I have experienced the cuisine creativity and presentation of Chefs Rikku O’Donnchü and Warwick King three times at Gåte when they opened at Quoin Rock wine estate outside Stellenbosch a year ago, and three times since they established their own SŸN Group since leaving Gåte, first as a SŸN Pop-up, and then as their brand new Exhibit A, in the past year, In this period I have seen the growth in this creative chef team, challenging itself continuously to do things differently and to break their own boundaries. Continue reading →
One cannot get more notorious than being featured in Noseweek (July 2015 issue), and to have a Facebook group created about one’s business. Such an ‘honour’ has been bestowed upon Daniel Waldis, owner of Le Chocolatier, who has operated in Franschhoek, now in Stellenbosch, and with a factory in Paarl!
The Sweet Service Award goes to Swissport and its staff Zaheera Mia and Yolanda, for assisting us in obtaining a suitcase for our guest Monika Hänni, which had got left behind in Zürich. The guest had been promised the suitcase 24 hours later, but there was no contact from Swissport. We tried to call Swissport all day and night, but no one answered! On calling Cape Town International 48 hour later, we were given an alternative number and mercifully Noor answered the phone. We followed up with Jerome, who walked to the lost baggage section to find Zaheera. I offered to fetch the suitcase, as our guest had worn the same clothes for 36 hours already. Yolanda came to meet us at the Information counter, to prevent us from having to enter a security area to fetch the bag – as I did not have a flight ticket, I was not allowed to enter the area, despite Monika needing assistance in communicating in English. Continue reading →
* Edelweiss Air will offer two return flights per week between Cape Town and Zürich during the Cape’s next summer season, in new-look interior aircraft. New seat configurations and an in-flight entertainment system with touch screens will be available.
* Cape Town just cannot stay out of the New York Times! Travel writer Sarah Khan has profiled some of the city’s hottest coffee and quirky shops, linking the city to World Design Capital 2014. In the print edition on Sunday, the article headline ‘Have some Dim Sum with your shirts’ introduces the article with the story about the success of I ♥ My Laundry, which recently opened a second branch in the city centre. Other hot spots that are featured in the article are Loading Bay, Latitude 33, Haas, Pedersen & Lennard, House of Machines, and Los Muertos Motorcycles.
* Standard Bank’s economist Goolan Ballim says that South Africa’s economy has underperformed ever since the global meltdown, which commenced in 2008. He only sees a recovery in 2016 or 2017.
* One third of British travellers have visited 10 countries on average, a survey conducted on behalf of the London City Airport has found. The most popular Continue reading →
* Cape Town has been named third best city in the world by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 Top Cities listing. It was beaten by Paris and Trinidad, but was ranked ahead of Riga (capital of Latvia), Zurich, Shanghai, Vancouver, Chicago, Adelaide, and Auckland. Top 10 countries in the world are Brazil, Antarctic (unusual to call this a country!), Scotland (is it not part of the UK?), Sweden, Malawi, Mexico, Seychelles, Belgium, Macedonia, and Malaysia. The rationale for Cape Town’s ranking was: ‘Expect sculpture-lined green spaces, sustainable projects that are more than just a pretty face, and further regeneration of former industrial districts. 2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of South African democracy – honour it by exploring the city’s history,’ encourages the travel guide.
Cape Town was crowned with first place in the category Top 10 Cities in Africa and the Middle East and ranked eleventh in the Top 25 Cities in the World by Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. The city as also rated tops as Africa’s Leading Destination and also as Africa’s Leading Meetings and Conference Destination by World Travel Awards. (received via e-mail from Rabbit in a Hat Communications)
* The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has downgraded its growth projection for airline passengers to 5% for the rest of 2013, but does expect a stronger growth in 2014.
* The City of Cape Town staff strike has come to a speedy end.
* The Fish & Chip Company’s short-lived advertising campaign with President Zuma as its subject, on which R500000 was spent on media placement before it was withdrawn, generated R20 million in PR coverage in ten days, winning the Metropolitan Republic a Gold Loerie for PR Communication Campaign. Die Antwoord’s video for its song ‘Fatty Boom Boom’ was a surprise Gold winner in the TV and Cinema 90 second+ category.
* Swiss airline Edelweiss, which belongs to Lufthansa, returns to Cape Town from October for the third year, serving the Zurich – Cape Town route, a popular way for German, British and Italian tourists in particular to fly directly to Cape Town.
* South Africa’s ‘maverick’ winemakers receive praise from wine-searcher.com!
SAA has been in the news in the past few days for all the wrong reasons, eight of its eleven Board members having resigned in what must signal the lack of confidence in the management of the airline and its future. As our tourism industry is strongly reliant on SAA to bring tourists to the country, and to Cape Town specifically, the SAA situation is of vital importance to all tourism players.
