Tag Archives: Rooi Els

Hermanus Tourism Bureau shock resignation ends Stormy crisis!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whale Coast tourism DMO refuses to make minutes a-whale-able!

For the past six weeks all attempts at obtaining minutes of two Special General meetings called to change the Constitution of the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) have failed, with an e-mail from its Vice-Chairman, Daniel Acker, refusing access to the minutes both in my capacity as a member of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and as a writer of this blog, without approval at the next Board meeting!  We question what the Cape Whale Coast DMO is trying to hide by not making the minutes of the two meetings available.  Maybe the Cape Whale Coast payoff line ‘wonders never cease’ is apt, given that the DMO is working with municipal funding generated from Overstrand ratepayers, and therefore transparency should rule!

More than two years ago the Cape Whale Coast DMO was established by the Overstrand Municipality, which is responsible for the municipal services of the area stretching from Rooi Els in the west to Gansbaai in the east.  The DMO is based in Hermanus, and half of the Board members are from Hermanus, under the Chairmanship of Misty Waves Hotel Manager Clinton Lerm.

When the Cape Whale Coast DMO was established, its constitution automatically made all business owners along the Overstrand members of the DMO, if they were paying rates and taxes.  No membership fee was payable.  The DMO’s main task, as per its name, was to market the Overstrand towns as a joint tourism destination and to manage the tourism bureaus in each of these towns .  The same constitution contained a directive that a CEO would be appointed, to manage the DMO.  This appointment still has not happened.   This means that a Board of 14 Directors manages a Section 21 company with only one staff member, and therefore the directors of the Board have taken over management positions for the DMO.  For example, Lerm’s mother Maxie handles Marketing and Public Relations for the DMO, and Clinton Lerm and Daniel Acker (of People Management Solutions Group, a labour practitioner in Hermanus, with no tourism business interests) represented the DMO in May at the ITB tourism trade show in Berlin, and another in Russia (an insignificant tourism market for Hermanus!).

Earlier this year the DMO changed its Constitution of 28 November 2007, at a second Special General meeting held on 8 March at the Lerm’s Misty Waves Hotel, with a resolution seconded by Chairman Clinton Lerm’s father and Director Maxie Lerm’s husband Henry (after a first Special General Meeting on 1 March had failed due to not attracting a required quorum of 100 attendees – only 14 members attended).  The change to the constitution was motivated to the DMO members on the basis of the changes made to the ‘Municipal Finances & Companies Act’ (no such Act exists – it is called the Municipal Financial Management Act, and it does not appear to contain any clauses that would have necessitated the constitutional changes made), the minutes of the meeting of 1 March stated!   The major change was that Overstrand ratepayers no longer were automatically members of the DMO, and allowed the DMO to set up membership of its tourism body in competition to the tourism bureaus in the Overstrand area.   The minutes of the 8 March meeting are very brief, and do not state who attended the meeting – bizarrely the Constitution allows a second Special General Meeting to be held a week after the first one if it fails to attract a quorum, and can conduct its business as long as at least one member is present!

What attracted attention to and the first criticism of the DMO was that the DMO has set up a kiosk near the key whale-watching area in Hermanus, from which it was taking accommodation bookings only for its members, and not for all members of the Overstrand tourism bureaus.  These members are now asked to pay a double membership, to belong to both bodies, yet each tourism bureau reports to the DMO, an unheard of model of tourism marketing, if Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the provincial marketing body, is the role model for the DMO.  Even more curiously, the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, which has an unfortunate location at the old railway station building, had to vacate its offices due to construction work close by, and was not given the kiosk, so that it can be easily found by tourists requiring accommodation and other tourism information.

Even more odd is that as a result of two competing tourism bodies in Hermanus, the town now has two whalecriers!   The original whalecrier of Hermanus, who was an appointee of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, had his appointment terminated due to an offence, just as the DMO was heading for Berlin.  Desperate to have a whalecrier on show, the DMO appointed the whalecrier, and took him to Berlin at short notice.  He has been appointed by the DMO to man its kiosk, and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau has appointed its own whalecrier!

