Tag Archives: tour operator

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 17 December

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Tourist arrivals grew by 5 % in the first six months of this year relative to the same period a year ago, with close to 5 million international tourist arrivals from January – June 2013.  Tourist arrivals from France, Germany, Italy, Asia, India, the USA, and Africa grew, while those from the Netherlands and the UK declined.

*   The Spur Corporation has bought the Hussar Grill chain of six steak restaurants for R35 million, and will develop the brand, taking it national.

*   Tour operator Francoise Armour has written a hard-hitting letter to Southern African Tourism Update, feeding back the poor experience of her clients when they go on a Robben Island tour.  Given that the number of bookings for the tour will now increase, she asks whether the iconic destination is worthy of the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela. Even more shocking than her detailed list of negatives about the Robben Island tours is the comments to her letter, in which many tour operators write that they no longer build Robben Island into their clients’ Cape Town tour itinerary!

*   Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille yesterday announced at a Day of Reconciliation event the renaming of the Fan Mile to Continue reading →

SATSA appoints David Frost as CEO, driving Tourism competitiveness!

David Frost SATSAThe Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA), an association of tourism operators, has appointed Economist and Tourism Strategist David Frost as its CEO. Given that SATSA represents a large number of tourism operators, and Frost does not fear speaking out, it will be interesting to see how he will drive his association and members to achieve his goal of enhancing the competitiveness of our country’s Tourism industry.

SATSA has more than 700 members who guarantee ‘quality in tourism‘, its website states.  This is achieved by annual assessments which are done of its members, and that all members are bonded, ‘providing a financial guarantee of deposits held against the involuntary liquidation of a SATSA member‘. Members span the transport, tour operator, destination management, accommodation, tourism broker, adventure tourism, business tourism, and tourism service sectors, the bulk of the components of the Tourism industry.  The main benefits of being a SATSA member are the lobbying done with the government on behalf of the industry, networking with other members, an Employee Benefit and Provident Fund, legal advice offered, member discounts, arbitration services, and newsletters.

Frost has a wide experience in Tourism, having moved into the Continue reading →

Cape Town Hotels more optimistic about this winter than in 2011!

A year ago we first conducted a survey of top-end hotel rates in Cape Town.  We repeated the survey in August 2011, and in November 2011, to track hotel pricing trends. Ellerman House has re-established itself as the most expensive Cape Town hotel, starting at R 4590 per room, and the Peninsula All Suite Hotel remains the least expensive 5-star hotel, at R1200 per room, the same rate as November 2011 and lower than a year ago.  The hotels in Cape Town appear more confident about the coming winter season, judging by their pricing policy, only half of them having decreased their rates relative to the past summer.

The survey found that the average rate of the sixteen 5-star Cape Town hotels surveyed is R 2780 per room, just under R1400 per person, an average decrease by 23% relative to the November 2011 rates.   Across all 29 hotels surveyed, the average rate per room is R 2297, or just over R 1100 per person, 21% lower on average than in November. The most expensive Presidential Suite is at the One & Only Cape Town, at R58541 per day, a rate which has not changed since November.  Interesting is that larger top-end suites seem to have seen rate increases, while the standard rooms are more likely to be discounted.

Once again it was interesting to hear how the calls were handled, most hotel reservation departments asking careful questions, to identify if the caller was a travel agent/tour operator or a corporate caller, the questioning being very specific in this regard. Holders of a Protea Hotel Prokard would have had different rates quoted.  Few hotels called had a rate sheet from which to quote immediately, having to access their computer for the ‘best available rate’ information, costing time, one hotel putting the call on hold to piped music while they did their rate calculations.  The poor quality of the call handling and quoting by the hotel Reservations departments must be a concern for their bosses, quoting odd rates (i.e. not rounded off) very quickly, making it difficult to understand and record them accurately; interrupting while one was still speaking; inability to understand and hear the request, having to repeat the dates, and the number of persons;  the question ‘group or individual’ is asked bluntly, without explanation; not all hotels quote rates with breakfast included, despite being asked for this rate (Protea Hotels quote room only, and seem surprised when asked to add the breakfast rate); The Protea Hotel group quotes day by day rates, and the reservations staff struggle to quote an average rate, making it tedious to obtain quotes from them, as they have to quote the average rate and then add the breakfast rate. The Portswood/Commodore Hotels, Bay Hotel/Village & Life, and Newmark Hotels group have the same switchboard for different hotels, and even if one dials the specific hotel selected, one is asked which hotel one wants to book at!  For hoteliers it must be frightening to hear that not one of the 29 hotels called had a call to action, in encouraging one to make a booking, given that Cape Town has the best hotels in Africa.

