* The 6% decline in international Tourist arrivals in the first quarter of this year is the biggest since our country became a democracy 21 years ago, writes the Financial Times. Ebola is partly to blame, but the new visa rules are the main reason, requiring personal biometric evaluation in India, China, and Russia, and unabridged birth Continue reading →
* The price of petrol increases by 47 cents a liter at midnight today, mainly due to the increase in the price of crude oil.
* More than 1000 delegates attending the World Economic Forum Africa in Cape Town from tomorrow until Friday will be motivated to operate from Cape Town and the Western Cape, in a campaign driven by Wesgro, the Western Cape trade, investment, and tourism promotion agency. Wesgro Continue reading →
* South Africa, and the Cape specifically, has two The World’s 50 Best Restaurants on the top 100 list: The Test Kitchen at 48th position, and The Tasting Room at 72nd position.
* A Schengen-type visa may be introduced for the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries, to make travelling easier for tourists. This suggestion is on the agenda of the WTTC Global Summit, and it is planned to increase the tourism market share of the continent to a double-digit one by 2020, from the current 4%. Our country is pushing for such a visa, but only a handful of the other SADC countries Angola, Botswana, Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe is expected to sign the visa agreement initially.
* Surprising is to read that Distell ad agency The Bester Burke Slingers Group is closing its doors in July, the partners saying that they have had enough of the advertising industry, and that they are no longer able to guide clients in their marketing.
* FlySafair has been granted its license to operate domestic flights, having got its local ownership at a level below 75%, as required.
* The City of Cape Town is threatening an intensive law and order program over the Easter weekend, with roadblocks in conjunction with the SA Police, aimed at reducing accidents.
* Honest Chocolate has created a unique collection of chocolate busts of President Jacob Zuma, Helen Zille, Mamphela Ramphele, and Julius Malema, to tie in with the forthcoming General Election, costing R70 each or R280 for the set. They are available at their outlets at 66 Wale Street and 66 Albert Road in Woodstock. (received via e-mail from Honest Chocolate)
* Alide Dasnois, editor of the Cape Times, has been relieved of her post, for an article by her environmental reporter Melanie Gosling about the improper awarding of a contract by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries to a Sekunjalo subsidiary owned by the Sekunjalo consortium which owns Independent Newspapers! Ms Dasnois has been replaced by Gasant Abarder as editor of the Cape Times.
* Delheim is offering a new Cupcake and Wine pairing. Chef Christine Claasen’s Rooibos cupcake is paired with Delheim Unwooded Chardonnay; the Pomegranate cupcake is paired with the Pinotage Rose; the Makataan (wild melon) cupcake is matched with Delheim’s Chardonnay Sur Lei; and the Pumpkin cupcake is paired with Delheim Pinotage. The cost is R75. (received via media release from Random Hat Communications).
* Bain’s Cape Mountain single grain whisky from Wellington has won double gold at the New York International Spirits Competition, having been named World’s Best Grain Whisky earlier this year. It is distilled at The James Sedgwick Distillery. (received via media release from De Kock Communications)
* Uitkyk is offering ‘Georgian’ picnics at its restored Georgian manor house outside Stellenbosch. The picnic basket includes artisan breads, cheeses, pates, olives, charcuterie, smoked salmon, fruit, and chocolate brownies, paired with a bottle of Uitkyk wine as well as a bottle of mineral water. Cost is R350 for two. (received via joint media release from Paula Wilson Media Consulting and Manley Communications)
* It’s World Tourism Day, with a theme focused on water!
* Klein Constantia has received excellent in-depth coverage on Nederburg Auction 2013 American key-note speaker Joe Roberts’ 1 Wine Dude Blog.
* The American State Department has issued a world wide travel warning about potential terror attacks.
* The first ProWein China will be held in Shanghai on 13 November, and all its 500 stands have been sold.
* Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille is placing pressure on SAA to reinstate a direct route between Cape Town and the USA. and she is routing for Miami, just having returned from a trade visit to that city. Such a direct route would be beneficial for tourism.
* Noise is the most common complaint of hotel guests in 19 tourist destinations, but Cape Town hotels are an exception in not receiving complaints about noise. Modernity, location, and service speed are the most common compliments. Cape Town hotels also ranked top on GRI (Global Review Index), the average online reputation of hotels, followed by Melbourne, St Petersburg, Sydney, and Dublin.
* Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir and Chardonnay will be paired with a 5 course dinner at Nobu at the One&Only Cape Town on 2 October, at a cost of R595. (received via newsletter from One&Only Cape Town)
The Sweet Service Award goes to the City of Cape Town, and UCT’s Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment for addressing the unfinished freeway on the Foreshore, in trying to find a creative solution for it. The Engineering and Built environment students will present proposals for the Future Foreshore Freeway Precinct project, based on existing plans, the requirements of residents of Cape Town, and study benchmarks in other countries, taking the future development of the Cape Metropole into consideration. The City’s Brett Herron, Councillor for Transport, Roads, and Stormwater, described the Foreshore as the most important precinct of Cape Town.
The Sour Service Award goes to the Theatre on the Bay, and its bar and restaurant supplier Dish Food & Social, for charging a 10% surcharge if one pays per credit card. This goes against the rules of the credit card companies, and is a rip-off, as the maximum fee that the merchant pays is 5% for American Express. Most clients use a Mastercard or VISA, with a 2,5 – 3% commission rate at most!
POSTSCRIPT 26/4: We have received the following reply from Andrea Foulkes, the owner of Dish Food & Social, and are delighted that they have removed the sign: ‘Thank you for stimulating a second look at this issue. The first time I saw the sign, I – too – did a double-take. I have to admit that the wording isn’t clear (I didn’t understand it first time around myself). Our manager explained to me that this is not a charge for the use of the credit card. As you rightly point out, this is against the rules (which doesn’t stop many establishments from doing it). The ‘service’ charge is, in fact, gratuity. What was happening, is that patrons were paying for drinks on credit card, but forgetting to add a gratuity. So, this was implemented as a means of protecting the bar staff. We don’t do it upstairs in the restaurant, because diners are accustomed to adding a gratuity. We used to have the old-fashioned tip jar on the counter, but on several occasions we caught patrons attempting to steal the money inside it – unbelievable though it may seem! I wasn’t entirely happy with it right from the beginning, and I should have gone with my gut feeling. Until we can find a better way of communicating this we’ll be removing the sign. Thank you for raising the issue. Kind regards Andrea Foulkes’.
The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog. Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at email@example.com. Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.
On Saturday The Guardian Nigeria published an article ‘Shopping Experience for South African Orange AFCON Visitors’, focusing on the work SA Tourism has done to get shopping malls in Confederation of Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2013 Host Cities to offer sales to make their tenants’ products attractive to the flood of African visitors expected in the country for the AFCON 2013 kick-off on Saturday. It wrote: ‘South African Tourism has formed a partnership with VISA and hundreds of malls across the length and breadth of the country to bring fantastic special offers to all visiting AFCON fans’. The pay-off line for AFCON 2013, developed by SA Tourism, is the ‘Beat at Africa’s Feet’!
Using quotation marks (at the beginning but not at the end!), one can assume that the bulk of the content of the article came from a SA Tourism media release sent to the Nigerian newspaper. It is amusing to read what SA Tourism believes the soccer fans will be attracted to, including clothing retailers, Woolworths and Clicks, as well as international fashion brand stores such as Zara, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, and ‘IT brands like Apple and Vodacom (sic)’! Street vendors selling vegetables also receive an honourable mention, but they hardly would see any increase in business during AFCON! Ladies fashion stores would be unlikely to attract much male soccer fan custom, if the soccer World Cup 2010 is anything to go by, which was largely attended by male soccer fans.
This is how SA Tourism romanticised the retail treats for the visiting soccer fans: “… from big, bright air-conditioned shopping malls to street vendors selling home-grown vegetables, visitors can buy anything and everything in our cities and towns, which each have landmark shopping hubs where all the major retail chains, and many others, are trading. Goods range from imported furniture, designer clothes, kitchenware, computers, techno gadgets, audiovisual equipment, jewellery and more. Edgars, Clicks, Mr Price, Foschini, Stuttafords, Truworths and Woolworths are some of the popular retail chains in the rainbow country including top-end international stores like Zara, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and The Body Shop, and IT brands like Apple and Vodacom. There are also smaller businesses that are big on choice, personalised service and variety in everything from designer baby gear to bathroom accessories, footwear, books, kitchen gadgets, high-end computers and smart phones; including hand-crafted chocolates, diamond, gold and other precious trinkets to adorn the body with”.
