Entries tagged with “Webber Wentzel”.


FLF Emma Sadleir, Rebecca Davis, Tom Eaton Whale CottageThe Franschhoek Literary Festival has never viewed Social Media as a serious literary genre, and its token recognition of writing on Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is reflected in the event’s poor use of the medium to communicate with its audience of attendees and potential future visitors.  It is a shame that the two Social Media sessions overlapped so much, much of what was said on Friday being repeated on Saturday, not surprising in that two of the three speakers were the same persons.

Friday’s session was one of the Festival opening events, and was not as well attended as one would have thought, but the starting time may have been too early.  The target audience was not (more…)

From small beginnings, Twitter last week celebrated its 7th anniversary. with 500 million Twitter users sending up to 340 million Tweets daily, described as the ‘SMS of the internet’, according to Wikipedia!   Many on Twitter will say they are hooked, even worse addicted, but for many the dark side of Twitter may soon outweigh its benefits.

Twitter users love the social medium for the following:

*   its information role – faster than any conventional broadcast medium, Twitter users are well informed about world events almost as they happen, can listen to a courtroom bail application judgement real time, obtain weather updates, read the world’s newspapers and magazines digitally, and update themselves about anything and everything.

*   its friendship role – many new friendships have been made via Twitter, with Tweeters with similar interests meeting and connecting, and becoming real time friends.

*  its profiling role – should one wish to build a profile of a person as a potential employee or employer, friend, competitor, or business partner, one can read their Twitter stream to check how well they can communicate, how well they can spell, how courteous (or not) they are in their communication.

*   its experience-sharing role, in sharing restaurant experiences (a great irritation for other Twitter users, research shows), recipes for cooking and baking, evaluation of wines drunk, and general tourism experiences.

*   its micro-messaging role, in users productively reducing their communication to 140 characters and still communicating coherently.

*   it has moved communication into the visual realm, allowing one’s Followers to share great restaurant meals, beautiful sunsets, great sporting achievements, and life in general via one’s photographs, allowing them to be there digitally.

*   it is an immediate brand feedback platform, highlighting the positive and negative attributes of every brand around the world, given the immediacy of sharing information.

*   it leads to dialogue and conversation, often generating funny and interesting points of view, such as during the 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

The dark side of Twitter has overtaken its benefits for many Tweeters:

*   Less original material is Tweeted, and more Tweets by others are re-Tweeted, especially first thing in the morning.

*   The flood of Tweets is never-ending on weekdays, slowing down vastly on weekends and in the evenings, showing how much Tweeting is done from the office.  Finding it difficult to reduce the number of Followers, Tweeters are unable to read all the Tweets in their timeline, and feel that they are missing out because they cannot read all the Tweets.

*   Twitter’s policy of allowing freedom of speech, without action to remove Tweets that are abusive, that harass, are defamatory, and spread untruths, is its biggest weakness, and while one can block unpleasant Tweeters, and even report them for Spam, Twitter never acts against them as Facebook would do, in closing their account down after one warning.  Slowly but surely Social Media is receiving attention from Twitter cyberbullying victims and their lawyers, for Tweeters not respecting libel laws for excessive defamation. Even re-Tweeting defamatory Tweets makes one liable for libel. Ignorant Tweeters who abuse others, and have their employers’ names in their Twitter Bio, are learning that they and their employers can be sued for libel, and can claim damages from both parties.

*   Even worse is the ganging up by a small number of Tweeters, who not only target Twitter victims, but also badger, bash, and bully their friends and those that they interact with on Twitter at every turn.  Because they don’t like a Tweeter, all the friends and followers of that Tweeter are disliked as well, and ridiculed, bullied, harassed, and even stalked by Tweeters such as Sonia Cabano, an old hand at Twitter abuse and at setting up anonymous accounts to disparage others (e.g. @TableMountain_); as well as Twitch Marthèlize Tredoux, who Tweets as @Konfytbekkie, and is regarded as one of the most abusive Tweeters at the moment, ‘out-performing’ Cabano in terms of venom and persistence. One wonders how Tredoux does her job at Siyavula, Tweeting ad nauseum!  These two Tweeters are assisted with behind-the-scenes input from Skye Grove at Cape Town Tourism, recipe blogger Jane-Anne Hobbs, and supermarket wine promoter Michael Olivier, known to do anything in their power to disparage ourselves. Twitter has become their ‘school ground’ bullying domain, weaklings hiding behind anonymous accounts to disparage and destroy others. Ironically, every time an abusive Tweet is sent, it pushes up the readership numbers of our blog, which is hardly what the Tweeters would want to achieve!

Twitter users seem ignorant about the legal implications of their defamatory Tweets, often shooting off Tweets without evaluating the content for defamation, and re-Tweeting libelous Tweets, making them guilty of libel too.  Recently Webber Wentzel Social Media lawyer Emma Sadleir warned that abusive Tweeters could land up behind bars if they ‘put up racist or offensive posts’, opening themselves up to charges of crimen injuria or facing charges under the Equality Act, reported Times LIVE.  Sadleir has encouraged cyberbully victims to report such defamation at a police station and lay a charge of crimen injuria. A recent new ‘Protection against Harassment Act’ allows online victims to obtain a ‘protection order against their perpetrators‘.  The South African Press Council has also announced that its press code will be expanded to include online media, allowing for the same standards of ethical and professional communication to apply to all media platforms.

Well-known constitutional lawyer Pierre de Vos summarised the worst aspects of Twitter on his ‘Constitutionally Speaking’ blog, in that it (with Facebook) seems ‘to bring out the worst in people. Otherwise reasonably decent people who might well carefully weigh their words can become raving hatemongers and irresponsible tattletales on these platforms’. Analysing the differences in defamation between printed media and Social Media, Professor de Vos came to the conclusion that defamation is defamation, when it leads to the ‘lowering of your reputation’, which is unlawful, with the exception of substantiated truthful reporting which is in the public interest.  Yet Professor de Vos comes to an interesting conclusion, writing that legal action against defamation on Social Media may in fact attract more attention to the matter, and that one should hold one’s head high, and allow one’s reputation on other Social Media platforms and one’s blog to speak for oneself.  He concludes: When somebody says something defamatory about me I usually laugh and instinctively feel pity for the person who is so damaged that he or she has to resort to insults to make him or herself feel better about themselves’ (our underlining).

