Tag Archives: Winchester Mansions Hotel

Cape Town Hotels more optimistic about this winter than in 2011!

A year ago we first conducted a survey of top-end hotel rates in Cape Town.  We repeated the survey in August 2011, and in November 2011, to track hotel pricing trends. Ellerman House has re-established itself as the most expensive Cape Town hotel, starting at R 4590 per room, and the Peninsula All Suite Hotel remains the least expensive 5-star hotel, at R1200 per room, the same rate as November 2011 and lower than a year ago.  The hotels in Cape Town appear more confident about the coming winter season, judging by their pricing policy, only half of them having decreased their rates relative to the past summer.

The survey found that the average rate of the sixteen 5-star Cape Town hotels surveyed is R 2780 per room, just under R1400 per person, an average decrease by 23% relative to the November 2011 rates.   Across all 29 hotels surveyed, the average rate per room is R 2297, or just over R 1100 per person, 21% lower on average than in November. The most expensive Presidential Suite is at the One & Only Cape Town, at R58541 per day, a rate which has not changed since November.  Interesting is that larger top-end suites seem to have seen rate increases, while the standard rooms are more likely to be discounted.

Once again it was interesting to hear how the calls were handled, most hotel reservation departments asking careful questions, to identify if the caller was a travel agent/tour operator or a corporate caller, the questioning being very specific in this regard. Holders of a Protea Hotel Prokard would have had different rates quoted.  Few hotels called had a rate sheet from which to quote immediately, having to access their computer for the ‘best available rate’ information, costing time, one hotel putting the call on hold to piped music while they did their rate calculations.  The poor quality of the call handling and quoting by the hotel Reservations departments must be a concern for their bosses, quoting odd rates (i.e. not rounded off) very quickly, making it difficult to understand and record them accurately; interrupting while one was still speaking; inability to understand and hear the request, having to repeat the dates, and the number of persons;  the question ‘group or individual’ is asked bluntly, without explanation; not all hotels quote rates with breakfast included, despite being asked for this rate (Protea Hotels quote room only, and seem surprised when asked to add the breakfast rate); The Protea Hotel group quotes day by day rates, and the reservations staff struggle to quote an average rate, making it tedious to obtain quotes from them, as they have to quote the average rate and then add the breakfast rate. The Portswood/Commodore Hotels, Bay Hotel/Village & Life, and Newmark Hotels group have the same switchboard for different hotels, and even if one dials the specific hotel selected, one is asked which hotel one wants to book at!  For hoteliers it must be frightening to hear that not one of the 29 hotels called had a call to action, in encouraging one to make a booking, given that Cape Town has the best hotels in Africa.

Half the hotels have decreased their rates since November 2011, now quoting winter rates.  However, Steenberg Hotel increased its rate from November 2011, by 4%.  Interesting is the 36 % rate increase in the past five months for the African Pride Hotels 15 on Orange and Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa.  The Ambassador Hotel has increased its rate by 27 % since November 2011.  The Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge has been known for its competitive rates, but has increased them by 24 % for winter, and is no longer the cheapest hotel of those surveyed.      The largest rate decreases since November 2011 were by the V&A Hotel (45%),  Dock House (37%), and the Cape Royale Luxury Hotel (35%).  The rate of the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice increased by a dramatic 107% relative to last winter!  The Commodore Hotel (61%) and Portswood Hotel (45%) also increased their winter rates strongly. Interesting is that the Steenberg Hotel, voted the best hotel in Africa by Conde Nast Traveler readers, ranks 4th on price now,  having ranked at 10th position a mere five months ago.  The Protea Hotel-operated properties generally are at the lower end of the price ranking, being more attractively priced to fill their beds.

The rates were checked telephonically yesterday for today, for the next three days, i.e. 3 – 6 May per room for 2 adults sharing and inclusive of Breakfast per day, so as to compare the rates fairly . We added breakfast to the rates where these were quoted separately.   We have ranked the hotel rates from most to least expensive, and reflect the rate change on the lowest priced room relative to our survey for May 2011 in brackets:

Ellerman House, 5 star, R4590 – R14680. (The 3-room villa was offered at R45441 and the 5-room villa at R68000). Tel (021) 430-3200 (8% rate decrease)

Cape Grace Hotel, 5 star, R4555.10 – R15388 for the penthouse, Tel (021) 410-7100 (1% increase)

Mount Nelson Hotel, 5 star, R3730 – R11290. Tel (021) 483-1000 (24% rate increase)

Steenberg Hotel, 5 star, R3580– R14580. Tel (021) 713-2222 (Not included in May 2011)

One & Only Cape Town, 5 star, R3490 – R58541 for the Presidential Suite.  The non-South African resident rate starts at R4856 Tel (021) 431-5888 (10% rate decrease)

15 on Orange Hotel, 5 star, R2750 – R5370 for the one-bedroom penthouse, Tel (021) 469-8000 (1 % rate decrease)

Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa, 5 star, R2650 – R3750.  Tel (021) 525-3888 (25% rate increase)

Commodore Hotel, 4 star, R2580 – R8040.  Tel (021) 415-1000 (61% rate increase)

The Westin Cape Town, 5 star, R2410 – R40000 for Presidential Suite. Tel (021) 412-9999 (19 % rate decrease)

Dock House, 5 star, R 2396 – R3115. Tel (021) 421-9334 (37% rate decrease)

Table Bay Hotel, 5 star, R2360 – R4760 for South African residents, R2840 – R6050 for non-South Africans. Tel (021) 406-5000 (25% rate decrease)

