Tag Archives: Tourism Grading Council

SA Tourism Review commissioned by Tourism Minister Hanekom released!

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Camps Bay Promenade/Palms Centre Sweet Service and Tonquani Lodge Sour Service Awards!

Rosetta Loadshedding Whale CottageThe Sweet Service Award goes to the Camps Bay Promenade, the Palms Centre, and Rosetta in The Woodstock Exchange, for their proactiveness in countering the Stage 2 loadshedding for Woodstock, the city centre, Tamboerskloof, and Atlantic Seaboard last Saturday.  The Promenade in Camps Bay has just installed its generator (the four Kove Collection restaurants in the building had already installed their own generators), while the Palms Centre also has a generator. Rosetta in The Woodstock Exchange was organised, having pre-brewed its coffee, but was not available with foam! All other coffee shops and eateries in Woodstock, The Fringe, Tamboerskloof, and Camps Bay could not offer coffee nor breakfast between 10h00 and 12h00.  It is a surprise that a centre such as The Woodstock Exchange does not yet have a generator, given the severity and regularity of the loadshedding!  Continue reading →

The SA Butler Academy grossly misleads its students and hospitality industry clients!

Having had the misfortune to connect with The South African Butler Academy, and its Recruitment Head Adriaan Coetzer last week in respect of their graduate Hettie Novacovic, we have done more homework on this dishonourable and unprofessional butler training and recruitment body based in Cape Town.

A phone call to Coetzer, to chat to him about Mrs Novacovic’s short-lived employment with us, was professional and honest, Coetzer agreeing that Mrs Novacovic had acted unprofessionally by not arriving for work without giving notice, was late for work twice in four days, did not follow instructions about the breakfast serving time or any other instructions for that matter, did not own up to damages she caused to our property which cost us a call-out fee for the pool company, did not want to interact with our guests over breakfast (one couple asked her to leave the table, something we have not experienced in our 17 years of operation!), she refused to shake hands to welcome our new guests, was unable to manage the housekeepers, left to go home midway during guest check-in training, prepared a dreadfully kitsch table for our wedding anniversary guests we wanted to spoil (contrary to my request of how I wanted it to be made special for them), was closed off to any communication with guests and ourselves, documented (unbeknown to us at the time) everything she had seen and learnt with us in the four days on her iPad, and generously took a coffee and a breakfast break herself while the rest of the staff were focused on getting the rooms ready for the new arriving guests.  Coetzer agreed that appointing her was a liability for most potential employers, as she has a husband on pension, who has to be ’employed’ too, but may not earn any income so as to not lose his pension!   He accepted that Mrs Novacovic’s poor work ethic was a very negative reflection on the SA Academy of Butlers and its training standards!  She was dishonest about the rate she quoted for her daily fee, quoting the most qualified butler fee of R800 per 12 hour day, and therefore we reduced her hours to 8h00 – 14h00.  While Mrs Novacovic was not appointed via Guild Recruitment, the placement arm of the SA Butlers’ Academy, Coetzer welcomed the feedback telephonically.

Coetzer promised to have a chat with the butler graduate, having a meeting with her later in the day.  The e-mail response was one of a changed person, making wild unproven allegations, and disputing any weaknesses of Mrs Novacovic, to which he had agreed earlier in the day, which earned him a Sour Service Award! Mrs Novacovic had replied to our Gumtree advertisement for a half day assistant for Whale Cottage Camps Bay, sharing that she was annoyed by Guild Recruitment taking so much of her fee for their placement fee of 20% on the advertised butler rates.  She was therefore applying for jobs directly, and not via the SA Butler Academy recruitment service, an important part of the Academy’s misleading marketing to attract students.

The SA Butler Academy website (and its Facebook page) is riddled with typing errors, and is over-written with extravagant exaggerated claims:

*  It is a ‘non-profit’ training establishment – yet they charge R19500 for local students, and €5000 for international students inclusive of accommodation!

*   It is aimed at ‘hospitality candidates‘, who have a ‘desire to step into a lavish world of Wealth and Fortune‘ – yet Mrs Novacovic has no clue of the hospitality industry!

*   Its Principal is ‘world renowned’ Newton Cross, but a Google search only provides links to his Academy’s website!  Cross has trained as a butler in the UK, worked on some cruise liners, at Fancourt in George, and at Clarendon House in ‘Fresnay’ (sic)! It is claimed that he has worked for Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Michael Schumacher, Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, and ‘George Senior Bush (sic)’.

*   Butler student applicants should be fluent in English, but neither the Academy’s website, its Facebook page, nor Mrs Novacovic’s writing reflects this fluency!

*   The ‘Academy is the finest in the world’, and ‘the finest Private Sector training institute in the world and most certainly in South Africa’, but these claims are not substantiated on the website!

*   The Academy is World renowned for our modern approach to Butler Service in private households, resorts, exclusive yachts and passenger liners‘.  Again, no substantiation is offered.

*   The Mission Statement is the ultimate in exaggeration by the Academy, no substantiation reflected in its website or via Google: “The Academy is tantamount with professional Butler training which prides itself on the highest form of dedicated Butler Training. At The South African Butler Academy you will be taught how to run an effective modern private estate or household with grace and professionalism not just and estate but also a Yacht, Hotel Butler department and Boutique Resorts. The Academy course is 8 weeks of intense Butler training governed by experienced celebrity Butlers who are qualified as professional Butlers. The Academy will provide you with all the skills and certification to perform Butler duties. Our Training standards are exceptionally high and admired by International press and media. We are the world’s number one leading Butler Academy and the apex of all estates and households. Become part of SABA and celebrate service”  (our underlining).

*   The logo (provided cheekily by the Academy yesterday) reflects five stars – however the Academy is not graded by the Tourism Grading Council, and its use of the stars is therefore unlawful, SA Tourism having decreed that the star quality denotion is exclusive to the Tourism Grading Council!