Cape Town and the Western Cape will be missing out on the soccer shopping as well as tourism extravaganza, given the bungling of the bid for Cape Town as Host City by City of Cape Town Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events and Marketing! Ticket sales for the three week AFCON 2013 soccer schedule have been slow, due to a lack of marketing, constrained by ‘limited resources’, said the CEO of the Local Organising Committee Mvuzo Mbebe, quoted on SouthAfrica.info. Currently only two-thirds of the 500000 tickets for the tournament, to be played in Johannesburg, Rustenburg, Nelspruit, Durban, and Port Elizabeth, have been sold. The opening match between Bafana Bafana and Cape Verde in Johannesburg on Saturday appears to be close to fully booked. Television coverage over the three week period is expected to reach 2,3 billion viewers.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Table Mountain is the icon of not only Cape Town, but also of our country and even Africa. It was made a New7Wonders of Nature a year ago, and inaugurated as such a month ago.
Recently the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company proudly bragged that it had the highest number of visitors ever in November, with 90000 visitors in that month, or 3000 per day on average, assuming there were no closures due to bad weather days in November. This would mean that in that month an average of 1500 cars went up the curvy and steep Tafelberg Road every day, in the hope of parking. Dropping guests off at the lower Cableway station yesterday morning, I couldn’t help but think how antiquated and tourist-unfriendly this leading tourism destination is:
* The parking ‘facility’, if one can call it that, is wholly inadequate. Yesterday the parking alongside the road was full to just past where the taxis park, near the traffic circle on Kloofnek Road, which would mean a strenuous uphill walk to the lower Cableway station for anyone arriving from about 10h00 onwards. On our way up, we saw that there still is no pedestrian facility, and that tourists have to walk in the already narrow road to get to the Cableway station. One would have thought that a shuttle service would have been introduced to take tourists from the parking area at the traffic circle to the ticket office. Clearly the parking area near the traffic circle is wholly inadequate to accommodate all the cars destined for the mountain tour. The City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off bus stops at the Cableway station, and this has alleviated some of the pressure on parking, as guests can get off and hop on again once they have been to the top of the mountain, but this trip would cost them R250 for the day ticket, in addition to the R205 for the Cableway return ticket.
* The electronic board at the Kloofnek traffic circle is a useful information service, indicating if the Cableway is operating or not. This has alleviated unnecessary traffic up Tafelberg Road. Yesterday the billboard was not operating, but it was clear that the Cableway was open, given that it was a beautiful wind-free day.
* A solution introduced by the Cableway company was the online booking of tickets. This service has been marketed as alleviating queues that Table Mountain was notorious for, many visitors in past years having to queue for up to four hours to buy their ticket, and then to queue for the cablecar. Our guests had pre-booked their tickets (they are valid for 14 days), but when we arrived at the Cableway, the service seemed to be so efficient that not one person was at the ticket office, but there was an incredibly long queue to get into a cablecar. The online ticket purchase was therefore of no benefit at all. Even odder was that other guests of ours who wanted to go up the mountain as well, could not go, because the allocation of online booked tickets had run out for the day by lunchtime, even though they could have bought tickets at the ticket office. All this does not make sense and is customer-unfriendly.
* Visitors coming down the mountain cause severe traffic blockage on Kloofnek Road in the late afternoon, the road widening done in winter not alleviating the traffic problems. Two days ago we drove into town, and saw that there were no traffic officials to regulate the traffic flow, or lack of!
The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company has done little to upgrade its facilities in many years since it introduced new cablecars, with the exception of a repaint of its cablecars, probably sponsored by its advertiser VISA, and the erection of the electronic billboard earlier this year. One cannot understand that the parking situation has not been addressed, that there is not a dedicated safe pedestrian path, and that there is no suitable undercover protection for tourists having to stand in the sun for many hours to get into the cable car, at temperatures such as 36°C yesterday, especially as the CEO of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company, Sabine Lehmann, is the Chairman of Cape Town Tourism!
POSTSCRIPT 27/12: Our guests reported the disaster of the rest of their trip up Table Mountain this morning. The queue was a shambles, being a general one for both online ticket holders and non ticket holders. The non ticket holders were then sent to the ticket office, to buy their tickets. Standing in the queue in the heat for so long, the daughter of our guest fainted. A Cableway staff member saw this, but did not react at all, nor call for help with first aid. Part of the congestion is that the lifts only take 12 passengers at a time, and that the cablecar only took about 40 passengers at a time instead of its capacity of 64. The guests had to queue for an hour to get into a cablecar to get back down the mountain. Our UK guests said that this has been their only negative experience in Cape Town.
POSTSCRIPT 28/12: This morning I took another guest up to the Cableway station, and this time the traffic was even worse than on Boxing Day. It took an hour to drive to the station and return to Camps Bay! The police (NOT traffic police) were directing the traffic at the Kloofnek Traffic Circle, which caused an even greater traffic jam. I saw the odd umbrella for the queue waiting to get into the Cablecar. There is a wooden pergola all the way up the steps where the queue has to wait, but there is no awning over the pergola, therefore not protecting the tourists against the sun and heat at all.