Twelve Apostles Hotel, 5 star, R2325 – R4565 for Bed & Breakfast, 3-course dinner, movie and popcorn, only for South African residents.  Non-South Africans pay R4165 – R8845 per room and breakfast.  Tel (021) 437-9000 (19% rate decrease)

Portswood Hotel, 4 star, R 2320 – R 3960.  Tel (021) 415-1000 (45% rate increase)

Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, 5 star, R2300 – R10000 for the Presidential Suite.  Tel (021) 430-0500 (35% rate decrease)

The Taj Hotel, 5 star, R2300 – R40000 for Presidential Suite. Tel (021) 819-2000 (5% rate increase)

Queen Victoria Hotel, not graded yet but seeking 5 stars, R2028 – R15000, Tel (021) 418-1466 (8% rate increase)

Bay Hotel, 5 star, R2000- R2800.  Tel (021) 438-4444 (25% rate increase)

Protea Fire & Ice Hotel, 3 star,  R1860 – R2110, Tel (021) 488-2555 (107% rate increase!)

Cullinan Hotel, 5 star, R1850  – R5159.  Tel (021) 415-4000 (14% rate decrease)

Victoria Junction Hotel, 4 star, R 1850 – R 2150 Tel (021) 418-1234 (10% rate increase)

V & A Hotel, 4 star, R1720 – R2170 . Tel (021) 415-1000 (45% rate decrease)

Ambassador Hotel, 4 star, R1590 – R2020. Tel (021) 439-6176 (17% rate decrease)

Winchester Mansions Hotel, 4 star, R1550 – R3550.  Tel (021) 434-2351 (5 % rate increase)

Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, 4 star, R1550 – R3220. Tel (021) 409-4000 (11 % rate decrease).

Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, no star grading, R1445 standard room, R1690 business suite. Tel (021) 406-1911 (12% rate increase).

President Hotel, 4 star, R1306 – R1723. Tel (021) 434-8111 (11% rate decrease)

Peninsula All Suite Hotel, 5 star, R1200 – R3490.  Tel (021) 430-7777 (24% rate decrease)

Vineyard Hotel, 4 star, R1165 – R4270. Tel (021) 657-4500. (Not included in May 2011)

Cape Sun Hotel, 4 star, R1160 – R5920 for Presidential Suite.  Tel (021) 488-5100 (23% rate decrease).

POSTSCRIPT 4/5: Two Cape Town hotels, the Alphen Boutique Hotel (not yet included in this survey) and the Queen Victoria Hotel, are the only two South African hotels on the Conde Nast Traveler Hot List of Best New Hotels 2012.  Frommers.com has selected Steenberg Hotel in its Top 12 ‘Best Vineyards Inns & Hotels around the World’, the only South African hotel on the list.

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

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

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

Once again it was interesting to hear how the calls were handled, most hotel reservation departments asking careful questions, to identify if the caller was a travel agent/tour operator or a corporate caller, the questioning being very specific in this regard. Holders of a Protea Hotel Prokard would have had different rates quoted.  Few hotels called had a rate sheet from which to quote immediately, having to access their computer for the ‘best available rate’ information, costing time, one hotel putting the call on hold to piped music while they did their rate calculations.  I was shocked at the poor quality of the call handling and quoting by the hotel Reservations departments, quoting odd rates (i.e. not rounded off) very quickly, making it difficult to understand and record them accurately; interrupting while one was still speaking; surprising was the inability in many cases of the staff to understand and hear the request, asking me to repeat the dates, and the number of persons; for the first time, the question ‘group or individual’ was asked bluntly, without explanation; not all hotels quote rates with breakfast included, despite being asked for this rate (Protea Hotels quote room only, and seem surprised when asked to add the breakfast rate); and one hotel could not quote a rate as the system was down, and promised to call back … they never did!   The Protea Hotel group quotes day by day rates, and the reservations staff had to obtain permission to quote an average rate, making it tedious to obtain quotes from them, as they have to quote the average rate and then add the breakfast rate.  For hoteliers it must be frightening to hear that not one of the 29 hotels I called had a call to action, asking if I would like to book, given that Cape Town has the best hotels in Africa!

Most hotels have increased their rates since August, now quoting summer rates. However, 15 on Orange has decreased its rate by 23%, the Peninsula All Suite Hotel rate decreased by 20 %, and there was a small decrease in the Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge rate.   Interesting is that the Cape Grace Hotel rate has not changed, probably meaning that they did not drop their rates in winter, due to good demand – in fact they increased rates by 10 % in August. The largest rate increases since August were by the Bay Hotel (119%), One&Only Cape Town (95%), Twelve Apostles Hotel (87%), Winchester Mansions Hotel (80%), Commodore Hotel (79%), the Taj (65%), Table Bay Hotel (63%), and Portswood Hotel (61%). Interesting is that the Steenberg Hotel, just voted the best hotel in Africa by Conde Nast Traveler readers, ranks 10th on price.  The Protea Hotel-operated properties generally are at the lower end of the price ranking, being more attractively priced to fill their beds.

The rates were checked for 3 – 6 November per room for 2 adults sharing and inclusive of Breakfast per day, so as to compare the rates fairly (we did not realise that this period coincides with the Volvo Ocean Race, making a number of hotels fully booked. We chose rates for the dates closest to the dates we requested).  We added breakfast to the rates where these were quoted separately.   We have ranked the hotel rates from most to least expensive, and reflect the rate change on the lowest priced room relative to our survey for August 2011 in brackets:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Majority of Cape Town hotels not reacting to tourism crisis!