It is the claim We are proud to have a legacy in the market as our clients are kept confidential and above all “disclosure” is our highest priority” (our underlining).  Clearly they may have meant ‘discretion’ or ‘non-disclosure’, which ironically is the most dishonest of all the SA Butler Academy claims, with it publishing the slanderous feedback of Mrs Novacovic on its website, reflecting the unprofessional nature of the Academy and its graduates. Any potential employer of a SA Butler Academy graduate should fear that ‘discretion’ is not guaranteed by The SA Butler Academy or its graduates, and in particular by Mrs Novacovic.

Discretion is the most direct association one would have with a butler, and it is reflected in the Florida-based Institute of Modern Butlers’ Professional Butler Code of Ethics, which highlights Integrity, Confidentiality, Service, Lawful Behaviour, Dedication, Personal Development, Respect, Professional Relationship, and Promotion.  The SA Butler Academy and its graduate Mrs Novacovic have breached this international Code of Conduct in a number of respects.  Interesting is that the SA Butler Academy does not have a Code of Conduct!

At a cost of R19500 for an 8 week course, it would appear that The SA Butler Academy students themselves are being taken for a ride, as this time period is not long enough to teach any student the full theoretical spectrum of hospitality, customer service, staff management, table service, silver service, etiquette and protocol, security, home automation, interpersonal management skills, culinary training, household management, and executive housekeeping, all elements of The SA Butler Academy curriculum, and certainly not at a practical level!

Mrs Novacovic made no effort to learn my job, which she was meant to take over, lurking in the kitchen and washing the dishes most of the time, the most expensive dishwasher we have ever employed!  Our staff are served breakfast during the course of our very busy mornings, prepared by our chef, a different egg type daily, which Mrs Novacovic enjoyed too, and they are provided with lunch too.   I love writing this blog, and do so mainly at night, as there is no way that I could do it justice in writing it while sitting in a busy Reception dealing with the guests that we accommodate daily, e-mail enquiries and correspondence having priority during the day.  We deny Mrs Novacovic’s false and libellous allegations, deplore her attempts to discredit ourselves, our staff, and our guests, and reserve our rights to take action against Mrs Novacovic and the SA Academy of Butlers for defamation.

Needless to say, we would warn any potential butler student, and any potential employer of a butler via The SA Butler Academy’s Guild Recruitment, against any dealings with The SA Butler Academy!

POSTSCRIPT 27/2: We have received feedback from a number of our blog readers and past guests that their comments in support of ourselves have not been allowed on the SA Butler Academy blog, another proof of its unprofessionalism and one-sided presentation of information!

POSTSCRIPT 4/3: The SA Butler Academy has taken note of our comments about its exaggerated claims and spelling errors, having removed all the quotes we featured in the above blogpost.  Profiles of the owner Newton Cross and his partner Adriaan Coetzee have been removed.  An attempt has been made to remove the illegal use of the five stars in its logo!

POSTSCRIPT 4/7/17:  We were summonsed early this year by the SA Butler Academy with an intermediate interdict, demanding the removal of this Blogpost, four years after I wrote it. This came after a written request by the Butler Academy that I remove the Blogpost, which I was not prepared to do. Last week the judge hearing the case rejected the Butler Academy demand. I am extremely grateful to my superb advocate, for this outcome. The Butler Academy is threatening a further legal case, to claim compensation for alleged defamation, a case which is likely to be heard in 2018. 

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


Looking back: 2011 the worst year ever?

2011: what a year it’s been for the world, South Africa, and Whale Cottage – unpredictable, up and down, and a year in which one had to rethink every way in which one has run one’s business and life.  Most would say that it’s been one of the worst years ever!  But despite the tough times, there has been a lot to be grateful for as well.  I have summarised some of the high and low lights of the year:

1.  The knock which tourism took, especially from May – August, in being one of the worst winters ever experienced, had an effect on all sectors of the economy.  Restaurants frantically offered specials to gain cashflow, guest houses went back to dropping rates as they do in winter, and few took rate increases in summer, unlike their hotel colleagues, who suffered poor occupancy too.  More hotels and restaurants closed down than ever seen before. The recession in the UK hit South African tourism and wine sales badly, previously our major source market. From 50 % of our business in the summer months in Camps Bay, the UK business will be no more than 5 % this summer.  High airfares and the crippling UK airport taxes have not helped. The tourism situation was so bad that we wrote an Open Letter to national Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, as Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited were not aware of how bad things were in the Cape, and therefore did nothing to market the region and to help the tourism industry. Cape Town Tourism spent all its energy on Twitter, not yet the medium of communication of our average tourist, and on wasteful promotions, and therefore we did not renew our 20 year membership. The welcome increase in German tourists has not made up this shortfall, but we have been delighted to welcome many more South African guests.   The World Cup has become a swearword, the reality of its lack of a tourism benefit becoming clear. A blessing from Santa has been a much improved festive season, with no snow-bound tourists or strong south-easter wind, as happened last year.

2.  Events are hugely beneficial for business, and the Argus Cycle Tour, J&B Met, and Cape Town International Jazz Festival attracted out of town guests. The U2 and Coldplay concerts helped fill beds and delighted Cape Town audiences.  A fantastic outcome of Coldplay’s performance is that the music video for ‘Paradise’ was filmed in our city, the Boland and the Karoo – no better part of the world could have been chosen for this song!

3.  Cape Town has had an exceptional year, the darling of the world, winning the World Design Capital 2014 bid, Table Mountain being named one of New7Wonders of Nature (amid some controversy and as yet subject to verification), named top destination in TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Destination (for what it was worth!), and featuring strongly in the new James Bond book ‘Carte Blanche’.  Our city hotels, especially the Cape Grace and Steenberg Hotel, featured on international top hotel lists. Good news was the sale of the V&A Waterfront to a local company, which is investing in the upgrade of and addition to the country’s most popular tourist destination.

