Tag Archives: United Kingdom

Benguela Collection adds Anton Smit Sculpture Park to its Hermanus and UK Leonardslee properties!

On Saturday I attended the opening of the new Art Gallery and Sculpture Park at Benguela Cove outside Hermanus, with 40 sculptures by master sculptor Anton Smit spread around the wine and residential housing estate. The local Sculpture Park flows from a collaboration between Smit and Benguela Collection owner Penny Streeter to create a Sculpture Park at its Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens in the UK. Continue reading →

Getting a taste of Chilean wines in Casablanca and Santiago in Chile!

Through a stroke of luck I was invited to visit Santiago in Chile for four days, and in this time I was able to drink some Chilean wines. I also visited Casablanca, a wine region outside Santiago, with my friends Guy and Pia, who live near Casablanca. Continue reading →

Chewton Glen offers a variety of cuisine for its guests, made with ingredients from its Kitchen Gardens!

I have visited Chewton Glen in the New Forest annually since my son Alex started working there five years ago, moving over from Delaire Graff Estate to the fellow Relais & Chateaux property. Over time I have tried out the various eating options at the hotel, and tried them all out again on my most recent visit last week. Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 20 November

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Prince Harry arrived in Cape Town yesterday, on his way to the Antarctic, where he will accompany the British team in the Walk with the Wounded charity trek, on a 200 mile trek over 18 days, competing against Australian, Canadian and American teams.  Poor weather has delayed Prince Harry’s flight to the Antarctic.

*  Free wifi is now available at the Sea Point Pavilion, a service offered by the City of Cape Town as part of Cape Town’s status as World Design Capital 2014.

*   The Naspers building is more than 50 years old, and once was Africa’s tallest building.  One of the Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 projects is a competition to redesign the building, with a prize tag of R200000, as well as the implementation of the transformation, with a R15 million budget. (received via WDC Cape Town newsletter from the Cape Town Design NPC)

*   Catharina’s lunch guests will be entertained by band Blacksmith on Sunday 24 November. (received via media release from Communication Services Africa)

*   Nose blog carries a controversial blogpost about an article written by James Conaway, which is extremely critical of Wine Spectator‘s Robert Parker’s 100 point wine evaluation scale, which he describes as a  ‘dying’ system.  The retirement of Parker, announced last year, has opened for a host of wine judges to evaluate wines, including Joe Roberts (1 Wine Dude), Jancis Robinson, Stephen Tanzer,  and Eric Asimov of the New York Times.  Conaway is quoted Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 19 November

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  The confidence of consumers in their financial situation has reached the lowest level in 20 years, reveals the latest FNB/Bureau of Economic Consumer Confidence Index (of minus 15), reports the Cape Argus.   

*   South Africa’s Top 24 cocktail bars have been announced, and have been selected by Diageo WORLD CLASS to participate in a competition to select South Africa’s best bartender to represent our country at the Diageo Reserve WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year 2014: Asoka, Bascule, Buena Vista, Café Caprice, Casa Del Sol, Dear Me (Tjing Tjing), HQ, Vista Bar at the One&Only Cape Town, Orphanage, Piano Bar, The Maslow Hotel, The Michelangelo, Signature Restaurant, OCD, Café Della Salute, Mark Anthony at Emperor’s Palace, Elevate,  the Elangeni & Maharani, Fairmont Hotel, Harvey’s Restaurant, Private, Havana Grill, Unity Bar, and the Oyster Box Hotel. (received by media release from Communication Services Africa)

*   The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art will open in the V&A Waterfront in 2016, in the new Silo building on the Clocktower side of the Waterfront.  It will be the largest gallery in the country, with 9500 m² of space.

*   Young American travelers are becoming less brand loyal, looking for Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 16/17 November

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  Nando’s, Prince Harry’s and Beyonce’s favourite chicken take-out in London, will be opening its first store at Gatwick airport.

*   Heathrow needs a third runway to deal with the estimated doubling of traffic by 2030.  One plan is to build a floating runway on an estuary of the Thames, instead of demolishing houses in a village close to Heathrow.

*   Wide-spread flooding hit Somerset West, Franschhoek, Hermanus/Stanford, Strand, and Cape Town on Friday evening.  The Franschhoek Pass, Chapman’s Peak, Betty’s Bay/Gordon’s Bay road, and Victoria Road* between Camps Bay and Hout Bay are still closed.

*   Eben Sadie of The Sadie Family Wines is the winemaker featured in the weekly Terroirist blog interview!

*   Not only is Stellenbosch famous for its many wine estates producing excellent Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 26/27 October

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Auslese Summer Sessions will pair tapas dishes created by Aubergine owner Chef Harald Bresselschmidt, fine wines, and good jazz every second Thursday evening, from 21 November onwards. (received from Auslese via e-mail)

*   The 325th anniversary of the arrival of the French Huguenots was celebrated with a special concert, ranging from classical music to cabaret, last night at the Endler Hall. (received from the University of Stellenbosch via e-mail)

*  Tour operator ‘Great Safaris’  has launched a ‘South African Culinary Treasures Journey’ 7 day tour of the Winelands and Cape Town, which includes learning about wine blending, food and wine pairing, bread baking, and a cooking class ‘in Cape Malay‘!