Three months ago we conducted a survey of top-end hotel rates in Cape Town.  Given the tourism crisis in the Cape, I repeated the survey on Monday, calling the same hotels, asking them for their August rates.  Ellerman House remains the most expensive Cape Town hotel by far, starting at R5000 per room, and the Peninsula All Suite Hotel remains the least expensive 5-star hotel, at R1500 per room.  The survey found that the average rate of the sixteen 5-star Cape Town hotels is R 2715 per room, just under R1400 per person, an average decrease by 8% relative to the May rates.   Across all 27 hotels surveyed, the average rate per room is R2227, or just over R1100 per person, only 8 % lower on average than in May. 

Once again it was interesting to hear how the calls were handled, most hotel reservation departments asking careful questions, to identify if the caller was a travel agent/tour operator or a corporate caller, the questioning being very specific in this regard. Holders of a South African ID book or a Protea Hotel Prokard would have had different rates quoted.  Few hotels called had a rate sheet from which to quote immediately, having to access their computer for the ‘best available rate’ information, costing time.  I was shocked at the poor quality of the call handling and quoting by the hotel Reservations departments, quoting odd rates (i.e. not rounded off) very quickly, making it difficult to understand and record them accurately; interrupting while one was still speaking;  having a radio blaring in the background, affecting their ability to understand and hear the request; not all quoting rates with breakfast included, despite being asked for this rate (Protea Hotels quote room only, and refused initially to quote the add-on breakfast rate); an hotel line rang engaged three times; another hotel line was not answered at all; one hotel had a trainee answer the phone, and she did not know that hotel’s telephone number;  one staff member sounded in the depth of depression, as if she hated her job; one hotel did not disclose that it is undergoing major renovations, and its rates have not changed due to the renovations; and one hotel switchboard put me through to the kitchen when I asked for reservations, and I had to call again, as they could not transfer me back to the board.  Worst of all for the hoteliers whose rooms the staff have to sell is that only one (Victoria Junction Hotel) of the 27 hotels I called had a call to action, asking if I would like to book!

Some hotels have not changed their rates in the past three months, or only by a small percentage.  The Protea Hotel Fire & Ice increased its rate by an astounding 64 % to R1480 per room, making this 3-star hotel more expensive than a number of 4-star hotels.  Interesting is that a number of 4-star hotels are more expensive than some 5-star hotels.  The Queen Victoria Hotel rate has increased by 25 % relative to its opening special rate.  However, only eleven of the surveyed 27 hotels dropped their rates, noticeably the Newmark Hotels’ The Ambassador and Dock House (by 35%), and V&A Hotel (by 40%). The Cullinan Hotel has also dropped its rate sharply, by 30%, as have the Westin Grand Cape Town Arabella Quays, the Twelve Apostles, and the Crystal Towers hotels.

The rates were checked for 3 – 6 August per room for 2 adults sharing and inclusive of Breakfast per day, so as to compare the rates fairly.  We added breakfast to the rates where these were quoted separately.   We have ranked the hotel rates from most to least expensive, and reflect the rate change relative to our survey for May 2011 in brackets:

Ellerman House, 5 star, R5000 – R15700 (the new villa has 2 rooms offered at R48600 and 3-rooms at R60500), Tel (021) 430-3200 (no rate change)

Cape Grace Hotel, 5 star, R 4980 – R 14 530 for the penthouse, Tel (021) 410-7100 (10% rate increase)

Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, 5 star, R 3590 – R20816 for the Presidential Suite.  Tel (021) 430-0500 (1% rate increase)

One&Only Cape Town, 5 star, R3489 for South Africans – R5590 for non-South Africans. Tel (021) 431-5888 (10 % rate decrease)

Table Bay Hotel, 5 star, R3166  Tel (021) 406-5000 (International rate dropped, no rate change)

Mount Nelson Hotel, 5 star, R 3000 – R 9000. Tel (021) 483-1000 (no rate change)

15 on Orange Hotel, 5 star, R 2620 – R 2820, Tel (021) 469-8000 (5 % rate decrease)

Dock House, 5 star, R2430 (but pay for 2 days, stay for 3 days offer). Tel (021) 421-9334 (35% rate decrease)

Queen Victoria Hotel, not graded yet but seeking 5 stars, R 2350 – R 2715, Tel (021) 418-1466 (25 % rate increase from its opening special)

Twelve Apostles, 5 star, R  2190 – R  3940.  Tel (021) 437-9000 (24% rate decrease)

Westin Grand Cape Town Arabella Quays, 5 star, R 2160 – R 3640. Tel (021) 412-9999 (27 % rate decrease)

The Taj Hotel, 5 star, R 2150 – R 2650. Tel (021) 819-2000 (2% rate decrease)

Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa, 5 star, R 1700 – R3250.  Tel (021) 525-3888 (20% rate decrease)

V & A Hotel, 4 star, R 1640 – R1905 (but special pay 2 days stay for 3 days offer), Tel (021) 415-1000 (40% rate decrease)

Commodore Hotel, 4 star, R1600 – R 7780.  Tel (021) 415-1000 (no rate change)

Portswood Hotel, 4 star, R 1600 – R 3960.  Tel (021) 415-1000 (no rate change)

Bay Hotel, 5 star, R1600 – R2100 for South Africans, R 2600 – R 5500 for non-South Africans.  Tel (021) 438-4444 (no rate change)

Cullinan Hotel, 5 star, R 1515 – R 3400.  Tel (021) 415-4000 (30 % rate decrease)

Peninsula All Suite Hotel, 5 star, R 1500 – R 3240.  Tel (021) 430-7777 (4% rate decrease)

Protea Hotel Fire & Ice Hotel, 3 star, R 1 480 – R 2300, Tel (021) 488-2555 (64% rate increase!)

