase, expressed continued confidence in CTT as the city’s marketer. The city will fund CTT to the tune of R38m for the next financial year.”

POSTSCRIPT 12/10:  We have amended our blog post after receiving feedback from Cape Town Tourism.  A future vision for Cape Town for 2020 was oddly written in the present rather than in the future tense in the media release.

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