Tag Archives: tourism crisis

Cape Town Tourism misleads tourism industry on state of winter business (or lack of)!

It is shocking to see how Cape Town Tourism publishes meaningless media statements, especially during winter, to attempt to deceive the tourism industry about the state of business.  Every tourism business owner and manager is aware how poor the current winter business is on a daily basis.  Last week the predictable media release once again was sent out, exaggerating the ‘state of the tourist nation’, when most in the industry are reporting that their current winter performance is even worse than 2011, which then was labelled as ‘a tourism crisis‘.

Cape Town Tourism conducts a survey amongst its members irregularly, and reported that the 83 members (out of at least 1000 – 1500 accommodation members making up the bulk of its membership, an embarrassingly poor response rate) had experienced unbelievable occupancy levels of 50 % and 39% in April and May, respectively.  Making the figures even more unbelievable is that Cape Town Tourism’s membership is no reflection of the average accommodation establishment in Cape Town, many leading guest houses having elected to no longer be members of the Cape Town tourism body.

It is no surprise that Seasonality is mentioned as tourism’s biggest threat, and blamed for the poor tourism performance, the winter weather being a deterrent for local tourists to visit the city, and the ‘over-reliance on leisure tourism’ leading to mainly summer tourist visitors, it is written. Surprising is that Cape Town Tourism has been tasked with promoting leisure tourism specifically, and just cannot crack the ‘Seasonality’ nut. Last year the tourism body bragged at its AGM how it would promote tourism during the winter season, but its winter advertising activity has been poorly executed, and has resulted in no impact to date!

Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold is quoted in the media release as saying: “If we cannot establish a year-round demand for Cape Town as leisure, business and events destination the industry will remain threatened and we will not be able to grow the sector. This is a critical issue for an industry that employs more than 300 000 people and is the second largest contributor to the Western Cape’s GDP.”  The tourism body does not have a mandate to promote business tourism, even though it tried to expand its advertising campaign with the slogan ‘You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town’ to include conferencing, and setting up businesses locally.  The business application of the campaign has not been visible since the launch.

The media release also records the ‘modest‘ increases in passenger arrivals (it is not qualified if the arrivals were international or local) compared to 2011, a year all in the tourism industry know was the worst winter in years.

The media release is shocking in its poor quality information, in stating that the Pick ‘n Pay Cape Argus Cycle tour and the Cape Town International Jazz Festival took place in April, when in fact they were held in March! We have seen the poor writing quality by Cape Town in the past, but these factual errors are unforgivable!

The shocking conclusion to the release is Mrs Helmbold’s admission that Seasonality is out of control of her organisation, with a waffled identification of what is needed to fix the problem, which the industry is told year in and year out: “The need for a year-round brand positioning and demand-generation strategy to fill beds during the quieter months has been recognised, but seasonality and destination marketing are not one organisation’s concern. We can only solve Cape Town’s seasonality challenges and create year-round demand through partnerships and through understanding the changing needs and travel habits of potential visitors, whether business or leisure. We need collaboration within the industry, innovation, new experiences to promote, joint mobilisation within niche sectors on unusual projects, value-for-money travel packages and convenient access to the destination. We need an exciting calendar of events all year round and we need to cultivate tourism sectors such as food and wine, family travel, extreme adventure and sport”.

It is time that some new thinking is demonstrated at Cape Town Tourism.  The organisation’s strategic and marketing skills clearly are lacking, and even its CEO appears to no longer have the respect she once had, and seems severely taxed by her domestic challenges. She should take responsibility for the poor quality media information which her Communications department is issuing. It is time for new blood at Cape Town Tourism, to save Cape Town’s tourism industry from drowning!

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

Cape Town Tourism winter advertising campaign a marketing failure!

Last Sunday my eye caught a full page advertisement for Cape Town, in the Travel Weekly supplement of the Sunday Times. Its content, headline, media placement, and advertising frequency point to a marketing failure on behalf of the tourism industry of Cape Town.

At its AGM last year Cape Town Tourism announced with loud fanfare that its marketing would include a winter advertising campaign, in which its members could offer their specials, and that it was offering special packages via Thompsons Holidays.  One would have expected the campaign to run throughout winter, as we are not even midway through winter, and it is exceptionally quiet so far, worse than the same months last year, which was deemed a ‘tourism crisis’. Utilising Ogilvy Cape Town, one of the country’s top advertising agencies, one would have thought that the agency would have found a creative way to design the advertisement.

The advertisement looks like a dog’s breakfast, which should have made the art director cringe, being individual special offer ads placed higgledy piggledy within a template of a headline and a footer with contact details.  Even Lisa Clark, Ogilvy Cape Town Account Executive for Cape Town Tourism, admitted that the ad was ‘very busy’ – one wonders why she allowed her client to place such an ad, the agency being the custodian of its client’s brand image and reputation.

Our critique of the Cape Town Winter advertising campaign is the following:

1.  The headline ‘Come and discover why Cape Town warms up in winter’ does not communicate that Cape Town is ‘warm’ due to its specials, and does not change the perception most Johannesburgers have about Cape Town, namely that it is wet and cold all winter long!

2.   The footer refers to ‘weekend packages’ – it’s school holiday time now, so surely the Cape Town tourism industry would love to have tourists for longer than a weekend!

3.   Ironically, with the pay-off line You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town’, the ad is placed in the travel supplement of the Sunday Times, filled mainly with ads for international destinations, not a place locals would be likely to look for local destination ads.

4.  The advertisers themselves appear to have little marketing understanding, some not having a website address and/or telephone number in their ads, for a call to action!  Cape Town Tourism itself is not branded in the ad, even though its contact details are provided, so one would not know which company is co-ordinating the deals and taking bookings for them.  Identity of the advertisers is also poor in most ads, the Table Mountain Cableway not being identifiable in its crass ad, trying to communicate far too much.  The exception is the classy looking ad for the V&A Waterfront’s ‘Master of the Trade Routes Culinary Challenge ad, but it does not communicate that there are excellent restaurant special offers. Its website address is almost unreadable, being so small.