Half the hotels have decreased their rates since November 2011, now quoting winter rates.  However, Steenberg Hotel increased its rate from November 2011, by 4%.  Interesting is the 36 % rate increase in the past five months for the African Pride Hotels 15 on Orange and Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa.  The Ambassador Hotel has increased its rate by 27 % since November 2011.  The Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge has been known for its competitive rates, but has increased them by 24 % for winter, and is no longer the cheapest hotel of those surveyed.      The largest rate decreases since November 2011 were by the V&A Hotel (45%),  Dock House (37%), and the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel (35%).  The rate of the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice increased by a dramatic 107% relative to last winter!  The Commodore Hotel (61%) and Portswood Hotel (45%) also increased their winter rates strongly. Interesting is that the Steenberg Hotel, voted the best hotel in Africa by Conde Nast Traveler readers, ranks 4th on price now,  having ranked at 10th position a mere five months ago.  The Protea Hotel-operated properties generally are at the lower end of the price ranking, being more attractively priced to fill their beds.

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

Ellerman House, 5 star, R4590 – R14680. (The 3-room villa was offered at R45441 and the 5-room villa at R68000). Tel (021) 430-3200 (8% rate decrease)

Cape Grace Hotel, 5 star, R4555.10 – R15388 for the penthouse, Tel (021) 410-7100 (1% increase)

Mount Nelson Hotel, 5 star, R3730 – R11290. Tel (021) 483-1000 (24% rate increase)

Steenberg Hotel, 5 star, R3580– R14580. Tel (021) 713-2222 (Not included in May 2011)

One & Only Cape Town, 5 star, R3490 – R58541 for the Presidential Suite.  The non-South African resident rate starts at R4856 Tel (021) 431-5888 (10% rate decrease)

15 on Orange Hotel, 5 star, R2750 – R5370 for the one-bedroom penthouse, Tel (021) 469-8000 (1 % rate decrease)

Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa, 5 star, R2650 – R3750.  Tel (021) 525-3888 (25% rate increase)

Commodore Hotel, 4 star, R2580 – R8040.  Tel (021) 415-1000 (61% rate increase)

The Westin Cape Town, 5 star, R2410 – R40000 for Presidential Suite. Tel (021) 412-9999 (19 % rate decrease)

Dock House, 5 star, R 2396 – R3115. Tel (021) 421-9334 (37% rate decrease)

Table Bay Hotel, 5 star, R2360 – R4760 for South African residents, R2840 – R6050 for non-South Africans. Tel (021) 406-5000 (25% rate decrease)

Twelve Apostles Hotel, 5 star, R2325 – R4565 for Bed & Breakfast, 3-course dinner, movie and popcorn, only for South African residents.  Non-South Africans pay R4165 – R8845 per room and breakfast.  Tel (021) 437-9000 (19% rate decrease)

Portswood Hotel, 4 star, R 2320 – R 3960.  Tel (021) 415-1000 (45% rate increase)

Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, 5 star, R2300 – R10000 for the Presidential Suite.  Tel (021) 430-0500 (35% rate decrease)

The Taj Hotel, 5 star, R2300 – R40000 for Presidential Suite. Tel (021) 819-2000 (5% rate increase)

Queen Victoria Hotel, not graded yet but seeking 5 stars, R2028 – R15000, Tel (021) 418-1466 (8% rate increase)

Bay Hotel, 5 star, R2000- R2800.  Tel (021) 438-4444 (25% rate increase)

Protea Fire & Ice Hotel, 3 star,  R1860 – R2110, Tel (021) 488-2555 (107% rate increase!)