2oceansvibe owner Will Mellor (he lives his life under the pseudonym ‘Seth Rotherham) has produced an etv Tech Report about defamation prevention, ironic in that his blog was subject to a charge of defamation and dishonest reporting about the zoning of the property which is rented by our Whale Cottage Camps Bay.  We question his honesty and ethics, and that of his company. Earlier this week the City of Cape Town confirmed the zoning of the property, and found that there is ‘no land use contravention in terms of the conditions of approval‘, which was granted to the property in 1999! This counters the unsubstantiated 2oceansvibe allegation that the property was incorrectly zoned by the City of Cape Town, and their libelous allegation that the Trust that owns the building may have ‘defrauded’ the City of Cape Town in terms of rates and taxes!  We expect Mellor and his unethical self-proclaimed ‘journalist’ Simon Hartley to remove the libelous post, which was based on unsubstantiated information, and to offer us an apology.  We expect an apology too from Len Steenkamp from the University of Stellenbosch, Ben Wagner and Amanda Sevasti from Native digital agency, Marthèlize Tredoux, Cape Point Trails, Sonia Cabano, Rob Armstrong from Haut Espoir, and Lisa Strachan for alleging impropriety via Tweets or Re-Tweets. See Mellor in drag, for a good laugh, preaching about Social Media defamation prevention!

One hopes that the nasty Tweeters will realise that incessant abusive Tweeting is boring for one’s Followers, leading them to be unfollowed, and reflects their own personal issues, according to Professor de Vos. Twitter has become an open ‘skinner (gossip) space’, in which many have no manners in talking negatively about others publicly, knowing full well that the Tweets can be read by the person(s) they are Tweeting about.  Twitter could be such a pleasant space for all if there were not regular Twars spoiling the communication value of the medium for so many!  In Twitter’s next seven years it is likely that legal controls about what is written will get tighter, in that action will be taken against Twitter abuse, harassment, and defamation.

POSTSCRIPT 3/4: Sonia Cabano closed down her personal Twitter account on Thursday evening.

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

Über cyber bully Jane-Anne Hobbs could not have foreseen how her abusive bully and blackmail Tweet about us relative to Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, Skye Grove, Abigail Donnelly, and Michael Olivier would boomerang so badly against the very Tweeters she wanted to protect!  More than 2500 persons have read our blogpost to date.

Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly has kept a low profile throughout the Hobbs Twitter abuse campaign, which included a threat issued by Hobbs that she would unfollow anyone who was seen to interact with us on Twitter. Mrs Donnelly clearly did not think that all her sins of restaurant judging bias would be divulged once again, and must have been very annoyed with Hobbs for having them dished up again.   Cape Town Tourism CEO Mrs Helmbold has also been low key, in showing little reaction to the furore the Tweet caused, focusing on her Mommy Tweeting instead!  Michael Olivier took serious offence to our job description of his supermarket wine promotion.  Perhaps he would prefer to be called a Social Media Smous, hounding wine estates for a package which includes Tweets and blog write ups by him as well as some radio mentions, in return for a hefty fee!

The surprise is the reaction by Cape Town Tourism PR and Communications Manager Skye Grove, who used the Cape Town Tourism legal firm Webber Wentzel to send us a letter about our blogpost about the Hobbs Twitter abuse, about what is essentially a personal issue about Ms Grove’s partner preference.  In the blogpost we highlighted that Ms Grove pushes the pink agenda on Cape Town Tourism’s website and in her Tweets on behalf of the company, but it was carefully worded as ‘personal gender preference Tweets’. Despite Ms Grove regularly Tweeting about her personal partner preference, we have never referred to it directly or given her a label relating to it.  She must be so sensitive to it that she read much more into it than was intended.   It must have been a comment by a Maria to the blogpost that really made Ms Grove see pink!

Cape Town Tourism’s lawyers must have been poorly briefed, in their poor wording about blogging in their letter, clearly having no understanding of Social Media.  They disparagingly allege that some comments could be written by ourselves using ‘pseudonym/s’, obviously the absurd perception of Ms Grove.   If we can write what we like in the front end of our blogpost on the blog, why on earth would we want to create different personas in the Comments section to say even more.  We have been known to be honest and direct in what we write, and do not need to hide behind false names. The lawyers claim that we have ‘addressed or alluded to the apparent sexual orientation of Ms Grove’.  As stated above, we have never declared nor hinted at Ms Grove’s partner gender preference on this blog.   Pink tourism is an important part of the marketing of Cape Town, but Cape Town Tourism should not push one agenda more than another.   Even if the reader may have read a partner gender preference into any of our words, there was no disparagement communicated nor should this have been hurtful to Ms Grove, given her open admission on Twitter of her partner gender preference, which is her right to do.  The letter states that alleging that Ms Grove has pushed the pink agenda ‘is damaging to her good name and reputation’!

We question why Ms Grove has sought legal support from Cape Town Tourism’s lawyers, a letter costing in the order of R20000, and which the City of Cape Town, Cape Town Tourism members, and its ratepayers are funding, when it is a personal matter.  This must have received the blessing of her CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, a surprise given how short of budget Cape Town Tourism is, as the City of Cape Town removed a few million Rand from their budget, and which may lead to staff retrenchments!   Two years ago Ms Grove (with Olivier) tried to close down our blog via our then website hosting company Hetzner, but we moved the website to an American hosting company to prevent this.  Ms Grove has not held back at opportunities to disparage us on Social Media platforms in the past!

The lawyers have demanded that we delete the ‘insulting, offensive, demeaning and defamatory’ entries on our blog which refer to Ms Grove’s personal gender preference, but as there are none, there is nothing to remove. They have demanded a written undertaking that we will desist from publishing further comments about Ms Grove’s partner preferences in future, to which we reply via this blogpost.  We have also been instructed to action their demands ‘without any editorial comment on your part or any reference to this letter or any other correspondence’. Freedom of speech is a constitutional right, and therefore we have written this blogpost, also to prove how Cape Town Tourism mismanages its City funds for personal agendas!  The threat of not adhering to Ms Grove’s demands is to ‘consider instituting urgent interdictory proceedings for the necessary relief’, and to make us liable for ‘additional damages’!  Furthermore Ms Grove ‘reserves her right to pursue civil and/or criminal action against you and “Maria’ should you fail to comply with her above demands’. One wonders if Ms Grove can afford the threatened legal action, or whether the Cape Town ratepayers and members of Cape Town Tourism will have to fund it too!