5.  Not all ads contain special offers, which is what the ad is meant to communicate

6.  The frequency of three insertions only, this ad having been the final one of the three, is ineffective in making any impact on the target market.

Cape Town Tourism may just as well not have bothered to run this advertising campaign, it being so badly done from a creative, production, and media perspective, reflecting how weak the marketing calibre of Cape Town Tourism is.  It reflects cutting marketing corners, cutting back on its marketing program which it shared with the industry earlier this year.  The tourism body receives R42 million a year from the City of Cape Town to market our city!

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

SAA crashes Cape tourism in cancelling direct Cape Town-London route!

The SAA announcement by its General Manager Theunis Potgieter on Tuesday that it plans to cancel the direct flights between Cape Town and London as of 16 August has been greeted with shock by the Cape tourism industry, and could not have come at a worse time, the industry suffering what could be another tourism crisis this winter. It appears that the tourism authorities did not receive any prior warning about SAA’s plan to cancel a route it introduced 20 years ago. At the SAA breakfast at Indaba last month the airline already announced that it ‘was hurting in the current global recession’, and that it had requested a R6 billion ‘government injection’!  The psychological damage of SAA’s decision probably is worse than its actual effect, in signalling that the country’s airline does not take Cape Town seriously as the country’s leading tourism destination.

Tourists and businesspersons travelling between Cape Town and London from 16 August will have to do so via Johannesburg, at no extra cost. Tickets already booked will be refunded, if required.  The change will allow SAA to expand its flights to and from Perth, Mumbai, Accra, and Abidjan, probably all flying to Johannesburg only. SAA has assured the industry that it will continue marketing Cape Town as a destination. The motivation for the cancellation of the service was said to be the reduced size by 24% of the demand for flights between South Africa and the UK in the past three years, largely caused by the increased airport departure tax and the £52 UK visa fee, reports Travelmole.  News24 added that air traffic control fees have also doubled. Of concern is SAA’s feedback that ‘South Africa is among the top five fastest declining visitor markets to the UK’, according to Visit Britain statistics.  SAA’s justification appears South African demand driven, and does not reflect the radical decline in the demand for the route from UK tourists, which has been evident in the past summer season.

Only British Airways operates direct flights between the two cities all year round. Virgin services the route between October and March. Emirates has good value flights to Dubai, which has become a hub connecting travelers to other hubs such as Heathrow. SAA is planning to increase its capacity by 13% through the use of larger aircraft on its reduced twice-daily (from three times a day) London-Johannesburg route, and has justified its decision on its ‘long-term growth and business optimisation strategy’, reports News24.

Reacting to the news, Cape Town Tourism issued a joint statement yesterday. Its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold’s waffled and garbled response was disappointing and was not aggressive in challenging SAA on a decision it has made on a purely financial basis, without recognising that Cape Town is the most important drawcard for tourists in South Africa, something which Mrs Helmbold should be countering on behalf of its Cape Town tourism constituency: “This is disappointing news for Cape Town’s tourism industry and we fear it could affect tourism arrivals from the UK and the rest of Europe negatively… Whilst SAA’s growth strategy’s emphasis on expansion of routes into Africa and new markets like South America and Australasia is encouraging, the issue of direct air access to Cape Town is again highlighted. Airlines must make economic sense. When a flight is cancelled this is the reason. Decreased business travel, as a result of troubled economies, continues to plague key source markets. The business traveler is a major contributor to covering flight expenses, which points to a need to work hard on forging stronger business ties in addition to the leisure market.”  ACSA’s Cape Town Manager of Service Standards Ian Bartes is the Chairman of Cape Town Tourism, and one could expect that Cape Town International will lobby SAA to consider reversing its decision.

Surprisingly, the media release also contained a statement by Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten, now responsible for tourism in the Western Cape, in having taking over the operation of the ex-Cape Town Routes Unlimited.  His comment was far more practical and business-orientated, and one hopes that it will lead to action, especially given that ACSA’s Cape Town International GM Deon Cloete now is Chairman of the still-existent Board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited: “Our research has indicated that the London-Cape Town route still holds strong economic value for the Western Cape and neighbouring Eastern Cape. International airlines identified this and are increasing their capacity during peak season. Many business and leisure travelers from the United States are using London as a connecting flight into Cape Town and we are at risk of losing these visitors, as the traveling time has been extended even further. A national debate on airlift strategy is urgently required to discuss direct flights into Cape Town International Airport as well as the other regional airports. Poor economic conditions in the global north and escalating fuel prices were making it difficult for many international airlines to remain competitive. These market conditions would also have an impact on the pricing of domestic flights and the ability to move tourists throughout South Africa.”

Once again City of Cape Town Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, has demonstrated how out of touch he is with the tourism industry, which has just experienced one of its worst May months since 2007 and thereby proving that Seasonality is getting worse, in his reaction to the SAA announcement in Cape Town Tourism’s media release: “In order to sustain tourism in Cape Town, we need to counter seasonality with year-round inbound tourism. It is vital that flights to Cape Town remain consistent throughout the year. The only way we can secure more direct flights to Cape Town is by stimulating both business and leisure tourism demand for Cape Town. This will translate in more visitors and ultimately more jobs for the sector, year round.  Perception does not shift overnight – and it needs proof – the industry must stand together to tackle our tourism weaknesses and grow a more complex offering of product to multiple markets. Leisure and business visitors need to see that Cape Town is a 365 destination for a thousand good and different reasons.”

Provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde also expressed his concern to Southern African Tourism Update about SAA’s decision, and probably is the only tourism player able to come up with a viable solution to this tourism dilemma, affecting not only Cape Town but the whole Western Cape, describing it as sad and disappointing for the whole of the province’s economy, saying direct airlift was important for business, tourism and airfreight. ‘I have no doubt it will have a negative impact,’ he said. ‘We will push forward with our airlift strategy to encourage other airlines to fly here.’ He said the Cape must review its long-haul competitiveness and create the right economic conditions for airlines to fly there”.

One has seen in the past that Cape Town Tourism does not have the clout to address something as substantial as this tourism issue, despite its Board Chairman’s job at ACSA, and we have no confidence that this tourism body will do anything about turning around SAA’s decision, or in devising a campaign to ensure that Cape Town does not lose any more precious UK visitors, which already are in short supply.

