Tag Archives: Nils Flaatten

Should the City of Cape Town take up the fight against alleged Racism in Cape Town?

City of CT Racism a1 Whale CottageI had seen a news report about Mayor Patricia de Lille taking a stand against allegations of racism in Cape Town, and did not take any note of it, the R-word being a very sensitive one (increasingly so, I feel), which can potentially lead to abuse and other criticism.  I changed my mind when I saw a series of advertisements in the latest Atlantic Sun, and as I was on the receiving end of an extreme attack of racism in Green Point last week.

Mayor de Lille appears to have reacted to allegations by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa that Cape Town is ‘racist‘, obviously implying that ‘White’ residents of the city are racist towards residents of other population groups in Cape Town.  She launched the ‘Inclusive City‘ campaign and ‘Cape Town against Racism’ advertising campaign on Human Rights Day on 24 March.

The advertising campaign is visible in the Cape Town freesheets, being a series of three full- Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 1 August

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   A substantial number of Americans are scared to fly internationally since the airline disasters this year.  In the poll 36% said they were scared to fly due to political turmoil, 42% of women expressing their fear.

*   Wesgro CEO Nils Flatten welcomed Sean Penn to the Western Cape, and presented a gift of an artwork from the Robben Island Legacy Collection, using a piece of fencing retrieved from the island.  Penn is scouting locations for ‘The Last Face’ movie he is producing, which will be filmed in the province.  (received via e-mail from Wesgro)

*   La Residence in Franschhoek has been included in the list of top 10 Best Small Hotels in the World with 20 rooms or Continue reading →

Will City of Cape Town Tourism Directorate forensic investigation affect Cape Town Tourism, World Design Capital 2014, and Marketing of Cape Town?

Cape Town StadiumA week ago we picked up an article in the Cape Argus that intimated tender irregularities in the City of Cape Town’s Tourism, Events and Marketing Directorate, headed up by Executive Director Anton Groenewald, reporting to Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing.  Now action appears to have been taken, with a follow up report about a forensic investigationGrant Pascoe and the removal of laptops used by staff in the Directorate, including Councillor Pascoe’s computer!

The original article was difficult to follow, and we have re-read it, to summarise the report as follows:  A three year multi-million Rand contract for branding for Cape Town (no logo has been created for brand Cape Town byAnton Groenewald Whale Cottage Portfolio Groenewald’s Directorate yet, as far as we know, and certainly has not been revealed for comment to date) was at risk of being cancelled, just as it was to be awarded.  The proposed cancellation was denied by the City of Cape Town, even though the Cape Argus has documentation confirming the proposed cancellation.  The branding was to be used at events, the City of Cape Town’s Finance department spokesperson Priya Reddy said.  She also denied that cancelling the tender would be contrary to the host city agreement for the Chan soccer tournament in January, which includes a R6 million marketing commitment.  The cancellation of the tender would be contrary to the City of Cape Town’s supply chain management policy.

Central to the branding drama appears to be Carol Avenant, and here the Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 2/3 November

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Mark Shuttleworth may be the large Moyo investor who has forced the restaurant group to be placed under business review.

*   The 17th Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa, with 10000 delegates, will be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 7 – 10 December.

*   Warwick Wines has added its Twitter handle @WarwickWine to its corks, in anticipation of the New York Stock Exchange listing of Twitter. (received via media release from Hazell PR and Wine Consultants)

*   Nick Compton, editor of design magazine Wallpaper,  is running a Twitter competition, requesting photographs of the best of South African art and design, to tie in with World Travel Market (WTM) this week.

*   The Kimberley Diamond Cup world skateboarding championships have just been held in Kimberley.

*   Cape Town has been named Africa’s Leading Meetings and Conference Destination, and its The Westin Cape Town the continent’s Continue reading →

Cape Town loses numerous events due to lack of bidding budget!


 Cape Town StadiumThe City of Cape Town has lost 12 bids for new Events for Cape Town in the past six months, and has lost two existing events to other cities, said Anton Groenewald, Executive Director of the City of Cape Town Tourism, Events, and Marketing Directorate, at the Annual General Meeting of Cape Town Tourism two weeks ago.