NOTE: We will not allow any Comments which are abusive to Ms Grove or ourselves in reaction to this blogpost.

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

The past twenty four hours have seen bullying, bashing, and blackmail on Twitter, kick started by an abusive Tweet by über Tweeter Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner, who accused us of ‘cyber bullying‘ her ‘friends’ Mariette du Toit-Helmbold (CEO) and Skye Grove (Communications and PR Manager) of Cape Town Tourism, supermarket wine promoter Michael Olivier, and Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly!   Not only was her stream of Tweets disparaging, but she also blackmailed her 5000-odd Followers with the threat of being unfollowed!  One would have expected the New Year to have had a gentler start!

Hobbs is a ‘mommy food blogger‘, her Juno and now Scrumptious blogs having impressed in the past with the quality of her photographs, and portfolio of recipes.  In the time that we have known her, we have had little interaction, seeing each other at odd Franschhoek (more…)

The planned Economic Development Programme (EDP), which was announced by Alan Winde, Western Cape Provincial Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, more than a year ago, could see the amalgamation of Cape Town Routes Unlimited and Cape Town Tourism.

In a report in Southern African Tourism Update, a new steering committee of seventeen members for the EDP is announced, which includes current Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) Chairman Peter Bacon, Protea Hotels Group’s Otto Stehlik, and Western Cape province head of Economic Development and Tourism Solly Fourie, with Minister Winde.  The role of the Steering Committee is to ‘guide the final design, implementation and launch of the EDP’. More specifically, the Steering Committee agreed that the EDP should seamlessly integrate all sectors of the Western Cape economy, it should ‘institutionalise’the partnership between government and business to create mutual accountability for the future of the economy’ of the province, it should guide business around shared goals, it should create an environment that is conducive to small and large business as well as attracting investment to the province, it should provide ‘economic and market intelligence’, and should monitor the performance of the economy.  Greater employment will also be addressed by this not-for-profit body. One of the specific aims of the EDP is to create ‘a single strategy and brand for the region’s economy’, says a media release issued by Minister Winde earlier this year.  The ‘Cape Town and Western Cape’ brand name was highly controversial when it was introduced at the inception of Cape Town Routes Unlimited.

The report states interestingly that ‘it is anticipated that the EDP will resolve the current duplication of marketing efforts by CTRU and Cape Town Tourism (CTT), resulting from a historical impasse between the province and the city, which funds CTT’.  When the Minister first announced the establishment of the EDP, and his desire to amalgamate all economic and tourism related bodies in the Western Cape, Cape Town Tourism expressed its vehement opposition to the EDP, and declared its independence.  The Minister has not mentioned Cape Town Tourism as one of the bodies to be amalgamated more recently, and Cape Town Tourism has also not done so, just referring to its benefit for the province in general at its recent AGM.  Even more interesting as that Cape Town Tourism’s legal advisor Mike Evans of Webber Wentzel referred blatantly, and out of context to the AGM proceedings, to the closing down of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, while he may have meant that the operations of the EDP would be incorporated into the EDP.

Winde has used the model of the London Development Agency for the EDP, and has appointed Cape Town Partnership CEO to lead a task team for the establishment of the EDP, which is to open its doors in April 2012. In September we wrote about the Economic Development Agency, its name at the time, and the list of eighteen Western Cape economic promotion bodies which are to be amalgamated into it, including Wesgro, the Cape Film Commission, Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and the Cape Town Fashion Council. There has been no mention of Cape Town Tourism as being one of the bodies since then.

Only through the amalgamation of both Cape Town Routes Unlimited and Cape Town Tourism can the current costly duplication of marketing Cape Town and the Western Cape be eliminated.  Whilst the City of Cape Town funds Cape Town Tourism, and the DA rules both the city and the province, it will be interesting to see if the City of Cape Town and Western Cape province can see the bigger picture and co-operate in pulling Cape Town Tourism into the body as well, for the benefit of a united tourism industry in the Cape. The proviso of course would be that the EDP should be run efficiently and along business principles.  The management of Cape Town Routes Unlimited has been a disaster, and is not a model for how the EDP should be run!  We call on the Minister to communicate in more detail with the tourism industry, to explain his plans with the EDP.

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

Last night Cape Town Tourism held its AGM with a record attendance of more than 650 members as well as Twitter-invited guests, the interest being high due to the eagerly awaited advertising campaign the industry was promised.  It was a very fast presentation of the campaign highlights, but not an actual campaign, and received mixed reaction.

Mayor Patricia de Lille set the scene, motivating the campaign by saying that the double dip recession means that new tourism markets must be found, and that we must change how we do business, and which business we attract to Cape Town.  We must draw people to work and live in Cape Town, and not just to visit as tourists. She said that the campaign speaks to our needs, is simple, changeable, gives the city new energy, and repositions it. Chairman of the Board and head of ACSA in Cape Town, Ian Bartes,  confirmed the world economic crisis, and that it has impacted negatively on long haul travel, meaning that Cape Town and Cape Town Tourism must be redefined.  He said that the company has to be made ‘future-fit’, a term used a number of times, and therefore duplication was reduced, the company was restructured, efficiency was increased, and overheads reduced, to drive Cape Town to be the top city in Africa by 2020.  Cape Town must be positioned as the city to visit, to live in, to do business in, and to study in.  Board member Claus Tworeck presented the financial statements, and stated that tourism is not for ‘sissies’.  His figures showed that Cape Town Tourism has received a grant from the City of Cape Town of R40 million for the current financial year, and is aiming to make another R6 million in self-generated income. R18 million is going to salaries (i.e. R1,5 million per month, an extraordinary high salary bill), with R27 million remaining for ‘other operating expenses’, the marketing budget not being split out of this figure.   The Discovery/National Geographic campaign is known to cost Cape Town Tourism R8 million, and a figure of R3 million was mentioned by an advertising agency executive for the budget for the advertising campaign, a figure which seems minimal, and would only buy domestic coverage, as a ‘feel-good’ campaign for Capetonians, it was suggested!  Interesting was the mention by Cape Town Tourism legal advisor Mike Evans of Webber Wentzel, who mentioned financial ‘wrong-doing’ by the organisation’s previous Financial Manager (and Deputy CEO), and that Cape Town Routes Unlimited will close down, and therefore one of the resolutions called for the future exclusion of an ex officio representative of the tourism body, initially planned to allow communication between the two bodies, and to be replaced with a representative of the City of Cape Town, being its major funder.  It was interesting to note that not one question was allowed during the two and a half hour presentation, not quite how an AGM should be run!

Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold took us through old territory, already covered in its Brand Cape Town and the ‘Strategic Plan’ presentations, justifying its new focus on ‘urban travellers’, making up more than 70 % of tourists, she said. She said there is not enough knowledge about Cape Town, and perceptions about its expense and poor winter weather need to be changed.  The goal is to get back to tourism figures of 2007, and to regain 10% of South African visitors in Cape Town by 2016.  The new VMMS booking system via Nightsbridge is up and running for small accommodation establishments.  A new tiered membership scheme is to be introduced, to attract more businesses as members. She spoke about the joint Discovery/National Geographic campaign with Durban, Johannesburg and SA Tourism, negotiated by its Australian consultant Ian Macfarlane, as if it has been approved, but my call yesterday to Durban Tourism demonstrated that this campaign is far from certain and approved, at least as far as the other areas are concerned.  If run, it would include print articles too, as well as a Discovery-funded film school, teaching young talent about film-making, and using the footage generated for Cape Town Tourism and on Discovery.  A ‘My Cape Town’ campaign was run to instill pride in locals about their city. Mrs Helmbold announced that a new Cape Town clothing range is to be launched, as well as a Cape Town City Card.  A joint Cape Town media and guest relations programme is to be launched with SA Tourism and SAA.

Getting to the advertising campaign, Mrs Helmbold said that it should stimulate demand, disperse visitors across the city, and increase their spend while they are on holiday. The campaign must move away from the stale representation of Cape Town, to one that showcases the real depth of Cape Town, against the backdrop of our ‘home’. The campaign will be launched at World Travel Market in London on 7 November, and Cape Town Tourism will look to partnering with international airlines, to offer packages.  Short city-break packages will be offered, and an (unreadable) Events year-round calendar was flashed on the screen. Historic sites, including the fan walk, will be linked via walks. The number of Visitor Centres will be reduced down from 18 currently, to a ‘handful’, representing 50 % of the budget. The essence of Cape Town is ‘the unexpected city’, no longer focusing on our city’s natural beauty, and that it is the gateway to more beauty in the areas surrounding Cape Town.  Ogilvy Cape Town was challenged to not produce traditional advertising and boring travelogues.  At the core of the campaign is that ‘Cape Town is the urban tonic to put life back into your life’. Visiting Cape Town will create a number of benefits, incorporated in the campaign:

*  ‘Cape Town: I was here for five star menus and I left with a secret recipe’

*   ‘Cape Town: I was here to play and I found a place to work’

*   ‘Cape Town: You go there for beautiful landscapes, and you find beautiful people’

*   ‘Cape Town: I wanted to change Cape Town, but it changed me’

The campaign was described as cheeky, presenting the warmth of its people, representing its proximity, authenticity and intimacy, and highlighting that Cape Town is a city of mind and being.  The pay-off line ‘You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town’ is extended into a business application: “You don’t need a conference, you need Cape Town”.

The campaign was presented in a rush, in an audio-visual, with print ads, bus shelter advertising, and more shown.  No mention was made of the campaign budget, the target market, and the cities/countries in which it would be run. As we left the Cape Town International Convention Centre venue, we were handed a yellow envelope, which contained a Campaign Strategy diagram.  In the media release, Mrs Helmbold is quoted as follows: “The marketing campaign is about more than just attracting tourists.  It’s about incorporating business and investment, the creative and innovation sectors and academia into one vision and direction: economic growth , job creation and inclusion to the benefit of all citizens”. In 2008 Cape Town Tourism was tasked by the City of Cape Town to lead a brand positioning process, focusing on that which makes the city unique. Industry workshops were held, and the Cape Film Commission, Accelerate Cape Town, and the Economic Development Programme were involved, to create a city brand for the residents of Cape Town, as well as its tourists, businesses and students.

None of the persons I spoke to after the presentation raved about the campaign.  They seemed luke warm, some stating that too much information about the campaign was thrown at the audience in too short a time. One design specialist could not believe that the campaign was nothing more than an ‘old-fashioned’ print campaign, and he missed the new media connection to it, which should have been the foundation, in his opinion. It was uncertain whether there would be TV advertising, as we were not shown a TV commercial. An ad man, whose agency had been involved in the pitch for the account, said it was nothing more than a ‘feel-good’ campaign for Capetonians, and he seemed a little angry that agencies had been asked to pitch for the account, when it was probably just a tactic to give Cape Town Tourism’s ad agency a shake.

The campaign will make Capetonians even more smug and proud to be living in this beautiful city.  Whether it will make more tourists, businesspersons, students and new residents come to Cape Town to visit and to live here remains to be seen.  Our counter to the campaign: You don’t need an Advertising Campaign, you need Cape Town!

Read the full speech by Mrs Helmbold here.

POSTSCRIPT 18/10: The Cape Times headline today about the Cape Town Tourism campaign, “When a holiday isn’t just a trip, but tripping on Cape Town”, could easily be interpreted to mean something that probably wasn’t intended, and would not be good for the image of the city.  Oddly, the article quotes the Cape Town Tourism PRO Skye Grove as saying ‘that the cost of the campaign has not been determined, but that the body’s annual budget would be aligned to it’. No ad agency would design a campaign without a budget for it, and therefore one wonders why Cape Town Tourism is not divulging this information.  We have written to Mrs Helmbold, asking her for the budget, and to confirm the information about the Discovery/National Geographic campaign budget approval, but we have not yet received a reply from her.