POSTSCRIPT 7/6SAA agreed yesterday to pay a R18,8 million penalty to the Competitions Commission for fixing fuel rates and other surcharges for cargo, reports Southern African Tourism Update today! This probably is what they need the cost-cutting Cape Town-London saving for!

POSTSCRIPT 8/6: Columnist Tony Weaver wrote in the Cape Times today that it is clear that the tourism industry was not consulted by SAA in cancelling the Cape Town – London route as of 15 August. He wonders if it is a ‘punishment’ of the Western Cape to be DA-party led, seeking a reason greater than just cost-cutting for this drastic action by SAA.  A writer to the Letters page today highlighted that SAA’s decision is ‘bottom-line’ based, and not considerate of the ‘bottoms’ of its customers, many of whom have already migrated to other airlines serving the route, which may be the reason for the decline in demand on this route! The newspaper also provides response from some tourism players to the news:

*  Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten told the FEDHASA Cape AGM yesterday that they have “secured a ’round-table’ discussion with South African Airways..”, given that their ‘research indicated that the London-Cape Town route still holds ‘strong economic value for the Western Cape and its neighbouring Eastern Cape'”. The increased travelling time for long-haul flights in having to travel via Johannesburg could adversely affect tourism to Cape Town, he said.

*   Surprising to read is that City of Cape Town Councillor Grant Pascoe has written to SAA Chairman Cheryl Carolus and CEO Siza Mzimela, expressing his ‘concern and disappointment‘ on behalf of the tourism and conference industries, importers and exporters, and investors, given that the tourism industry adds R14,6 billion to the GDP of the city annually, and employs 300000 staff.

*   Provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde sounded more upbeat, saying that other airlines servicing this route ‘will pick up the slack‘.

*   Mossel Bay Tourism said that the ‘province seems to be under-supplied with direct flights’, and that the quickest way in which foreign tourism arrivals can increase is to ‘land larger numbers at Cape Town International‘.  The ‘hinterland‘ has suffered greatly since the soccer World Cup, with an over-supply of accommodation in Cape Town, and related offers,  making it attractive to stay in the city for longer, and to do day trips into other parts of the Western Cape, instead of staying over in towns and villages in the province, it added.

POSTSCRIPT 8/6:  On Twitter negative Tweets about SAA’s decision met with strong resistance from @JamesStyan, a journalist for Beeld and Die Burger today.  We met for coffee this afternoon.  He had met with SAA on Wednesday afternoon, after their announcement of the cancellation of the Cape Town-London route, and was told verbally, not documented in their media statement, that should the economics improve, that the route could be reinstated.  He is adamant that this decision is based on economic considerations and SAA’s hub strategy, making Johannesburg its hub from/to which all its flights connect.  He also reminded me that other airlines have cut their Cape Town routes since the World Cup too.

POSTSCRIPT 13/6: The band Roxette performed in venues around the country last week, and flew out of OR Thambo airport to their next destination. On their Facebook page they wrote: ‘Just spent 90 minutes at one of the world’s worst airports, Johannesburg. Could actually be the no.1 on that scary list.. how about some organisation with customs’, reported The Times on Monday.

POSTSCRIPT 14/6:  The MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index 2012 shows, according to Southern African Tourism Update that ‘the majority of international visitors to Cape Town are from London, with 185000 visitors expected to spend US$361 million throughout the year. This is followed by 127500 travellers from Dubai spending US$118 million, and 76000 visitors from Amsterdam spending US$68 million’. Once again this survey makes a mockery of the SAA decision to axe its Cape Town-London route!

POSTSCRIPT 14/6: The irony grows – the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that it will hold its AGM and World Air Transport Summit in Cape Town from 2 – 4 June 2013, reports Southern African Tourism Update!  SAA is the host airline for the event!

POSTSCRIPT 4/7: Reuters reported today that Lufthansa will no longer service Cape Town from Frankfurt, due to the night flying ban over this airport.  All Cape Town flights will be serviced from Munich five times a week from 28 October.

POSTSCRIPT 6/7: The meeting with SAA and the Cape tourism industry representatives, hosted by Wesgro yesterday, has not made any impact nor reversed SAA’s decision to cancel the Cape Town – London route from next month. Instead it was agreed that greater demand needs to be built in attracting visitors to the Cape, so that SAA can then meet the demand and reinstate the route. Other airlines must be attracted to service the city with direct flights, it was agreed.

POSTSCRIPT 17/7: News24 has reported today that SAA has sold one of its three slots, being its Cape Town – London route, at Heathrow for an estimated R300 million!  The cancelling of the route therefore appears more cash driven than motivated by the low demand!

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

May Day! May Day! Cape Tourism ship is sinking! Seasonality getting worse!

It’s been a bad May, and appears to be the worst month of the year for the Cape hospitality and tourism industry, and it has sunk to its lowest low in the six years in which we have been tracking occupancy. Sadly, the soccer tournament is not benefiting the industry. Cape Town and the Western Cape may be slipping back into a tourism crisis, as we experienced in 2011!

From occupancy for Whale Cottage Camps Bay at 68% in May 2008, and about 42% in May 2007 and 2009, occupancy dropped sharply from May 2010 onwards, to 19%, rose slightly to 23 % in May last year, and down to a shocking 10% this month, the lowest in the six year period.  The May occupancy at our Whale Cottage in Hermanus is 8%, on a par with May figures for the past three years, crashing down in 2010 from about 24% per each of the May months in 2007 – 2009.  In Franschhoek the same pattern is evident, with occupancy also at 10% over the past three May months, dropping sharply from 27% in 2009 (and even 58% in May 2008). Any tourism ‘politician’ that claims that Seasonality is under control and that the winter period is shrinking is deceiving the tourism industry!