According to Southern African Tourism Update, Groenewald blamed the ‘City’s limited bidding budget‘ and the stronger international currencies of other bidding countries for the poor track record. The weaker Rand this year affected the costs of bidding for international events, he said:  ‘Exchange rate fluctuation impacts on our ability to bid because almost all competitive bids are in euros, pounds or dollars. This means that at the time of bidding earlier this year, the exchange rate was such that events and concerts at that time became financially unviable because the dollar or euro equivalent was more than we could absorb. Secondly, events and global brands are asking higher and larger fees because other city destinations are paying larger upfront fees to secure their participation. So a fee last year of R3,5m for an event has now increased to US$1,5m (R9,9m), because that is what another destination paid this global brand. We simply cannot compete at these rates.  While Cape Town seems to enjoy international recognition and awareness as a destination, what we do not have is an increase in enquiries and how to convert this into purchases’.

Groenewald’s Directorate has a massive budget at R560 million, out of the Continue reading →

Bob Skinstad new Tourism Ambassador for Overstrand, first for Western Cape!

Bob Skinstad - Overstrand tourism ambassadorFor the first time in the Western Cape a Tourism Ambassador has been appointed.  Bob Skinstad, South African rugby hero and commentator, is the new Tourism Ambassador for the Overstrand, encompassing the municipal region stretching from Kleinmond-Hangklip to Gansbaai, via Hermanus and Stanford.  The area is also known as the Cape Whale Coast.

The concept of a Tourism Ambassador was the idea of Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten, who felt that Bob’s interaction with top rugby fans locally, as well as internationally would stand the Overstrand region in good stead if it was recommended by him as a holiday destination on his travels.  Bob grew up in ‘Southern Rhodesia‘, but loved coming on holidays to Hermanus with his parents, and they now live in the seaside town (with his parents-in-law too), giving Bob’s endorsement even greater credibility.  A Memorandum of Agreement has been signed for 12 months between Bob and the Overstrand municipality, confirming which services he will render, and how many packages of products from the area he can use for marketing purposes.   He wants the region to become more Social Media savvy, and recommended ‘We Chat’ as a huge free Continue reading →

Wesgro Chief Marketing Officer Judy Lain a breath of fresh air for Tourism!

Wesgro Judy Lain Whale Cottage PortfolioI was recently told that Wesgro had finally appointed a Marketing head after looking since April 2012.  I called Judy Lain, its new Chief Marketing Officer, and was able to set up an appointment to meet her after her trip to South America.  We agreed to meet last Friday at Café Paradiso, on Judy’s recommendation.

All I knew about Judy was that she was better known as Judy During, and had run an advertising agency called 34 Woman, focusing on generating information about women’s purchasing behaviour, being responsible for not only FMCG but also big ticket brand decisions in their households.  Prior to that she worked at Inviseo Media, at Bester Burke Underground, and at draftfcb, therefore having a practical marketing and advertising background.   Our telephonic interaction in setting up the meeting was very different to the bureaucracy I experienced when I arranged to meet with Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten.  Judy answered the phone herself, sounded friendly and bubbly, and decided that we should meet over lunch.

We had forgotten to describe one another over the phone, but we both Continue reading →

Cape Town tourism industry confused about Festive Season tourism prospects!

Yesterday the Cape Argus and Cape Town Tourism released their forecasts about the Festive Season and the November – January period.  The Cape Argus prediction of a ‘flood of tourists’ over the Festive Season and Cape Town Tourism’s description of the November – January period seeing ‘positive seasonal growth’ are exaggerated, and not reflective of what the tourism industry is experiencing.  Both information sources do not acknowledge something we have called ‘Summer Seasonality’, which is becoming more pronounced!

Cape Town Tourism astounds with its poorly written media releases, and it is clear that their PR and Communications Manager Skye Grove struggles in expressing herself coherently, sounding out of depth in writing about accommodation occupancy, rates, and RevPAR (Revenue per Available Room), clearly terms which are foreign to her, as is market research in general.   While her headline refers to ‘positive seasonal growth’ being seen by ‘Cape Town’s Tourism Sector’, she contradicts herself in her introductory paragraph, clumsily writing that there are ‘slight growth trends across occupancy and average room rates indicators for the months November 2012 – January 2013‘.  She forecasts Occupancy over the three months at 71% and an average room rate of R 1136, without providing details of how the information was arrived at.  She then compares the results from two different surveys conducted a year apart, and concludes that Occupancy will be higher this summer compared to last, a nonsense deduction.