Winchester Mansions Hotel, 4 star, R 1470 – R 3390.  Tel (021) 434-2351 (no rate change)

President Hotel, 4 star, R 1460 – R 2550. Tel (021) 434-8111 (no rate change)

Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, 4 star, R1450 – R 3000. Tel (021) 409-4000 (17% rate decrease)

Cape Sun Hotel, 4 star, R1300 – R 5500.  Tel (021) 488-5100 (13% rate decrease)

Ambassador Hotel, 4 star, R 1250 – R 1950 (but stay for 3 and pay for 2 nights offer), Tel (021) 439-6176 (35% rate decrease)

Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, no star grading, R 1220 standard, R1465 business rooms. Tel (021) 406-1911 (5% rate decrease)

Victoria Junction Hotel, 4 star, –  Tel (021) 418-1234 (Only re-opening in September, with rate of R1990)

On Moneyweb yesterday, the FEDHASA hotel association was quoted as saying that the ‘hotel industry is being hard hit by the economic climate and there is very little light at the end of the tunnel’. FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan, who tried to sell South African hotels down the MATCH river for the World Cup, is quoted as saying that hotel rates have come down ‘dramatically’ (by about 10%, according to him) in the past three years, and that hotel occupancy has decreased by 10%.  The African Sun hotel group, which operated the 5-star The Grace and The Lakes Hotel and Conference Centre in Johannesburg, has not renewed its operating agreement with these two hotels, saying that the 5-star hotel industry in Johannesburg is ‘no longer sustainable’!  The Southern Sun on Grayston Drive in Sandton is also expected to close its doors next year.  Singing a somewhat different tune, to that of a few weeks ago, Arthur Gillis, CEO of Protea Hotels, expressed his optimism for the industry.  Location is the prime asset of a hotel, he said. “I don’t think the industry is in trouble.  I think certain individuals and institutions are in trouble”, he said.  Many would disagree!

POSTSCRIPT 3/8: Cape Town Tourism has sent the following response to this blogpost: Cape Town Tourism met with hoteliers recently to review the value proposition of luxury hotels in Cape Town in particular. The outcome of our meeting and position on price, value and demand will be included in our next industry communication and feedback given at the industry sessions scheduled for next week.  As alluded to by MEC Winde, business will react to pressures in different ways as they see fit in terms of their own strategies, market demands and business imperatives. It is common knowledge that published rates are not necessarily what are achieved, particularly in the current climate. Whilst we can offer advice, intelligence, guidelines and input in terms of customer feedback and trends, the market will dictate and business will adjust to market demands as they see fit. Our concern must be with the over-all value proposition of the destination i.e. full pallet of accommodation, experiences, restaurants and services rather than too much focus placed on one segment of the industry. Here is an extract from our industry communication to be published:  It is clear that the current depressed nature of arrivals has more to do with externalities and the consumer climate than with accommodation pricing. Cape Town boasts an exceptional, quality product offering and if you look at the complete pallet of accommodation and, experiences on offer, excellent value. We don’t want to undermine the strength of our destination brand by devaluing it. Visitors to Cape Town leave the destination overwhelmingly impressed and willing to return. Post World Cup figures found that 92% of foreign visitors said they would recommend South Africa to others and 96% said they would return. This does not suggest a fundamentally flawed product or pricing problem.  Cape Town boasts some of the world’s best small hotels, B&B’s and guest houses that are competitively priced and offer excellent value for money. The fact that Cape Town has a luxury hotel offering that compares with, and in many instances exceeds, our competitors in terms of quality and setting is an asset to our destination. It is commonly recognised that destination price perceptions are driven more by travel time and distance (transportation costs) than by in-destination costs. There is no evidence to suggest that Cape Town’s in-destination costs have detracted from its value proposition. If we can address the demand problem we face, then the cost of flights should become more competitive.”

POSTSCRIPT 3/8 : Provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde has responded as follows:It is always interesting to see how markets and management react to these pressures. I am also very interested in the new season where we have seen new airlift directly to CT. From France, Switzerland, UAE, Zambia and more in negotiation at the moment. I have asked for a report on our market fact into these places. This will only be good news if we see bums in seats. I will keep you posted once I get the report”.

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

Hotels in Cape Town offer good range of rates, but discriminatory to foreigners

An article in the Cape Business News, entitled “Fedhasa to monitor Cape hotel pricing”, echoed a promise of such a survey by FEDHASA Cape Chairman Dirk Elzinga at the recent Tourism Destination Conference.  Elzinga promised that his association would conduct the survey in response to the accusation by Conference speaker and Cape Town Routes Unlimited Chairman Peter Bacon as well as provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde, that Cape Town’s hotels are expensive, and do not reflect the law of supply and demand, which should bring down rates, given poor demand, thereby giving our city a bad reputation, it was alleged. 

Given that FEDHASA Cape still has not conducted the promised survey, I decided to do my own independent survey last week, to get a feel for pricing of the largest and best known Cape Town hotels, asking them for their May rates.  Ellerman House is the most expensive Cape Town hotel by far, starting at R5000 per room, and the Peninsula All Suite Hotel is the least expensive 5-star hotel, at R1570 per room.  The opening offer of R1875 per room at the Queen Victoria Hotel is exceptional, given what it offers.  Interesting too is that a number of 4-star hotels are more expensive than some 5-star hotels.  The survey found that the average rate of the sixteen 5-star hotels surveyed is R2939 per room, just under R1500 per person.   Across all 27 hotels surveyed, the average rate per room is R2419, or just over R1200 per person, not cheap given that it is winter in May, and that there is poor demand. 

