On 2 January of this year I adopted a stream near the Camps Bay Tidal Pool, having seen it clogged up with plastic and other rubbish left by picnickers on the infamous New Year’s Day. Since then I visit the stream every day, to clean it up, removing all the rubbish from it. A week ago Straatwerk workers assisted me in removing all the water weeds that had grown in the stream, and the rubbish that was trapped underneath the plants, returning the stream into its beautiful former self, an asset for Camps Bay and other Capetonians. Continue reading →
It was Futurist Faith Popcorn who predicted a trend of ‘Recareering’ back in the ‘Seventies, one having multiple careers in a lifetime, at a time when I myself was in my first career as a Futurist. I could not have foreseen that my career path from Futurist to Market Researcher, Marketing Lecturer, Research Consultant, Food PR Consultant, and then Guest House owner for the last 19 years would lead me to my new and seventh career, to that as a Continue reading →
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 16/6: Business 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
The Winelands is clearly seen to be a geographic area with money, if the launch of two lifestyle publications is anything to go by. Last month the Spring 2010 edition of Franschhoek Style was launched, while winestyle was introduced to bloggers and to potential advertisers earlier this month, its launch Summer 2011 issue expected in December. Both publications are published quarterly and are offered free of charge.
Franschhoek Style is the brainchild of the publishers SchÃ¤fer Media, owners of the Franschhoek Tatler, being Barry Phillips and Siegfried Schaefer, and is described by them as “a magazine reflecting the good life in Franschhoek”. The publication is a glossy, coffee-table type, which one can leave in a guest house lounge as well as look forward to reading, in being informative about Franschhoek. The editor is Helen Naude, who manages the Franschhoek community radio station. The first issue contains an impressive number of ads, given the state of the economy, from tour operator &Beyond, Akademie Street Guest Houses, Oyster (wood-based designs), Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa, TAGHeuer, Solms Delta, Mont Rochelle, Franschhoek Cellars, Peacock Blue, Ebony decor shop, The Sofa Studio, The Diamond Works, Viglietti Motors, Franschhoek Manor, Ashbourne House, Indian Summer, Le Bon Vivant, Paarlberg BMW , Rusthof, Auberge La Dauphine, Seeff, Graham Beck and Investec. What is missing from the list is Le Quartier Francais, a surprise as it is usually the first to hijack prominence in a Franschhoek publication. The design by Virtual Da Vinci Creative Room is clean, and the thick paper and glossy finish make this publication top quality, reflective of what Franschhoek stands for.
Editorial offers shopping advice for wines and decor items to be found in Franschhoek; a ‘Spring Diary’ listing events; a review of Fyndraai Restaurant at Solms Delta; a Franschhoek Uncorked overview of the wines of the wine estates that participated in the festival; a write-up of the prestigious and best accommodation in Franschhoek, being La Residence (at which Elton John stays when in the Cape); an article about the effect of fires on fynbos; a write-up of Rickety Bridge; Franschhoek wine profiles; “Three perfect days in Franschhoek”; a profile of entrepreneur Mike Bosman; a feature on the art galleries in Franschhoek; an article on the La Motte Mountain Meander, on which one can spot baboons and blushing brides; a write-up on the BMW 5 series; a write-up of Le Jardinet; a profile of Minnie Pietersen, who heads up the Youth Empowerment Action project for street children in Franschhoek; a book review page; and a write-up of Sante’s Wellness Centre. What is commendable is that a digital version of the magazine is available, and is quick to download and easy to page through and read, unlike Crush!, the digital food and wine magazine, that is still struggling with technical problems, including its first page, which does not open.
As I typed this blog post, I had the sinking feeling that most of the publication’s editorial in fact was advertorial, with either being an exchange for advertising placed, or straight paid-for advertorials. Readers today are smart, in identifying such advertorial, which is not disclosed nor marked as such, and lowers the credibility of the publication, no matter how well designed and glossy it is, and could therefore make it unattractive for guest houses to stock. Franschhoek Style: www.franschhoekstyle.co.za
winestyle is a publication of the Manta Media group, publishers of a collection of seemingly unrelated magazines, being winestyle, surfing and diving. Jenny Ratcliffe is the editor of the magazine, a most suitable person given her family’s Warwick ownership. Not surprisingly, the launch of the magazine was held at Warwick. What is refreshing about the publishing of magazines by Manta Media is that it is so environmentally friendly. Instead of publishing x number of copies every quarter, it is printed on demand, after one registers for free. The magazine is then posted to the readers, which means that the publishers are efficient about the number of copies they print, and there is no wastage. This results from the niche publishing company asking itself: “how should magazines be published in the digital age?” By registering its readers in a database, the publishers of winestyle will send regular news updates to its reader database by e-mail, keeping them informed weekly about wine news. For advertisers the benefit of this publishing approach is of immense benefit in that the readers are winelovers who request to subscribe by registering, giving quality readership. winestyle will not be available for sale in retail outlets, to maintain its reader focus. An online shop will sell the products of the magazine’s advertisers. The most expensive advertisement, a 3-page inside front cover gatefold, costs R 11700 exclusive of VAT. winestyle: www.mantamedia.co.za
Chris von Ulmenstein: Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
The Sweet Service Award goes to Mercedes Benz Financial Services, for extending their Easter promotion, entailing one month free repayment if one called a number on receiving an SMS, into May. The customer did not know that MBFS stood for Mercedes Benz Financial Services, and that the SMS was not spam, and was to be taken seriously. They agreed that customers may have missed out on the promotion by not understanding the origin of the SMS, and therefore granted the extension of the promotion, a welcome saving of a month’s repayment!