Cullinan Hotel, 5 star, R1850  – R5159.  Tel (021) 415-4000 (14% rate decrease)

Victoria Junction Hotel, 4 star, R 1850 – R 2150 Tel (021) 418-1234 (10% rate increase)

V & A Hotel, 4 star, R1720 – R2170 . Tel (021) 415-1000 (45% rate decrease)

Ambassador Hotel, 4 star, R1590 – R2020. Tel (021) 439-6176 (17% rate decrease)

Winchester Mansions Hotel, 4 star, R1550 – R3550.  Tel (021) 434-2351 (5 % rate increase)

Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, 4 star, R1550 – R3220. Tel (021) 409-4000 (11 % rate decrease).

Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, no star grading, R1445 standard room, R1690 business suite. Tel (021) 406-1911 (12% rate increase).

President Hotel, 4 star, R1306 – R1723. Tel (021) 434-8111 (11% rate decrease)

Peninsula All Suite Hotel, 5 star, R1200 – R3490.  Tel (021) 430-7777 (24% rate decrease)

Vineyard Hotel, 4 star, R1165 – R4270. Tel (021) 657-4500. (Not included in May 2011)

Cape Sun Hotel, 4 star, R1160 – R5920 for Presidential Suite.  Tel (021) 488-5100 (23% rate decrease).

POSTSCRIPT 4/5: Two Cape Town hotels, the Alphen Boutique Hotel (not yet included in this survey) and the Queen Victoria Hotel, are the only two South African hotels on the Conde Nast Traveler Hot List of Best New Hotels 2012.  Frommers.com has selected Steenberg Hotel in its Top 12 ‘Best Vineyards Inns & Hotels around the World’, the only South African hotel on the list.

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

Ja wohl: German tourist numbers to the Cape on the increase!

Given the near drought of UK accommodation bookings for the coming summer season, it is gratifying to see an above average number of bookings from German tourists.  A recent visit to South Africa, and to Cape Town specifically, of a group of German travel agents should see an even greater number of German tourists.

The 2010 Soccer World Cup led to the immediate benefit of German bookings, given the outstanding coverage our city and country received on each of the days that a German team played during the World Cup.  German TV station ZDF, using our ex-Miss South Africa Jo-Ann Strauss as its presenter, and directed by local resident Dagmar Schumacher, broadcast from a number of destinations around the country for an hour prior to each match.

Last week a group of 55 travel agents from Meier’s Weltreisen, a tourism company specialising in long-distance package tours for Germans and Austrians, including the rental of cars and campervans, as well as offering tailor-made tours, visited South Africa, and spent time in Cape Town too.   Meier’s Welreisen is one of the largest German tour operators, and is celebrating its 30th year of operation this year.

“Germany is a key and crucial tourism market for South Africa, and we invest significantly in encouraging Germans to visit here. While our arrivals from the country are already posting a strong recovery, more than 17.5% increase recorded for the first five months of 2011, we also recognise the need to continue strengthening trade relations as an avenue to long term sustainable growth”, said Fiona Buchner, Regional Director: Europe, of SA Tourism.

The itinerary of the Meier’s Weltreisen group visit, organised in conjunction with SA Tourism, SAA and Private Safaris, included Johannesburg, Sun City, the Garden Route, the Eastern Cape, Madikwe Game Reserve, and the Western Cape.  Buchner said that over and above showing the agents the tourist sites, they also wanted to show them the ‘welcoming people and enriching experiences‘ of the country, being the ‘typical encounter that the German traveller sees’. Meier’s Weltreisen Director of the Africa Division, Martina Beeken, said: “South Africa is one of our most important partners in terms of long-haul travel and we look forward to fully experiencing the fascinating cultural mix; warm, friendly and welcoming people and the beautiful scenery that South Africa offers.  South Africa is a world-class tourism destination with an outstanding hospitality offering of which service, accessibility, and value for money are the foundation”. Fantastic praise indeed!

