DECEMBER 2008

I have written WhaleTales for the past eight years now, and have used the information that I collect about the tourism industry as well as my day-to-day hands-on experience in my guest houses to create a topical tourism newsletter that is sent to tourism and hospitality colleagues as well as to Whale Cottage guests.

The newsletter does not carry any advertising, nor does the new WhaleTales blog (www.whalecottage.com/blog). We will not tolerate any editorial input to, nor gagging or censorship of the newsletter and the blog, so as to guarantee our editorial independence and freedom of speech. This is the reason why we moved our blog from CapeInfo.com to our Whale Cottage Portfolio website.

Our Whale Cottages are weathering the global economic crisis remarkably well. While occupancy is down by about 20 % in Franschhoek and Hermanus for November, Whale Cottage Camps Bay remains a winner, having retained its occupancy of previous years at over 95%. One of the reasons is that all Whale Cottage rates have been held at those of last season, despite the current inflation rate of around 13 %.

Whale Cottage Plettenberg Bay is one year old this month, and is looking forward to a sold-out festive season.

It receives nothing but praise for its location, décor and friendliness.

We wish all our WhaleTales readers a peaceful and enjoyable festive season, after what has been one of the most challenging ever for the citizens and businesses of the world.

Chris von Ulmenstein
Owner, Whale Cottage Portfolio


IN THIS MONTH'S NEWSLETTER
Downturn lifts B & B popularity
Stellenbosch takes over Gourmet crown
Game rules for MATCH change
Wedding bells ring for Franschhoek

Sweet & Sour Service Awards

Downturn lifts B & B popularity
 

DOWNTURN LIFTS B & B POPULARITY

 
 

There is no doubt that the global economic crisis has hit tourism in South Africa, and to the Cape.   November was the first month in which the impact of the credit crunch became apparent.   The downturn will benefit the Small Accommodation sector most, given its reasonable pricing levels and personalised service.  

 

Bookings ahead look promising.  The Cape is largely dependent on bookings from the UK market, and any ups and downs in that country will impact on local tourism.   When the British government announced the 2 percentage point VAT reduction last week, the increase in enquiries and bookings was noticeable immediately.  What has changed the most is that bookings are very last minute, making it impossible to predict what lies ahead.   In previous years, for example, November was close to sold out in Camps Bay prior to the start of the month.  This year, it was 50 % sold out at the start of the month, the remainder of the rooms being sold during the month, to achieve an occupancy on a par with previous years.

 

Hotels are facing declined occupancies, and they are now dropping their rates to unheard of lower levels, to attract bookings.  The Weekend Argus reports that Cape Town Routes Unlimited’s Cape Tourism Barometer showed that 1,68 % fewer local and international visitors had made hotel bookings in Cape Town for December.   Bookings at bed and breakfast establishments in the city were down by 5,2 %.   The biggest drop is in the self-catering sector, with 6,15 % fewer bookings than at this time last year.”   This information should be taken with a pinch of salt, as the existence of the Barometer and its results have never been shared with the industry, and its results seem suspect.  If anything, the self-catering sector should show the smallest decline, as it is the most affordable accommodation. The current last minute booking trend nullifies the value of this research anyway!

 

Flights from London to Cape Town have been observed to be between half and three-quarter full, unheard of given the difficulty tourists had in past years to obtain flight tickets.  

Destination marketing takes on an even more important role in times of a global financial crisis, so that a country can achieve awareness amongst its target market when the global economy recovers.  This is the message S A Tourism CEO Moeketsi Mosola brought to the tourism industry, after the August arrival statistics were released, and reflected a slowdown in the arrivals growth rate, to 6 %.   Tourism growth has been double-digit in the past.   Mosola warned the industry of difficult times ahead, and said that the industry should not lose heart, even though he acknowledged that the arrivals information indicated that the credit crunch was affecting tourism for the first time.   ”The industry at large was reporting its worst results since the outbreak of SARS in 2003″ says the S A Tourism media release, but is in line with global tourism market conditions.

In line with its destination market strategy to aggressively market the country in general, and especially for the run-up to the 2010 World Cup, S A Tourism will be launching advertising campaigns on CNN, BBC, Eurosport and in cinemas in 2009.   It already has a regular presence on SkyNews, showing a hot air balloon over a beautiful landscape.

Mosola encourages the industry to use the downturn to invite the media and tour operators to experience their products and services, and the country’s “variety and depth of travel experiences South Africa offers leisure travelers”, to be ready for the upturn.   

Father Christmas cannot bring the tourism industry better news than that of the petrol price decrease of R 1,60 per litre this week.   This brings the price of petrol down to R 7,11 at the coast.   The price of diesel will drop by about 80 cents per litre.   Tourism to the Garden Route and to country areas will receive a positive boost from the petrol price decrease, having taken a bad knock when the petrol price was more than R 10 a litre during winter.   A drop in the interest rate may also occur, which will be a further boost for tourism.

Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) is crying foul once again, in that the Premier of the Western Cape and former head of tourism Lynne Brown is challenging the legality of Cape Town Tourism marketing Cape Town, reports the Cape Argus.   Brown has written to Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille to find a solution to the funding problem, after the City of Cape Town withdrew its 50 % funding of CTRU and allocated it to Cape Town Tourism to market Cape Town.  

 

Brown’s successor as MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Garth Strachan,  said that Cape Town Tourism was marketing both Cape Town and the Western Cape at Soccerex in Johannesburg  and at the World Travel Market in London in November, and that this “…would constitute a clear breach of legislation”, referring to the Tourism Act of 2004, which designates this power to CTRU alone.   Strachan sees Cape Town Tourism now acting “in competition with CTRU”.  

Sometimes controversial City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee member for Economic Development and Tourism, Simon Grindrod, resigned as Deputy Leader and member of the Independent Democrats last month, to join the newly formed Congress of the People (COPE), reports the Cape Times.   Grindrod has lost his Mayoral Committee position and his tourism role as a result.    Grindrod first attracted the industry’s attention when he listened to industry feedback about its dissatisfaction with the inefficiency of Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) in marketing Cape Town and the Western Cape, and appointed consultants to investigate the organisation’s ability to meet its funding mandate.  The City of Cape Town was a 50 % funder of CTRU at that time, with the province of the Western Cape.    Grindrod did not like the consultants’ report about CTRU, and last year received the Mayoral Committee support to give CTRU the required 12 months’ notice that the City would be withdrawing its R 24 million funding from CTRU, and giving it to Cape Town Tourism from 1 July this year instead.    The industry was shocked by the boldness of Grindrod’s actions, yet has warmly embraced Cape Town Tourism’s ability to market Cape Town in a more focused and efficient manner. 

Excellent news is that Cape Town has been named as the UK Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph readers’ favourite city in the world, in its 2008 Travel Awards.   Cape Town beat Sydney, San Francisco and Vancouver.   South Africa was voted as third favourite travel destination in the world, excluding Europe.   More than 90 % of the readers of the poll stated that they would not downgrade their accommodation on a next holiday, and would not change their holiday destination choice due to the credit crunch.  

Sol Kerzner’s One&Only Cape Town is scheduled to open in the V & A Waterfront in May next year, reports Luxury Travel.  The hotel will have 131 rooms, of which 40 will be located on a specially created island in the Waterfront.   The other special island will host the eleven-room Spa and pool, and will be linked to the hotel by means of bridges.    Other facilities will include the One&Only Fitness Centre; Nobu, Island Terrace and Plate restaurants; the Wine Loft with more than a hundred wines by the glass; and a KidsOnly Club.  

Sol Kerzner, who became a renowned hotelier and casino operator when he established Sun City and The Palace of the Lost City outside Johannesburg more than 25 years ago, says of his newest project: “One&Only Cape Town will become a significant landmark in Africa with its bold, contemporary design promising to make it one of the world’s leading luxury resort destinations.  I am looking forward to once again contributing to South Africa’s tourism industry, which has seen an incredible growth in recent years.   I am very pleased to open a spectacular resort with a fresh and exciting new concept in my home country in what I’ve always believed to be one of the greatest sites in Cape Town.   Opening in plenty of time for the 2010 World Cup, the resort will appeal to the international traveller and play a key role in the local community”.

Kerzner’s One&Only hotels are located in Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Bahamas and Dubai.    He opened his latest Atlantis Palm Jumeirah One&Only in Dubai recently, with a $20 million opening extravaganza, including the world’s largest fireworks display and a performance by Kylie Minogue.   VIP guests at the opening included Robert de Niro, Charlize Theron, Wesley Snipes, Janet Jackson, Mischa Barton, Yasmin le Bon, Denzil Washington and Shirley Bassey, signaling the scale at which the One&Only Cape Town could be opening next year.

Cape Town is to have its own Rio-style Carnival as of March 2010.   The Cape Town Carnival will run from 12 - 14 March 2010, the weekend in between the Argus Cycle Tour and the Two Oceans Marathon.   It will be a weekend of music, dance and cultural expression, and “is a celebration of diversity”, according to its website www.capetowncarnival.com

The theme of the first Cape Town Carnival will be “Rhythm, Roots & Boots”.  It aims at “celebrating uniting diverse communities through music, dance and creativity, show-casing the best of Cape Town, annually…” says Dr Rachel Jafta, the Cape Town Carnival Trust Chairman and University of Stellenbosch Associate Professor of Economics.  ”We wanted to create something new, where communities interact and celebrate our uniqueness, but also unite as citizens of one of the most beautiful cities of the world.” she added, reports the Cape Times.