It was interesting to hear how the calls were handled, most hotel reservation departments asking careful questions, to identify if the caller was a travel agent/tour operator, single or double, a corporate business client, South African ID book holder, and/or a Protea Hotel Prokard holder, all of which would have affected the rate quoted.  Few hotels called had a rate sheet from which to quote immediately, having to access their computer for the information, costing time.

The rates were checked for 3 – 6 May (or the dates nearest these if one or more dates were fully booked already), per room for 2 adults sharing and inclusive of Breakfast per day, so as to compare the rates fairly.  We added breakfast to the rates where these were quoted separately.   We have ranked the hotel rates from most to least expensive:

Ellerman House, 5 star, R5000 – R15700, Tel (021) 430-3200

Cape Grace Hotel, 5 star, R 4510 – R 5680, Tel (021) 410-7100

One&Only Cape Town, 5 star, R3889 for South Africans – R5990 for non-South Africans. Tel (021) 819-2000

Dock House, 5 star, R3790 (but pay for 2 days, stay for 3 days offer). Tel (021) 421-9334

Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, 5 star, R3565.  Tel (021) 430-0500

Table Bay Hotel, 5 star, R3166 for South Africans, R 6000 for non-South Africans, Tel (021) 406-5000

V & A Hotel, 4 star, R3115 (but special 2 days pay for 3 days stay offer), Tel (021) 415-1000

Mount Nelson Hotel, 5 star, R 3000. Tel (021) 483-1000

Westin Grand Arabella Quays, 5 star, R 2960. Tel (021) 412-9999

Twelve Apostles, 5 star, R2865 – R4480.  Tel (021) 437-9000

15 on Orange Hotel, 5 star, R2770 – R2970, Tel (021) 469-8000

The Taj Hotel, 5 star, R2200. Tel (021) 819-2000

Cullinan Hotel, 5 star, R2150.  Tel (021) 415-4000

Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa, 5 star, R2120 – R3220.  Tel (021) 525-3888

Ambassador Hotel, 4 star, R1920 (but stay for 3 and pay for 2 nights offer), Tel (021) 439-6176

Queen Victoria Hotel, not graded yet but seeking 5 stars, R1875 special opening rate until July, Tel (021) 418-1466

Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, 4 star, R1750. Tel (021) 409-4000

Victoria Junction Hotel, 4 star, R 1686. Tel (021) 418-1234

Commodore Hotel, 4 star, R1600.  Tel (021) 415-1000

Portswood Hotel, 4 star, R 1600.  tel (021) 415-1000

Bay Hotel, 5 star, R1600 – R2100 for South Africans, R 2590 – R3690 for non-South Africans.  Tel (021) 438-4444

Peninsula All Suite Hotel, 5 star, R 1570.  Tel (021) 430-7777

Cape Sun Hotel, 4 star, R1500.  Tel (021) 488-5100

Winchester Mansions Hotel, 4 star,  R1470 – R1930.  Tel (021) 434-2351

President Hotel, 4 star, R1460 – R1660. Tel (021) 434-8111

Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, no star grading, R 1295 standard, R1665 business rooms. Tel (021) 406-1911 

Protea Hotel Fire & Ice Hotel, 3 star, R 900, Tel (021) 488-2555

To contrast the rates of hotels in the city, a rate survey was also conducted amongst the 24 members of the Camps Bay Accommodation Association, consisting of mainly 4-star guest houses.  The average May rate for the Association members is R766 – R1173 per room, the lowest rate being R500 per room.  The most expensive rate is R1600 for the 5-star Atlantic House.  Guest houses have dropped their winter rates by up to 50 % for many years already, understanding about demand and supply

What is most disturbing is that some hotels are offering South Africans better rates than they would offer international guests, very short-sighted in our opinion, given that it signals to international guests that they are not as desired, and means that they could be staying away from Cape Town and going on holiday elsewhere.  Price discrimination against foreigners is something the provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde should urge FEDHASA Cape to fight against, and to encourage hotels to drop this practice.

POSTSCRIPT 20/4: Rey Franco, Deputy Chairman of FEDHASA Cape, has e-mailed this comment: “Thanks for this, I do need to correct you on one specific comment you have made by saying we have not done the survey. Rema and I are checking the rates daily, on Expedia, booking.com and others. It is important to note that we decided to do the survey over a minimum of 3 months before releasing any information in order to ascertain the actual status of the rates stituation. Something the media forgot to mention. I am sure you would agree that looking at rates for only a few days is certainly not going to show any worthy trend. To show you why this survey must be conducted over a longer period I have attached the rates as displayed this morning under the certain categories for your perusal. You will see how low they are. See what you can get from the Taj! It is also important to note that rates will vary dependant on demand especially where large conferences and events are concerned. Another reason why rates need to be averaged out correctly. I will do the same daily searches on the additional hotels you have tested to ensure a wider trend analysis.”