In Cape Town the group was spoilt with a welcome dinner at which Cape Minstrels performed, an Amazing Race-style event through the V&A Waterfront, ‘champagne and oysters’ (one would hope that it was good Winelands MCC!) at Cape Point, and a transfer to the Winelands in vintage cars, reports The Event.

The Whale Cottage Portfolio has seen a marked increase in bookings from German guests, some being return visitors, and others booking at Whale Cottage Hermanus in particular, to see the whales, guests seeing listings about the guest house in a number of German travel guides.

It is surprising and disappointing that Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited appeared to not have been involved in the visit by the Meier’s Weltreisen travel agents, in that no welcome was accorded the group via Twitter or media presence!

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

Majority of Cape Town hotels not reacting to tourism crisis!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hotels in Cape Town offer good range of rates, but discriminatory to foreigners

An article in the Cape Business News, entitled “Fedhasa to monitor Cape hotel pricing”, echoed a promise of such a survey by FEDHASA Cape Chairman Dirk Elzinga at the recent Tourism Destination Conference.  Elzinga promised that his association would conduct the survey in response to the accusation by Conference speaker and Cape Town Routes Unlimited Chairman Peter Bacon as well as provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde, that Cape Town’s hotels are expensive, and do not reflect the law of supply and demand, which should bring down rates, given poor demand, thereby giving our city a bad reputation, it was alleged. 

Given that FEDHASA Cape still has not conducted the promised survey, I decided to do my own independent survey last week, to get a feel for pricing of the largest and best known Cape Town hotels, asking them for their May rates.  Ellerman House is the most expensive Cape Town hotel by far, starting at R5000 per room, and the Peninsula All Suite Hotel is the least expensive 5-star hotel, at R1570 per room.  The opening offer of R1875 per room at the Queen Victoria Hotel is exceptional, given what it offers.  Interesting too is that a number of 4-star hotels are more expensive than some 5-star hotels.  The survey found that the average rate of the sixteen 5-star hotels surveyed is R2939 per room, just under R1500 per person.   Across all 27 hotels surveyed, the average rate per room is R2419, or just over R1200 per person, not cheap given that it is winter in May, and that there is poor demand. 

It was interesting to hear how the calls were handled, most hotel reservation departments asking careful questions, to identify if the caller was a travel agent/tour operator, single or double, a corporate business client, South African ID book holder, and/or a Protea Hotel Prokard holder, all of which would have affected the rate quoted.  Few hotels called had a rate sheet from which to quote immediately, having to access their computer for the information, costing time.

The rates were checked for 3 – 6 May (or the dates nearest these if one or more dates were fully booked already), per room for 2 adults sharing and inclusive of Breakfast per day, so as to compare the rates fairly.  We added breakfast to the rates where these were quoted separately.   We have ranked the hotel rates from most to least expensive:

Ellerman House, 5 star, R5000 – R15700, Tel (021) 430-3200

Cape Grace Hotel, 5 star, R 4510 – R 5680, Tel (021) 410-7100

One&Only Cape Town, 5 star, R3889 for South Africans – R5990 for non-South Africans. Tel (021) 819-2000

Dock House, 5 star, R3790 (but pay for 2 days, stay for 3 days offer). Tel (021) 421-9334

Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, 5 star, R3565.  Tel (021) 430-0500

Table Bay Hotel, 5 star, R3166 for South Africans, R 6000 for non-South Africans, Tel (021) 406-5000

V & A Hotel, 4 star, R3115 (but special 2 days pay for 3 days stay offer), Tel (021) 415-1000

Mount Nelson Hotel, 5 star, R 3000. Tel (021) 483-1000

Westin Grand Arabella Quays, 5 star, R 2960. Tel (021) 412-9999

Twelve Apostles, 5 star, R2865 – R4480.  Tel (021) 437-9000

15 on Orange Hotel, 5 star, R2770 – R2970, Tel (021) 469-8000

The Taj Hotel, 5 star, R2200. Tel (021) 819-2000

Cullinan Hotel, 5 star, R2150.  Tel (021) 415-4000

Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa, 5 star, R2120 – R3220.  Tel (021) 525-3888