4.   Despite the doom and gloom, there were more restaurant openings, and chef and restaurant staff changes this year than in many years: The Pot Luck Club, Hemelhuijs, Dash, Casparus, Dear Me Foodworld, The Franschhoek Kitchen, Il Cappero, Café Benedict, The Kitchen at Maison, Sotano by Caveau, Knife, De Oude Bank Bakkerij, Ryan’s Kitchen, Caffe Milano, Mozzarella Bar, Cassis Salon de Thé, Power & the Glory, Haas Coffee, Johan’s @ Longridge, Skinny Legs & All, KOS Coffee & Cuisine, Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet, Le Coq, Act and Play Bar at the Baxter, Sunbird Bistro, Societi Brasserie, Jason’s, Bird Café with new owners, Maria’s after a long renovation closure, Toro Wine & Aperitif Bar, Valora, Café Le Chocolatier, Haute Cabriere Cellar Restaurant after a renovation and chef change, Art’s Café, Spice Route, Mitico, Knead on Kloof, Chez Chez, La Bella, 5 Rooms, Terbodore Coffee Bar, Wale Rose Lifestyle, The Black Pearl, Bistro on Rose, Slainte, Babel Tea House, Rhapsody’s, Café Extrablatt, Harvest, McDonalds in the V&A,  The Mussel Bar, The Franschhoek Food Emporium, Makaron, F.east, Bean There Fair Trade, Sabrina’s, Harbour House in the V&A, MCC Franschhoek, Clarke Bar & Dining Room, Roberto’s, French Toast, Saboroso, Mezepoli, Rocca in the Cape Quarter, and Roca in Franschhoek opening their doors, and new suppliers Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants and The Creamery opening too.

5.  Sadly, the recession was noticeable as it hit restaurants, and it was some of the newer restaurants that were badly hit, including What’s On Eatery, The Olive Shack, Bella Lucia, Blonde, Jardine, Caveau at the Mill, Nando’s in Camps Bay, The Sandbar, The Bistro, Restaurant Christophe, Doppio Zero in Green Point and Clarement, shu, Oiishi Delicious Caffe, Hermanos, The Kitchen Bar, Wildwoods, The Green Dolphin, De Huguenot restaurant, Wildflour, Depasco, Kuzina, and 221 Waterfront.

6.  The eating highlight of the year was the tribute dinner to the closing of El Bulli, one of the world’s best restaurants, by Tokara, Chef Richard Carstens excelling in serving a 13-course meal to a packed restaurant on 30 July, earning him and his team a standing ovation.  This meal alone should have made Chef Richard South Africa’s top chef in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards, but sole judge Abigail Donnelly proved that she was incapable of handling this new role and responsibility, not only in excluding Chef Richard from her Top 10 list, but also in awarding the new Boschendal Style Award to her client Makaron.

7.   Franschhoek evolved as THE wine region, Boekenhoutskloof being recognised as South Africa’s top winery by the Platter Guide, and La Motte the top wine estate in South Africa by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.  In the latter competition, Tokara was selected as top wine estate restaurant in the country. The sale of the Franschhoek Graham Beck farm was announced, and the operation closes mid-year in 2012. The winemaking will take place at Steenberg and at Graham Beck in Robertson, while a Graham Beck tasting bar Gorgeous will open at Steenberg in February.

8.   Hermanus was in the tourism marketing spotlight, when miraculously both the committee of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau resigned, and the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation was disbanded by the Overstrand Mayor.  We had written about the self-interest which had been served by the previous leaders of these two bodies in ‘Lermanus’!  A welcome product for Hermanus is the recently created Hermanus Wine Route, marketing of which will be in the capable hands of Carolyn Martin of Creation.

9.   The Consumer Protection Act was introduced in April, and has shown benefits in product deficiencies and returns.  Little effect has been seen for the tourism industry.  The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa tried to change its accommodation assessment standards, which caused a huge outcry.  Despite changing back to what they had before, many accommodation establishments lost faith in the organisation, and have not renewed their accreditation.

10.  The wedding of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlène in July put South Africa in the world spotlight, not only due to the televised broadcast of the wedding, but also as they celebrated their wedding with a second reception, at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga, now the country’s best known hotel.

11.  This year proved that the ‘social’ in Social Media is a misnomer in many respects, but it is the marketing platform which cannot be excluded.  We celebrated the 10th anniversary of our WhaleTales newsletter, the 3rd year of blogging, and our 1000 th blogpost this year.  We are grateful to our Facebook friends and likers, Twitter followers, and blog and newsletter readers for their support.

It is hard to predict 2012, and we will go with the flow.  2011 has made us tougher and even more thick-skinned, we have learnt to change with changed tourism times.  We look forward to a stable world economy, politics, as well as weather in 2012!

POSTSCRIPT 2/1: The most read posts on our blog in 2011 were the restaurant winter specials, the Festive Season packages, the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Charléne, the review of Casparus, the restaurant summer specials, the review of Gaaitjie in Paternoster, the death in Cape Town of the President of Ferrero Rocher,  the listing of restaurant openings and closures, the Consumer Protection Act, and Table Mountain making the New7Wonders of Nature.

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

Hermanus Tourism Bureau shock resignation ends Stormy crisis!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consumer Protection Act no joke, affects every business from 1 April

It is surprising how little has been written about the new Consumer Protection Act No 68 of 2008, which comes into operation on 1 April.   It gives tremendous power to consumers in their dealings with businesses, and will put every business on its toes, the punitive fines of R1 million or more being a strong motivator.

The Act itself runs to just under 100 pages, and whilst written to be understood, it is a volume of information to comprehend.  We bought the book written by Advocate Neville Melville, ‘The Consumer Protection Act Made Easy’, to guide us in evaluating our business in terms of compliance with the new Act.   It is frustrating that there are many grey areas, as the author had to write the book as broadly as possible, to be applicable to every South African business and industry.   I have written this blogpost with a focus on how the new Act will affect the hospitality industry, not as an expert by any means, as an hospitality business owner.   Accommodation provision is most specifically identified as a type of Service covered by the Act, whereas restaurants are not mentioned as such, but the Act applies to the provider of “Goods”, which includes anything “marketed for human consumption”.   Any contracts entered into before 1 April 2011 are excluded from the provisions of the Act.