Late last year we questioned these actions of the DMO,coupled with the conflict of interest in Clinton Lerm being both the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and of the DMO.  This resulted in a letter from the DMO’s lawyers, threatening legal action.  Nothing came of this threat, probably as the DMO management realised that a number of dissatisfied Overstrand tourism bureau members feel as I do.

In July the DMO held its AGM, and on the basis of its constitutional amendment, disallowed any Overstrand tourism bureau members from attending the meeting if they did not hold DMO membership, and were also not allowed to be nominated or elected to the Board of the DMO.  This is when I started asking questions, requesting a copy of the DMO Constitution (previously this was freely available on the Overstrand website www.overstrand.gov.za), and the minutes of the meetings approving the constitutional changes.  It took four weeks to receive the e-mailed copy of the Constitution, and two days ago the following officious and somewhat threatening e-mail was received from Daniel Acker (all correspondence had been addressed to Clinton Lerm!):

“This response is done without prejudice of the rights of the author, Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation (herein after referred to as ‘CWC DMO’), or the Overstrand Municipality. All rights of these personae therefore remain reserved herein.

Your email herebelow (sic) has been read, and the tone & content thereof has been noted. We place on record herewith that we shall not respond thereto in full, at this time, and reserve the right to do so at a later stage and in the appropriate forum.

Regarding your request, related to the minutes ‘minutes that approved the change of the Whalecoast DMO’ . We assume that you refer  herein to the minutes related to changes to the Constitution that were presented to, and approved by, the Counsellors (sic) of the Overstrand Municipality. These minutes are available to members of the CWC DMO, and our records show that neither you, nor your establishment, are members of the CWC DMO. Your request in this regard shall therefore have to be tabled at the next full board meeting, for consideration.”

 

What the members of the tourism bureaus in the Overstrand want is to be part of the DMO by virtue of their membership of the tourism bureaus which report to the DMO, and that bookings will be taken at the kiosk for all members of tourism bureaus in the Overstrand at no charge of membership, but on payment of a standard 10 % commission of the booking value (the DMO charges 12% commission in addition to its membership fee).    Neither the old nor the amended constitution of the Cape Whale Coast gives the DMO the duty to run a tourism bureau in opposition to those already operating in the Overstrand.

Furthermore, the Constitution does not prescribe that nominees for the Board must be members of the DMO (for example, a representative of the Overstrand Municipality is specified as having to be a director), nor does it prescribe that only DMO members can vote for the election of its Board of Directors, or on any other matter – it was confirmed that Hermanus Tourism Bureau members were not allowed to be nominated as Directors, nor voted for at the recent DMO AGM, according to an e-mail sent to me by Daniel Acker.   Members furthermore question why the Misty Waves Hotel features so prominently as the venue of the DMO meetings, and how two co-owners of the hotel can serve on the DMO Board, one of them handling the PR and Marketing for the DMO.  Whilst the Constitution defines the role of the Chairman of the DMO to be to lead the Board, to induct the directors, to plan meetings, and to ‘support the CEO’, it is questioned why Chairman Clinton Lerm, and not his mother Maxie, went to Berlin and Russia to represent the DMO, and why Daniel Acker had to go as well.  The duplication in tourism offices and in whale criers is also questioned, all being wasteful expenses.

It would appear that pressure on Chairman Clinton Lerm may be leading to some changes, and it is rumoured that he has resigned as Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, due to the conflict of interests in heading both bodies, something we pointed out in our blog post of 28 December already. However, he has not yet formally announced his resignation, nor confirmed it when we requested this of him by e-mail.

POSTSCRIPT 2/9:  The Comments section for this blog post makes for interesting reading, in setting out two points of view – two guest house owners’ perspectives, who argue along the lines of this post, and that of a Director of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, who protects the interests of the DMO.

Furthermore, the Hermanus Tourism Bureau has e-mailed its members an article which appears in the Hermanus Times today, written by Clinton Lerm.  It justifies what has happened constitutionally, and announces that members of the Overstrand tourism bureaus will automatically become members of the DMO, once this constitutional change has been approved at a Special General meeting of the DMO.  Taking bookings at the Market Square kiosk for all Overstrand tourism bureau members is also receiving the DMO’s consideration – we applaud the DMO for listening to their “customers”, and wonder why this was not dealt with correctly from the word go!