The Trust team are largely unknown to the tourism industry, and includes Clarence Ford, radio presenter and previous owner of the now defunct Manenbergs, Craig Lemboe, Eldridge Moses, Anton Liebenberg, Henry Hockey, Themba Nolutshungu, Fritz Marx and Programme Manager Isabel Meyer.   It is worrying that the Trustees do not appear to have Tourism or Event Management experience, and that the tourism bodies Cape Town Tourism and CTRU are not involved.

Cape Town has the largest number of Blue Flag beaches of all cities in the country, six of its beaches receiving the prestigious accreditation last month.   Nine of the nineteen Blue Flag beaches are in the Western Cape, and include Lappiesbaai Beach in Stilbaai, Grotto and Hawston beaches in Hermanus, Bikini Beach in Gordon’s Bay, Mnandi and Strandfontein beaches in Strandfontein, Muizenberg beach, and Clifton 4th and Camps Bay beaches on the Atlantic seaboard, reports the Cape Times.  Four Port Elizabeth beaches have also received Blue Flag accreditation, while all six Durban beaches have lost their Blue Flag status.

The Society of Incentive Travel Executives (SITE) is to hold its 2010 International Conference in Cape Town.   The Society represents leaders in the multi-billion dollar design and execution of incentive rewards industry.  SITE CEO Brenda Anderson motivated her Society’s choice of Cape Town as follows:    ”As a global leader in our space,  what better way to live our mission than to select a destination that exemplifies diversity, growth and an eye for the future?”.  It will be the first time that a SITE Conference will be held in Africa.   The SITE Conference will run from 4 - 7 December 2010.

The Cape lived up to its reputation as “The Cape of Storms” last month, as a black south-easter blowing up to 65 km/h caused havoc with and damage to land and sea traffic, trees, roofs and walls, and resulting in wide-spread flooding throughout the Western Cape province.  The large-scale damage caused by the four-day storm has been attributed to climate change by Lynne Brown, the Premier of the Western Cape province.   A climatologist at the University of Cape Town said that the storm was “the strongest cut-off low pressure system to have hit the Western Cape in spring since 1979.   This confirmed a trend in the southern hemisphere over the past 30 years of cut-off lows increasing in intensity which may be a result of global warming.” the Cape Times reported. 

The southeaster was so strong that it blew over trucks in the city centre and in Camps Bay. Accompanied by untypical heavy downpours, the driving rain caused severe flooding near Hermanus, Robertson, Greyton, Caledon, Ceres, Swellendam and Touws River.

Stellenbosch takes over Gourmet crown

 

STELLENBOSCH TAKES OVER GOURMET CROWN

 

 

Three Stellenbosch restaurants have made the 2009 Prudential Eat Out Top Ten restaurant list, being Overture, Rust en Vrede and Terroir. The first two restaurants are new entrants to the top ten list. The Stellenbosch success is at the expense of Franschhoek, which retains only one restaurant on the top ten list, being the Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais, slipping from top position last year to 7th place this year. Franschhoek’s Grand Provence and Bread & Wine, on the top ten list last year, fell off the top list, with the former falling off the top twenty list. Reubens did not manage to make the top ten list, but was on the top 20 list.

Competition for the top ten list was tough, with many new restaurants making the top twenty list, from which the top ten restaurants were selected. Seven top restaurants are in the Western Cape, of which three in Cape Town, three in Stellenbosch and one in Franschhoek.

The winners, in order, are as follows: La Colombe, Jardine, Terroir, Overture, Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient in Pretoria, Rust en Vrede, The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais, Roots at Forum Homini, Bizerca and Hartford House. La Colombe was selected as Restaurant of the Year and its chef Luke Dale-Roberts the Chef of the Year. Terroir won the Service Award, while the Lifetime Achievement Award was made posthumously to Frank Swainston, who was at Constantia Uitsig until his death earlier this year. Notable upsets were the exclusion from the list of The Showroom and Aubergine. Ginja was a top ten winner last year, but did not even make the top twenty list this year.


The judges selected the top restaurants on the basis of operating for a year or more, the chefs demonstrating a passion for their business, showing a dedication to uplifting the industry, where chefs source their ingredients, and consistence and excellence in all aspects of their business. Food quality counted for 70 points, service for 20 and ambience for 10 in judging the top restaurants.

 

Franschhoek sees three new restaurant openings this month.   Bertus Basson, of award-winning Overture in Stellenbosch, has opened Genot on Klein Genot.    Fyndraai opens on Solms Delta, and L’Hermitage, owned by ex-Chamonix chef Dane Newton, opens on the Franschhoek Estate at the foot of the Franschhoek Pass.

 

South Africa won Gold in the Restaurant of Nations section of the Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung at the Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany last month, reports Travelwires.     They won Gold alongside the chefs from Singapore, the only two countries to be awarded gold medals. 