The Act is introduced as follows: “To promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services and for that purpose to establish national norms and standards relating to consumer protection, to provide for improved standards of consumer information, to prohibit certain unfair marketing and business practices, to promote responsible consumer behaviour, to promote a consistent legislative and enforcement framework relating to consumer transactions and agreements, to establish the National Consumer Commission…”. 

It has been designed with the express purpose to protect the poor, and vulnerable and historically disadvantaged consumers, and to ‘promote their full participation as consumers’.  It also aims to apply ‘internationally recognised customer rights’, and seeks to ensure transparent ‘redress’ for consumers subjected to ‘abuse or exploitation in the marketplace’.  From a consumer perspective, it will certainly lead to improved customer service and better quality products, as complaints about service and product quality, as incorporated by the Act, can be taken to the newly established National Consumer Commission.   The penalties that businesses can face are R1 million or 10 % of the annual turnover, whichever is the higher figure.   Advocate Melville advises that businesses must ensure that they have sufficient public liability insurance.  

The Consumer Protection Act ascribes eight rights to consumers:

!.   The Right of Equality

     A business may not exclude or unfairly discriminate against any person, or category of persons, prioritise one set of persons over another, or charge certain types of persons more than another.  This raises an important issue about the “Right of Admission” signs in hotels and restaurants.  Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek, in banning patrons from its establishments, may fall foul of the new Act on this point.  

One may not contract with a minor, or with mentally challenged persons. 

2.   The Right to Privacy

   Consumers have the right to reject or block unwanted direct marketing or any other communication via e-mail, telephone and sms.  Allowable contact times for direct marketing may be specified in future.   Newsletters, for example, must have an ‘unsubscribe’ option, to allow recipients the right to not receive them in future, especially if they are deemed to be for ‘direct marketing’ purposes. 

3.   The Right to Choose

Products may not be bundled together with another product or service linked to it, and therefore a supplier or retailer cannot make it mandatory to buy another (possibly unwanted) product as part of a package.   Consumers also have the right to ‘examine goods’, yet cannot be held liable for damage in doing so, a bizarre ruling – however ‘gross negligence, recklessness, malicious behaviour or criminal conduct of the consumer’ is chargeable. 

By agreement, the consumer and supplier can agree how, when and by whom the product or service will be delivered.  If it is not specified, it is implicit that the supplier must deliver the product within a reasonable time period.   The consumer has the right to check the goods on delivery, to ascertain whether they meet the specifications of the order.   

4.   The Right to Disclosure

     All documentation must be written in plain and understandable language (the tenancy clause in the Taj Cape Town ‘legal document’ when one checks in will not meet this criterion in the Act!).  The advertised or marked price is the one that must be honoured, even if it is an error.   A brand name or trade mark must not attempt to mislead consumers.  “Grey market goods” must be identified by the sellers as such.  Important to note is that a ‘written record of the transaction’ must be provided, and must contain the following prescribed information:

*   Supplier’s full registered business name and VAT registration number

*   Address

*   Date of transaction (could be two dates for accommodation establishments, if a deposit is taken to make the booking.  The transaction date will differ from the actual accommodation dates, so there could be three sets of dates)

*   Description of goods and services provided

*   The unit price

*   The quantity supplied

*   The total price before tax

*   The VAT amount – few establishments separate this amount, as all transactions are VAT inclusive

*   The total price. 

The right to disclosure also would include information about anything that can affect the consumer’s use of the product, in containing potentially hazardous or harmful ingredients (e.g. Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town correctly specifies which of its dishes contain nuts, alcohol, and pork).

5.   The Right to Responsible and Fair Marketing

     Marketing must be honest.   One may not over-promise, exaggerate, mislead or make false claims, so as to lead the consumer to have a different expectation.  One must honour one’s commitment to have a specified product or service available on the date/time that was agreed.  Restaurants, for example, may not claim that their dishes contain ingredients that they do not, or that they are imported when they are sourced locally.  Advertising must realistically portray the benefits of the product or service.  

Loyalty programs are specifically mentioned, and the ruling is that the promised reward must be available to the consumer.  The communication of how the loyalty programme works must be clear. 

6.   The Right to Fair and Honest Dealing 

The Act uses the word ‘unconscionable’, a complex word Melville writes, given that the Act itself calls for ‘plain language’ in all dealings with the consumer!  This clause calls for positive conduct with the consumer, and does not allow a supplier to use ‘undue influence, pressure, duress or harassment, unfair tactics or any similar conduct’ in getting payment due to the supplier, or goods returned.   As a hospitality supplier, it would be great if the Act protected suppliers against such abuse and blackmail too!

The supplier may not withhold material facts about the product or service (e.g. renovations taking place at a guest house), nor imply a benefit of the product or service that does not exist, or fail to correct a misunderstanding that the consumer expresses about the product or the service.   Reasonable availability of the product or service must be accurately communicated, as must be the availability of parts for repairs.   Pyramid schemes are expressly forbidden. 

Overbooking, with the express purpose of taking more bookings than one has the capacity for, based on the knowledge that not all booked customers will arrive (e.g. airlines, hotels) is no longer allowed, as one must have the service/product available if it has been booked.   Any such overbooking and therefore inability to honour a booking calls for a refund of the cost of the booked service as well as the costs involved in cancelling the booked service (e.g. loss of business suffered by the customer), which could become very costly for the supplier!   However, the supplier may make an alternative arrangement on behalf of the customer, and that customer is reasonably expected to accept the alternative arrangement.

7.   The Right to fair, just and reasonable terms and conditions

       The Act regulates ‘agreements’ (not calling them contracts) between suppliers and consumers.  One may not contract with minors, and those that are mentally unfit.   Information in the agreement must be in plain understandable language.  Repairs must be pre-quoted.    Some agreements will be specified by the Minister to be in writing.  The sales record must contain the required information (as specified above).  Any risk to the consumer that may lead to serious injury or death must be highlighted (does a pool count?).  Any other potential risks associated with the product or the service must be highlighted.   A ‘fair’ price must be offered, and the terms must be ‘fair’ and reasonable, although ‘fair’ is not defined.  “Unfair” is however defined as agreements which are one-sided in benefit to a party other than the consumer, or are based on misleading information.  No clause in an agreement can be in contravention, or cancel any provisions,  of the Consumer Protection Act.   PIN codes and ID books may not be kept by the supplier, and only copies may be made of the ID book and the PIN code used for a transaction.