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

New Cape Tourism Marketing conflict between province and city

One could see it coming!   The marketing of Cape Town and the Western Cape province has been a problem for the last number of years, in that the province and the city were run by the Democratic Alliance and ANC parties, respectively.  That is, until last year, when the Democratic Alliance won the city and the provincial elections.   The new MEC for Economic Affairs, Finance and Tourism, Alan Winde, vowed from the word go that he would address the strained relationship between Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, as far as each body’s marketing of Cape Town in particular, but also of the Western Cape province, is concerned.  Now the relationship is about to become more, rather than less, strained!

One needs to go back in history to paint a picture of continuous turmoil in the tourism industry.   Initially Cape Town Tourism was marketing Cape Town, and the Western Cape Tourism Board marketed the province, a harmonious relationship existing between the two tourism bodies, one funded by the City of Cape Town, and the other by the province.   As the political parties changed, new Ministers of Tourism at provincial level tried to reinvent the wheel, and the biggest change of all was the establishment of the Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO), taking over the old Western Cape Tourism Board, as well as the marketing role for Cape Town from Cape Town Tourism, about seven years ago.   Cape Town Tourism only retained its role as Tourism Information agency.

Numerous complaints from the tourism industry about the lack of marketing visibility of Cape Town, the “gateway” to the rest of the Western Cape, were aired, and the new DMO, which became known as Cape Town Routes Unlimited, was blamed for not knowing what it was doing.   Political differences between the province and the City of Cape Town, as well as the lack of Cape Town Routes Unlimited’s marketing performance, led the City to withdraw its 50 % contribution to the running of Cape Town Routes Unlimited two years ago, leaving that body vulnerable in terms of its funding, and crippling it in terms of its marketing role.   The City signed an agreement with Cape Town Tourism, whereby it allocated its previous Cape Town Routes Unlimited funds to Cape Town Tourism, with the responsibility for the agency to market Cape Town in addition to its tourism information role.   Due to its funding cuts, Cape Town Routes Unlimited was forced to cut its marketing projects dramatically, and to focus mainly on marketing the province.

However, Cape Town Routes Unlimited did not leave the marketing of Cape Town out of its marketing strategy, and once again the industry complained about the duplication in the marketing of Cape Town by both bodies, something that the new DMO had been created to avoid.   When Winde, and his counterpart in the City of Cape Town, Felicity Purchase, met last year, the two marketing partners agreed that they would encourage co-operation and that they would avoid duplication where possible.  Winde confirmed that there would be no consolidation of the two bodies.   The industry was told that a strategy of co-existence between the two bodies would be presented to it, but no such strategy has been forthcoming in the past year.   Cape Town Tourism was forced to appoint a Cape Town Routes Unlimited director on its Board (this is not reciprocated on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited board), to ensure that the two bodies were aligned.

This week the Minister changed his mind, and made the shock announcement that he is “pushing for the speedy implementation of a new efficient destination marketing model so that the region may benefit from the current window of opportunity created by the Soccer World Cup”, reports Southern African Tourism Update.  Now this sounds like a ludicrous statement as a start – another DMO in the making, when we have one already?   Did we not just host the most amazing World Cup without integration of the two bodies?   What window of opportunity is the Minister referring to?   Why did he not get his act together, and create a united body before the World Cup, when it was needed most?   Accommodation in Cape Town and the Western Cape was not well booked for the World Cup, and the city did not have a single soccer team setting up a base camp in it.

Reading the Southern African Tourism Update article, and having been closely involved with the setting up of the DMO whilst I was Deputy Chairman of Cape Town Tourism, it sounded like deja vu.  The Minister wants to set up a new DMO, with a new “trading name”, responsible for the “marketing of the province, regions and cities within the Western Cape – as well as single tourism brand for the destination.”  This is exactly what Cape Town Routes Unlimited is meant to be, currently having the schizophrenic brand name “Cape Town and Western Cape”, all of which was criticised by the industry when it was launched about 5 years ago!