Ambassador Hotel, 4 star, R1920 (but stay for 3 and pay for 2 nights offer), Tel (021) 439-6176

Queen Victoria Hotel, not graded yet but seeking 5 stars, R1875 special opening rate until July, Tel (021) 418-1466

Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, 4 star, R1750. Tel (021) 409-4000

Victoria Junction Hotel, 4 star, R 1686. Tel (021) 418-1234

Commodore Hotel, 4 star, R1600.  Tel (021) 415-1000

Portswood Hotel, 4 star, R 1600.  tel (021) 415-1000

Bay Hotel, 5 star, R1600 – R2100 for South Africans, R 2590 – R3690 for non-South Africans.  Tel (021) 438-4444

Peninsula All Suite Hotel, 5 star, R 1570.  Tel (021) 430-7777

Cape Sun Hotel, 4 star, R1500.  Tel (021) 488-5100

Winchester Mansions Hotel, 4 star,  R1470 – R1930.  Tel (021) 434-2351

President Hotel, 4 star, R1460 – R1660. Tel (021) 434-8111

Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, no star grading, R 1295 standard, R1665 business rooms. Tel (021) 406-1911 

Protea Hotel Fire & Ice Hotel, 3 star, R 900, Tel (021) 488-2555

To contrast the rates of hotels in the city, a rate survey was also conducted amongst the 24 members of the Camps Bay Accommodation Association, consisting of mainly 4-star guest houses.  The average May rate for the Association members is R766 – R1173 per room, the lowest rate being R500 per room.  The most expensive rate is R1600 for the 5-star Atlantic House.  Guest houses have dropped their winter rates by up to 50 % for many years already, understanding about demand and supply

What is most disturbing is that some hotels are offering South Africans better rates than they would offer international guests, very short-sighted in our opinion, given that it signals to international guests that they are not as desired, and means that they could be staying away from Cape Town and going on holiday elsewhere.  Price discrimination against foreigners is something the provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde should urge FEDHASA Cape to fight against, and to encourage hotels to drop this practice.

POSTSCRIPT 20/4: Rey Franco, Deputy Chairman of FEDHASA Cape, has e-mailed this comment: “Thanks for this, I do need to correct you on one specific comment you have made by saying we have not done the survey. Rema and I are checking the rates daily, on Expedia, booking.com and others. It is important to note that we decided to do the survey over a minimum of 3 months before releasing any information in order to ascertain the actual status of the rates stituation. Something the media forgot to mention. I am sure you would agree that looking at rates for only a few days is certainly not going to show any worthy trend. To show you why this survey must be conducted over a longer period I have attached the rates as displayed this morning under the certain categories for your perusal. You will see how low they are. See what you can get from the Taj! It is also important to note that rates will vary dependant on demand especially where large conferences and events are concerned. Another reason why rates need to be averaged out correctly. I will do the same daily searches on the additional hotels you have tested to ensure a wider trend analysis.”

POSTSCRIPT 24/4:  We received the following e-mail from Dirk Elzinga, Chairman of FEDHASA Cape: thank you for your email/copy of your blog that was passed on to me while I am travelling overseas. It made some interesting reading, and I am sure that we are able to make good use of your suggestions. I trust that the response you received from Rey Franco is clear to you, and that you do understand that we as Fedhasa try to get some 
realy (sic) reliable information about the relative pricing of our hotels in Cape Town. A once off snap shot comparison obviously does not serve this purpose. We definitely will inform our members and the media about our findings of this ongoing survey as soon as we feel that we have collected sufficient data to express an opinion based on facts. As Rey wrote, this will at least take three months or so.”

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

England fans Sweet & African Eagle Sour Service Awards

The Sweet Service Award goes to the England supporters, who so bravely and in a sportsman-like manner accepted the outcome of their Round of 16 match against Germany just less than 2 weeks ago.   Despite the loss, they partied and no reports of hooliganism were received, something which has been associated with English soccer fans in the past.