A contentious provision for businesses is the right to a cooling-off period, which allows the consumer to return bought goods within five days of purchase, and must be refunded in full within 15 business days.  The notice of cancellation must be in writing.  Melville uses the word ‘good’, and not ‘service’, so it is not clear if this applies to bookings made for services such as accommodation, for which a 50 % deposit is likely to have been taken.   Even more uncertain is how the provision that a consumer can return a ‘good’ if he/she did not have a chance to see the product beforehand, but only of it is not hazardous to the public health (which would exclude food and beverages) or if it has been tampered with.  Such a clause could apply to accommodation too, being an unsighted purchase (but is defined as a ‘service’), so this may not be applicable.   

Consumers have the right to cancel an advance booking or order, ‘but may be liable for a charge for doing so’.   A supplier may “require payment of a reasonable deposit in advance and impose a reasonable charge for the cancellation” . The ‘reasonable’ is not defined, but Melville writes that it should be decided on the basis of the following:

   *   The nature of the products and services

   *   the length of notice of the cancellation

   *   the “reasonable potential for the service provider, acting diligently, to find an alternative consumer between the time of receiving the cancellation notice and the time of the cancelled reservation”. 

   *   The general practice of the industry concerned

In the case of the death or hospitalisation of the person making the booking, the deposit paid must be refunded in full, but this does not apply to a family member’s death or hospitalisation. 

Should a supplier close a service facility (say a guest house which decides to close over winter), 40 business days’ notice must be given to the customer, and the deposit payment must be refunded within 5 business days after the service facility has closed. 

8.  The Right to fair value, good quality and safety

Any good, or element within a good, that can cause harm, injury or potential death to the consumer must be spelt out to the consumer.   These risks can include those that the consumer may not ordinarily have expected, especially those which can lead to serious injury or death.   At Whale Cottage we have evaluated our operation relative to this clause, and have changed our breakfast menu to highlight all nut-based cereals, and have changed the content of one of our Huguenot Fine Chocolates’ turn-down chocolates, which previously was a hazelnut praline.

Products that are available to or sold to the consumer that may contain hazardous substances must have the warning and description on the pack or available separately (e.g. we stock Tabard insect spray in our guest bedrooms, with instructions and health warnings on the pack). 

The Act calls for compensation to consumers if the products bought caused harm to themselves and/or their property.  Not only the direct supplier is liable, but also the importer, the retailer, the manufacturer, the distributor, and the installer can be sued for damages within a three year period from the date of the loss or damage.

A further requirement is that products and services should be of a quality that consumers are ‘generally entitled to expect’.  It states that industry association codes and practice would guide what this reasonable level of quality would be.  For the accommodation industry, the Tourism Grading Council guidelines and requirements probably would be a good quality guide.  Timing of the delivery of the service is once again highlighted as having to be ‘reasonable’, and suppliers must give consumers ‘reasonable’ notice (timing undefined) of ‘unavoidable’ delays.   A good requirement, for anyone dealing with builders or repairmen, is that the property must be left in the condition it was when they first started their work.  Suppliers of repair services must safeguard the consumers’ goods in their care, and this includes deposits that may have been paid.

Products bought must deliver on what they are expected to perform.  They must be in good working condition and free of defects.  So, for example, a toaster used in a guest house can not be expected to perform the same service compared to one used domestically, and the consumer must declare the usage, so that he/she can make the most suitable purchase.  If the product does not perform, the consumer can return the product within a six month period, and can demand a new replacement product, money back, or repair of the item.   The consumer has the right of choice in this regard, not the supplier.  This places a responsibility on suppliers to stock enough of any products to be able to replace products, especially if the items might be discontinued!   Repaired goods have a three month warranty period through the Act.   No ‘voetstoots’ clause applies for any purchase any longer.

The Consumer Protection Act is a lengthy piece of legislation, and each business is advised to check its practices and communication to customers, to evaluate its compliance with the new Act.  It could become an explosive minefield if opportunistic consumers were to try to exploit the provisions of the Act, especially for the service industry, where things are not always black or white.  However, the protection it affords consumers is welcomed, and the improvement in the level of service and quality of products one can expect as a result is too.

POSTSCRIPT 26/5:  This afternoon I attended a Consumer Protection Act workshop at the Radisson Blu hotel, organised jointly by Cape Town Tourism and FEDHASA Cape.  The first part was presented by a lawyer from Webber Wentzel, the most boring speaker, who quoted clauses from the Act and had assumed that the audience knew nothing at all about the Act.  He had misread his audience completely.  He was followed by FEDHASA legal consultant Peter Cumberlege, who was far more entertaining as well as informative, but with strong views that FEDHASA Cape appears to rely on, without robust debate!  The key points made:

*   nothing in the Act is new – we all treat guests fairly

*   the most contentious statement was that the hospitality industry should NOT have a standardised cancellation and refund policy – all establishments are unique.  However, the Chairman of the National Consumer Tribunal said in Franschhoek recently that the hospitality industry should form an industry body, and should standardise its cancellation policy, given that the Act regularly refers to standard industry practice.

*   Establishments must try to resell cancelled rooms, and should try not to charge for these.  If there is a charge, it should be to recover expenses, and not a full room rate, especially if the establishment is not fully booked on the day of the cancellation- this is a contentious view of Cumberlege, and many would disagree with him.

*   SQ prices must come off restaurant menus

*   Invoices can no longer be handwritten, given the invoice requirements in the Act

*   All websites and brochures should be checked for accuracy of claims.  Avoid overclaims.