The shocking tourism performance this month is a surprise, in that even business tourists from Johannesburg have not been seen to any great extent in Cape Town, often the mainstay of the industry in winter, perhaps a sign that the South African economy is not yet out of recession.  The winter campaign in a downscaled marketing program, which Cape Town Tourism has launched appears to have had no impact on tourism at all, and neither has the Eight Nations Under 20 soccer tournament.  The Cape Times reported earlier this week that the attendance support of the soccer event is so poor that Cape Town faces losing the event for 2014, no loss if viewed from a tourism perspective.  The tournament was signed up and announced to the industry a week before its start, hardly an event timing that could be taken seriously.  The newspaper also reported that the City of Cape Town is giving away a free ticket for a match for every Semi-Final and Final match ticket bought. Surprisingly, the City’s tourism body, Cape Town Tourism, is not marketing the event at all, proving that it too sees no tourism benefit of the soccer tournament!  No other events have been held in Cape Town this month, and this is making itself felt.  In Franschhoek the Literary Festival earlier this month led to a full house, proving that events do attract visitors to a town or village. Next month its ‘Cook Franschhoek’ is attracting good bookings, and in July the Bastille Festival and an Art of Living retreat are almost sold out already.  Sadly, no events are planned for Cape Town nor Hermanus in the next few months.

Of even greater concern is that forward bookings from international tourists, which looked promising in April for early 2013, have all but dried up, demonstrating that the uncertainty of the Eurozone membership of Greece may be unsettling German travellers, who were planning their holidays far ahead. Increasingly one hears that travel to Greece is being curtailed, as tourists do not know if the Euro will be discontinued while they are travelling in that country, which could be an opportunity for Cape Town, if any marketing could be considered by Wesgro, Cape Town Tourism, or SA Tourism! Bookings from the UK market remain depressed and rare. At the time of international events, local tourism always suffers, and in the UK the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee next month, and the Olympic Games take place in London from July to August. Perhaps some Londoners may leave their city during this time, but we are not seeing bookings from this market. On 8 June the three week long UEFA European Football Championship takes place, shared between Poland and the Ukraine as host countries, which will capture the interest of many European travellers, preventing them from coming to South Africa.

Once again, we call on our tourism authorities to help the Cape Tourism industry in attracting events to the region in winter, and to generate any marketing activities that can attract domestic tourists to our area.

POSTSCRIPT 31/5: We would like to add that Wesgro has not issued any media statements nor shown any industry leadership since taking over Cape Town Routes Unlimited two months ago! We have written to Nils Flaaten, to ask him what is planned for the marketing of the Western Cape.

POSTSCRIPT 1/6: Good news is the potential of a soccer match between Ajax Cape Town and Manchester United on 21 July, a real soccer event, to be played in the Cape Town Stadium, as reported by the Cape Argus yesterday!

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

What happens to marketing Western Cape tourism, with closure of Cape Town Routes Unlimited?

Loved it or hated it, Cape Town Routes Unlimited tried its best to gain exposure for the tourism industry of the Western Cape province, even though it led to duplication with Cape Town Tourism in marketing Cape Town. Seven years after the Western Cape Tourism Act of 2004 was promulgated to establish a destination marketing organisation, later branded as Cape Town Routes Unlimited, it closed its doors yesterday. A new era starts, with its remaining staff and Board transferring across to Wesgro as of today – no, this is not an April Fools’ Day joke!

In a statement sent to the industry on Friday by Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism Alan Winde, he announced that ‘incorporating trade, investment and tourism marketing under one roof would bring greater efficiency in these strained economic times. It would also ensure coordination of the Western Cape Government’s outward facing marketing initiatives‘.  From today, Wesgro is the ‘single economic development delivery agency of the Western Cape Government, and its official implementation agency’, said the Minister.  He added that financial and human resources would be combined to drive ‘a far more aggressive international marketing campaign with a unified brand focused on business and tourism‘. Combined market research will also be beneficial to both parties, in providing information about the world economy, he added.  While the industry knew about the amalgamation commencing today, it was not told that Peter Bacon, Chairman of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, had left Cape Town for Mauritius. We picked this up in the media conference during a tea break at the Cultural Tourism Conference earlier this week, which was jointly hosted by Cape Town Routes Unlimited and the Western Cape Economic Development and Tourism department.   Another shock was reading the Minister’s announcement that Cape Town Routes Unlimited CEO Calvyn Gilfellan has left the organisation, not allowing one to say farewell to him at the Conference.

One could be concerned about the continuation of tourism marketing within Wesgro, given a new Chairman of the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board (Deon Cloete from ACSA) until the organisation is wound down through the Western Cape Tourism Act being repealed, the departure of the CEO who also was the marketing driver for the organisation, and the departure of all the Marketing executives in the past year, leaving mainly administrative Cape Town Routes Unlimited staff moving to Wesgro.  The Minister stated that a Service Level Agreement has been signed between the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board and Wesgro, for the delivery of the tourism marketing organisation’s functions.  The staff will remain in its current offices in the Waldorf Building, completing the compilation of the Annual Report, and staff receiving the same benefits as they did at Cape Town Routes Unlimited.

The Minister’s concluding paragraph is a subtle admission that all was not well with the marketing of the Western Cape by Cape Town Routes Unlimited: I would like to assure all stakeholders and partners in the tourism industry that we are committed to ensuring even better tourism destination marketing programmes and support. Tourism accounts for 10% of this province’s GDP, making it very serious business. This move will allow us to give this industry the attention it deserves”.

In his last newsletter sent to the tourism industry on Friday, Mr Gilfellan nostalgically looked to the past as well as forward, and said goodbye without announcing his departure from the organisation.  He joined Cape Town Routes Unlimited in 2004, handling Visitor and Membership Services, when Noki Dube was the organisation’s first CEO. After Sheryl Ozinsky was the CEO for a short stint, Mr Gilfellan was appointed as the CEO in 2008. He praised the work of his team in having created ‘a healthy, growing, universally recognised, admired tourism destination marketing organisation… in prime condition’, few in the industry agreeing with this over-exaggeration, and clearly Minister Winde also did not agree, in making such a radical organisational change.  Mr Gilfellan wrote with sadness how the Cape Town Routes Unlimited budget reduced from R60 million at its inception to R 25 million in the past year, due to the withdrawal of the 50% funding of the organisation by the City of Cape Town, monies (R42 million in the current financial year) which were allocated to Cape Town Tourism, which led to duplication of activities in marketing Cape Town specifically, but also the rest of the Western Cape.  He wrote that they found ‘strength, guts and determination to continue delivering work of the highest quality’, despite the financial impediment.