 

The Culinary Olympics take place every four years.  Cooking for 110 persons, the team of ten top South African chefs prepared a three-course meal reflecting South Africa’s unique cuisine. 

The menu consisted of a crayfish starter, springbok loin and shoulder as main course, and was crowned with a naartjie and chocolate malva pudding.   Bertus Basson, co-owner of Overture in Stellenbosch, was one of the chefs in the South African team.

Well-known Franschhoek tapas restaurant Bouillabaisse is to open a sister restaurant in the new Epicurean Food Emporium in Cape Town this month.  Chef and owner Camil Haas previously owned Klein Oliphantshoek, the guest house at which he and his wife Ingrid prepared award-winning tasting menu meals for their guests.  Not only will a new Bouillabaisse open in Cape Town, but a new restaurant Crepe Suzette will also be opened by the Haas duo.

The Epicurean Food Emporium has been designed by Conrad Gallagher Consulting, and will open in The Rockwell, an apartment building in De Waterkant.    It will be set up as a neighbourhood food market, with 15 food and beverage stores selling freshly baked bread, homemade jam, chutney, pesto, olive oil, wine, gourmet sandwiches, chocolates, ice cream, confectionery and cheeses.  It is to become a one-stop market synonymous with fine food, outstanding service, quality and food trends, reports Supermarket & Retailer.   Further restaurants, in addition to Bouillabaisse and Crepe Suzette, are set to open.

Other restaurant news is that onewaterfront, the restaurant in the Cape Grace Hotel in the Waterfront, which became famous when Bruce Robertson was the chef, is changing its name to Signal, reports eatout, in honour of Cape Town’s traditional noon day gun on Signal Hill.   The restaurant will serve Cape food, reflecting the French Huguenot, British, Dutch and Asian heritage of the Cape.  Christophe Chabanel, who set up the new restaurant, has since left the hotel.   The Roundhouse in Camps Bay, which has set itself the lofty goal of becoming the best restaurant in Africa, has also lost its chef, 6 months after opening, and has appointed PJ Vadas as its new chef. The service staff of The Roundhouse also walked out, due to complaints of ill-treatment it is said, and the restaurant had to close for a few days. It is ironic that Fasie Malherbe, owner of the restaurant, as well as of the staff service training company Let's Sell Lobster, should have lost his key staff!

Bruce Robertson, now the owner of award-winning restaurant The Showroom, is opening another restaurant, located in the Grand Daddy Hotel, previously The Metropole Hotel, in Long Street, called theshowroomcafe, reports eatout.   The menu will be casual, local and “unfussy”, and the chef is Simone Rossouw.

Richard Carstens, top 10 restaurateur when he was at Lynton Hall in KwaZulu-Natal and Bijoux in Franschhoek, is not moving to Franschhoek, as speculated, but is relaunching Relish in New Church Street, which is now called Nova, reports eatout.    A tasting menu and an a la carte menu will be offered.

Madame Zingara, Cape Town’s “eccentric dinner theatre circus”, is on its way to London, and will set up its Spiegelpaleis at the Battersea Power Station this month.   From March the Theatre of Dreams will move to Dublin and Edinburgh, reports the Cape Argus. Griffin’s team will be serving South African wines and springbok to the 400 patrons every night, and says: “We are going as the greatest South African product.” 

Given that many of the Madame Zingara staff could not get work permits to join the Madame on her journey to London, owner Richard Griffin decided to obtain a second dinner circus venue, which will stay behind in Cape Town.

Its name is Mojolena, in honour of two top staff members Mojo and Sweetlena.   The opening event was disappointing, resembling On Broadway in a circus tent, on a blustery south-easterly evening, without enough seating nor food for the invited guests.

South Africa won five Gold Awards at the annual World Cheese Awards, against 2 400 cheeses from around the world.   Gold Award winners are Dalewood Fromage Huguenot, Fairview Roydon Camembert, Clover Mascarpone Cheese, Clover Medium Block Cheddar, and Clover Extra Mature Cheddar, reports the Sunday Times.   Silver Awards went to Foxenburg Estate’s Foxtail, Lourensford Estate’s Healey’s Gold, Kimilili Farm’s Witzenberger, Simonsberg Creamy Blue and Fairview Blue Tower.   Gay’s Dairy Prince Albert Royal, Lancewood Superior Cream, Lancewood Plain Chunky Cottage Cheese and Fairview Camembert 40 % reduced fat won Bronze Awards.

Game rules for MATCH change

 

GAME RULES FOR MATCH CHANGE

 
   

S A Tourism resigned its seat on the Advisory Board of MATCH, the FIFA accommodation and ticketing agency, early last month.   S A Tourism CEO Moeketsi Mosola expressed his dissatisfaction with MATCH’s pressure on the pricing of accommodation for 2010.  He motivated his organisation’s withdrawal from the Board on the basis of the “unfavourable trading terms placed on local accommodation establishments”.