*   If one overbooks one’s accommodation, the guest must be given equal or better accommodation, or one must refund: interest on money held plus monies paid plus cost of cancellation to the client

*   One is responsible for guests’ belongings on one’s property

*   Disclaimers and waivers are now meaningless in contracts

*   Sites representing a number of establishments must state the rate of the establishment and the percentage commission that they have added = full disclosure

The Consumer Protection Act Made Easy, Adv NJ Melville, 2010.  Exclusive Books.

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

Restaurant Review: Raphael’s Restaurant at Asara almost starting again!

The 5-star and recently accredited Relais & Chateaux Asara Hotel outside Stellenbosch has a beautiful location, with a dam at the edge of the restaurant, and the Stellenbosch mountains as a backdrop.  I had visited Asara Hotel in its early days, but had not been back in over a year.   When I was sent information about a recent refurbishment of Raphael’s Restaurant by the Hotel’s PR agency, it was a good opportunity to invite my friend Geraldine for lunch, as she lives close by.   The restaurant’s recent make-over is not only decor-wise, but also in terms of management.   The pay-off line “Ordinary is everywhere but here”, printed on the menu and which is visible on every page of the website, currently is an overpromise, in terms of what we experienced yesterday.

The Asara Hotel has belonged to Markus Rahmann, an Austrian whose Germanic hand seemed stronger in the past, for close to ten years.  The Hotel has seen a number of senior staff changes this month, with GM Horst Frehse, who was at the hotel for about a year and implemented the Relais & Chateaux accreditation, leaving ahead of his departure date of January, and he will start at the Twelve Apostles Hotel as GM in February.  No one wanted to elaborate on the early departure.  Frehse was particularly well-known as the cigar-smoking GM of the Grande Roche in Paarl, and then went to Singita, before joining Asara Hotel.   We were told that the Restaurant Manager as well as the F&B Manager had joined the hotel in the last two weeks, as has the new GM, Pete Gottgens, who has spent the last 19 years in the UK.  Gottgens comes from a hotelier family, he says, and he proudly told us that his dad was the first FEDHASA member while he was at the Edward Hotel in Durban.   Gottgens cut his teeth in South Africa, amongst others at Mike’s Kitchen in Tyger Valley and at the Heerengracht Hotel, and then left the country to open Fish Hook and Springbok Café in London.  He also was responsible for all catering for then-President Nelson Mandela when he was on state visits in the UK and Europe.   He also established a hotel in Scotland seven years ago.   A yearning to return to South Africa led him to accept Asara’s offer.  Gottgens was honest about all not being perfect at Asara, and has made some immediate marketing changes – all focus will be on the domestic market, and the R3 million international marketing budget will be redirected to domestic marketing.  He has also decided that the premium top of the range market is not what they are aiming for anymore, and he even hinted that they may drop the Relais & Chateaux accreditation when I asked him, due to the cost perception that it is associated with.   I admired Gottgens for his honesty, as he did not know who we were.  He wants to move the association with Asara from “not great value for money” to “exceptional value”.    His mantra will be to under-offer and over-deliver, the smartest approach to customer relationship development.  He understands the value of Word of Mouth, and that the local visitors will recommend Asara to international visitors if they have had a good experience.   He wants to offer Asara wines below R100 a bottle in his restaurants on the estate.   He understands the value of Social Media, and Asara is on Twitter, and Gottgens will start a blog in the new year.   Gottgens also says that too many staff were appointed (mainly from Spier and Lanzerac, when the hotel first opened), and that he will be changing this to fewer but higher quality staff.  A lovely concept he plans is the appointment of the farmworkers’ wives to start a fruit and vegetable co-operative on the estate, so that the hotel can buy all their fresh ingredients from their own workers, thereby enhancing their incomes.   Gottgens gave me a feeling of complete professionalism, and of comfort that a number of the rough edges that we observed and experienced will be taken care of and fixed.  Gottgen’s goal is to ‘improve the game by 40%’, he said.  

Raphael’s is a large space, and one can sit outsideto be close to the dam.  We had not booked, so accepted an inside table, but it was probably for the best, as the South Easter was pumping.  Crystal chandeliers dominate, and some chairs are in a deep violet upholstery.  Glass screens give some privacy to the entrance.  I saw a piano, and wondered about its use, having recently applauded the Mount Nelson Hotel for having got rid of its piano in the new Planet Restaurant.   The tables have excellent quality napery on them, and cutlery is by WMF, which is also sold in the Asara shop on the estate.   Our champagne glasses did not ‘ping’ when we toasted our getting together, and sounded like plastic, even though they were not.   The jug for my water was a very ordinary one, not in keeping with the rest of the glassware in the restaurant or in the shop.   The salt and pepper holders were tiny and ordinary.   The architect for the Asara Hotel building and its restaurants was Ray Killian, and Arctic Circle was the interior design company for Raphael’s, a name I know as the design company for Tourism Grading Council plaques.

One of our biggest problems was with waitress Martha, and even though she tried very hard, and grew on us in the three hours that we spent at Raphael’s, she reflected the lack of management in the restaurant.  She had a shirt on that was too tight, and one of the buttons had popped open.  She had a spot of dirt on the white shirt and her black apron had a big dirty mark on it.   She had been outside in the wind, we think, judging by her hair.  She told us that she had worked at Grande Roche previously, and at the end of our meal she had the confidence to tell us what every employer would fear – that Raphael’s is not five-star standard as far as the staffing goes, that there are too many inexperienced staff members working in the restaurant, who are unable to do justice to the good quality food served.  The irony was that Martha herself was an example of what she was referring to.   She also stated that ‘her’ 5-star restaurant should not be serving guests coming in with shorts, casual shirts and slip-slops, examples of which we saw, and with crying babies, which we heard too.  