Even worse is the poorly written paragraph attributed to Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, in which she contradicts herself in predicting that ‘we are not expecting a record season of arrivals and bookings’, yet states in two sentences further that ‘..the City Bowl, The V&A Waterfront and the Atlantic Seaboard will be a hive of activity’, clearly not knowing what is happening in the tourism industry! She does admit that the Festive Season only covers the period of the third week of December (i.e. from 21 December onwards) to ‘early January‘.  Mrs Helmbold admonishes the tourism industry for not coming up with ‘new and interesting experiences‘, something our tourists are ‘hungry for’, she writes!

A statement by poor Nils Flaatten, the CEO of Wesgro, is also incorporated in the media release (aren’t they in competition with each other in marketing Cape Town, one would ask), and justifies the hard work they are doing with Cape Town Tourism to ‘ensure improved dispersal of visitors across the greater Cape Town region and beyond’, his mandate being to market the Western Cape and to minimise the duplication of marketing Cape Town. Flaatten refers to international tourists visiting the V&A Waterfront to shop, and to visit Robben Island and Table Mountain.  Domestic tourists, he says, ‘are experiencing a greater appetite (sic) for festivals and events across the province’, and then refers to the 600 festivals which took place in the province in the past six months!  Ironically there are no festivals and events taking place over the Festive Season!  We have seen no marketing activity or communication from Wesgro and Cape Town Tourism to ‘disperse’ the Cape Town-based tourists into other parts of the province, the tourists doing their own research about where else to stay. Fact is that the Atlantic Seaboard is the most desired location for Festive Season visitors to Cape Town, and it would only be the non-availability of accommodation in this area that would make them stay further away from the city.

The Cape Argus article, written by journalist Daneel Knoetze, was based on two interviews, with Mrs Helmbold and her Board member Susanne Faussner, the headline shouting that a ‘Flood of tourists expected in Mother City’, and misleadingly stating that our industry is ‘expecting one of the most successful festive seasons to date’! The only justification for this misleading claim is a quote attributed to Mrs Faussner about an increase in Occupancy relative to last year, but as the Festive Season has not even begun, no accurate Occupancy figures are available! She added that the poor European winter and the favourable exchange rates are in our industry’s favour, but we have not seen the effect of this. Immediately after the exaggerated positive claim, the journalist lists dreadful crime-related accusations against Cape Town, and states that the positive publicity generated by Cape Town performing well in international tourism lists will outweigh the negative shock crime information relating to Cape Town! Mrs Helmbold places all her bets on an increase in tourism numbers on Table Mountain’s new ‘New7Wonders of Nature’ status, which was confirmed at the beginning of this month.  Ironically Cape Town Tourism Chairman and CEO of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company, Sabine Lehmann, deplored the very windy beginning of December, and the number of days that the Cableway had to be closed due to adverse weather conditions in the Cape Town Tourism release.  Funny was seeing the Christmas Lights on Adderley Street, supplied by the City of Cape Town, which includes an illustration of Table Mountain and the incorrect title ‘New7Wonder of Nature’!  One would have thought that Mrs Lehmann or Cape Town Tourism would have advised the City of Cape Town of its faux pas!

Summer Seasonality is becoming increasingly apparent, and adds to the woes of the Tourism industry, which experienced extreme Winter Seasonality in the past two years, worse than ever before, largely due to the extremely wet winter, which kept Johannesburgers from Cape Town, and Capetonians from the rest of the Western Cape.  Even more frustrating is the increased Summer Seasonality, which gives the industry two very good weeks and two very slow weeks each in November, December, and January, resulting in an average Occupancy of 50% for each of these months, an unsustainable performance.  February is the best booked month, the only one with Occupancy close to 90%.

Cape Town Tourism likes to brag about its performance, and clearly is under pressure from the City of Cape Town to justify the R35 million it receives from the City. It is irresponsible to mislead the Tourism industry with platitudes, contradictory information, and the false presentation and interpretation of statistics!  We would like to request the City of Cape Town to act against this unprofessional communication by Cape Town Tourism, and to appoint a professional Communications company that can assist Cape Town Tourism in issuing more credible and professional media statements, for the benefit of our City’s image and reputation!  The PR company it uses currently appears to only distribute the media releases.