POSTSCRIPT 11/11: I came across this You Tube video ‘interview’ by Cape Town Tourism Communications Manager Skye Grove with her boss Velma Corcoran, the Marketing Manager of the tourism body, at World Travel Market in London over the weekend.  The interview does not give one a feeling of Mrs Corcoran’s ability to market the city, the interview reflecting her lack of confidence and initiative, not making much eye contact with Ms Grove during the interview.  By contrast, a similar interview conducted by Ms Grove with Mary Tebje, Cape Town Tourism’s international media representative in the UK, was far more impressive.  Ms Tebje exudes confidence and sounds very knowledgeable about the UK market, and what it expects from Cape Town as a tourist destination.

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

Thinking about the cyber-buzz about the non-renewal of our 20-year membership of Cape Town Tourism, which expired at the end of August 2011, we have come to an important decision for our Blog, and give credit to Nashua’s famous advertising payoff line from many years ago for its inspiration: “Saving you time, saving you money, putting you first”!

Given that Cape Town Tourism’s lawyers Webber Wentzel will have already run up a hefty bill in trying to silence us on our Blog, in writing two lawyer’s letters directed at ourselves, the letter written by the Chairman Ian Bartes, as well as a short reaction to it on the Cape Town Tourism website, easily already in the region of the cost of sponsoring an event like ‘100 Women 100 Wine’, we want to save Cape Town Tourism money.

We are seeing  a very nasty collection of Cape Town Tourism commenters slash, trash and bash either Cape Town Tourism and its staff, but more importantly, myself and my company too, without concern for laws of defamation, as well as disparagement and the truth, whenever we post a story about Cape Town Tourism. This collection of vitriolic commenters includes Mike, Jeremy Claasen, Jeremy du Plessis, Marco, Kurt, Rashiq, and Paul.

Cape Town tourism’s industry is in a crisis, and the R40 million annual allocation from the City of Cape Town does not go far when at least 50 % is estimated to go to salaries and other running costs, Australian Strategetic consultants, and the sponsorship of ‘frivolous’ events such as the 100 Wine ‘competition’.  This leaves less than R20 million, we estimate, for the marketing of Cape Town.

To remove the censorship role that Cape Town Tourism has taken upon itself on behalf of the tourism industry, to not influence my writing in having ‘Big Sista’ looking over my blogging shoulder, to not waste my time to reply to aggressive and abusive comments from the tiny collection of Cape Town Tourism supporters, and to protect commenters who want to make a genuine contribution from not being sued by Cape Town Tourism (and ourselves too!), we have reached the important decision to impose a ban on all comments for any blogpost we write about Cape Town Tourism from today onwards, and we will close the comment facility on past Cape Town Tourism blogposts too.  Genuine commenters are welcome to send an e-mail with their point of view, which we will feature as a Postscript to the relevant Blogpost, if it does not contain any defamatory or disparaging remarks, to whalecot@iafrica.com.

This means that Cape Town Tourism can save money on legal fees, and its staff can spend its valuable time on Tweeting more, organising lunches with fellow Tweeters, and perhaps throw some marketing into the day as well.  It means that I can get on with what I love most, which is writing blogposts.  Cape Town Tourism’s supporter band will now have to find their ‘Inspiration’ elsewhere in Cape Town, and will not be able to express it on our Blog any more!

We apologise to our regular readers for this self-imposed censorship of comments, but this ‘cyber-attack’ on Freedom of Speech by Cape Town Tourism, reflecting a paranoia that is most surprising for an organisation that has set itself up as being tech-savvy, and which has a Communications Manager who dishes out insults on Social Media platforms against Cape Town Tourism members, and even the funders of her employer (the City of Cape Town), is unprecedented in Social Media terms, to our knowledge. One is surprised that the Communications Manager still holds her position, for the damage she has already caused Cape Town Tourism through her unprofessional behaviour.

However, Cape Town Tourism will never stop us from Blogging, and writing on Facebook, Twitter, and in our WhaleTales newsletter what needs to be said about tourism, the marketing of Cape Town and the Western Cape, and about Cape Town Tourism.  Makes you think, doesn’t it!

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

Ian Bartes

Chairman: Cape Town Tourism

15 September 2011

Dear Ian

MEMBERSHIP OF CAPE TOWN TOURISM

Thank you for your letter regarding the status of our Whale Cottage Camps Bay membership of Cape Town Tourism, dated 8 September 2011.   In your 9-page letter you request us to motivate why Cape Town Tourism should not terminate our membership due to our Blog, and more specifically, selected comments on it!

I thank you for the opportunity to set the record straight in terms of the allegations you make about our alleged ‘barrage of cyber-criticism’, ‘cyber attacks’, and ‘CTT bashing’ in your letter, and for the challenge to revisit our policy as far as comments on our Whale Cottage Blog goes. As the criticism is about our Blog, I am posting my reply to you on our Blog, so that members of Cape Town Tourism should be informed of your proposed action, and allow them to participate in the debate about Social Media and its responsible use in tourism marketing, being a public interest matter.

For the background, you will no doubt know that my PR company Relationship Marketing previously, and now my Whale Cottage Camps Bay, have been a member of Cape Town Tourism for about 20 years, motivated by our belief that it is the right thing to be a member of one’s local tourism bureau, and we have adopted this policy in the four towns in the Western Cape in which we have Whale Cottages.  In addition, I was a Board member of Cape Town Tourism for a number of years, of its previous (still not yet wound-up) Section 21 company, and was its Deputy Chairman, working closely with then-CEO Sheryl Ozinsky to run the most successful tourism bureau in the country at the time.  Our loyalty towards Cape Town Tourism has been visible to your CEO, in that we assisted her to get her current job, and in that I invited her to address members of our Camps Bay Accommodation association, which I head up, to motivate our members to become members of Cape Town Tourism. In fact, we made it mandatory for members of our association to be members of Cape Town Tourism, until our members regrettably voted against this membership criterion a few months ago, due to their dissatisfaction with the benefits of membership of Cape Town Tourism, leading most Camps Bay guest houses to not renew their membership of your organisation.