As Martha handed us the leather menu holder, she matter-of-factly told us that they were out of oysters, Chateaubriand, and haloumi cheese for the Baby Leaf salad starter.  This gave us a bad feeling about the restaurant and the hotel, and its professionalism.  We were later told that the kitchen had done 120 covers for lunch (we only arrived at 13h30), had a wedding later that day, a private dinner for 60 persons, and the normal dinner service.   Geraldine and I skipped the starters, as we wanted to try the Asara ice cream sold in the shop on our departure.  Geraldine ordered the Beef Fillet (R180) and I had the Kingklip (R135). The Beef Fillet was ordered Medium and was very tender, and was topped with herb-crusted oxtail ragout, rich in taste, she said, and was served with cauliflower mash, dauphinoise potatoes and port wine jus.   My oven roasted kingklip was meant to be served with a horseradish and vanilla sauce, but was replaced with a white wine foam, with Martha’s help, and tasted slightly salty.  I enjoyed the kingklip served with baby asparagus and parsley mash.   Other main courses are Duck breast, Duo of pork, Impala, and Quail, all at R165, as well as Rack of lamb (R175).  The Chateaubriand costs R340, a 400 gram serving for two.   Wild mushroom risotto and home-made ravioli filled with ratatouille both cost R70.  A delicious sounding butternut and coconut soup costs R55.   Starters start at R45 for Chicken bobotie in rooti, up to R95 for grilled tiger prawns and scallops.  A trio of oysters costs R85, and an interesting sounding “foie gras crème brûlée and ice cream”, as well as a smoked salmon trout terrine cost R85 and R65, respectively.   Due to having the ice cream in the shop, we skipped the desserts, which cost between R45 for three scoops of ice cream to R65 for a Kaiserschmarrn Austrian soufflé.

Head Chef Carsten Härtel came to say hello, and invited us to visit his kitchen, only the third such invite I have received (Tokara and Societi Bistro), and is a special honour. The Asara kitchen is massive, and incredibly hot, so much so that we felt sorry for the 40 or so kitchen staff, of whom 23 are chefs.  Chef Carsten came to Asara directly from Germany, and has been at the hotel for two years, enjoying the good weather, even though he stays in touch with Germany via his DEUKOM German TV channel subscription.  We were impressed by the different sections in the kitchen, including the bread and roll baking, as well as the ice-cream and chocolate-making sections.  A hotel kitchen is not a romantic place at all, looks very industrial, and we saw the photographs of the chef’s plating directives per dish.    

I do not know the Asara wines, and do not recall ever drinking any.  My Platter’s 2011 does not rate them too highly, mainly around the 3-star mark, with only the Spirit of Chenin achieving a 4-star Platter rating.  The winelist is extensive, and every page has the Relais & Chateaux logo prominently displayed.  It is much more discreet on the menu.  The winelist has a leather cover too, and is an extensive document, tracing the history of Cape Vintages from 1990 until 2010;  a brief history of South African wines is sketched; a map of winegrowing areas is provided; and food and wine pairing suggestions are presented by type of food.   The Asara wine range features extensively on the winelist, especially for the wines-by-the-glass.  Five Asara white wines range in price from R28 per 175ml glass for the Ivory, up to R63 for their Chardonnay Reserve.  Seven Asara red wines are offered, starting at R33 per glass for the Cape Fusion, peaking at R110 per glass for their Bell Tower. Their Rosé costs R28, and the Noble Late Harvest R30.   We had a glass of Villiera Tradition Brut each, at R45, and Peter van Staden, the Restaurant Manager, refilled one of our glasses when it was knocked over in error, without charging extra for the refill.   Poor Peter seemed uncomfortable and very hot in his black jacket and tie.   I have never seen champagnes referred to as “Champenoise” on a winelist before, and 375 ml Laurent-Perrier costs R440 and Moet & Chandon R575.  Pommery Pop Blue costs R385 for 200ml.   A section focuses on the “Sommelier’s Rare Selection”, which starts at R135 for the Vondeling Babiana Nortiflora, up to R 655 for the Deetlefs Family Semillon; and at R185 for the Lammershoek Red Blend (R185) – R1100 for the Ernie Els Red Blend.   The Asara Sauvignon Blanc costs R140 per bottle, and Iona costs R240.  The Asara Shiraz costs R190, while that by Saronsberg costs R300.  A vertical collection of Vin de Constance is also offered, something I had seen recently on the Planet Restaurant winelist at the Mount Nelson Hotel.   A change from my last visit is that the room underneath Raphael’s is now called the “Vinoteque”, and is the area in which one can taste wines, and buy branded Asara promotional clothing, as well as order tapas dishes.

Geraldine and I ended off our long and relaxed lunch with a strong cappuccino served in an attractive cup and saucer, and was made with Genovese, a brand of coffee I have not heard of before.   We had kept the best for last, by walking through the shop, which sells WMF cutlery sets and kitchenware, Le Creuset pots in many shapes, sizes and colours, lovely hand-made chocolates, at R45 per 100 gram, and ice-cream scoops at R10 each.  One can choose between Vanilla, Stracciatella, Chocolate and Hazelnut flavours.   We sat in the courtyard, enjoying our ice cream, and watched a bridal couple being photographed.

Our food was excellent, but GM Gottgens has a huge task to almost start from scratch to train up his staff and managers to the level that is befitting the standard of the hotel, and to meet his admirable goals.   It will be interesting to see how things have improved at Asara and Raphael’s in a few months from now.

Raphael’s Restaurant, Asara Wine Estate and Hotel, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 888-8000.     www.asara.co.za   (The website covers all aspects of the Asara wine estate and hotel.   For Raphael’s the menu is available, but there are not many food photographs on the page.  There is no restaurant winelist on the website).  Open Monday – Sunday for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

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

Tourism Grading Council apologises to accommodation industry

The recent attempt by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa to completely overhaul its grading assessment criteria, and then to withdraw most of the proposed changes due to the outcry from the accommodation industry, is the biggest PR gaffe of the body that has been tasked by South African Tourism to set accommodation quality standards.  The Tourism Grading Council’s charming Chief Quality Assurance Officer Thembi Kunene admitted that an error had been made in presenting the first draft to the industry.

We wrote recently about the final decisions the Tourism Grading Council made, relative to the draft proposal, in its new accommodation grading assessment criteria.   At a presentation to the Cape Town accommodation industry at the Cape Town International Convention Centre earlier this week, Ms Kunene was commendably honest in her feedback about the effect the draft proposals had, and that the potential loss of many accommodation establishments from the grading system led to a rethink, and a delay by about four months, in introducing the new assessment criteria.  