                       

The Sour Service Award goes to Enver of African Eagle, for the poor service a group of Whale Cottage World Cup guests, who had booked the company to do a day-tour to Aquilla, received.   The company’s guide called the Whale Cottage Camps Bay Manager Marianna at 5h45 to obtain directions!   They called again, to say they could not find the house, and were given the correct address again.   It took a further 30 minutes for them to reach the guest house.   An hour later the guests returned, saying that they had asked to be returned to Whale Cottage Camps Bay, as the driver was still looking for other clients at 8h00, when they should have reached Aquilla already and had breakfast there!   It took Enver 24 hours to return Marianna’s call of complaint, due to a message that had not been passed on to him by his staff.  When he took ownership of the problem, Enver immediately apologised and explained that he had used a new Portuguese-speaking guide, who had been requested by other booked clients, but who did not know Cape Town well.   Enver promised to drop off bottles of wine for the Whale Cottage guests and chocolates for Marianna, to apologise for the poor service.   The guests have long since checked out and the promised wine and chocolates have not been received! 

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 info@whalecottage.com.   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.

So how well is Cape Town really doing in the World Cup?

Cape Town Tourism issued a media release “A Mid-Way 2010 FIFA World Cup Report from Cape Town Tourism” on Friday, which has (frighteningly) been picked up by news agencies and reported upon immediately.

My problem with surveys conducted by companies that do not have the faintest idea of market research is that the answers received will only be as good or as bad as the questions asked.  I knew immediately that the results would be used for publicity purposes when I received a survey participation request as an accommodation establishment from Cape Town Tourism two weeks ago.

The first questionnaire was embarrassingly bad, with poor grammar, poor time scales provided as answer options, leading questions asked, and a 5-day timeline referred to when they meant 7 days!   I wrote to Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold immediately, telling her that it would be irresponsible if the results were to be used for PR purposes.  I offered my help, having been a market researcher for 20 years, and was sent the second accommodation survey for input a week later.   I had to correct almost every question, and hoped that it would be used as it had been corrected.  But no, many questions were altered, new ones introduced relative to the draft questionnaire, making comparison between week 1 and week 2 impossible, more grammatical errors were made in that my corrections were “corrected” nonsensically, so much so that I wrote to Du Toit-Helmbold again, withdrawing my offer to assist in future, in not wanting to be associated with such unprofessional work and by implication condone its irresponsible use for publicity purposes.

And so two days after the last “survey” went out, the results of the two weeks’ “surveys” were neatly packaged and presented as a valid “survey” and findings presented as the gospel in a press release for all the world to read!

The first problem is that the sample size is not specified – i.e. the number of respondents relative to the universe of accommodation establishments.  Second, the “survey” only would reflect Cape Town Tourism members, and not all accommodation establishments in Cape Town (in Camps Bay, for example, most guest houses do not belong to Cape Town Tourism) – this is not mentioned in the press release, which is irresponsible in itself.  Third, the geographic definition that was used in the press release was the “Cape Town Metropole” – in my definition that would be the inner city of Cape Town, but in the definition of the City of Cape Town, it would be the municipal area of the whole area of Cape Town (e.g. Southern Suburbs, Atlantic Seaboard, Northern Suburbs, and even Somerset West and Strand).   Incorporating all of these areas of greater Cape Town would certainly skew the findings – whilst the press release referred to such areas as Green Point and City Bowl, the suburb of the respondents was not asked in the questionnaires, which makes one wonder how they got to this information!

And so if one were to waste one’s time in evaluating the results of the accommodation “survey”, the finding of a 40 % average occupancy would reflect the geographic bias in the “survey” design, as low occupancy of guest houses in Somerset West or Durbanville would reduce the higher occupancies in the city and Atlantic Seaboard areas on average.   The press release reports an average occupancy of 71 % for the City Bowl, Waterfront and Green Point areas.  Once again, this finding is questioned as the geographic question was not asked, and the respondents were anonymous!   Where the press release states that the “survey” found that business had improved in the second week of the World Cup, our experience in Camps Bay is the opposite, it having become very quiet since the departure of the England fans last Monday. The majority of the 25000 Dutch fans (unfortunately for Cape Town) camped at the Berg River Resort in Paarl.