You may also know that we have written a WhaleTales newsletter for the past ten years, and it is a tourism newsletter, including general news about tourism in Cape Town and the Western Cape, and news about local restaurants, the wine industry, the film industry, whale watching, and any other news that is related to tourism.  Our Whale Cottage Portfolio Blog was started three years ago, and we publish a daily post about a tourism-related topic.  Our blog is known for its honesty, and achieved the honour of a Top 10 listing of ‘Most Controversial Blog’ in the SA Blog Awards last year.   You will note our blog credo is “independent.incisive.informative”, and we have lived up to this at all times.   Over time, both the newsletter and blog have achieved a substantial readership.  Our writing has not changed over the past ten years, and Cape Town Tourism has been allowed to contribute input and response over the years.  In the past three months (i.e. out of 92 blogposts), we have written nine blogposts about Cape Town Tourism and its marketing activities, and another 21 have referred to Cape Town Tourism in a secondary manner.

It is therefore a surprise that we should receive your letter of allegations relating to our recent writing about Cape Town Tourism, given that it is no more or less in quantity than before.  What has changed in content is that we have become more critical of the Marketing activities (or rather, lack of) by Cape Town Tourism, after it became clear to us that there was no recognition of nor action by your management of the tourism crisis in our city, until we wrote about it on our Blog, and it was then picked up as a front page story by the Cape Argus. In our capacity as a member of Cape Town Tourism, as a ratepayer of Cape Town, and as a writer, it concerned me greatly to hear your CEO answer a question about the positioning of Cape Town at the ‘strategic plan’ presentation at the Baxter Theatre recently, which reflected her obviously uninformed Marketing understanding.  The fact that she had to call in consultants to write the plan, and Australian ones at that, deserved intense debate in the interest of the industry.

Our response to your adverse allegations about our Blog is as follows:

*   No Code of Conduct has ever been sent to us as members, and therefore not signed or agreed to in acceptance.  In the past week your offices have not been able to honour our request to send us such a signed document.

*   Your nine-page letter refers repeatedly to us not treating Cape Town Tourism, its staff, and its representatives with ‘honesty, respect and dignity’, as per the Cape Town Tourism Code of Conduct, in six comments and two blogposts on our Blog, for which you present examples of alleged ‘disrespect’, but no allegations of dishonesty nor loss of dignity are made or substantiated by you.  We reject these allegations with contempt, given that our blogposts and comments have not been designed to prejudice Cape Town Tourism and its agents.

*   You write about the ‘immense volume, intensity and frequency of the criticism’ (clause 5.1.1), ‘frequency and intensity of these cyber-attacks’ (clause 5.1.2), and ‘torrent of criticism’ (clause 5.1.3), and it demonstrates your lack of understanding of Social Media.   None of these alleged criticisms of frequency by yourselves are contrary to any code of conduct nor to Social Media practice, and cannot be linked to an alleged ‘attempt to denigrate CTT (Cape Town Tourism)’, as claimed by you.

*   You refer to “Twitter posts” (the word is ‘Tweets’) as being a problem, yet present no evidence of this!

*   You (mistakenly) refer to a commenter on our blog as a ‘follower’, implying that we have a special relationship with our commenters!  Most commenters are unknown to us, especially as they use false names and/or gmail addresses.  Interesting is how you take one comment out of hundreds on our blog out of context, to support your ‘argument’!  You have not fairly highlighted the numerous replies to comments that I have written, defending our relationship with your CEO, and stating over and over again that nothing that we write is meant personally about her or her colleagues.  We have also expressed over the years our respect for your CEO and the good work that she and her team has done in amalgamating the Visitor Bureaus in Cape Town. This does not mean, however, that some activities by your organisation are not worthy of criticism.

*   Your clause 5.1.3. is devoid of all logic

*   Your clause 5.1.4. alleges ‘CTT bashing’, which you link directly to comments being disallowed on our blog.  As the owner of a blog, one has the right to disallow defamatory, disparaging, and dishonest comments.  Whenever we post a blogpost about Cape Town Tourism, we receive what can be described as ‘hate speech’ towards ourselves, and while they may state their support for Cape Town Tourism, they also ‘bash’, to use your word, myself and my Whale Cottages, which is not what comments are intended for.  A question begging an answer is how you would know that (unpublished) comments have been sent to our blog, given that comments are not visible until I allow them?  Could it be that the sending of comments in support of Cape Town Tourism has been encouraged by your PR department, or dare I allege, even written by Cape Town Tourism, using pseudonyms and gmail accounts?!

*   It is the comment we received from Mavis Wilken (clause 5.2.1) that appears to be at the crux of your letter, as we received a separate letter from your lawyers Webber Wentzel on the same day, threatening legal action if her comment is not removed from our Blog in its entirety.   We had edited the comment soon after it was allowed (30 hours is an extreme exaggeration), to protect your CEO.  The comment was received on the same day as Ms Wilken forwarded an e-mail to us which she had sent to the tourism representatives of the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government, alleging mismanagement by Cape Town Tourism in a number of respects.  Under threat of legal action by yourselves, but not in admission of any wrong-doing, we have removed Ms Wilken’s comment in its entirety.

*   The remark made by Ian Macfarlane, the Australian ‘Strategetic consultant’ of Cape Town Tourism, was written by me in a positive manner, and was expressed by him as a compliment to your CEO in her ability to obtain funds from the City of Cape Town and other sources.  To read an allegation of ‘corruption’ , defamation, and disparagement into this compliment is preposterous, and is disparaging in itself!

*  We have noted a surge in disparaging comments from a small collection of commenters (Marco, Mike, and Jeremy Claasen in the main, the latter sometimes writing the same comment six times a day, in the mistaken belief that it will be published), all in support of Cape Town Tourism, and wildly disparaging towards ourselves, whenever we publish a blogpost about Cape Town Tourism.  We have had to increasingly request these commenters to rewrite their comments by editing out their disparagement, and we delete these comments if they are not rephrased.  It is our Blog, and quite frankly we can write on it what we wish (you appear to have little problem with its content, and more with its comments), and can allow reasonable comments.  For the first time we have edited two commenters’ comments, both of these edits relating to blogposts in which Cape Town Tourism is mentioned, received from Ms Wilken and Maria.  No disparagement was intended nor implied in our reply to Mike’s comment (clauses 5.2.3 and 5.2.4).  To read into our reply to him that Cape Town Tourism ‘…is deserving of no support…’, as alleged by you, and that it is an ‘..attempt on your part to undermine and cause embarrassment to the organisation’ is ludicrous, and is rejected with contempt! Being a member of the tourism industry, it would be ludicrous for me to defame or disparage the good name of an industry association that my company is a member of.