POSTSCRIPT 24/4:  We received the following e-mail from Dirk Elzinga, Chairman of FEDHASA Cape: thank you for your email/copy of your blog that was passed on to me while I am travelling overseas. It made some interesting reading, and I am sure that we are able to make good use of your suggestions. I trust that the response you received from Rey Franco is clear to you, and that you do understand that we as Fedhasa try to get some 
realy (sic) reliable information about the relative pricing of our hotels in Cape Town. A once off snap shot comparison obviously does not serve this purpose. We definitely will inform our members and the media about our findings of this ongoing survey as soon as we feel that we have collected sufficient data to express an opinion based on facts. As Rey wrote, this will at least take three months or so.”

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

Cape Town to become top 10 world brand

Cape Town Tourism sees one of its goals as developing Cape Town into a world city by 2020.  This was announced at the Cape Town Tourism AGM by its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold earlier this week.

Du Toit-Helmbold sees Cape Town developing into a top world city in 2020 in which to “live, visit, study, work and invest in”, and into a centre of innovation and creativity, welcoming 4 million international visitors annually.  It will become a favourite domestic destination too, and will be known as the ‘events capital of Africa’, she said.   “The city is clean, green and safe – recognised as one of the most livable cities in the world” in 2020, she added.

We welcome her vision that by 2020 “Cape Town now sustains a healthy year-round tourism industry with many direct flights from key markets across the world”, especially as she mentioned that feedback from Cape Town Tourism members shows that “…some establishments reporting alarmingly low occupancy levels” since the World Cup.  Also, she indicated that there was no clear picture yet about the festive season bookings, and reiterated how important it is to address seasonality variations, the winter months being a severe problem.  Events are an important means of countering seasonality, and she announced that with its funder, the City of Cape Town, Cape Town Tourism is working on an Events Strategy for the city, linking already established events with new ones held in “off-peak” season.

Du Toit-Helmbold also said that world cities such as Cape Town, and its tourism brands, must work on their “future fit”, in exploring new markets, and in investing in web, emarketing and technology to ensure that Cape Town Tourism can meet its goal of doubling its economic impact on the city in the next 10 years.   She said that more than 70 % of tourism bookings are made on-line.

On the topic of the suggested amalgamation of Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, which Cape Town Tourism is respectfully resisting, a guest speaker Claes Bjerkne, a destination marketing expert, said that Cape Town is the “ideal master brand as it is one of the better known cities of the world’, on a par with Paris, London, San Francisco and Beijing.  Du Toit-Helmbold said that Cape Town Tourism was seeking an apolitical tourism structure for the province and the city, “driven by the private sector and supported by government”.   “Cape Town Tourism will not compromise our status as an industry-led association, and we remain committed to marketing Cape Town and its unique experience”, she concluded.

At the AGM, new directors were elected/re-elected: quantity surveyor Pierre du Plessis (we question his tourism knowledge), Susanne Faussner-Ringer (who pushed for MATCH bookings for the World Cup with her friend Nils Heckscher, which should have got both of them fired from the Board of Cape Town Tourism for their irresponsible advice to and pressure on the accommodation industry, in our opinion), Bulelwa Nobuzwe Makalima-Ngewana (Deputy CEO of the Cape Town Partnership), Sarah Struys (Events and Marketing Manager of Kirstenbosch), and Claus Tworeck (CEO of City Sightseeing Cape Town).  They join existing directors Sabine Lehmann of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company, Nils Heckscher of the Winchester Mansions Hotel, Guy Lundy of Accelerate Cape Town, and Rashid Toefy, of the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

POSTSCRIPT 10/10 : Southern African Tourism Update provides extra input to the Cape Town Tourism AGM, the future of brand Cape Town, and of the funding of Cape Town Tourism, not mentioned in the Cape Town Tourism media release:

“Keynote speaker, Claes Bjerkne, CEO of Bjerkne & Co, a Swedish destination marketing consultancy, said the city and province should work together to develop a tourism strategy, “but it’s a waste of time not to use the strong city brand”. He suggested: “Let Cape Town be the driving force in the process of developing tourism in the city as well as the province.” He proposed local tourism marketers combine brand Cape Town with topics of interest – such as wine, whales, flowers, culture, golf and wildlife – to entice visitors further into the region.

Pointing out that few people knew the provinces that housed such strong city brands as Berlin, San Francisco, Paris, Beijing, Edinburgh, Amsterdam and London, he said similarly visitors to South Africa didn’t know its various regions but recognised brand Cape Town. This did not mean they would not travel further into the province to pursue their interests. The same was true overseas, he said, where tourists combined San Francisco with the Nappa Valley to taste wine, travelled to the Great Wall of China from Beijing, or left Edinburgh behind to play golf at St Andrews.

CTT CEO, Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, also made a strong case for Cape Town to be the brand for the city and the province and for tourism marketing to remain driven by the tourism industry and not by civil servants. “We will not compromise on the industry playing the leading role,” she said. “Cities are the super-brands of the future. Cape Town has all the potential to become this.”

Cape Town City Council Mayoral Committee for Economic Development & Tourism, Felicity Purchase, expressed continued confidence in CTT as the city’s marketer. The city will fund CTT to the tune of R38m for the next financial year.”

POSTSCRIPT 12/10:  We have amended our blog post after receiving feedback from Cape Town Tourism.  A future vision for Cape Town for 2020 was oddly written in the present rather than in the future tense in the media release.

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

Restaurant Review: There is little of Jardine at Jardine Restaurant

A Twitter friendship with co-owner Wilhelm Kuehn, and a challenge from him to visit the restaurant to do a review, was the reason for returning for a meal at Jardine Restaurant in the Cape Town city centre, after 18-months since the previous visit.  