There were many aspects of Cape Town Routes Unlimited which we criticised over the past seven years, but it seemed as if the organisation had finally found its niche in the past twelve months, in its commendable industry communication via media releases, which we received almost daily (compared to the infrequent ones from Cape Town Tourism, which Tweets rather than taxing itself with the preparation of releases), and its marketing activities in Angola, Brazil and Argentina, and in China and India. The biggest criticism of the organisation was the development of a double brand name at its inception, which goes against the grain of all marketing wisdom, being ‘Cape Town & Western Cape’.  The duplication of marketing action lies between Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and the Minister has not shared with the industry how this duplication will be addressed, other than by closing down Cape Town Routes Unlimited. One wonders what synergies there really are between Cape Town Routes Unlimited and Wesgro, with the latter body focusing on marketing our province as an investment and trade destination.  We request the Minister to give the industry far more information as to the ‘route’ ahead in marketing the Western Cape, which is not dealt with in any depth in his letter to the industry.

It will take months for the two bodies to find each other, for the Western Cape Tourism Act of 2004 to be repealed, and for the marketing synergies to be developed, meaning that the marketing of Cape Town and the Western Cape will grind to a halt over the critical winter months, characterised by seasonality, and a time during which marketing is most needed, given the tourism crisis experienced last year.

POSTSCRIPT 4/4: In a harsh letter to Southern African Tourism Update, former co-head of marketing at Cape Town Routes Unlimited and now Director of Sales and Marketing for the Durban International Conference Centre, David Frandsen, said that ‘Wesgro is taking tourism into the wrong direction’.  He called for an autonomous convention bureau for Cape Town, which he describes as being ‘emasculated’ now, given the closure of Cape Town Routes Unlimited.  Even more sharp is his attack against who must be assumed is Western Cape Tourism Minister Alan Winde: ‘It would seem that every decision taken by the politicians seems to retard the proper functioning of tourism marketing in the province, particularly with regard to business tourism. So much potential is bedevilled by those who do not understand how the business tourism industry works!’

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

Robben Island a ‘blemish’ on tourism industry, says Tourism Minister Winde!

In his media conference last week, focusing on the state of the summer season in the Western Cape, provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde specifically mentioned the poor performance of Robben Island, with a decrease in visitor numbers of 7,5 % compared to a year ago

Minister Winde scathingly said about Robben Island: “This World Heritage Site continues to be plagued by bad service, staff with questionable work ethic and shoddy infrastructure.  Instead of being an icon of our province and country, Robben Island has become a blemish on our tourism industry.  I have requested a meeting with the Robben Island team to discuss possible improvements“.

The Minister was reviewing the ‘summer season’, but seemed to focus on December performance in the main, excluding the months of October and November, which are the start of the summer season. These were poor summer months in Cape Town, October having the poorest accommodation occupancy in the past five years, and November up on November 2010, but nowhere near the 88 – 94 % occupancy range experienced in 2007 – 2009.  In Franschhoek occupancy was severely down for these two months, the lowest in the past five years, while Hermanus showed a small recovery.  International arrivals at Cape Town International were recorded at 86910 in December, a 17% increase on last December, the Minister said, and 337385 domestic arrivals, only a small increase.  Anyone in the tourism industry will tell the Minister that the actual experience was the opposite – a massive increase in domestic tourists was experienced over the festive season, and a massive drop-off in British tourists.  Interesting is that the total 2011 Cape Town International passenger number of 4,2 million was 4 % up on the total for 2010, the World Cup having attracted above average arrivals in June and July of that year, but had severely affected tourism during the rest of the year, meaning that any comparisons to 2010 are artificial anyway. The Minister also quoted a 19 % increase in visitors to Cape Point in December on a year ago, with 106672 visitors, while Kirstenbosch recorded a minimal growth, with 77300 visitors.

Visitor numbers for some Western Cape attractions decreased on a year ago, and the Minister said that more innovative solutions needed to be found to ‘market the province’s entire tourism offering‘.

The Minister provided the tourism focus for 2012, to achieve the goal of Tourism’s contribution of 15 % to the Western Cape economy in 2014.  For the year ahead the activities will include:

*   promoting the Western Cape in traditional and new markets, with a focus on Africa, the Middle East and the BRICS countries

*   Encouraging domestic tourism as ‘the bread and butter of our tourism industry’

*   Growing business, events and sport tourism, the planned expansion of the Cape Town International Convention Centre playing an important role in this.

*  attracting direct flights to Cape Town.

I have the highest regard for the energy of and the difference that the Minister has made since he took over the Tourism department.  Shocking however is that the Minister could have referred to an ‘exit poll‘ of 25 interviews conducted at the airport on 11 January (we criticised the irresponsible ‘market research’ conducted by his department at the end of the World Cup) and then quoting results on the basis of this irresponsible sample base to claim that the destination was felt to be safe, that visitors would return, that they had heard of Table Mountain being voted a New7Wonders of Nature, and giving their holiday experience an average score of 8,5 out of 10!  One shudders at the thought of the poor questionnaire design, given the sample size, the Minister’s department being as irresponsible as Cape Town Tourism in conducting unprofessional and irresponsible ‘market research’, in the interest of self-applause, one would suspect.