*   The comment we made about your CEO’s lack of support of the Grand Prix in Cape Town was exactly as you stated it, made in ‘jest’ (clause 5.2.5). No allegation was made that your CEO is ‘…not of sound mind and sober senses’, and cannot be deduced from our writing.  We reject your allegation.

*   You appear to be looking for allegations of implied ‘corruption’ in reading our Blog and its comments. The ‘corruption’ link you make to my observation about your Board members Nils Heckscher and Susanne Faussner-Ringer, in their capacity as previous Board members of FEDHASA Cape, and their irresponsible attempts at coercing the accommodation industry to sign with MATCH for the FIFA World Cup last year, is far-fetched and incomprehensible (clause 5.2.6).  It therefore cannot be seen to be ..‘unfounded, unsubstantiated and patently disparaging’, as alleged by you, as the tourism industry knows about the financial loss it suffered as a result of signing with MATCH on the recommendation of these two directors, and it is ironic that the loss suffered included the properties managed by Mr Heckscher and Mrs Faussner-Ringer!  It is also rather obvious that your organisation is using the same threatening technique to terminate our membership, as FEDHASA Cape attempted to two years ago, when we spoke out against MATCH!

*   Your response to our claim that Cape Town Tourism ‘planted’ the ‘100 Women 100 Wine’ blogpost comment from ‘Thandiwe Motse’ is factually incorrect, as I did not write that it emanated ‘..from the offices of CTT’, as alleged by you.  Comments can be sent to a blog from any computer, and after hours too (clause 5.2.7).  Cape Town Tourism’s link to this comment is clear, especially given that no Google reference exists for ‘Ms Motse’, that she provided an incorrect e-mail address for herself, very odd for a businessperson, and that her surname was incorrectly spelt in both the comment and Cape Town Tourism Tweets about this event.  ‘Ms Motse’ would have been welcome to e-mail and to call me, to express her point of view to me directly, as the owner of the Blog, rather than to complain via her ‘friend’ about our Blog to Cape Town Tourism!  No racial slur was implied, as alleged by you!   We have proof that your PR Manager has directed an (unpublished) comment to our Blog, using a false name.

*  Over and above the specific denials we have made against your allegations, we categorically deny your allegations of ‘bad faith’, ‘malicious intent’, ‘evident satisfaction in what you perceive to be failings…’ , as well as of ‘disparaging, undermining and even defamatory comment and criticism’.

Lastly, comments have become the bane of blogs, and are increasingly disparaging, rude, and even crude, not always aimed at the subject matter of the blogpost, but often at the blog owner too.  Initially our policy was to allow most comments, in the interest of freedom of speech without prejudicing tourism, but soon it became evident that commenters saw our Blog as a means of ‘blog bashing’ us in the main.  As the blog is a voluntary unpaid-for activity we do for the love of it, we see no reason to post such disparaging comments.

We are delighted that you support that ‘..our members are entitled to engage in debate about the direction, strategy and performance of CTT, and that this debate may be ‘robust’. We believe that we have acted within these guidelines, as well as the Freedom of Speech which is ensconced in the Constitution of our country. We feel that your organisation’s CEO may be over-sensitive to Social Media, which spares no one, including myself and my company!

While you and I are debating ‘respect‘ in the main, I believe that respect is a two-way courtesy, and therefore we have the right to demand respect, and that we should not be disparaged or defamed by your organisation, its CEO, and staff too.  Consider the following examples of disrespect which have been shown to ourselves as a member of Cape Town Tourism, and as a blogger listed on your Cape Town Tourism media list:

*   The Re-Tweet in October last year by your PR Manager Skye Grove of a Tweet by Naashon Zalk, of which the content was defamatory to ourselves, making her guilty of defamation too.  A complaint lodged to your CEO about the defamation was rejected, reflecting your CEO’s lack of understanding of the law of defamation.  Another defamatory Tweet by @Lesterkk was also Re-Tweeted by Ms Grove on 22 November 2010.

*   The acceptance by Cape Town Tourism of a complaint lodged against our Whale Cottage Hermanus (not a member of Cape Town Tourism), by Mr Zalk about our warning to our guest house colleagues in Hermanus about an attempt by him and his House & Leisure editor wife Naomi Larkin to defraud us, instead of it being passed on to the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, as would have been the correct procedure. Cape Town Tourism attempted to bring us into disrepute with the provincial Consumer Protector, by passing on Mr Zalk’s complaint to them.  We have never heard from them again about the matter, after explaining Mr Zalk’s alleged fraud attempt against us.

*   Ms Grove attempted to have our website www.whalecottage.com, which was hosted with Hetzner, closed down last year, which led us to move it to an American server, at a cost to ourselves.

*   The accusation on 22 November 2010 by Ms Grove, in a comment posted on the ‘Spaniard in the Works’ blog, that I had ‘unlawful‘(ly) taken down Martin Hatchuel’s website is defamatory.  It was clear, by Mr Hatchuel’s own admission, that his refusal to delete a defamatory comment on his website, leading to a complaint against his site, had led Hetzner to close down the website.  In the same comment, Ms Grove disparages my ‘lack of journalistic quality and substance’!  Further content in her comment to this blogpost, as well as on the Salma Gandi blog, demonstrates the personal issues she has with ourselves, something a ‘professional’ PR Manager should not express of a member of Cape Town Tourism, or any other person for that matter, on a public platform!

*   In the past three months Whale Cottage has made a concerted effort to improve its Facebook presence. Proactive suggestions by Facebook about prospective persons to ‘befriend’ led us to Ms Grove, and so we sent a Facebook Friend request.  The immediate message we received from her questioned why we would want to be a friend.  Ms Grove never accepted the Friend request, as is her right. However, later that day, she Tweeted that she could still taste the vomit in her mouth from the Friend request that she had received earlier that day!