Even worse is the predictions that are made by the writer of the release, sent out by the Cape Town Tourism’s PR company Rabbit in a Hat Communications, the authors of the “survey” questionnaire.  It finds that the average length of stay is only 3 – 4 days (we would disagree), and predicts that the “length of stay in Cape Town will increase as the tournament progresses.  Cape Town hosts a Quarter Final on Saturday, 3 July and the Semi Final on Tuesday, 6 July 2010 and expects visitor numbers will peak during these times”.  Anyone observing the movement of soccer fans will know that this is a dangerous prediction to make, and that soccer fans follow their teams, not cities!  The teams playing the Round of 16 in Cape Town tomorrow are Portugal and Spain, and Germany faces Argentina in the Quarter Final on Saturday, but no additional bookings have been received from their fans.  The teams for the Semi Final are not yet known, and therefore bookings are not being made for these dates yet.  However, it may be impossible to still buy tickets for these last three Cape Town matches, as they were the first to be ‘sold out’, according to media reports.

More reliable information is contained in the press release as far as other tourism World Cup indicators are concerned:

*   Cape Town International airport reports that its number of international arrivals is up by 44 %, the busiest day to date being 20 June, when 25 000 passengers were “processed”.   Bookings for flights to South Africa were being made while England was playing Slovenia last Wednesday, the release says.

*   Luxury coach company Springbok Atlas reports fully booked coaches, with two trips per day per coach on average

*   Car rental companies “are reporting mixed results, many saying that figures have been disappointing but that business increases around match days”, say the press release.

*   The 18 branch offices of Cape Town Tourism report a 16 % increase in “international visitors” and a 3 % decline in “domestic visitors”, compared to the same period as last year.  One wonders how this is recorded, as the country of origin has never been seen to be recorded when visiting such a branch.

*   The V&A Waterfront reports that its tenants are enjoying trading as in the summer season, with 150 000 – 160 000 persons per day (not all tenants would agree).

*   The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company reports increased business of 50 % higher than in 2009

*   The Cape Quarter reports good results for its restaurants, and less so for the retail tenants

*   Tour operator business has increased by 20 % (this comes from another Cape Town Tourism “survey”, so the result should be treated with caution, as the sample size was not revealed)

*   Restaurants must be trading very poorly, as their business levels compared to 2009 are not reported

*   Probably the most valuable measurement of success of the World Cup to date is the media coverage for Cape Town.   Cape Town Tourism reports that it has hosted 205 international journalists since January until 10 June, mainly focusing on the readiness of the city to host the World Cup.   Since 11 June 85 international journalists were hosted on sightseeing tours of the city, and information was provided to 93 media channels.  The Media Centre at the Cape Town Stadium, as well as at the Fan Park at the Grand Parade, is staffed by Cape Town Tourism, and the brochures and information packs provided to the media are commendable.

(An irony is that FIFA President Sepp Blatter wanted a new stadium in Cape Town for media purposes, because Table Mountain could not be seen from the old Green Point Stadium.  The few meters that the Stadium had to be moved meant a spectacularly beautiful new building for the city, which in fact is the backdrop for much international media reporting, taking away from the beautiful landmarks Cape Town has.  The new Stadium therefore is an important landmark in its own right, a surprise outcome).

*   VIP visitors to Cape Town have been an accolade for the city (not reported upon by Cape Town Tourism), and the stay in Cape Town last week by Princes William and Harry, London Mayor Boris Johnson and David Beckham have already been documented on this blog.  Now Bill Clinton is visiting the city, staying at one of the Penthouses of the One&Only Hotel in the Waterfront.   Prince Harry has also returned to Cape Town after last week’s match, and was seen having lunch at the Grand on the Beach on Thursday.

