FEBRUARY 2007

After an absence of a few months, WhaleTales returns with a new look!

WhaleTales contains news snippets of interest to tourism product and service owners, as well as to regular visitors to Cape Town and the Western Cape.

Warm whale wishes
Chris von Ulmenstein

IN THIS MONTHS NEWSLETTER

Whale Cottage turns 10 and expands Whale Cottage Route!
Summer sell-out
VIP’s stream to South Africa
Platter piques Pick!
Eating Out becomes a circus!
Japanese whalers under attack


WHALE COTTAGE TURNS 10 AND EXPANDS ROUTE!

The 10th anniversary of the Whale Cottage Portfolio was celebrated with friends, staff and special guests at La Grange in Franschhoek in October, with an evening of Tango, Food and Wine, as part of the Franschhoek Spring Festival of Classical Music. The first Whale Cottage opened in Hermanus in 1996, followed by Whale Cottage Camps Bay in 1998, Whale Cottage Bakoven in 2000, and Whale Cottage Franschhoek in 2004. The Whale Cottage Portfolio is the only branded guest house group in South Africa, offering its guests a consistent standard of accommodation, and rewarding them for their loyalty with a unique Whale Cottage Loyalty Card. The Whale Cottage Portfolio success has been ascribed to its marketing, networking, value for money, and industry leadership.

A long-term dream to open a Whale Cottage in Plettenberg Bay will come true in summer 2007/8, when Whale Cottage Plettenberg Bay will open its doors. It will be decorated in a similar marine theme to the other four Whale Cottages.

Whale Cottage Hermanus has been recommended as an accommodation establishment in the February issue of the German magazine Freundin, in its article on the Western Cape, entitled ”Weine, Wellness, wilde Tiere”

SUMMER SELL-OUT


Two Cape Town and the Western Cape are experiencing an exceptional summer season, with close to sold-out summer months to date. The weaker exchange rate at the beginning of the season, the resultant excellent value for money, and enhanced interest in the region due to the 2010 World Cup, have contributed to the high demand. A suburb like Camps Bay in Cape Town has been close to booked out in February, car rental companies have run out of cars, and tables at trendy restaurants have had to be pre-booked weeks ahead. The trend is likely to continue until Easter.

The best news for the tourism industry in recent years has been the appointment of former Cape Town Tourism Manager Sheryl Ozinsky as CEO of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the body marketing Cape Town and the Western Cape. The organisation was created three years ago, and has been heavily criticised in WhaleTales in the past for its Marketing incompetence. Despite being an astute and passionate marketer and networker, Ozinsky’s appointment is a challenging one, requiring a new marketing strategy and a critical rethink of the brand “Cape Town and Western Cape” she inherited from her predecessor.

At the start of the summer season tourist were welcomed at Cape Town International airport by Cape Minstrels, handing out fynbos flowers, and brochures with safety tips.

The V & A Waterfront, the most visited tourist destination in South Africa with more than 22 million visitors annually, has been sold to a joint consortium of local, UK (London & Regional Properties) and Dubai (Dubai World) investors for R 7 billion, and is undergoing a rapid expansion program. Almost all free outside parking has been closed down and is being built upon. The Cape Argus reports that a further R 7,5 billion is to be invested, to create what the developers are calling the “Riviera of South Africa”. To be completed largely by 2010, a new yacht club, train station, a fish market, a cruise ship terminal, improved links to the airport, new hotels, new apartment blocks and a promenade stretching to Sea Point are on the cards. The developers are looking to reposition the V & A as “…a world class retail and entertainment experience: We want to bring the quality back to the Waterfront – it should have the best restaurants, the best hotels – it should be the best retail in the country” said James Wilson, one of the developers, in an interview with The Property Magazine.



The V & A Waterfront has for the first time sported an Ice Lounge, the first cocktail lounge in Africa to be made completely of ice. Similar Ice Lounges have been built in Sydney, Milan and Stockholm. Ponchos, gloves and boots are supplied to clients wishing to enjoy an ice cold drink. A Snow World snowboarding and tobogganing ramp was also set up in the Waterfront this summer. The current building programme will see the opening of a 70-store fashion block, the expansion of Pick ‘n Pay, and more parking in the Waterfront.

The USA became the lead source market for overseas tourists during the last winter, with more than 26 000, followed by the UK at 21 000 and Germany at 8 000 visitors in June. The USA arrivals increased by 11 %. The UK dominates the summer season.

The International Diabetes Conference, with more than 12 000 delegates, the largest conference ever held in Cape Town, was successfully hosted at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) at the beginning of December. It was a welcome boost to smaller accommodation establishments, in a period which tends to be quieter. The CTICC did however express public criticism about Cape Town International airport’s ability to cope with passenger congestion at the time of the Conference. Two conferences have recently been secured for 2010, with 5000 and 3 000 delegates.