*   Your CEO, new Marketing Manager Velma Corcoran, and PR Manager have blocked us on Twitter, but your CEO reconsidered her action, and unblocked us.  Blocking is a severe sign of disrespect on Twitter.  It is such a shame that your managers should be missing out on my pearls of wisdom contained in my Tweets about Cape Town!

*  We have good reason to believe that Ms Grove is part of the team writing the disparaging, libelous, and defamatory ‘Whalespotter’ Twitter campaign about Whale Cottage and myself.  A Tweet on Monday this week  referred to your letter by implication, which Ms Grove would have inside knowledge of.

*   In the past month your CEO has refused to respond to our e-mails, which have requested information for input to our blogposts, despite an invitation by the City of Cape Town representative on your Board, Ms Mkefa, to direct any question to Mrs Helmbold.  Your CEO Tweeted on 31 August that she would only answer questions from us via the Cape Town Tourism website, and a few days later a detailed justification for the appointment of the Australian Strategetic Consultants was posted on your website.  When one receives no reply to e-mails, the negative inference is that the organisation is trying to hide something.

*  Cape Town Tourism has not reacted to the blogposts that you refer to in your letter, having the opportunity to do so via a comment to each blogpost, as would any other commenter.  In the past we have posted all comments received from your CEO, either in the blogpost, or as a comment.

*  Your City of Cape Town Mayoral Executive Committee member for Tourism, Grant Pascoe, directly responsible for the R40 million allocation of the City’s monies to your organisation, has refused to return our calls or to respond to our e-mails relating to Cape Town Tourism.

No blog forces readership of it on anyone, and therefore your CEO and staff are welcome to save their valuable time and to not read our Whale Cottage Portfolio Blog in such detail, and to rather focus that time on marketing Cape Town, given the severity of the tourism crisis.

It would appear that you hold me solely responsible for criticism of Cape Town Tourism’s performance. However, blogger Carl Momberg recently wrote a critical piece, also questioning your organisation’s ability to market Cape Town.  The Cape Times picked this up and ran with the story, quoting additional tourism players expressing their dissatisfaction with the performance of your organisation.  Will you also be attempting to censor Mr Momberg?

Surely the monies of Cape Town Tourism should more wisely be spent on marketing Cape Town, and not on lawyers’ fees?   Surely your organisation would want to retain members and not lose even more members?  Surely you do not want Cape Town Tourism to be perceived as the ‘big bully’ of tourism media censorship?

Earlier this year your membership officer Mrs Cathy Alberts begged us to rejoin as a member of Cape Town Tourism, and I explained to her my reservations to do so, given the unprofessional behaviour and disrespect I and my company have experienced from Cape Town Tourism and its staff, as detailed above.  We were surprised about Mrs Alberts’ insistence that we rejoin Cape Town Tourism, and it was our ‘patriotism’ to Cape Town, and loyalty to Cape Town Tourism, that made us rejoin.

Given the disrespect which Cape Town Tourism, your CEO Mrs Helmbold, your PR Manager Ms Grove, and you as Chairman with your Board of Directors, through this one-sided disparaging letter, have shown Whale Cottage, coupled with the lack of delivery on the promised Cape Town Tourism membership benefits, we have decided to not renew our membership of Cape Town Tourism, which expired at the end of August 2011, for the next year.  We reserve the right to re-apply for membership in future.  We will continue the debate about the marketing of Cape Town, and will continue to write about the activities of your organisation, as well as any other body handling the marketing of Cape Town.   I am available to share my tourism and marketing experience with your organisation’s management at any time that it is needed, in the interest of our common passion for our beautiful city Cape Town!

Warm whale wishes

Chris von Ulmenstein

Member

Whale Cottage Portfolio cc

POSTSCRIPT 15/9: We have just (11h41) received a follow-up letter from Webber Wentzel, Cape Town Tourism’s lawyers, making a demand that we apologise to Mrs Helmbold for Ms Wilken’s alleged ‘defamatory comment’, promise to “…desist from, in the future, publishing any further such defamatory comments about our clients on the Blog and/or any other cyber-medium used by you to communicate to the public including,but not limited to, Twitter and Facebook”, and provide the ‘correct and full name’ of ‘the so-called Mavis Wilken’, so that they can take ‘steps on behalf of our clients against the author’. We are shocked that Cape Town Tourism could be setting itself as the Tourism information censor!  We await with interest their reaction to our Open Letter!

POSTSCRIPT 18/9:  In an interview with the Cape Argus published today, Cape Town CEO Mrs Helmbold is quoted as saying that Whale Cottage Camps Bay is still a member of Cape Town Tourism, as our membership has not been resigned by letter.  There is no form that we are aware of to complete to resign one’s membership, and one would have thought that the last paragraph to this blogpost, addressed to its Chairperson, motivating why we will not be renewing our long-standing membership, as well as the non-payment of the annual membership fee, for the period 1 September 2011 – August 2012, would have been a clear communication that we have no intention to renew our membership for the next year!   We are considering our legal options regarding a defamatory Tweet sent by Cape Town Tourism on 15 September, and Re-Tweeted by Mrs Helmbold, stating “Whale Cottage Membership Termination“.

POSTSCRIPT 19/9: We have posted our new policy on comments received to blogposts written about Cape Town Tourism today, in the light of the letter we received from the Chairman of Cape Town Tourism, as well as two letters received from the lawyers of Cape Town Tourism.

POSTSCRIPT 23/9:  In response to our lawyer’s letter to Cape Town Tourism, to confirm that our Letter to its Chairman Ian Bartes posted on our Blog above is confirmation of our non-renewal of our membership of Cape Town Tourism for the next year, Cape Town Tourism lawyers Webber Wentzel have sent a three-page lawyer’s letter, accepting our non-renewal, which somehow had not been clear to Cape Town Tourism from our blogpost above!  One wonders why Cape Town Tourism is wasting its scarce financial resources on legal fees against a past member of Cape Town Tourism!

POSTSCRIPT 6/10:  Under pressure from ourselves, Cape Town Tourism has revised its misleading and defamatory statement about our membership of Cape Town Tourism on its website, confirming their acceptance of our communication that we have chosen to not renew our membership for 2011/2012.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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