*   One should not forget how good Cape Town is looking, and the World Cup has done the city proud in its upgraded and largely smooth-flowing N1 and N2 highways, its beautiful new airport building and recently renovated train station, its modern buses, upgrade of Green Point, upgrade of the Grand Parade, the great walkability of the Fan Mile, the greening of Green Point, and upgrade of the Metropolitan Golf Club, new modern street lighting around Green Point, the lit-up Table Mountain – all combining to make Cape Town feel like a world-class city, even to its residents!

*  If media reports are to be believed, Cape Town has been approached to host the Olympic Games in 2020 – what an amazing compliment for the city.

To fill the tourism gaps in Cape Town (having been left out of much of the action in only having eight matches played at the Cape Town Stadium, and no teams based in the city), Cape Town Tourism has embarked on a “Come to Cape Town” marketing campaign, to attract Johannesburg-based soccer fans to come to Cape Town in-between matches.  Airline partners are offering flights at R 700 one-way, while accommodation establishments are offering their rooms at R 500 per person.

*   Cape Town Tourism’s funder, the City of Cape Town, simultaneously reported on the status of Cape Town, but this was not incorporated in the Cape Town Tourism press release.   Mansoor Mohamed, the Executive Director of Economic and Social Development and Tourism of the City, indicated that informal traders were doing well,  more expensive hotels were experiencing low occupancy (20 – 40 %), and that restaurants “are also doing better than expected trade, with some even beating their actual Christmas figures”, reports South Africa.info.  We disagree with the restaurant finding, having experienced empty restaurants, and observing soccer fans mainly ordering beer and very little food when they sit in pubs and restaurants.    Mohamed has admitted that his observations are based on “initial surveys”, and stated that the economic impact of the World Cup will be established by means of comprehensive research at the end of the tournament.  “The World Cup is the single most important event for South Africa and the African continent in recent time.  It is positively changing the world’s perceptions about Africa” Mohamed said.

*   A very low-key but most high profile event taking place in Cape Town until today (not reported upon by Cape Town Tourism in their media release) is the Fortune, TIME and CNN Global Forum.  About 140 heads of global and local companies such a Royal Dutch Shell, China Mobile, Deutsche Bank, The Coca Cola Company, DuPont, Rio Tinto Group, McKinsey & Company, Trilogy, Merck Vaccines, Kissinger Associates, Inc, De Beers Group, Richemont SA, One&Only, Naspers Limited, De Beers Group, SEACOM Limited, ABSA Group Limited, Standard Bank Group, Symantec, First Rand Limited, Sanlam Limited, Pioneer Foods, Investec Asset Management, and Daimler, paying $5000 each to attend, will meet influential persons from TIME magazine’s top 100 list, reports the Weekend Argus.  Bill Clinton, Ex-President FW de Klerk, Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, Minister of Trade & Industry Rob Davies, Francois Pienaar, and World Cup Local Organising Committee Danny Jordaan and others will be addressing the Forum, while President Zuma will be addressing the delegates via satellite from the G20 summit in Canada. High level journalists and news anchors from Time, Fortune, CNN, and CBS News will also attend the Forum at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.  Delegates are staying at the Mount Nelson Hotel and the Cullinan Hotel.

There can be no doubt that Cape Town is busier than it would have been in any other June.  The reality is that May was the worst month ever experienced, the World Cup having created a vacuum of bookings.  One hopes the same is not true for the rest of July.  It is disturbing to see the low number of bookings made for Christmas and New Year, traditionally the most popular period in Cape Town, and a period that would have been booked up by now already.  If Whale Cottage Camps Bay is anything to go by, it is going to be a lean summer, despite the World Cup hype – the British travellers are the largest source of bookings for Cape Town, and they are under severe financial pressure with the new Conservative/Lib-Dem government having imposed stringent financial measures in their budget earlier this week, including an increase in VAT of 2,5 percentage points to 20%.  Many countries in Europe are also facing tight economic measures imposed by their governments (e.g. Greece, Italy, Spain) and even Germany is affected by Europe’s economic woes.

An interesting issue is the effect of the World Cup on travel aspirations to South Africa of Americans.  The American soccer fans were the largest ticket-buying nation of all, beating England and Germany, and were the first to book, more than a year ago.

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