POSTSCRIPT 28/12: Sabine Lehmann, CEO of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company, has responded to this blogpost via a Comment. We were shocked to hear that she had been on leave from 20 – 27 December, returning to work today. She admits that Boxing Day was their busiest day. One wonders how a CEO can be away from her business at the peak of the tourist season! This is her detailed reply:
“The 26th of December was our busiest day this year and our facilities were severely under pressure. We find that in the mornings the Cableway is at its busiest and remind visitors and tour operators alike, that even on our very busy days (such as today), it tends to be much quieter from 3- 4pm onwards.
I agree, we do not have enough parking on Tafelberg Road. But as the road is in a nature reserve it is unlikely that more parking will ever be built. The Taxi’s offer a shuttle service from Kloof Nek @ R5 per person. We are also in discussion with the City of CT to assess whether the MyCiti Bus could connect from Kloof Nek to the Cableway. I am hopeful that this may have a positive outcome by season 2013.
Upgrade of Facilities:
During shutdown each year, the Cableway completes the upgrade of facilities. These are almost always dependent on permissions from a number of parties (City of CT, SANParks and Heritage) so in most cases projects are 2-3 years in the planning before they can be completed.
Some of the signficant investments and upgrades that have taken place over the past 5 years include:
Complete Table Mountain Cafe overhaul including all back of house facilities, top station ablution block upgrade and new sewage system, shading at the lower station on Tafelberg Road, shading at the lower station on the ramp, new ticket system to allow us to sell on line, rehabilitation of Tafelberg Road, completion of a pedestrian boardwalk either side of the Lower Cable Station, completion of a new turning circle at the lower Cable Station and the electronic sign board on Kloof Nek. We have more planned over the next 3 years but are awaiting final sign off of necessary permissions and need to time projects with our shutdown over the next few years.
The Cableway invested R3.5 mill this year to rehabilitate Tafelberg Road, build a new turning circle and build the pedestrian Boardwalk. Tafelberg Road is a public road and not owned nor managed by us.
Online tickets were introduced 3 years ago. They have helped spread demand throught out the day (as has the Sunset Special after 18h00). The Cablecar unfortunately will always remain the bottle neck but visitors who do hold on line tickets do get through quicker. Due to the fact that we are so weather dependent and cannot predict when we will open nor whether there will be a view, we only sell a set number of on line tickets per day”.
POSTSCRIPT 31/12: Forwarding this blogpost on to Cape Town Tourism demonstrates that having Ms Lehmann (CEO of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company) as Chairman of Cape Town Tourism will never result in any action against the Cableway Company. This is the reply we received from Enver Duminy, Executive Manager Tourism Services of Cape Town Tourism, reflecting that mediocrity rules in Cape Town’s tourism authority:
“I note the detailed response received from Sabine Lehmann, MD of Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) on the referred blog post and trust that her feedback is satisfactory. We have also liaised with TMACC and we are satisfied that everything possible is being done to ensure the best-possible service to visitors. I hope you find the above in order?”
Our reply was that it is not in order!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
The tension and heart palpitations were back in episode 4 last night, after a weaker and less exciting episode 3. The judges were more smartly dressed, stronger, somewhat kinder in their judgement of the dishes prepared, and even gave the ‘pressure test’ contestants some tips, so that they could make the timing deadline. Surprisingly they sent two contestants home last night, being Charles Canning from Cape Town and Fortune Kangueehi from Windhoek – see our prior evaluation of the 18 contestants.
Episode 4 was the first to be filmed at Nederburg, in the revamped Johann Graue Auction Hall, which was transformed into an amazing 20-station kitchen with state-of-the-art equipment, and a fully stocked Woolworths Pantry. The 1000 square metre venue was fitted out with 15 tons of wood, and 5 km of underfloor cabling. The kitchen was the contestants’ ‘home’ for two months, from January to March. Little is seen of Nederburg, if one did not know that it was the venue, but one could see wine vats in the background.
The first test put to the contestants was a ‘Mystery Box’, traditionally a box of mixed ingredients from which they have to prepare a dish. The contestants looked nervous when they opened the box, fearing what they would see inside. They were most surprised when they found a childhood photograph of themselves in the box. The task was to create a dish which would reflect their childhood, which was where their culinary journey had begun, and the contestants were invited by the judges to put their ‘soul on the plate’. The judges gave the contestants hope when this task was completed, by saying that their parents and grandparents would have been proud of them.