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

SA is not projecting the right image, affects business, says Western Cape Tourism Minister Alan Winde!

On the day that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan presented South Africa’s mid-term budget in Parliament, and announced that SARS revenue collected is R5 billion less, and is unlikely to grow next year, Minister Alan Winde closed the Wesgro AGM with refreshing honesty, and said that the Finance Minister’s speech meant that provinces would receive the same allocation as the current financial year, meaning a lower buying power next year due to cost increases.  He also said that currently South Africa is lacking leadership, and is not projecting the right image to the outside world, given the strike of the SA Transport and Allied Worker’s Union, the Marikana massacre, and the capsizing of the Miroshga off Hout Bay.

Minister Winde’s sombre closure of the AGM reflecting the tough trading conditions which the Western Cape businesses can expect for the next two years, and which have already affected Wesgro’s performance in not meeting its top targets of Investment.  The Trade, Investment and (new) Tourism promotion body celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, and probably presented negative figures for the first time in many years.  It has an interesting method of setting targets, at a high and a low band.  In most measurements presented, Wesgro exceeded the ‘low road’, but did not meet the ‘high road’ budgets in its Investment and Trade Promotion divisions.  Wesgro Chairman Benjamin Kodisang started off the proceedings by also adding his negative view of the world, expressing that he is ‘a concerned man, who has never found the world in the situation it is in now, economically, socially, and politically’.  He challenged business persons in the Cape to ‘stand up, and be counted’, and to show leadership, as contained in Wesgro’s Vision of leading ‘the creation and promotion of a compelling global destination for investment, trade and destination marketing for the benefit of all people in the Western Cape’. Good news is that the Western Cape economic growth has outshone that of the national economy for the eleventh year running, with a growth rate of 3,1 % currently, driven largely by a 7% growth in exports, mainly of fruit.  Over a third of exports go to Asia, and one-quarter to Europe (of which one-fifth is wine).  R1,24 billion in Investment was attracted to the province in the past year, it was reported.  More than 1000 jobs were created in the same period.  The dominant export markets for the Western Cape remain the UK, France and Germany, but the West Africa Trade Corridor is gaining importance, in particular Nigeria, Angola, Cameroon, and Côte d’Ivoire.  Angola has taken over from Mozambique as the province’s largest trade partner in Africa, said Nils Flaatten, Wesgro CEO.  Brazil, India and China, all BRICS countries, are important for partnerships to promote the economy of the Western Cape.  The United Nations Procurement Programme, incorporating our province as one of only three developing areas, is a bonus for the Western Cape.

In April Wesgro incorporated Cape Town Routes Unlimited, which no longer operates by that name, but which still has a Board in place until the Western Cape Tourism Act of 2004 has been repealed, likely to be in April 2013. The Wesgro Act is being amended too, to allow the organisation to adopt the role of tourism promotion too.  Deon Cloete, Chairman of the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board, also painted a picture of a tough economy and the effect of the incorporation of the organisation into Wesgro, the contribution of conferences to the Western Cape economy having been R254 million instead of the projected R360 million, even though the number of conferences grew.  The 1,4 million tourist arrivals means an 8% decline, while spend by foreign tourists had declined by 16% to R18 billion, he said.  The province sold 26% of the national bednights, and the average spend per day on a trip was R1420.   Cloete warned of a ‘tough year’ ahead, despite the country’s most popular tourism destination, the V&A Waterfront, being in the Cape and having achieved 22 million visitors.  Minister Winde highlighted that 600 conferences and events had been held in the Western Cape in the past year.

Flaatten said that the vision going forward is to cross-sell the Western Cape in a three-prong Trade, Investment and Destination Marketing approach.

Embarrassing is the glowing write up in the Wesgro 2011-2012 Annual Report of Cape Town Tourism CEO and Wesgro Board member Mariette du Toit-Helmbold: ‘Under her  leadership Cape Town Tourism has won critical acclaim as a Visitor Services and Destination Marketing Organisation doing sterling work at the coal face of one of the country’s fastest growing industries’. The City of Cape Town clearly does not agree, having taken the responsibility of Destination Marketing away from Cape Town Tourism, announced at the Cape Town Tourism AGM just a week ago!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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