The Tourism Grading Council was criticised for only setting up the meeting in Cape Town in November, the city with the largest number of graded establishments in the country, when it had done presentations in Hermanus and Franschhoek, for example, in September already.   The Tourism Grading Council is clearly sensing a concern, and is doing a road show throughout the country during November, to reassure its clients.   The only problem was that the meeting was set for 8h00 – 12h00, the busiest time of day for accommodation establishments – the smaller they are, the more likely it is that the owners are hands-on in their establishments in making breakfast and checking out their guests, and therefore were unable to attend the meeting.  Ironically, an establishment owner said that the only reason why he was able to attend was because he had no guests in his guest house!

What is not understandable, despite the fact that Ogilvy PR handles the public relations for the Tourism Grading Council, is that no PR campaign has been launched to repair the damage caused to its image amongst its clients through the draft assessment criteria document, which was sent to all star-graded properties.  No current star-graded establishment has received any communication to explain that the bulk of the proposed controversial assessment criteria have been scrapped.  Assessors also seem to have been overwhelmed by the controversial process and the number of calls they had to field about the proposed changes, that they themselves have not been proactive in informing their clients about the dramatic turnaround in the new grading assessment criteria.

A sensitive issue is that the Tourism Grading Council has chosen a new formula for the calculation of its annual fees, by weighting the average room rate and number of rooms to come up with the new fee.  In an example provided for a 2-star guest house in Soweto, the fee increase was shown to be 10 %, whereas it was a far larger increase for a larger higher-starred guest house.  The fee increase in excess of the inflation rate attracted strong criticism amongst the attendees, when accommodation establishments have frozen their rates, some as far back as 2007 already.  The fact that a breakfast was provided was raised by Ms Kunene, as if the establishment owners should have been grateful for the mediocre Convention Centre breakfast, consisting of fruit, cereals, yoghurt, rolls and cold meats, and that it should justify the fee increase!   Ironically, Ms Kunene talked about her new iPad, and one wonders why such a R9000 purchase was necessary!   Each attendee also received a gift on departure, unusable to most and thus a wasted expenditure.   One also wonders why KPMG was contracted to handle the revision of the grading criteria assessment, and how much they were paid, for a proposal that has dented the image of the Tourism Grading Council, and with it that of SA Tourism!

We have written previously that technically very little has changed in the assessment criteria.  It was interesting to hear which of the proposed assessment criteria changes attracted the largest industry criticism:

*  airconditioning – an “air temperature control system” is now acceptable as an alternative to airconditioning, but must have adjustable controls, to be set for the level of comfort of the guest.  

*   dinner service – whilst the criteria say that such a service must be made “available”, it is meant that one must make bookings at restaurants for guests, or allow Mr Delivery access to the establishment for food delivery

*   room service and hours – this only applies to hotels now

*   statutory requirements – each province has different requirements for rezoning, trading etc, and therefore a full list had been supplied.   Now the directive is that the applicable provincial requirements must be adhered to.

*   armchairs – this had led to a debate of the exact definition of such chairs, and therefore the criterion was redefined to be a ‘seating space’ per person

*   shower over bath – a glass partition must be made available for 4 and 5-star establishments

Lesser issues in terms of feedback received related to security requirements (scrapped), room dimensions (scrapped), size of TV screen and initial directive that the TV be a flatscreen one (now dropped), down pillows (scrapped), master switch next to bed (scrapped), wardrobe size (scrapped), number of basins in 5-star bathrooms (scrapped), size and placement of mirrors (scrapped), number of clothes hangers (scrapped), breakfast duration (scrapped), and private toilet in open-plan bathrooms (criterion retained).

Another issue was the application form – yes, no matter how long one has been graded, one has to register from scratch.  Here a number of onerous and off-putting information requirements led to further controversy.  They were justified by the Tourism Grading Council as being necessary if one wants to offer accommodation to Government officials.  These information requirements have now been dropped, yet establishments have not been informed of this recent change. 

Whilst the Tourism Grading Council demonstrated its willingness to listen to its customers, the graded establishments of South Africa, its image is severly dented, and it needs to regain the trust and respect of thousands of graded establishments who are considering not renewing their grading or who were inconvenienced by the drama surrounding the attempted changes to the assessment criteria. 

Ms Kunene called me the morning after the presentation, to personally thank me for my contribution to the meeting during question time.  She impressed with her openness and willingness to hear her customers, and requested that I assist the Tourism Grading Council in spreading the word about the fact that barely any changes have in fact been made in the new grading assessment criteria, which we have already done through our previous blog post.

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

Cape has most 2010 accommodation

Of all the provinces, the Western Cape has the largest availability of rooms for the 2010 World Cup, according to the Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, when he addressed the media about the new tourism portal (see blog post dated 12 December 2009), reports the Cape Argus.

Minister van Schalkwyk stated that the Cape has 62 000 rooms, of the country total of 202 000 rooms, just less than one-third.   Gauteng has 44 000 and Kwa-Zulu Natal has 31000 rooms.   Given that 450 000 foreign visitors are expected to come to South Africa in June and July 2010, and assuming that 2 persons will share a room, the country should have enough accommodation. (What the Minister has not incorporated into his calculations is that South Africans are the largest purchasers of tickets, and may travel from one city to another to view a match, and may also need accommodation).

The estimation of the number of rooms comes from the National Accommodation Database, which was established via calls made to all known accommodation establishments, and may be understated, as many accommodation owners may have withheld information from the callers involved in the database verification, as they called at non-business hours, such as on Sunday afternoons, and at 20h00 in the evening.

The Minister quoted the following statistics: there are close to 19 000 accommodation establishments in the country, of which 40 % are graded by the Tourism Grading Council.   Just more than half of the 202 000 rooms are graded.   Each host city has a minimum of  7 500 accommodation establishments, within a 50 km radius of a World Cup stadium.   There are just more than 100 000 rooms in host cities.

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