*   The South African Pinotage restaurant is opening in Beijing.

*   Scandinavia, Russia and the United Kingdom could become the main vine growing regions in Europe by 2050.

*   ‘Franschhoek Uncorked’, the annual event in which the Continue reading →

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

Tourism in the Cape: is it up, or is it down?!

Reports about the status of the tourism industry in Cape Town and the Western Cape in the last few days are enough to confuse anyone, as the view on how the industry is doing this summer, two months into the season, appear contradictory, some saying that it is better, and others saying that it is the worst ever!

Reports about a FEDHASA Cape media review held last week contradict each other.  The Cape Argus, using the headline ‘Hotels catch the scent of recovery’, reported that a ‘fair’ season is expected this summer. It stated that the industry had come through a ‘pretty bad year’.   Gotravel24 had a more realistic headline ‘Worst year yet for Cape Town tourism’, quoting FEDHASA Cape Chairman Dirk Elzinga admitting for the first time that the past year has been ‘one of the worst the Cape Town tourism industry has ever seen’.  When we wrote about the tourism crisis in winter, which was subsequently picked up by the Cape Argus, Elzinga did not seem perturbed, and said that Cape Town was just experiencing its annual seasonal dip!

In its review FEDHASA Cape indicated that average revenue per available room decreased by 10% this year, due to the ‘double dip recession’ in Europe as well as the 20% increase in accommodation rooms for the World Cup. The past winter was particularly tough, with four hotels and 10 restaurants that were FEDHASA Cape members closing their doors (many more non-FEDHASA restaurants closed their doors too). Elzinga is hopeful of a recovery, based on average revenue per available room increasing by 5 % in October, relative to the same month a year ago.  Occupancy was estimated to reach 60 – 80 % this summer, Elzinga said, and events such as the J&B Met, the Two Oceans Marathon, and Cape Town International Jazz Festival would attract more local tourists, the type of tourist Elzinga said Cape Town tourism businesses should encourage.  However, Eye Witness News’ report on the FEDHASA Cape  meeting was that ’70-80 percent hotel occupancy (could not be referred) ‘as a standard anymore’.  Elzinga sees positive spin-off from Cape Town being named the World Design Capital 2014, and a provisional New7Wonders of Nature. We have written before that none of the accolades that were heaped upon Cape Town so far this year have led to any significant increase in tourism to Cape Town, probably because tourism from the United Kingdom has all but dried up.

FEDHASA Cape also used the opportunity to share results of a 30-week pricing survey conducted not only for Cape Town hotels, but also for hotels in Barcelona, Melbourne, Vancouver, Boston, Nice, Hong Kong and Munich, chosen to be comparable to Cape Town in that they are not capital cities, and attract convention business.  The survey was instituted due to feedback levelled against the local accommodation industry for its high prices, which FEDHASA Cape wished to dispute.  Predictably it did so, stating that ‘….the Mother City is not out of line with its peers around the world’.  No hard statistics, such as average hotel prices, are provided from the survey. The FEDHASA Cape survey had found that Cape Town’s price and room offering is wider than that of the comparative cities, with the exception of Barcelona.  Five star hotel rates generally are on a par with the comparative international hotels.  Room rates for 4-star hotels were up to 20 % lower than the international hotels, the report states.  We too have checked Cape Town rates at the top-end hotels, and conducted three telephonic surveys, in May, August and November this year, finding a wide range of 5-star hotel rates, and that rates had been lowered in the harsh winter months.

Moneyweb also reported on the hotel pricing survey of FEDHASA Cape, writing that the finding about Cape Town’s hotel prices being on a par with those in other international cities was a ‘surprising result’.  The description about the worst winter is far more explicit, as being ‘one of the most dismal in recent memory”! Elzinga is quoted as saying that Cape Town is ‘not cheaper, but also not more expensive. People think that prices in Africa should be lower than in Munich or Singapore. But luxury costs the same; it doesn’t matter where you are’. An interesting observation by FEDHASA Cape was that those hotels that did not drop rates recovered more quickly than those hotels that cut rates. Our Whale Cottage hotel surveys demonstrated that all hotels decreased rates in winter, contradicting FEDHASA Cape’s observation!  What Elzinga did not appear to consider was that given the lower operational costs of running an accommodation establishment in Cape Town relative to the comparative cities, on labour costs alone, combined with the 20 % increase in accommodation supply since last year, accommodation prices should have decreased, based on the law of supply and demand.  A further negative impact on rates should be the cost of long haul air travel and airport taxes to Cape Town. Therefore there can be no justification for Cape Town’s hotel prices to be the same as those of its international counterparts.

FEDHASA Cape sees a positive impact of direct flights to Cape Town by Air France and Swiss-based Edelweiss, but which could be countered by the cancellation of Malaysian Airlines flights to Cape Town next year.  Elzinga has called for more marketing by Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited in India and China, given the problems with the USA and European economies.