The new DMO would be solely funded by the Western Cape province, according to the Minister, and all municipalities in the province must contribute to the DMO, including the City of Cape Town, endangering the marketing role which has been allocated to Cape Town Tourism.  Members of Cape Town voted by overwhelming majority to support the acceptance by Cape Town Tourism of the marketing of Cape Town at its AGM two years ago.    Municipalities must present their marketing plans to the new DMO, it is proposed, and define how they will support the marketing activities of the DMO.  The Minister also wants to move the head office of the DMO from Burg Street to the V&A Waterfront, in a building to be called “Tourism HQ”, to be “more visible and accessible to tourists”!   Now this is something I do not understand, given that Cape Town Tourism is responsible for tourism information and accommodation  bookings, via its network of tourism bureaus around the Cape Town metropole, including Somerset West and Strand.  The first problem one saw was when Cape Town Routes Unlimited set up a “Gateway” tourism bureau at the V&A Waterfront, taking the “ownership” of it away from Cape Town Tourism, even though it is staffed by and carries the branding of Cape Town Tourism!

The municipalities were presented the new model by the Minister last week, and they have been given two months to table their response.  It is interesting to see how the new Cape Whale Coast DMO will deal with this news of the Minister, as it set itself up as a marketing agency for the coastal area stretching from Rooi Els to Gansbaai and including Hermanus.  This DMO is already making the fatal error of encouraging the members of the local tourism bureaus to become members of the DMO, in addition to being members of the bureaus.

Winde motivated his new strategy on the basis of “absolute duplication of national, provincial, and municipal marketing resulting in taxpayers’ money being spent three times in the same place”.   He stated that the Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited marketing of the city and the province caused confusion, and that the city and province did not have a clearly defined marketing strategy.

Not surprisingly Cape Town Tourism is not happy with the Minister’s announcement, and its Board announced last Friday that it will oppose the Minister’s move.  CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold’s words were carefully chosen when she wrote: “Cape Town Tourism has noted the proposal and embarked on a  comprehensive negotiation process with the City of Cape Town and the office of the MEC.   The Board of Cape Town Tourism has indicated that it is not in agreement with the proposal in its current format.”

She continued by stating the support of the City of Cape Town for the marketing role of Cape Town Tourism in marketing the city, exactly what the Minister proposes to change.  She wrote: “Cape Town Tourism is committed to protecting the interests of tourism in Cape Town and finding a workable solution that will most effectively realise the tourism opportunities in the city, whilst eliminating duplication and confusion. Cape Town Tourism has received reassurance from the City of Cape Town that we are and will remain the City’s tourism promotional and marketing body and that Cape Town Tourism’s structure will not change.”

It is disturbing to see that the same tourism marketing issues are being addressed again, and that tourism history is repeating itself, a waste of taxpayers’ funds in itself. It appears that every new provincial Minister of Tourism in the Western Cape sees it as his role to redesign the tourism bodies and their role, much like new Marketing and Brand Managers like to change their marketing strategies and advertising campaigns (and ad agencies at times too), just to make their mark.

This is likely to become another long drawn-out battle between the City and Province about the marketing of our precious brand “Cape Town”!

POSTSCRIPT 26/7:  Cape Town Tourism has sent out another e-mail to its members, reiterating its view about the Minister’s proposal, and has made the document available, inviting comment and input from its members:   “I informed you of the proposed centralised model for tourism marketing that was put forward by the MEC for Tourism and Economic Development, Minister Alan Winde. Cape Town Tourism has indicated to the office of the MEC and the City of Cape Town that the proposed model for a single, provincially centralised tourism destination marketing structure and brand for Cape Town and the Western Cape is patently misguided. If implemented, it will have negative consequences for tourism in Cape Town” , wrote Cape Town Tourism CEO today.

 

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

DMO causes a whale of a tourism splash in Hermanus

The tourism industry in Hermanus and related towns is up in arms about the new Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO), a body which was formed more than a year ago to market the whale coast from Rooi Els to Gansbaai.  

Whilst the mandate of the DMO is to market the Whale Coast, with monies supplied from the Overstrand municipality, generated from rates/taxes/levies on tourism businesses, according to its constitution, the DMO now is opening up an information kiosk in Hermanus, from which they will be taking bookings.  To receive such bookings, members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and other bureaux along the coast, must become members of the DMO as well, at an additional R 600 annual membership fee.