The Sour Service Award goes to Seeff Properties, for creating high expectations amongst private property owners in Host Cities around the country, and in Cape Town in particular, using soccer hero Gary Bailey as their spokesperson. The owner of an apartment in Green Point, Jenny Stephens, listed her property with Seeff on Regent Road in Sea Point last year, and was prescribed as to the additional facilities that would need to be provided to make the apartment marketable for a World Cup rental. She did not hear from the rental agent again for four months, until she wrote last month to say that whilst the demand for such accommodation is high in Johannesburg, “Less visitors will base themselves in Cape Town. In fact, the demand at this stage is for shorter periods, on average five to seven days”. The agent also blamed the cancellation of MATCH room nights, as well as the high costs of match and airline tickets for the lower demand for accommodation, and wrote that the rates they had previously promised were no longer achievable. The agency therefore recommended a rental rate decrease to Mrs Stephens. Seeff is said to be taking 25 % commission on the rental bookings, sounding almost as greedy as MATCH! As Mrs Stephens could no longer wait for Seeff to rent out her property, she extended the lease with existing tenants.
The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog. Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org. Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.
As MATCH is unable to fill the missing 15 000 beds it requires to accommodate FIFA’s officials, sport teams and ticket package holders, it has made the shock announcement that it is letting go of its requirement that 2010 World Cup accommodation must be graded by the Tourism Grading Council, reports the Southern African Tourism Update.
MATCH requires 55 000 rooms, and has contracted 40 495 rooms to date, of which 75 % are hotel rooms and 25 % small accommodation rooms.
The report says that MATCH will use its “discretion” to select non-graded accommodation for the event. The Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Tourism and MATCH will be amended to reflect the grading requirement change.
However, Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk was adamant that he preferred that graded accommodation be used: “The South African government neither supports nor promotes the use of non-graded accommodation establishments. Furthermore, the South African government respects the right of all accommodation establishments, whether graded or not, to choose whether they want to contract with MATCH or not”. These are interesting words, reflecting the Minister’s understanding of the resistance to MATCH by the small accommodation sector, regularly reported by WhaleTales in this blog.
In the media statement, MATCH reiterated that it will not contract private homes, an initiative driven by Seeff and Pam Golding estate agencies.
FEDHASA National CEO Brett Dungan addressed the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee last week, and trashed the Sunday Times report of a week prior, which described the resistance from the small accommodation sector to FIFA’s “MATCH-fixing”. Southern African Tourism Update reports that Dungan said that MATCH requires “100 000 rooms”, clearly an exaggeration of the FIFA accommodation requirement. Dungan is also quoted as saying that only 13 % of small accommodation establishments have contracted with MATCH, which, if correct, reflects how deep the distrust of MATCH is by small establishments. Dungan also is quoted as saying that a 20 % commission is a standard fee to pay when receiving business from tour operators. Once again he appears to be poorly informed, as MATCH is taking a 30 % (not 20 %) commission on top of the 2010 accommodation rates, a most exceptionally high rate. Dungan did acknowledge that there would not be enough accommodation in each of the towns and cities with 2010 soccer stadia, according to the report.
One of the solutions to general accommodation during June and July 2010 is cruise ships, not for MATCH, but for soccer fan groups and individuals. The QE2 from Dubai was reported to have requested docking in the Cape Town harbour, but Minister van Schalkwyk had strongly rejected the request, saying that South African accommodation establishments should be supported.
The latest news on cruise ships is that a German based company Moltke Promotion GmbH, through its subsidiary One Ocean Club, has partnered with IKapa Tours & Travel. The MS Noordam is reported by Southern African Tourism Update to be based in Durban harbour, accommodating soccer fans, who will be taken to Port Elizabeth for the quarter final, and for the third and fourth place play-off. The MS Westerdam will be based in Port Elizabeth for the first half of the soccer tournament, and then will be cruising between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town in the second half.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio www.whalecottage.com]