We would like to caution the Minister against over-exaggerating the state of the Tourism industry of this summer season, which firstly is not over yet (only ends at Easter), and to define the summer period correctly, and not focus on December only, or on the festive period, in stating that “the Cape’s tourism industry showed remarkable growth in 2011”, which no tourism player would agree with.  The ‘crisis’ situation of the industry during winter 2011 was well documented!  The Minister mentioned the international accolades for Cape Town, implying that these improved tourism performance, but once again all in tourism know that international visitor numbers are the lowest ever, domestic tourism being prevalent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One&Only Cape Town becomes Cape Town’s most expensive hotel

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 10 days ago, calling the same hotels as well as two additional ones not included previously, asking them for their November rates.  The One & Only Cape Town has overtaken Ellerman House as the most expensive Cape Town hotel by far, starting at R6800 per room, and the Peninsula All Suite Hotel remains the least expensive 5-star hotel, at R1200 per room.  The survey found that the average rate of the sixteen 5-star Cape Town hotels surveyed is R 3630 per room, just over R1800 per person, an average increase by 34% relative to the August rates.   Across all 29 hotels surveyed, the average rate per room is R2908, or just over R1400 per person, 31% higher on average than in August. The most expensive Presidential Suite is at the Westin Grand, at R40000 per day.

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.  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; surprising was the inability in many cases of the staff to understand and hear the request, asking me to repeat the dates, and the number of persons; for the first time, the question ‘group or individual’ was 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); and one hotel could not quote a rate as the system was down, and promised to call back … they never did!   The Protea Hotel group quotes day by day rates, and the reservations staff had to obtain permission 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.  For hoteliers it must be frightening to hear that not one of the 29 hotels I called had a call to action, asking if I would like to book, given that Cape Town has the best hotels in Africa!

Most hotels have increased their rates since August, now quoting summer rates. However, 15 on Orange has decreased its rate by 23%, the Peninsula All Suite Hotel rate decreased by 20 %, and there was a small decrease in the Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge rate.   Interesting is that the Cape Grace Hotel rate has not changed, probably meaning that they did not drop their rates in winter, due to good demand – in fact they increased rates by 10 % in August. The largest rate increases since August were by the Bay Hotel (119%), One&Only Cape Town (95%), Twelve Apostles Hotel (87%), Winchester Mansions Hotel (80%), Commodore Hotel (79%), the Taj (65%), Table Bay Hotel (63%), and Portswood Hotel (61%). Interesting is that the Steenberg Hotel, just voted the best hotel in Africa by Conde Nast Traveler readers, ranks 10th on price.  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 for 3 – 6 November per room for 2 adults sharing and inclusive of Breakfast per day, so as to compare the rates fairly (we did not realise that this period coincides with the Volvo Ocean Race, making a number of hotels fully booked. We chose rates for the dates closest to the dates we requested).  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 August 2011 in brackets:

One&Only Cape Town, 5 star, R6800 – R15300 Tel (021) 431-5888 (95 % rate increase) – only 5 – 10 rooms qualify for the special South African rate of R3299 daily – very detailed description of each room type provided telephonically

Ellerman House, 5 star, R5200 – R16400 (The new villa has 3 rooms offered at R48600 and 5-rooms at R60500), Tel (021) 430-3200 (4%  rate increase)

Table Bay Hotel, 5 star, R 5168, Tel (021) 406-5000 (63% rate increase) – very unfriendly, very hard to understand. Fully booked on 3 November.

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

Twelve Apostles Hotel, 5 star, R 4105 – R 6625.  Tel (021) 437-9000 (87% rate increase)

Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, 5 star, R 4086 – R20000 for the Presidential Suite.  Tel (021) 430-0500 (14% rate increase) – fully booked 6 November

Mount Nelson Hotel, 5 star, R 3800 – R 11000. Tel (021) 483-1000 (27 % rate increase)

The Taj Hotel, 5 star, R 3550 – R 34000 for Presidential Suite. Tel (021) 819-2000 (65% rate increase)

Bay Hotel, 5 star, R 3500 (stay for 3 nights, pay for 2).  Tel (021) 438-4444 (119% rate increase)

Steenberg Hotel, 5 star, R 3435 – R 14850. Tel (021) 713-2222 (first time inclusion)

Dock House, 5 star, R 3464. Tel (021) 421-9334 (43% rate increase) – drastic price decrease in August, rates now back to May level

Queen Victoria Hotel, not graded yet but seeking 5 stars, R 2996 – R 20000, Tel (021) 418-1466 (27 % rate increase)

Commodore Hotel, 4 star, R 2860 – R 12 720.  Tel (021) 415-1000 (79% rate increase). Fully booked 3 November.

Westin Grand Cape Town Arabella Quays, 5 star, R 2730 – R 40000 for Presidential Suite. Tel (021) 412-9999 (26 % rate increase)

Winchester Mansions Hotel, 4 star, R 2640 – R4135.  Tel (021) 434-2351 (80 % rate increase)

Portswood Hotel, 4 star, R 2570 – R 3960.  Tel (021) 415-1000 (61% rate increase). Fully booked 3 November

V & A Hotel, 4 star, R 2320 – R 3124 . Tel (021) 415-1000 (41% rate increase)

15 on Orange Hotel, 5 star, R 2020 – R 2620, Tel (021) 469-8000 (23 % rate decrease)

Cullinan Hotel, 5 star, R 2095  – R 4451.  Tel (021) 415-4000 (38 % rate increase) – this hotel had a computer problem when I called, and promised to call me back, to give me a rate.  After waiting for two days, I called again!

Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa, 5 star, R 1950 – R 3050.  Tel (021) 525-3888 (15% rate increase) – very loud volume of music and voice

Protea Hotel Fire & Ice Hotel, 3 star,  R 1940 – R 2040, Tel (021) 488-2555 (31% rate increase!)

Victoria Junction Hotel, 4 star, R 1900 – R2200 Tel (021) 418-1234 (5 % rate increase)

Vineyard Hotel, 4 star, R 1850 – R 3950. Tel (021) 657-4500. First time inclusion. Friendly and efficient.

President Hotel, 4 star, R 1780 – R 2830. Tel (021) 434-8111 (22% rate increase)

Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, 4 star, R 1605 – R 3855. Tel (021) 409-4000 (11 % rate increase). Very poor ability to hear and understand the caller’s requirements.