Jardine Restaurant makes me think that it is somewhat ‘schizophrenic’ – a fine-dining ex-Top 10 restaurant, which also has an informal take-away at its Jardine Bakery section, and an informal sit-down lunch at tables and benches outside the door on the pavement.   Restaurant founder and co-owner George Jardine has opted out of city living, to start a new country restaurant on Jordan wine estate in Stellenbosch, and now only cooks at Jardine Restaurant “2 or 3 times a week”, I am told, but the restaurant still carries his name.   Wilhelm tells me that Waterkloof and Tokara were alternate options George Jardine had evaluated for his new restaurant.

Jardine has handed over the chef reins to Eric Bulpitt, who has worked at the Winchester Mansions Hotel, The Showroom, Ledbury in London, and at Jardine Restaurant with George.  Kuehn was a lawyer, and now is the General Manager, keeping a fine eye on things upstairs, walking the floor to check that all runs smoothly.

Jardine Restaurant had to face the humiliation of falling from 3rd place in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list of 2009 to between 12 – 20th place last November.  One does not know if the judges felt that things had slipped, or because they felt that an award cannot go to a chef when he is not cooking there all the time any more – Jardine’s move to the winelands had been widely announced.   Kuehn says the Top 10 award result last year created introspection, but Bulpitt’s new menu for the restaurant is drawing in regulars.   I heard tourists, and recognised Howard Godfrey, MD of @home, as patrons, on an almost-full Thursday evening. 

When one arrives one is met by Johan.  I had not booked, but he made a plan to make a table available.  I told him I would be out by 9 pm, but Jardine is not for fast in-and-out dining, mainly because the menu requires one to have a minimum of two courses, and I therefore only left after about two hours. 

The downstairs section has never made an impact, and is set up as a bar and lounge.   Upstairs the restaurant space has a central middle area, and tables against the windows, separate from the rest.   It is not a particularly attractive space decor-wise, only a pop-art painting by Richard Scott on the far wall creating a splash of colour, one of a few artworks on the walls, coming from Worldart.   A functional shelf holds functional cutlery holders and crockery.  Close by, an old-fashioned cash register has an untidy collection of paperwork next to it.  The tables have white tablecloths, and attractive and comfortable brown leather chairs. I sense a woman’s hand is lacking in the decor of the room (as I did at the Warwick tasting room recently) – all is very functional here.   The chef and his kitchen crew of five work in a very small space, preparing each dish.  Chef Eric is in the centre, finishing things off. 

Wilhelm comes to chat and we talk about Twitter, other restaurant Twitterers, and the soon-to-open nearby Cookery School.  A waitress brings the menu, printed on strong board, and it changes day by day.   One chooses two (R 230) or three courses ( R 260), a 5 course chef’s menu (R 400) or a wine pairing menu (R350), the last two options not being explained by the waitress.   A side salad is specified as costing R 45 extra, and other (unspecified) sides at R 35.

The menu choice was five starters and mains, and four desserts.  The starters seemed esoteric (‘Evita and Princess figs’ -two varieties of figs, I was told and ‘vegetable patch’) or too fishy (oysters, mussels and salmon) for my taste.   Main choices were line fish, Frazerburg lamb leg, seared Kroondal duck breast, rump, and grilled elf mushrooms.  

An amuse bouche is served, almost over the top and ‘airy-fairy’, very foamy in general, and is meant to be an olive tapenade covered by a “tomato spoon” (missed the tomato taste), white pepper and a basil leaf.  It is extremely light and aerated, and I am brought another because the air will have escaped while Wilhelm and I talk too much.  I love duck, and was surprised when it was served – I call it “deconstructed”, with four little bits of duck, and little portions of “parfait en croute, celeriac, pomegranate and shallot” spread out on a wooden platter.   The tiniest of tiny flowers, nuts and other ingredients are sprinkled across the plate.   Had I not ordered a side of the most wonderful crunchy green beans sprinkled with flaked almonds, I would have still been hungry after the main course.   The parfait is outstanding, the little that is offered.

The dessert options were chocolate torte, citrus tomato minestrone, pineapple souffle flambe, and a selection of South African cheeses (gorgonzola, camembert, labare-style cheese, ash-rind goat’s cheese and gruyere served with walnut toast and watermelon konfyt).   The cheese platter, served on an extremely heavy granite slab, was an excellent choice, and was an enjoyable slow eat.  It was decorated with the finest apple slices, always great with cheese, and slices of strawberry and raspberries, as well as nuts and blueberries.

The waitress was very efficient in explaining the menu items, but each item has so many components, that when the dish is brought to the table, one has long forgotten what exactly the chosen dish entails (Opal Lounge has the same problem).  But the waitress was patient in running through the ingredients again.  One irritation is the waitress offering her personal recommendation of the duck – I know that many restaurants do not allow their staff to eat the restaurant’s food, so I always reject such “recommendations”, as tastes do differ.  I chose the duck, because I love duck, not because she recommended it.

The winelist is attractively presented in a brown leather cover, matching the chairs.   It is an extensive list, separating bubblies, whites and reds, each sub-divided into varietals and blends, followed by two pages of mainly French and some Spanish wines.    Wines by the glass are reasonably priced – a Villiera by-the-glass costs R 40, a Tribout R 120.   A Jardine (made by Paradyskloof) Unwooded Chardonnay costs R 25, a Lammershoek Roulette Blanc R 40.  The La Motte Millenium and Sterhuis cost R 45 each (for 125 ml).  For the tasting menu one can order 60 ml portions of wines too.   Billecart-Salmon champagne is served in various options, ranging from R 950 – R 7 000 a bottle.  Two Graham Beck Cap Classiques cost R 410, the VIlliera R 190.   Red wine options number 35, and range from R 95 for a MAN Shiraz to R 990 for a Muemve Raats De Compostella 2006; 27 white wine options range from the Jardine Unwooded Chardonnay at R 100 to R 780 for the Platter 2010 White Wine of the Year, the Sadie Palladius.  French wines start at R 1 600 per bottle, to R 8 600 for a Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild 1995.