Top tourism products continue to win international awards. The Cape Grace, Arabella Sheraton and Table Bay hotels were voted into the list of Top 10 African hotels in the USA Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, while Cape Town was voted as Best City in Africa and the Middle East. South Africa was voted as fifth most popular tourist destination, having improved its ranking by four places compared to a year ago. In the Word Travel Awards, Cape Town was also chosen as Africa’s “Leading Destination”, with the Mount Nelson Hotel voted as the top hotel in Africa. Cape Town International was voted as best airport in Africa. The Daddy Long Legs Hotel won the Best Hotel award in the inaugural ‘House and Leisure/Visa Best of SA’. Ginja won the best restaurant award, the Pezula Spa in Knysna won Best Spa, and Singita Lebombo won the Best Lodge award.

The Guardian Travel Awards were hosted in Cape Town in October, attributing the choice of Cape Town to its “wow factor”, reports the Cape Times. A novel means of transporting the 130 visitors to lunch at Constantia Uitsig was a cavalcade of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Fair Trade in Tourism SA won the Ethical Travel award.

South Africa’s golf paradise was lauded by leading German magazine Bunte, especially the Nelson Mandela Invitational, which is held at the Arabella Golf Course outside Kleinmond, near Hermanus, every November. The hotel received invaluable full-page coverage, whilst whale watching in the area was also mentioned.

SA Tourism has appointed a number of communication partners, who start their three year contracts from April. Ogilvy will handle Advertising, Beachhead the Public Relations, Mindshare the Media buying and Grid the design of marketing material, reports Travel News Now.


VIP’S STREAM TO SOUTH AFRICA

Film stars, royalty and singers have visited South Africa in the past few months.

Princess Caroline of Hannover was the most recent royal visitor, visiting the Khanyisa Educare Centre in Khayelitsha, a project in Fish Hoek, and Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. A charity dinner she attended in Johannesburg was also attended by South African swimmer Charlene Whitstock, widely tipped to become the future wife of Prince Albert of Monaco.

Crown Prince William of Holland attended the launch of the United Nations Development Programme’s 2006 Human Development Report in Cape Town. The Earl and Countess of Wessex visited Franschhoek, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg, to hand out Gold level Presidents’ Awards, a youth development programme launched by the Duke of Edinburgh. They were accommodated at Grande Provence during their stay in Franschhoek.

Singers Jay-Z and Rihanna performed in Cape Town in October. Jay-Z brought his fiancé Beyonce Knowles with him. In the same month guitarist Carlos Santana visited Cape Town for Archbishop Tutu’s 75th birthday, and visited Khayelitsha, to check on the status of the Treatment Action Campaign’s HIV education and communication programme. George Benson and Al Jarreau are due to perform in Cape Town in March.

Actress Renee Zellweger visited Cape Town to address the Vital Voices of Africa women’s leadership summit at the convention centre. Actor Morgan Freeman attended the Sethengi Film & TV Market in Cape Town in November.

Oprah Winfrey celebrated the New Year at Sun City with her friends Mariah Carey, Mary J Blige, Sidney Poitier, Chris Rock, Spike Lee, Quincy Jones, and Billy Ocean. Winfrey opened an exclusive educational academy for more than 100 girls from disadvantaged backgrounds outside Johannesburg at the beginning of the year.

Jude Law, his ex-wife Sadie Frost and their children spent their Christmas holiday in the Natal Midlands, and also in Franschhoek. The family went shark diving in Gansbaai and stroked the cheetahs at Spier.

Actress Emma Thompson has just visited Wellington, Paarl and Stellenbosch in the winelands, to campaign for better rights for the Women on Farms project with Tesco, the largest importer of South African fruit. The actress expressed her distress about the underpaid and abused women farm workers. She will write an article for the UK magazine Good Housekeeping.


PLATTER PIQUES PICK!

South Africa’s wine bible, the John Platter Wine Guide, has inconsistencies when it comes to evaluating and rating wines, says respected wine journalist Neil Pendock of the Sunday Times. In the 2006 Platter Guide, Shoprite Checkers wines received a lower rating than the estate that had produced them for the retailer. In its latest edition, Pick’s Pick, a house wine that is served at the Butcher Shop & Grill outlets, was awarded 2,5 stars for its Merlot, while the Jordan Merlot, which supplies Pick’s wines, was awarded 4 stars for the same wine. The description of the two wines is vastly different. Pendock concludes that labels obviously cloud the Platter tasters’ evaluation of wines.

South African wine exports to the UK and Netherlands have shown significant declines in the past year, by 17 % and 22 % respectively, reports the Cape Times. An overall decline of 5 % is predicted. The declines are in bottled wines, the cost of transportation making wine labels less price competitive. More than a third of wine is now exported in bulk, and bottled in the recipient countries. Exports to Scandinavia and Canada are on the up.

Wine producers are increasingly joining the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, an eco-friendly approach to producing wines. The more than 50 members commit to ecological conservation and diversity, to protect natural vegetation and to use sustainable wine production techniques, reports Wine News.