“As we move towards 2010, we want you to know (as the South African tourism industry) that we at S A Tourism are on your side”, Mosola told the delegates at the 7th Annual National Tourism Conference in Johannesburg.   He added that MATCH should be expected to pay market related prices for accommodation.

Mosola highlighted that MATCH was using “bullying tactics” to move block bookings made with hotels at the time of the bid announcement across to MATCH, according to TravelHub.   He said that the threat by MATCH to bring in cruise ships for additional accommodation, and it stating to FIFA that the country was short of accommodation,  was an unacceptable means of getting tour operators to release their accommodation holdings to MATCH.   He added that S A Tourism was defending the rights and interests of the tourism industry, and felt that it could communicate more effectively with MATCH from outside its Board than from within.

The MATCH contract set the 2010 accommodation rates utilising a formula of the 2007 rate + 16 %.  The inflation rate this year alone is 13 % !  MATCH then adds on its 40 % commission fee to this rate.

MATCH has not used the small accommodation industry for any previous World Cup event.

Last week TravelHub announced that MATCH and S A Tourism had met in a meeting moderated by Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.    Both parties reached a “common understanding”, Mosola said. “ S A Tourism will continue to work with MATCH based on fair pricing and terms in an effort to make the 2010 Soccer World Cup a success.”    In the meeting fair accommodation pricing and terms, a transparent tour operator programme, and the implementation of a tourism advisory forum were discussed.   Van Schalkwyk said: “The tourism industry has a very good working relationship with FIFA and MATCH.   We remain committed as partners to assist MATCH in achieving their target and we will continue to encourage players in the industry to sign up their facilities.   Our working relationship is one of mutual respect and partnership and I would like to encourage all role players to ensure that nothing detracts from this.”    No details have been released to the industry as to the specifics of the discussions between MATCH and S A Tourism.

 

At an industry presentation in Cape Town last week, Vivienne Bervoets, Senior Accommodation manager of the FIFA Accommodation Office, described the publicity surrounding S A Tourism and MATCH as unfortunate, and said that it had damaged MATCH’s marketing.  She intimated that S A Tourism had wanted to protect the industry’s interests, when it did not wish them to be protected!   She indicated in question time that the MATCH accommodation pricing formula was now completely flexible, and that every establishment could set its 2010 pricing at the “fair” level it wishes to.   This is a major breakthrough for the small accommodation industry, and reflects the power of resistance and critique, which has been expressed in the past two years.  WhaleTales has been very vocal in its criticism of the MATCH pricing.     What is odd is that the wording in the MATCH contract regarding pricing has not been amended, and therefore unsuspecting establishments may still use the pricing formula of 2007 rates + 16 %, as specified in the contract.   No other aspects of the MATCH contract are flexible.  Soccer fans wanting to buy tickets for the 2010 World Cup matches are not obligated to buy accommodation via MATCH.

More than 800 000 soccer fans will travel to South Africa in 2010 to support their team at the World Cup event.  Of these soccer fans, 57 % will buy tickets for matches, while the remaining 43 % will see the matches at fan parks.   This is the estimate by Gillian Saunders of Grant Thornton Strategic Solutions, reports Business Report.   Saunders is quoted as saying:” It’s a big thing.  People are not saying they are not going to travel, but what is likely to happen is that they will look for cheaper accommodation and there will probably be fewer tours.   The expectation is that by 2010 it will be the beginning of the upturn.  Others say (that) for South Africa things will start to change in the second half of 2009.   The outlook should be more positive and travel proved to be more resilient even when the markets are down.”  Danny Jordan, head of the Local Organising Committee, warned that the attendance of World Cup 2010 may not meet expectations due to the global financial crisis, as fewer fans may be able to afford to come to South Africa.

The Cape Town Station is soon to get its long promised upgrade, for which the first plans were designed more than ten years ago.   The R 480 million upgrade is planned to be completed for the 2010 World Cup, as trains will be an important source of transport for soccer fans.  Station site owner Intersite is promising to develop “a creative Cape Town station”, reports the Cape Times.   Based on market research conducted amongst commuters, the plans include more focus on better quality family restaurants and retail outlets, tourism activities, and recreational facilities.   Informal traders will be restricted to the station deck.   Cape Town Tourism is set to open an office in the new station building.

Platter premium pick

The 2009 Platter Wine Guide has been released, and its record 33 five-star wines were announced.    Kanonkop scooped the prestigious honour of being recognised as the best wine as well as best winery.    Only Boekenhoutskloof and De Trafford have two five-star wines in the top wine list, and almost double the number of red wines than white wines received the coveted 5-star rating.