Cape Sun Hotel, 4 star, R 1380 – R 3810.  Tel (021) 488-5100 (6% rate increase)

Ambassador Hotel, 4 star, R 1250 – R 1950. Tel (021) 439-6176 (Zero rate change)

Peninsula All Suite Hotel, 5 star, R 1200 – R 2170.  Tel (021) 430-7777 (20% rate decrease)

Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, no star grading, R 1170 standard, R 1595 business rooms. Tel (021) 406-1911 (4% rate decrease). Poor ability to comprehend the caller’s requirements.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘100 Women, 100 Wines’ “frivolous, patronising joke”, wasted tourism spend!

We have previously written about Cape Town Tourism embracing the ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ competition, promoting it actively, and listing it in its ‘Strategic Plan’ as a means to ‘stimulate domestic tourism demand’.   The competition brought 100 women to the V&A Hotel in the Cape Town Waterfront on Saturday for one day, hardly a major boost to domestic tourism, especially as a number of the participants were from the Cape anyway! The wine industry has slated the event as ‘frivolous’, ‘patronising’, and a ‘joke’!

Sceptical as I tend to be when it comes to the marketing activities of Cape Town Tourism, I checked what information was available via Google, as we have not received information about this event as members of Cape Town Tourism.  Not much was written about the competition – only two blogposts by organiser Clare “Mack” McKeon-McLoughlin (why does she not use her real surname?) of Spill Blog, a media release and two website posts by Cape Town Tourism, and three participant blogposts.   Sponsors of the competition were TOPS by Spar, Newmark Hotels (V&A Hotel), Destiny magazine (with a circulation of 26128 ‘black diamonds’), and Cape Town Tourism. The aim of the competition was to generate “South Africa’s Best 100 Wines” list, a ludicrous claim made by Cape Town Tourism in its media release.

The competition premise was that 80% of women buy wines in supermarkets, thus making the brand decision, which is largely made on the basis of word of mouth recommendation by friends.  On the basis of this statistic, Ms McKeon-McLoughlin devised a competition whereby 50 women could enter, by motivating by e-mail why they and a friend should be invited to be a ‘judge’ in a wine competition “where you choose and pick the wines that you prefer, wines that suit your palate and mood, and that you would be more than happy to recommend to a friend”. The ‘judging’ took place at the V&A Hotel in the Waterfront, with participants having been flown to Cape Town (if not from the Cape); attending a lunch, a cocktail party, and a gala dinner; participating in the ‘judging’; and spending the night in the V&A Hotel.  About 30 % of the group of hundred women were from Cape Town and the Winelands, judging from Twitter. Cape Town Tourism refused to confirm the geographic breakdown.

The patronising media release written by Cape Town Tourism stated that ‘this event will see women from different backgrounds being empowered as opinion leaders in the field of wine, and will set in motion the debunking of the myth that this right is reserved for the connoisseurs and the ‘bourgeois” (who writes stuff like this?!).  Their website post also stated that the participants reflected the South African demographic profile, but the ‘black diamonds’ dominated.  Cape Town Tourism appears to have forgotten that this country has four ‘demographics’, and not just two, as is visible from their delegate photograph. Categories in which wines were selected are ‘Girls Night Out’, ‘Celebration’, ‘Sunday Lunch’, ‘Braai drinking’, ‘The in-laws are coming’, The Big date – romance is in the air’, ‘Long lunch’, ‘Mid-week easy drinking’, Posh Present, ‘Baby it’s cold outside, ‘Bubbly’, and ‘Kiss and Make Up’.  Ten wines were allocated per each of the ten categories, hardly a ‘judging’, and more of a classification of the 100 wines, information not provided as to how the original list of 100 was selected!  The Cape Town Tourism media release quoted its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold as follows: “The innovation of food and wine is an integral part of what makes Cape Town an inspirational city.  We are looking forward to welcoming 100 women from across South Africa to Cape Town, and sharing our best wines and gourmet offerings with them.  Winter is the perfect time to explore our wine culture and our partnership with 100 Women 100 Wines demonstrates our commitment to unlocking Cape Town’s superb winter offering to the domestic market. We look forward to celebrating this as an annual event”! We do not believe that the event met the stated goal at all, as only the food of one hotel was experienced by the delegates, and mainly non-Cape Town wines were ‘judged’!

We asked Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold two questions about her organisation’s involvement in the event: what would its benefit be for domestic tourism to Cape Town, and how much did Cape Town Tourism pay for sponsoring the event.  This is the rude response we received on Twitter to our e-mails from Mrs Helmbold (she has not replied to our e-mails about the event):” For info on role in #100women event follow @CapeTownTourism‘s tweets. Event fund = R20 000″.

We question Cape Town Tourism’s sponsorship of the event, which will have gone to the organisers.  If Cape Town Tourism pays R20 000 for each of the 70 local and international events (we did not know that there are so many events in Cape Town in a year) it claims to support, it would be paying a precious R1,4 million, which it could use to greater benefit to attract more tourists to Cape Town by means of fewer, more fundamental events.  It is unheard of for a tourism bureau to pay a sponsorship fee, it being usual for them to just endorse an event, to give it credibility.  One wonders how Cape Town Tourism could have seen so much benefit in the event that they paid for it, and had the time to handle the (poor) publicity for it! It is clear that Cape Town Tourism has little knowledge of the wine industry, and blindly endorsed an event without credibility in the wine industry, and without any tourism benefit.  No local media (radio or newspaper) covered the event.

Mrs Helmbold did not attend the event at all, spending the weekend in Pringle Bay, and Cape Town Tourism’s PR Manager Skye Grove appears to have only popped in at the sponsored event. However, Mrs Helmbold was at great pains to Tweet about the event on Saturday, overstating the ‘benefits’ of the event for tourism to Cape Town as follows:

#100women is supported by @CapeTownTourism as part of focus on building winter brand, food/wine tourism and domestic tourism”

*   “#100women is 1 of many good examples of how partnerships can be used to accomplish much through events without investing a lot of money”.

*   “#100women 100 wines event is 1 of more than 70 events supported by @CapeTownTourism and 1 of earmarked domestic tourism events of year”.