The sommelier Jaap-Henk Koelewijn is told that I have ordered a glass of La Motte Millenium 2007, and that I would like it poured at the table (I distrust wine-by-the glass service).   Johan tells me that they have actually found a bottle of 2006 – what luck!   Koelewijn comes to the table, does not show me the bottle, as I ask of him twice, and just carries on pouring the small portion. I ask him if I may not taste the wine.  He retorts that he has done so already!   There was no “hello, my name is Jaap, I am the sommelier, let me tell you some more about the La Motte Millenium…” from him.  Why is that sommeliers have such attitude and arrogance (like at Bosman’s and Reubens in Franschhoek)?   The minute I started the cheese platter, he was back to offer me another top-up of the wine or a port.   No question was asked whether I had enjoyed the first glassful.   The empty glass was probably taken to communicate that it was good!  I had to ask for a cappuccino to accompany the coffee, as this was not offered as a beverage option.

The lunch menu changes regularly too, and that of 11 March had four starters (oysters and mussels as per the dinner menu) and two salads, 3 mains (line fish, rump and mushrooms, as per the dinner menu), and 3 desserts (chocolate torte and cheese as per the dinner menu).  Here the prices look reasonable, and one can order per dish.    The sums do not add up if you see the lunch prices for individual menu items, compared to paying for 2 or more dinner courses.  Wilhelm says the lunch menu dishes are simpler.   

If Wilhelm had not come to chat, I would have left without the “connection” to Jardine Restaurant.  There is some very soft music, so soft that it is inaudible.   It gets progressively hotter in the room, as the airconditioning is on but the windows are open, defeating the function of the aircons.   A fan is brought from around the corner, and makes a difference.

Jardine Restaurant, corner Bree and Bloem Street, Cape Town.  Tel (21) 424-5640.          www.jardineonbree.co.za.  Twitter @JardineCapetown.  Open for dinner Monday – Saturday evenings, lunch is served Wednesdays – Fridays.

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

Cape Town Tourism’s tourism faux pas!

A most bizarre media report was posted by Eye Witness News, in stating that Lianne Burton, the Marketing Manager and media spokesperson of Cape Town Tourism, the city’s tourism body, is happy that Cape Town is seeing fewer tourists this summer season, and that they are going to other more affordable cities such as Durban.

Burton told Eye Witness News that Cape Town Tourism is “…pleased high-end tourists were choosing to spend their festive season holidays in the Mother City”.   Burton also said that “the city needs so-called ‘quality tourists’ who spend more cash.”   The report continues: “Burton said Cape Town Tourism was not distressed thousands of local travellers apparently chose to flock to seemingly more affordable areas in KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of the country, instead of travelling to the Cape.”   Burton is reported to have said: “We can’t pack people in by the thousands.  I think Cape Town and Durban are slightly different, we certainly aren’t aiming for quantity”.   

What is interesting is the public reprimand Cape Town Tourism Board member Nils Heckscher, GM of the Winchester Mansions Hotel in Sea Point, has given Burton, who said that every prospective tourist is essential.  He is reported to have said:”To turn around and say,’We don’t want this tourist or that tourist’ is an arrogance that we can ill-afford”.

Cape Town Tourism has been appointed by the City of Cape Town to market Cape Town.   Both Belinda van Niekerk, the acting-CEO of Cape Town Tourism, and Burton, were unavailable for comment this morning, as they have given themselves and most of the Cape Town Tourism staff the day off, according to the switchboard, on this the busiest tourism day of the whole year!

See the report at www.eyewitnessnews.co.za

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

Under the Boardtalk!

Nils Heckscher, MD of the Winchester Mansions Hotel,  appears to have little to do in his day job, volunteering his services on many industry Boards.   He is currently serving as past-Chairman on the FEDHASA Cape Board, is a Director of  Street Smart, and is Chairman of the Tourism Marketing Levy of South Africa (TOMSA).    He was a Director of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, but resigned earlier this year when the politics got to him.    One could say that Heckscher is an “association-junkie”.  Perhaps it is time that he allowed some new and younger blood to serve on industry bodies.

Heckscher’s latest target is Cape Town Tourism, probably because of its new Marketing role and R 24 million budget, having been nominated for one of the two Director slots available.     He is up against tough competition, with eight other nominees, including Mbulelo Kwali, Chairman of the Black Management Forum; Sabine Lehmann, CEO of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company; Colin Nyoni, Owner of Nyoni’s Kraal; Jennifer Seif, Executive Director of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa; and Arno Vorster, previous Chairman of Cape Town Tourism, and an Internal Auditor at the City of Cape Town, the provider of the new Marketing Budget.    The election takes place at the Cape Town Tourism AGM on 16 October.

Phillip Couvaras, GM of the Table Bay Hotel and Chairman of FEDHASA Cape, has been appointed to the Board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, according to the latest FEDHASA Cape newsletter, but surprisingly his appointment has not been publicly announced by new Western Cape Province MEC for Finance, Economic Development & Tourism Garth Strachan, nor by Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU).   In fact, the CTRU website still lists the Board which was in place until June, most of which directors, including Heckscher, no longer serve on the Board.