Wine of the Year was named the Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, and Kanonkop was selected as Winery of the Year.   Five star white wines are Ken Forrester The FMC 2006, Ataraxia 2007, Jordan CWG Auction Reserve 2006, Uva Mira Single Vineyard 2007,  Quoin Rock The Nicobar 2007,  Constantia Uitsig 2007, Cape Point Vineyards Isliedh 2007, Nederburg Ingenuity White 2007,  Sterhuis Astra White 2006, and Tokara White 2007.

Top Platter red wines are Meerlust 2004, Buitenverwachting 2005, Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Kanonkop 2004, Thelema The Mint 2006, Simonsig Redhill 2006,  De Toren Fusion V 2006, De Trafford CWG Perspective 2005, Kaapzicht Steytler Vision 2005, Morgenster 2005, Vilafonté Series C 2006, Waterford Estate – CWG Auction Reserve 2004, Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2006, De Trafford Shiraz 2006, Eagle’s Nest 2006, Hartenberg The Stork 2005,  and Signal Hill Clos d’Oranje 2006.

Other Top winners are Fleur du Cap – Noble Late Harvest 2007, Klein Constantia Estate – Rhine Riesling Natural Sweet 2006, Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards Vin Pi Two (NV), Mons Ruber Estate Muscat d’Alexandrie Jerepigo 1997, Boplaas Vintage Reserve 2006 and De Krans Vintage Reserve 2006

Abrie Beeslaar, Kanonkop winemaker, has been named Best International Winemaker 2008 at the International Wine and Spirits Competition, reports the Cape Times.  Fifty wine-producing countries were represented at the competition.   At the Competition Kanonkop also won the Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande trophy for best blended red wine for its Paul Sauer 2003, and the David Hughes Trophy for Best South African Producer.

The Winelands hosted representatives of the major wine tourism centers of the world in November.  Visiting members of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network came from Bilbao, Bordeaux, Florence, Mainz, Mendoza, Porto, and San Fransisco-Napa, and discussed the promotion of international wine tourism, as well as greater economic, academic and cultural links amongst each other.    The South African wine tourism industry is worth close to R 7 billion.    Its future growth in terms of jobs, skills and turnover was discussed.   South Africa’s leadership in sustainable wine production has been recognised by the Global Network.

Controversy reigns after the announcement of the Diners’ Club Winemaker of the Year Award had to be cancelled.  Duncan Savage of Cape Point Vineyards had been honoured with the 2008 award, until he had to admit that he does not have 3 000 bottles of Isliedh 2006, a requirement for award eligibility.  The winemaker has been described as “disingenuous” by WINE magazine, the organisers of the Award.   The wine is a 2008 five-star Platter winner.    Franschhoek La Vigne winemaker Ossie Sauermann has been announced as 2008 Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the Year.   Last year Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof was selected as the Diner's Club Winemaker of the Year.

More South African wine in the UK is sold to British tourists that have visited South Africa, or who have friends or family living there, than to South Africans living in the UK, according to research conducted by S A Wines Online.  Up to 80 % of S A Wines Online’s British customers have visited the Cape Winelands, reports BizCommunity.com.   More than 500 000 British tourists travel to the Cape, including Cape Town, the Winelands, and the Garden Route, every year.

S A Wines Online has teamed up with South African Direct, a British TV channel available to SKY viewers, to market this country’s wines.   “Wine tasting and dining out is a big part of the cultural and emotional experience for travelers to South Africa.    We have found that when they return, they seek to recreate that experience and thus become regular consumers of South African products such as wine and food”, according to South African Direct.   The company markets the lifestyle and culture of the Cape Winelands, and not only its wines, thereby boosting tourism to the Cape.

Terroir is equally important in producing award-winning olive oils as it is in making good quality wines.  The 2008 S A Olive Oil award winner Burgundy Bourgogne in Franschhoek attributes its gold medal to the terroir of the Winelands Valley, offering a unique combination of the region’s soil, climate, slope and wind.    The olive oil variety harvested, and the timing of the olive harvest can also influence the quality of olive oil.  Burgundy Bourgogne’s award-winning olive oil was described as :”A fresh rich rounded aroma, full of nuances of fresh salad and nuts.   The nuttiness is carried through to the palate with a rich mouth feel.  The gentle bitterness and piquancy linger on, leaving a very pleasant after-taste.”

The S A Olive award for best table olives went to Karoo Olives from Renosterkop outside Beaufort West, winning silver for their black, flavoured and dried olives.   Reni Hildenbrand from Wellington was recognised for her passion and contribution to the development of the industry, winning the ABSA Achiever of the Year Award.   Rio Largo won the gold medal in the Delicate Extra Virgin  Olive Oil category, with Tokara: The Olive Shed and Willow Creek winning silver medals.   In the Medium Intensity category Burgundy Bourgogne, Foxenburg Estate and Olyfberg won gold, and Southern Right and Waterfall River winning silver.   In the Intensely Fruity category, gold winners were Olyven Houdt and Vesuvio, while Cascade Manor, Morgenster and Groote Vallei won silver.