Cape Town Tourism Tweeted ‘comments’ from delegates about how good they felt about being in Cape Town, but these were prescheduled via Tweetdeck, and do not appear to have been ‘live’ comments from delegates, making one question their credibility. In its website post at the conclusion of the event, Cape Town Tourism wrote ‘testimonial’ comments about Cape Town, quoting senior executives who apparently had never been to Cape Town before.   Some ‘justification’ Tweets were sent by them during the weekend event:

*   #100women 100 wines event proving that South African women love their friends, their wine, their food…. and Cape Town” (no delegate Tweets proved this!)

* City Press & Sunday Times at #100women event – this is how we do business. Unlocking CapeTown’s stories through national & int (sic) media” (City Press sent only a Trainee Journalist, and the Sunday Times was represented by their wine writer Neil Pendock, who in fact was one of the organisers!  There were no international media representatives).

*   We are loving the vibe at #100women 100wines. Women from all over SA falling in love with the Mother City and our food and wine offering” (not supported by delegate Tweets)

Proud partners with @NewmarkHotels, @1time_Airline & Tops at Spar of #100women100 wines. All about telling CapeTown’s food & wine stories” (no such ‘stories’ have been seen in the media!).

Pendock is known to be a good friend of Mrs McKeon-McLoughlin, and wrote about the event twice on his The Times ‘Pendock Uncorked’ blog in two days. He was the scorer at a previous round ‘judging’ event, as well as at the weekend event, at which the list of 100 wines was finalised.  He ‘shyly’ discloses in his first blogpost that he ‘advised 100 Women 100 Wines on selection of wines for the event’, vastly understating his involvement, and he makes no disclosure of his involvement in the second blogpost.  He praises  the ‘seminal’ idea of the ‘revolutionary’ competition (these two descriptions seem a gross exaggeration), alliteratingly (as he is fond to do) writing that “Mack” (whose real surname is known to him) gathered ‘ordinary women’ (not ordinary at all, from the descriptions of their careers) from ‘Pretoria, Porterville and Putsonderwater’ (maybe his creativity to alliterate town/city names with Johannesburg and Stellenbosch was limited!).  Pendock gives sponsors 1Time Airlines, V&A Hotel, Destiny magazine, and ‘Spar’ (not getting its bottle store brand correct) a punt in his blogpost, but does not mention sponsor Cape Town Tourism nor brand ‘Cape Town’ in his blogpost at all! Pendock is known as a very critical wine writer, and would have slated such a frivolous competition, had he not been involved in its organisation, especially as the wines were ‘judged’ sighted at the weekend event, his biggest criticism of Platter judging.

On Twitter only 55 Tweets were generated by 15 Twitterers over the two days, a poor tally. The ‘black diamond’ Destiny delegates from Johannesburg appear to not have embraced Twitter yet.  Newmark Hotels probably received the best benefit of the exposure on Twitter, with some Tweets praising its V&A Hotel.  The sponsors airline 1-Time, Cape Town Tourism, and Destiny, and TOPS at Spar came off worst, in receiving no acknowledgement at all from the delegates!   Only eight wines out of the 100 tasted and tested, being Graham Beck MCC, Stellenrust Timeless, Warwick The First Lady, Nederburg Riesling, JC le Roux, Miss Molly, Le Bonheur Sauvignon Blanc, and De Morgenzon Sauvignon Blanc, received Twitter mentions during the tasting. Distell  sponsored the wines for the dinner, and the Fleur du  Cap wines appeared to receive more favourable comments on Twitter than did the wines in the 100 Wines testing collection!

Nigel Cattermole, fearless wine-knowledgeable owner of Wine @ the Mill, laughed about the event, and called it patronising and a joke.  He said that most of the 100 wines in the collection were bulk mass-produced wines, being ‘mediocre to poor’‘There is no providence in these wines’, he added.

The ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ competition is a farce in more ways than one: The results, in generating a ‘Top 100 best wine list for women’, will hardly be an accolade winemakers would strive to achieve, not having any credibility.  Cape Town Tourism’s involvement in the competition is questioned, given that its energy should be focused on attracting as many tourists to Cape Town as possible, a group of 100 (of which many were from Cape Town or Stellenbosch anyway) making only a negligible  impact on tourism in our city, if any at all, given that the delegates stayed at the V&A Hotel, had all their meals and drinks there, and all activities took place at the hotel, meaning that there was little spend by them in the rest of the V&A or in Cape Town. The association with the competition is a serious dent to the credibility of Cape Town Tourism, in supporting a competition that is patronising to women; is frivolous and lacking credibility in its results; was poorly marketed; benefits the Winelands more than Cape Town; does not meet its intended goal of growing ‘domestic & intl (sic) markets’; does not meet the goal of ‘building winter brand, food/wine tourism and domestic tourism’, and makes no contribution in addressing the tourism crisis in Cape Town!

POSTSCRIPT 31/8: Cape Town Tourism has sent us a comment in reaction to this blogpost, in the name of ‘Thandiwe’, with a false e-mail address thandimotse@yahoo.com, in defence of Cape Town Tourism’s sponsorship of the ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ event, using similar yet contradictory information contained in its Media blogpost and a Tweet about the event.  A Google search confirmed that the only reference to ‘Thandiwe Motse’ is from two mentions on the Cape Town Tourism website.  We have not allowed the false comment, and we are surprised that Cape Town Tourism’s PR department would stoop so low in trying to justify their involvement.

POSTSCRIPT 1/9: The latest Spill blogpost brags about the success of the ‘100 Women 100 Wines’ event, quoting all feedback it has received on Twitter and its blog, even from its co-organiser ‘Dr Neil Pendock’!  Interestingly, the blogpost refers to ‘Thandiwe Moitse’, with a different spelling of the surname compared to the way Cape Town Tourism spells it.   There are no Google entries for this business executive, on either spellings of her surname!  The Cape Town Tourism spelling in its Tweets and media blogpost is the same as the spelling in the Comments posted to this blogpost!

POSTSCRIPT 3/9: A ‘judge’ of the first stage of the event, who was given a voucher for a meal at Societi Bistro by the organisers, and who expressed her dissatisfaction on Twitter with the poor quality of the meal and the service, was called by Mrs McKeon-McLoughlin and asked to remove her Tweet, as she had promised Societi Bistro that they would receive good publicity if the restaurant donated the vouchers!

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