At Whale Cottage we have compared Occupancy over the past five years, and we have seen a steady decline over this period, halving over the five year period.  Occupancy at Whale Cottage Camps Bay this month will be the second best this year after the record 88% in February, and an improvement on last November, but is far below the 88 – 96% occupancy experienced in November between 2007 -2009.

FEDHASA Cape only predicts a recovery for the Cape Town accommodation industry in 2013, with occupancy and room rates returning to a ‘normal level’.   The European and USA economies are in such disarray that one wonders how any tourism body can make any prediction about the future of tourism, especially given FEDHASA Cape’s poor interpretation of the industry in winter!  FEDHASA Cape also indicates that bookings are increasingly last-minute, which makes it even more difficult to predict future tourism performance. We urge FEDHASA Cape to be conservative in its estimates, and to not create hopes about the season for the industry, which led to disastrous results when Grant Thornton did the same about the soccer World Cup last year.

The Protea Hospitality Group has seen similar cause for optimism, its Danny Bryer, Director of Sales, Marketing and Revenue, writing a letter to the editor of Southern African Tourism Update that it saw occupancy increase by 3-4% in August and September. Against the background of the unstable USA and European economies, Bryer says that it is hard to make predictions for the hospitality industry, especially with the heavy discounting taking place (contradicting Elzinga too).  Bryer pleads for an end to discounting, even though his hotel group probably is the one to slash rates most severely, quoting day by day rates, and generally is at the bottom end of the rates scale in the comparative hotel rate surveys we have conducted: “Continued discounting devalues every hotel in South Africa, as the battle is fought on price rather than value”. Bryer says the proof of this is that the average daily rate has decreased and the costs are increasing, meaning a declining profit.  This can only be turned around with an increase in rates, he argues.  He deplores that developers, investors and owners added on new rooms, the accommodation oversupply resulting in hotel closures and local companies taking over the management of international hotel groups. Bryer warned against reducing one’s offering to justify a lower price.  Offering value for money is vital.  He also warned that 3, 4 and 5 star hotels are marketing their rooms at similar price points, which he believes to be ‘foolhardy and unnecessary‘.  The Protea Hospitality Group is focusing on offering value-added packages for the domestic market this summer.

Bryer was also quoted in Business Report, saying that their December bookings are up on a year ago, that 5-star guests are travelling again, but that ‘inbound business to South Africa is still quite tight and long haul flights are losing out to short haul’.  The South African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) CEO Michael Tatalias predicts a better ‘holiday’ season than last year, but says that the rates charged will be more realistic than in the past.

Western Cape Provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde warned that he will present a ‘bare-bones’ 2012 budget in March, and about ‘emptier’ provincial government coffers and budget cuts, which could impact on its funding of tourism too, reported the Cape Argus last week.  Winde said that the local economy had to be ‘buffered against current shocks in traditional markets’, and urged exporters in the province to find ‘high-growth emerging markets’.  The European growth outlook is poor too, the fourth quarter prediction being one of slipping back into recession, reports Business Report.

What is certain is that it is impossible to predict the summer season until Easter, given the continued economic woes of our tourism source markets, the UK market being sorely missed, and the forecast of Europe slipping back into recession.  Bookings for the summer ahead for Whale Cottage Camps Bay look good until 10 January. Domestic tourism will be the major source market for the medium term, until the global economy recovers.

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

Take a trip at home, urges S A Tourism

The struggling local tourism industry, which is feeling the pinch due to the strong Rand and the depressed United Kingdom economy, is delighted that the country’s tourism marketing body is to spend R 30 million in encouraging locals to travel in South Africa, and not go overseas, reports Biz.Community.com.

The SA Tourism TV, radio, print, online, mobile and outdoor advertising campaign is to encourage locals to go on affordable ‘domestic’ trips more often, Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, said at the launch of the campaign.   The Minister described ‘domestic tourism’ as the ‘backbone of the industry’, and quoted figures that show significant growth from 22% to 31 % of percentage spend on holiday travel in just twelve months.   In passenger numbers, domestic tourists represent 79% of tourists traveling in the country. In 2010, 29,7 million domestic trips were undertaken by South Africans, generating an income of R21,1 billion.

“The message is clear here: tourism and culture are related and we are going to increase our marketing resources this year to showcase our hidden treasures to our citizens.  South Africa has a very young population that has begun to travel”, said S A Tourism CEO Thandiwe January-McLean.  SA Tourism’s partners in the domestic tourism marketing campaign include MTN, Pick ‘n Pay, Kulula.com, Flight Centre and Thompsons Holidays.

At the launch function, the Cycad Modjadji Nature Reserve with more than 10000 cycads, some as old as 6000 years, was launched.

At the recent Western Cape Tourism Destination Conference  the message was loud and clear: maintain the international source markets, but focus on domestic tourism, due to the economic downturn, reflecting S A Tourism’s marketing action. 

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