Wedding bells ring for Franschhoek
 

WEDDING BELLS RING FOR FRANSCHHOEK

 
 

The Franschhoek Wine Valley may soon change its name to the Franschhoek Wedding Valley, if the trend to an increasing number of weddings taking place in and outside Franschhoek continues!

 

The value of wedding tourism has never been calculated for Franschhoek, but could easily be in the region of R 25 million in direct venue and catering income, and double that when expenditure on accommodation, wine, restaurant meals and shopping in Franschhoek before, during and after the wedding is added. 

 

Wedding Tourism has become a vastly important source of revenue for the Western Cape, and for Franschhoek particularly, and the valley may soon also be called the Wedding Capital of South Africa, in addition to being the Gourmet Capital.  Between 50 – 100 weddings take place in Franschhoek per month in summer, it is estimated.   Some wine estates have indicated that their revenue or profitability is greater from weddings than it is from wine production!

 

An increasing stream of young South African school leavers have left to do a gap year in London, while university graduates have also sought greener pastures there.  Many have opted to stay in London, due to their earning ability.  The young South African ladies get engaged to their British beaus, and get to choose the wedding venue back home.  Nostalgically, they think of the Cape Winelands, and the Cape Dutch gable buildings on them in particular, even if they did not grow up in the area.

 

Wedding tourism benefits tourism generally in that 50 - 100 British friends and family will come to South Africa to attend a wedding, and this introduces the country to many first-time visitors, who would not necessarily have chosen this country as a tourism destination.

 

The value of the Wedding Tourism industry in the Western Cape has been estimated at R 120 million, according to The South African.   The United Kingdom is the major source of wedding business, with the bride usually being South African and the groom from the UK.    For the price of a wedding and reception in the UK the couple is able to hold a lavish wedding and enjoy their honeymoon in South Africa.   

 

Local weddings are attractive as the weather is guaranteed to be better than in the UK, they cost less, and offer a variety of appealing venues in the Winelands and at top restaurants.  While Stellenbosch used to be the premier wedding destination just a few years ago, an increasing number of weddings are taking place in Franschhoek.

 
Jenny Prinsloo, CEO of the Franschhoek Wine Valley Tourism Association (FWVTA), says Franschhoek is well placed to be the perfect wedding venue for large and smaller weddings, offering an exclusive and personalized service to wedding guests wishing to make the most of their most memorable day.   “It is an exotic destination” she added, and well set to provide top quality catering, wines, professional staff and beautiful settings.

 

Has the credit crunch affected the wedding industry in Franschhoek?   Most wedding venues state that the number of weddings they have hosted this season, and bookings ahead, show that the number of weddings will remain roughly the same.   However, what has changed is a shift in the period in which they are being held, the days of the week on which they are held, and the number of persons attending a wedding.

 

What does a wedding cost?     It can range from R 150 000 for a wedding of around 150 guests, up to R 500 000 at the exclusive La Residence, and this includes the wedding venue, food and wine only.  All other weddings services such as décor, music, photography, the wedding cake, special wedding cars, flowers, etc are contracted out and paid for separately.

 

The largest wedding venues in Franschhoek are Allee Bleue, Le Franschhoek Hotel, Boschendal, and Vrede & Lust.

 

Allee Bleue’s Ashley Whaley says that weddings earn more revenue, and are more profitable at this stage than the estate’s wines.    Wedding bookings have increased year on year, and she sees an increasing number of international brides and grooms.  The estate prides itself on being the largest wedding venue in the Valley, in that up to 220 wedding guests can be accommodated.  Up to ten weddings are hosted per month in summer. 

 

The Le Franschhoek Hotel is a popular wedding venue, especially as it can accommodate a large number of the wedding guests in its 79 rooms as well, being the largest hotel in the Valley.   Sunette Pringle, Head of Banqueting, says the hotel’s wedding business is growing year on year, and the hotel hosts one wedding per weekend.  She is not seeing a reduction in wedding business for the season ahead, but does see “international” weddings becoming smaller, with about 30 – 80 guests.  

 

Boschendal fits the Cape Dutch gabled building requirements of wedding couples most perfectly, and is steeped in tradition and history.  The ceremony is usually held at the nearby St George’s Anglican Church, drinks are served outside under the oak trees, and the reception is held in the restaurant.   The wine estate sees itself as a restaurant first and foremost, and does not actively encourage weddings. 

 

Vrede & Lust is one of the most sought after venues, and is trendy since Johannesburg socialite and TV personality Gerry Rantseli married her second husband on the estate last year.   Wiena Riedel, Hospitality Manager, sees a definite reduction in the size of their weddings this season, down from around 120 guests to about 60 – 70, and attributes this to the global credit crunch.    It is one of the most active wedding estates, with an average of six weddings per month, which can increase to twelve in March

 

Smaller weddings are held at Grande Provence, Mont Rochelle, Haute Cabriere, Dieu Donne, La Petite Ferme, Rickety Bridge, Le Manoir de Brendel , Franschhoek Country House, and La Petite Dauphine.