The irony is that the Hermanus Tourism Bureau had to send out the e-mail to its members, inviting membership of the DMO, offering such benefits as a discounted cost to distribute members’ marketing material at trade shows and for marketing and advertising projects, free listing on the Whale Coast website, and free brochure and collage display at the new Market Square Info kiosk, in competition to itself.   These should be standard benefits to members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau.

The criteria for membership state that one must pay the DMO a commission of 12 % (this is an unusually high rate, as 10 % is the norm. Cape Town Tourism charges 11 %) ; that one must be a member of a tourism bureau in the Cape Whale Coast area; and that one’s property must have a departure or zoning.

This means that all existing tourism bureau members, paying a membership fee to the Hermanus Tourism Bureau of R 520 for a medium-sized guesthouse/B&B must now pay another R 600 to the DMO to receive bookings from the new kiosk, in competition to the Tourism Bureau’s offices in Mitchell Street!   The Overstrand tourism bureaux receive a small grant from the DMO, out of its annual budget of R 2,5 million, and they are therefore reliant on making up the rest of their funding from the commission they receive for bookings made.  This is a serious threat to their funding, in Hermanus in particular, as the tourism bureau is not close to the whale watching spots.

According to the Constitution of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, all business owners paying rates and taxes are automatically members:  “Member” means a registered owner of an erf on which assessment rates are payable due to business which may, or is being conducted on that erf and such rates have been paid to the Municipality for the previous municipal financial year (or current financial year for 2007/8), and/or a person who is paying rental on that erf”.  This means that all ratepayers are members automatically, and cannot therefore be double-charged!

The DMO Constitution lists 21 objectives that the DMO must meet, and one of them says: “to maintain effective tourism bureaus in the region”.  It does not have an objective to create its own tourism bureaus, or to be booking agent, according to its Constitution.  Its role is a Marketing one predominantly. 

If the Cape Whale Coast DMO is modelled on Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the provincial marketing body, which is also a destination marketing organisation, then it is making a mistake!  Cape Town Routes Unlimited does not have members, and does not take bookings – it leaves this to Cape Town Tourism and all other tourism bureaux in the province.   It is a marketing body and focuses on marketing the Western Cape province.  This is what the Cape Whale Coast DMO should be doing too.

A further gripe is that the Whale Coast DMO spends too much of its budget on publications and advertising, and too little on web-driven marketing.    One of the DMO’s stated objectives is to “develop and maintain a world-class website” – this objective has not been met, as the website can not be called world class.

Of even greater concern is that Clinton Lerm, of the Misty Waves Hotel in Hermanus, is the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, which means that any concerns that members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau have about this or any other arrangement relating to the DMO cannot be fairly dealt with, due to the conflict of interests.  Lerm and his mother Maxie put up a strong fight to be elected to the board of the DMO, which raised many hackles at the time.  Maxie Lerm is in charge of the Public Relations of the DMO, which should not be handled by Board members.  The promise that a full-time CEO would manage the DMO, as per the Constitution, within a year of establishment of the DMO, has not been met.

The Cape Whale Coast website www.whalecoast.info shows another conflict of interest, in that the Lerm’s Misty Waves Hotel is featured in an ad on the Hermanus page, and is listed on the right hand side of the page as well.   Further ads for Misty Waves Hotel appear on the Home page, the Resources page, the News page and the About page.   At no stage since its inception has the DMO offered members of the Tourism Bureaux the opportunity to place ads on the website.  All other accommodation properties are listed by name over 4 pages, with a street address and telephone number, if one clicks onto a general Accommodation page. 

The Cape Whale Coast proudly lists Fernkloof Nature Reserve as the first of its “Resources” – the nature reserve has seen four bad attacks on hikers in the past few months, and the one on a Canadian couple, who are ex-South Africans, earlier this week has been communicated around the world, not being to the PR benefit of Hermanus at all!

A further oddity is that the Hermanus Tourism Bureau does not have one conglomerate website, but has various websites for accommodation, restaurants, activities, and arts, e.g. www.hermanusaccommodation.com, www.hermanusrestaurants.com.   The Bureau says it is working on building one website for all its separate parts, which would give it far greater search engine optimisation.

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