French wine producers are using their country name in a new move to win back some of their lost business, with a 50 % drop in French wines being drunk by the French in the past 35 years, says Business Report. The “Vignobles de France” will allow the blending of wines from different regions. It will also allow French producers to tailor-make wines to suit the specific tastes of its export markets.

Highly respected USA Wine Spectator magazine has chosen 96 Winery Road outside Somerset West as the first South African restaurant to feature on its Restaurant Awards, for its winelist, winning an Award of Excellence. The publication judges winelists on the range of producers listed, and the matching of the wines to the food served.

An exciting marriage between opera and wine is artist William Kentridge’s The Magic Flute project, which will grace the bottles of six top producers. Boekenhoutskloof, Hamilton Russell, Tokara, Meerlust, Rustenberg and Quoin Rock have bought the rights to six drawings by Kentridge, which they will use as labels for their wines. The monies paid by the producers will go largely to funding a one-hour version of Mozart’s Magic Flute for children. The opera, which was designed and directed by Kentridge, premieres in Cape Town on 8 September, and in Johannesburg on 29 September, reports the Sunday Times.


EATING OUT BECOMES A CIRCUS!

Popular Cape Town restaurant Madame Zingara, which had to close down after a fire destroyed a large part of its premises late last year, will be opening its Theatre of Dreams in a circus tent on the Foreshore at the beginning of March, after a prolonged red-tape zoning battle. Had City of Cape Town Councillor Simon Grindrod not stepped in, the project and restaurant would have had to close its doors and retrench staff.

The circus tent comes from Belgium, and introduces a new “foodtainment” approach, with five-course Italian meals served whilst circus performers entertain diners. The restaurant website invites diners to “rediscover your inner child and run away with the circus – for a fantastical evening of a thrilling entertainment and sublime culinary fare.”

The latest Johnnie Walker Eat Out awards for the best restaurants in the country may also have been described as a circus, with many fine diners questioning the latest selection. The Top Ten restaurants are Terroir (Best Restaurant and Best Service) outside Stellenbosch; Bread and Wine and Reubens in Franschhoek; Jardine (Best Chef), Ginja, Haiku and The Showroom in Cape Town; 9th Avenue and Lynton Hall from the greater Durban area; and Auberge Michel in Johannesburg. A new Eat Out editor, Abigail Donnelly, was appointed, and the industry was wondering whether her appointment would make a major difference to the Top 10 list, as had happened when her predecessor took over the reins. Donnelly has persisted in keeping Le Quartier Francais’ Tasting Room off the top list, the third year in a row, even though it is rated as one of the Top 50 restaurants in the world, and its chef Margot Janse has been awarded the Rising Star Trophy by Relais & Chateaux! The Tasting Room does not satisfy all its diners, and is seen to be expensive. It has recently started to request credit card details of its clients when taking bookings, to charge them for no-shows. Its exclusionist policy of banning some locals is also frowned upon. The omission of Bosmans at Grande Roche, regarded by many as the finest restaurant in the Cape, and a Top Ten regular, was a surprise.

Reubens’ Reuben Riffel and Le Quartier Francais’ Margot Janse represented South Africa at the 20th annual Slow Food trade fair in Turin.

A new restaurant Salt has opened in the Ambassador Hotel in Bantry Bay, celebrity chef and Eat Out judge Peter Goffe-Wood having designed the menu.

Hermanus is the centre of the abalone industry, yet few of its restaurants serve this pricey delicacy. A new initiative is aimed at creating a gourmet guild, to jointly apply for a quota for the exclusive use of abalone in Hermanus restaurants.


JAPANESE WHALERS UNDER ATTACK

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ships “Farley Mowat” and ”Robert Hunter” have been actively discouraging the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic. The Society has a self-appointed role of upholding the International Whaling Commission (IWC) ban on whaling, and uses unconventional methods to deter whaling nations. One of the Japanese ships is so badly damaged that an oil spill is feared, which could be harmful to the penguins in the Antarctic.

A meeting called by Japan to discuss its request to resume commercial whaling has not received support by IWC members, with less than half of the member countries attending. The Cape Argus reports that Japan plans to kill about 1 400 whales this year.

Iceland resumed whaling last year, when a Fin whale was killed in October. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society called on a boycott of Icelandic products and tourism, and will send its ships to Icelandic waters this year.

A website www.whalesrevenge.com has been set up to collect signatures against “the whale slaughter”. Created by Patrick Bonello, the website hopes to attract one million signatures, which it wishes to present to the IWC.

The annual whale census along the south eastern coastline shows that whale numbers visiting South African shores increase by 7 % every year. The survey is conducted by the Mammal Research Institute of the University of Pretoria, under the leadership of Professor Peter Best. Weekly whale counts are done by African Wings over the Hermanus Walker Bay, and a maximum number of 144 whales was counted in October 2006, reports the Hermanus Times.


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