 

Dieu Donne has only been open for a year, but is seeing a steady increase in its wedding bookings, with one to two per month and up to 140 guests per wedding.   The ceremony is held on the downstairs terrace, with the superb backdrop of the Valley, and the reception in the restaurant upstairs.    Rickety Bridge Winery can cater for up to 85 guests. Cindy Muller says that the Winery offers its wedding clients good value for money.  Franschhoek is attractive because of its beauty and proximity to Cape Town, and the village “is steeped in romance”, she says.

 

Le Manoir de Brendel has its own chapel and spa, and is a popular venue because of this feature.   Shirleen Waskis, who co-ordinates the estate’s weddings, says that the last two summer months have been on par with last year as far as wedding bookings go, but sees a decline for this month.  She says that the next three summer months will be back in line with the past year.  Wedding sizes have reduced, and bridal couples are becoming more demanding, wanting more for less.   .  

 

La Petite Dauphine is one of the newest wedding venues, and caters for small intimate weddings, of around 30 wedding guests.  Marie-Louise Oosthuizen says that her clients are mainly locals, from Cape Town.   The venue only hosts day-time weddings, and February and March are particularly good wedding months.   She says that for smaller weddings, her guests are likely to book the accommodation over a four day period, and a series of wedding-related activities are planned for the wedding guests.    She has also seen a trend of an increasing number of same-gender weddings being held at her venue.

 

Haute Cabriere is one of the few Franschhoek restaurants focusing on weddings.  Nicky Gordon says Franschhoek is a popular wedding venue because of its natural beauty and setting, which makes for good wedding photographs, and it offers a good spread of accommodation, from 5 star indulgence to 3 and 4 star value for money accommodation.    The restaurant has 2 – 3 weddings per month from November to mid-year, and is a popular venue for winter weddings, given that it can host the service in the wine cellar, and the reception in the restaurant.   An increasing number of foreigners are getting married at Haute Cabriere, with one of the couple being from South Africa originally.   Gordon does not see a decline in the wedding business due to the credit crunch, whilst the restaurant is seeing the downturn for meal bookings.  

Wedding tourism is a huge contributor to the tourism industry, and Franschhoek benefits from it in the summer months.   It is not only the wine and wedding estates that benefit from weddings, but also many other tourist sectors.   The South African bride recommends the accommodation, car rental, restaurants, and trips to take before and after the wedding to her wedding guests, thereby making the planning of the trip to South Africa easy.   The bridal couple offers more than just a reception, to “compensate” for the far distance the friends and family have traveled, and the money they have spent on the ticket and the trip - often a wedding in Franschhoek will be followed by a picnic at Boschendal the day after, and a sailing trip may precede a wedding whilst the group of guests is in Cape Town prior to the wedding. 

Sweet & Sour Service Awards

 

SWEET & SOUR SERVICE AWARDS

 
 

A month ago the Sweet & Sour Service Awards were introduced on the WhaleTales blog www.whalecottage.com/blog. Every Friday a Sweet and a Sour Award is presented. Nominations are sought from readers for the awards, and can be sent to info@whalecottage.com


The Sweet winners of the past month are the following:
 

Dieu Donne for hosting the accommodation industry of Franschhoek and Paarl ... read more
  
S A Tourism for for taking a brave stand against FIFA accommodation and ticketing agency MATCH
  on behalf of the local accommodation industry ... read more

  
Music Revival for spoiling Franschhoekers and others with a most wonderful Spring Classical Music
   Festival ... read more
  
James the Plumber, who arrived within half an hour of being called to deal with a burst geyser at
   Whale Cottage Camps Bay  ... read more
  
On the Dot, a mail order company for a most amazing service recovery ... read more
  
Robert Roofing Renovations, who came out on a stormy night an hour after being called out by
  Camps Bay guest house Villa Surprise ... read more
  
  
Sour Awards went to :

Melissas for cheekily asking for a tip when payment was made for a bill at the counter... read more
  
Le Franschhoek for sending out an “invitation” for a food/wine pairing evening despite the dinner
  already having been sold out ...
read more
  
Five Flies restaurant in the Cape Town city centre ... read more
  
Google for cancelling a Google Adwords workshop for members of Cape Town Tourism a day before
   the workshop ... read more
  
HBR Personnel for supplying a fraudulent CV for a candidate, who had been fired by her previous
  employer but did not state this in the CV ... read more
  

Dogon Group Properties, for threatening to stop the transfer of a property by means of an interdict
  due to a commission dispute... read more

 
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