Cheryl Carolus, Chairman of the SAA Board, is one of the Directors who resigned, with Bonang Mohale, Russell Loubser, Louis Rabbets, Jabulani Ndhlovu, David Lewis, Teddy Daka, and Maggie Whitehouse, but she has not motivated her decision. Russell Loubser has been vocal, saying that SAA, SA Express, and Mango deserve the support of the South African government, being its largest shareholder, but that they are not receiving it, reported The Citizen. Loubser called for emotional, financial, and moral support, given the economic downturn and the competitive airline industry. The operations of the company have had to be executed in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act, he said, which meant that they could not run the company as a commercial enterprise, in which they would ordinarily hire and fire staff, or change routes. ‘But a company like SAA which is totally dependent on the government requires in return the total support of the shareholder. And right now it is finding it difficult to work with the shareholder’. Issues that have been tabled for months do not get resolved, Loubser explained, particularly the burning issue of an additional R6 billion which the airline requested from the government to execute a strategic plan which had been approved by the government. He said that in the past three years since he had been a member of the SAA Board, the company had ‘never been properly capitalised’.
The resignations were precipitated by the delay in the tabling of SAA’s Annual Report by the deadline of 30 September, as the auditors had not finalised the financial statements, and the funding request not having been finalised with the Treasury, reported The Times. The funding requested is to cover fleet replacement costs, the introduction of a premium economy class, and the extension of business class cabins on long-haul flights. Yet Ms Carolus stated that the Minister is ‘lying’, as the financial statements have been completed, and withholding them is ‘illegal’, reflecting on the Board directors, reported The Times today. The Annual Report for SA Express was also delayed. Last year the financial statements for SA Express had to be withdrawn, when found to be ‘materially misstated’. Last month the Minister fired all except one Board member of SA Express, for accounting errors going back to 2008!
Earlier last week Ms Carolus had summarised the Board’s achievements as flying to new destinations, sacrificing domestic routes to the benefit of international routes, modernising and increasing the fleet, and in addressing fraud and corruption.
Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba appointed eight new directors to caretake the Board positions, with Vuyisile Kona as the new Chairman, and Andile Mabizela, Andile Khumalo, Bonisizwe Mpondo, Dr Rajesh Naithani, Carol Roskruge, Raisibe Lepule, and Nonhlanhla Kubeka as the new Directors, representing expertise in the fields of aviation, management, state governance, and finance, and which he said would assist the government in ‘propelling the airline to greater heights‘! The Minister issued a statement, describing the resignation timing as ‘bizarre’, and condemned ‘the leakage of confidential government information’ as an ‘abuse of free speech’, without explaining what information leak he is referring to. The Minister also explained that the term of most Board members would have come to an end anyway, at the scheduled AGM on 15 October. The Minister assured staff, passengers, and suppliers that the Board resignations would not disrupt the operations of SAA.
Cape Town’s tourism industry was badly hit by SAA’s decision to close down its Cape Town – London direct flight route in mid-August, selling one of its three slots at Heathrow, and creating a Southern African hub in Johannesburg, forcing all international SAA flights to land in Johannesburg, and then connect to Cape Town on a domestic flight. This strategy is proving fatal for tourism, as we continuously receive feedback that international flights arriving simultaneously at OR Thambo airport are causing Passport Control and Baggage Collection congestion, meaning that the connecting flights are missed by international visitors, for which SAA tries to cash in on ticket change charges! This is a dreadful first tourist impression of our country!
The declining quality of SAA’s food and beverage service and poor hostess service was well-documented by German wine writer Mario Scheuermann, who flew from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, to attend CapeWine 2012 in Cape Town last week. He wrote that the wines were of sub-standard quality, and ran out two hours after take-off, that the food was dreadful (his photograph), and that the mineral water had run out before landing in Johannesburg. The party of German VIP visitors missed its connecting flights due to the congested airport facilities, and had to wait for three hours to catch a new connecting flight to Cape Town!
Despite this sounding unpatriotic, we would encourage international visitors to fly to Cape Town with any airline other than SAA, and to avoid flying into the country via Johannesburg at all costs! Direct Cape Town connections are or about to be offered by BA and Virgin from London, by Edelweiss from Zürich, by Lufthansa from Munich, by Emirates from Dubai, by Air France from Paris, by Turkish Airlines from Istanbul, and from Amsterdam by KLM. Maybe the cancellation of SAA’s Cape Town-London route is a blessing in disguise for our city, given the poor reports about the airline’s service and quality!
POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Swedish guests checking in at Whale Cottage Camps Bay today praised the ease of connection via Swiss from Copenhagen to Zürich, and then the direct flight by Edelweiss to Cape Town, for its friendly service and fantastic price of R 5500 each for the full return trip.
POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Today it was announced that the government has given SAA a ‘guarantee’ of R5 billion!
POSTSCRIPT 2/10: Southern African Tourism Update has published a letter today from a tour operator reporting on two client flight cancellations due to overbooking, handled unsympathetically by SAA staff.
POSTSCRIPT 3/10: Mario Scheuermann has shared the details of his return journey on SAA two days ago. The food quality was slightly better, there was more wine available but the quality offered still was poor. There was a problem with the cooling, so all beverages were warm, i.e. not cooled! The service was equally poor. Interesting would be to hear the evaluation of the food and wine offering by the SA Culinary Olympics team, which was on the same flight to Frankfurt!
POSTSCRIPT 7/10: The Times reports that the smaller independent airlines are furious that SAA has been given a R 5 billion lifeline by the government, saying that this is driving low-cost airlines out of business. Nine out of 11 airlines that started operating locally in the past 20 years have gone into liquidation, mainly due to an oversupply of domestic seats, ‘a legacy of the optimism of 2010’. Now 1time wants a bail-out by the government too. The small airlines are asking for a cut in the fuel levy, as well as reduced fees for ACSA, Air Traffic Navigation Services, the SA Weather Service, and the Civil Aviation Authority.
POSTSCRIPT 10/10: Southern African Tourism Update reports this evening that the new Chairman of the SAA Board is questioning why the Cape Town – London route was cancelled, and is apparently in talks with the Mayor of Cape Town Patricia de Lille to reinstate the route. One wonders why he is not talking to our Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde, the CEO of Wesgro Nils Flaatten, and/or Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold! One of the three SAA slots at Heathrow have been sold, which may make the reinstatement difficult.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
A new book by British “investigative sports reporter” Andrew Jennings, called “FOUL! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals”, has kicked up a fuss just days ahead of the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, reports The Times. The book is critical of FIFA, and its “corruption and greed”.
Jennings is one of few, if not the only, journalist to be banned from FIFA media conferences, having focused on sport corruption reporting for the last thirty years. He started his “stirring” with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch, having discovered his political past during the Second World War, leading to three books on the subject, and 5 days in a Swiss jail.
The IOC and FIFA shared the same marketing company, International Sport and Leisure, and this led Jennings to investigate FIFA, amid allegations of bribery by the marketing company to secure marketing contracts and television broadcast rights, with kickbacks to FIFA, before it went into liquidation.
As far as the South African bid for the 2010 World Cup goes, Jennings alleges that Jack Warner, a FIFA executive from Trinidad and Tobago, wanted one thing above all – access to Nelson Mandela, and he was only prepared to vote for our country if his wish came true! Jennings is disparaging of Warner, and his debt to the 2006 World Cup team from these two countries, who still have not been paid, it is alleged, despite a British court order to this effect.
The FIFA ticketing and accommodation agency MATCH has not escaped Jennings’ eagle eye, and he blames MATCH for “… has milked the fans”, particlarly given the world’s economic recession, which meant they could not afford the excessive cost of the hospitality packages MATCH was selling. FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s nephew Philippe Blatter is a director of MATCH. “Not even the American wholesaler could sell the overpriced hospitality packages. For Match it was just greed, greed, greed”, he writes. “What matters is the percentage of the commissions they make. So they push the prices higher to make it a bigger commission. But the corporates won’t spend money in this economic climate”.
Jennings cynically states that there was never a shortage of tickets to the matches as we were led to believe at one stage, and that South African municipalities are buying tickets “because we have to believe there is a scarcity value; there has been a political move to cover up the scandal. Blatter is dishing out tickets to the unemployed – you are going to get screwed” he added. He goes on to allege that any profits that FIFA makes will go to the FIFA official headquarters in Zurich. The Local Organising Committee receives a lashing as well :”Officials and the government have sold South Africa down the river”. His final parting shot: “..after the final whistle blows, South Africans have nothing to look forward to but a mountain of scandal, debt and – in our shiny new, expensive stadiums – some rather large white elephants”!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com
Cape Town’s top quality restaurants, to which recent additions are Nobu and maze, as well as tours, activities, shopping, cultural offerings and sport make the city eligible for the nomination.
Cape Town Tourism CEO, Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, representing the City at the Travel Show, believes that it is Cape Town’s “level of authenticity” that has allowed Cape Town to be nominated:
“The level of authenticity one can experience whilst also enjoying a luxury experience is a key part of Cape Town’s allure. Yachting at sunset, having a massage outdoors amongst fynbos, driving an exotic car through the winelands â€“ these are all adventures that celebrate the simple things in life in the most luxurious way.” she said.