Not all the 18 finalists were interviewed or filmed in last night’s episode. In most instances the evaluation of only one judge was shown. Mmutsi Maseko made her mother’s stew of leftovers, and wanted to add vetkoek and vegetables to the dish, but ran out of time, meaning that her meat was not perfectly cooked, and she had to leave out the vetkoek and vegetables. Khaya Silingile was praised for the contrasting flavours, and how the sauce complemented yet another perfect salmon dish, being a roulade her grandmother used to make. Samantha Nolan’s croquettes, made in honour of her Dutch father, was voted the top dish of the day by the judges, with excellent chips, sauce, and relish. Lwazi Mngoma made a dish he called ‘Seven Colours’, which included butternut, beetroot, meat, coleslaw, and carrots. The presentation was criticised by the judges, the carrots were said to be raw, and ‘the flavour was not there’. Charles Canning made a beautifully plated modern take on Bangers and Mash, reminding him of his granny, but the judges felt it to be too basic, with too much mash. Jade de Waal made an ‘old school’ Avocado Ritz (right) with a twist, as croquettes, which received very high praise from Chef Andrew Atkinson. Fortune Kangueehi made a Sunday lunch meal her mom used to make, with mince and sweet potatoes, reflecting her (Namibian) culture, in which they eat meat and starch every day, she said. Chef Pete Goffe-Wood found her meat to be ‘very raw, not cooked enough, and not up to scratch’. Berdina Schurink made a tart, reminding her of Sunday afternoon tea on the farm, but the pastry case broke after baking it. She topped it with what was judged to be an excellent rich not-too-sweet ganache, over which she added meringue, which should have been baked more, Chef Pete said. Chef Pete judged the base of her tart to be too soggy. Manisha Naidu’s ‘Chicken Three Ways’, with chicken breast, a curry sauce, and stuffed drumstick, was enjoyed by Chef Bennie Masekwameng.
The five ‘worst dishes’ were judged to be those by Berdina, Fortune, Charles, Mmutsi, and Lwazi, and as ‘punishment’ they had to take the ‘pressure test’, in making koeksisters (the Afrikaans version) and koesiesters (the Cape Malay version), the difference between the two similar sounding dishes not being clear to viewers, the preparation and look of the two sweet pastries differing. The judges became technical about the heat of the oil, and the temperature of the syrups into which they had to be dipped, the five contestants being required to make two sets of dough and two types of syrups. The 75 minutes allocated did not seem to be enough time for all five contestants, as the two types of dough had to cool down for 30 minutes and 15 minutes. Berdina spoke about the importance of being methodical and accurate in baking, and how important it is to read a recipe, which each of these contestants were given. Her koeksisters were beautifully plaited, and judged to be ‘damn good’. Fortune moaned about the odd ingredient list, e.g. half an egg, and a ‘quarter of this or that‘! She admitted that she became mixed up, and couldn’t remember if she had added baking powder or not. Unfortunately for her she was correct, Chef Pete picking it up. She could not hold back her tears, realising that two problem dishes would cost her a place in the competition. Even worse was seeing a tearful Charles, almost shocked that he too had to leave the programme. Mmutsi was praised by Chef Bennie for her crispy koeksisters, and was told that she was ‘spot on’, and ‘that they were a perfect interpretation’. Lwazi only got one of his two koeksister dishes correct, and was lucky that he remained a MasterChef SA contestant in this episode.
The judges told all the contestants, who had been watching their ‘pressure test’ contestant colleagues from above, that baking ‘needs the fundamentals to be right’. Fortune was sent on her way, Chef Bennie telling her that she can cook, and that she cooks with passion. Charles was told that he puts ‘a lot of heart into food’, when he too was eliminated. Samantha and Manisha Naidu were appointed as team leaders, having made the two best dishes of the day. The judges ended off the programme by reminding the contestants to ‘be the best or to go home’! They were also told to ‘never take anything for granted’ in the remaining episodes. The judges certainly delivered on this ‘promise’, by eliminating two instead of only one contestant last night.
New advertisers were Allan Gray, in a beautifully shot commercial, and inappropriate for the programme Tiger Wheel & Tyre and Jeep. Commercials for sponsors Robertsons, Woolworths, Hyundai, and Nederburg were flighted, as were those for Kenwood, Outsurance, VISA, Nashua Mobile/Cell C, smeg, Albany Ultima, Spar, and electricity-saving.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage