JUNE 2004
WHALE TALES RETURNS WITH A SPLASH

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

A new website and brochure for the Whale Cottage Guest House Portfolio meant a redesign of the WhaleTales newsletter as well.

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.

CAPE TOWN TOURISM FUTURE DECIDED ON 22 JUNE

Whatever the outcome, Cape Town Tourism will face a new beginning from 23 June.

The members of Cape Town Tourism have the huge responsibility of deciding about the future of their organisation at the Extraordinary General Meeting, to be held on Tuesday 22 June at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Members have been asked to vote to deregister their organisation and to transfer into a voluntary association still to be formed and about which they have received very little information, or to stay independent and to help fund their organisation.

The background to the Meeting is long and complex, and confusing to many Cape Town Tourism members, especially as the Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO), driving tourism in Cape Town and the Western Cape, is planning to establish the Cape Town Visitor Services Association a week after the Cape Town Tourism meeting. Should the members of Cape Town Tourism vote to disestablish their organisation, the members automatically become part of the proposed Association.

Many members of Cape Town Tourism are very unhappy about the decision they are faced with, and feel that Cape Town Tourism has received a rough deal from the DMO, in that its Board has been under financial pressure to recommend to its members to join the proposed Association. Despite an agreement between the DMO and Cape Town Tourism, which promised payment of a loan to Cape Town Tourism to keep it going financially, the DMO has not paid Cape Town Tourism since February, despite numerous requests.

Sheryl Ozinsky's departure from Cape Town Tourism and from playing an active role in marketing Cape Town is seen as a sad casualty of the DMO's request of Cape Town Tourism to join the Cape Town Visitor Services Association. Ozinsky has been lauded for her visionary, creative and passionate marketing of Cape Town and relationship with her members. The industry was in shock when they read that she is to leave Cape Town Tourism at the end of this month. Popular Membership Manager Mandi Hodgson has left Cape Town Tourism already, presumably for the same reasons as Ozinsky.

The relationship between Cape Town Tourism and the DMO has not improved since the Board of Cape Town Tourism capitulated, and agreed to call the Extraordinary General Meeting. It was believed that Cape Town Tourism could play a role in shaping the proposed Cape Town Visitor Services Association, and even in guiding the marketing of Cape Town, but the reality has been that the Board, and even Ozinsky, have been sidelined by the DMO, with minimal contact since March.

Cape Town Tourism has been used as the model for the proposed Cape Town Visitor Services Association, and therefore Cape Town Tourism members will not receive any greater benefits than they currently do. An e-business system is to be introduced, whereby accommodation members can add their room stock to the system, for real-time bookings by local tourism bureaus in Cape Town and through the Western Cape. Many guest houses and B & B's say they are too small to allocate rooms to such a system. It is unclear how non-accommodation members will benefit from the system. Members of Cape Town Tourism wishing to participate in the system will have to pay R 600 for training.

The proposed Cape Town Visitor Services Association has been described by the DMO as "... separate and independent to the DMO...", but in reality the DMO seems to have a strong role to play in it. Eight of the twelve members of the Executive Committee have already been allocated to the DMO, with only four seats available for member representatives to be voted democratically.

Independence will come at a cost for Cape Town Tourism members, but members may feel this to be a small sacrifice to retain their organisation as it is. The members of Cape Town Tourism are likely to invite Ozinsky to come back to run their new independent organisation that will be purely commercially driven. Cape Town Tourism could provide visitor information and marketing services to the DMO and the Cape Town Visitor Services Association on a franchise basis, an option which the DMO has allowed for. It will retain its descriptive brand name and well-known logo, and will continue to represent the interests of smaller tourism players in Cape Town.

For 26 years Cape Town Tourism, and Captour before it, have been highly regarded for marketing Cape Town, and for the world class quality of the visitor information centre that has been created at its offices in Burg Street. It would be a shame if it has to be replaced with a brand new and untested model.

2004/2005 SEASON LOOKS PROMISING

Based on pre-bookings already received, the summer season appears to be a very promising one.

This is good news for the tourism industry, which was hard hit by the slump in tourism which Cape Town and the Western Cape experienced during the past summer season. Many tourism product owners saw dramatic decreases in turnover, especially from January this year, compared to previous boom years, mainly due to the stronger Rand, the weak American and German economy, and the increasing over-supply in tourism products and services, resulting in price competition to ensure survival.

However, all is not gold ahead. August seems a particularly poor month on the basis of pre-bookings, and this may be due to the Olympic Games being held in Athens at that time. Even June has not been as buoyant as before, with the Euro 2004 soccer tournament a possible reason, attracting European and British visitors to Portugal.

To counter the poor past summer season, and the perception that Cape Town and the Western Cape have become more or even too expensive, many accommodation establishments and hotels have announced price freezes on their 2004/2005 summer rates.

No campaign to counter the region's winter seasonality has been launched by the DMO yet. Smaller accommodation establishments have discounted prices by up to 50 % in winter for a number for years already, and hotels now are following suit. Many restaurants in Cape Town are offering excellent weekday winter specials, making it attractive for South Africans to visit Cape Town between May and September.

WHALE COTTAGE FRANSCHHOEK TO OPEN FOR SUMMER

The Whale Cottage Guest House Portfolio is set to open its fourth guest house in September.

The building which is to become Whale Cottage Franschhoek is undergoing renovations currently, and will open in September with seven guest rooms and an indulgent deluxe honeymoon suite. The property is set in a picturesque garden with its own brook, and is three blocks from Le Quartier Francais and the newly opened excellent restaurant called Reuben's.

Previously the home of well-known artist Errol Boyley, Whale Cottage Franschhoek will enable guests to enjoy the gastronomic excellence, wonderful wines and breathtaking scenery in the most friendly village atmosphere of Franschhoek.

PORTFOLIO PUSHES FOR PROFIT

The publishers of the accommodation guide Portfolio appear to regularly find ways to anger their advertisers, and once again are facing resistance from accommodation establishments, who find the advertising rates becoming more and more expensive, and object to the way they are treated by Portfolio.

At the beginning of May, Portfolio instituted a new commission system for bookings made by tourists through the Portfolio website, by taking not only the 10 % commission for the booking, but now also charging the accommodation establishments the credit card commission for payment received. Such commissions can range from 2,25 % to 5 %, depending on the type of card presented, meaning that the establishments now must pay Portfolio up to 15 % of the booking value as commission.

Had the advertisers known about this new regulation upfront, they might not have been so angry. Portfolio, however, introduced this new commission structure on its web bookings, without informing any of its advertisers, and in contradiction to the contracts signed. When questioned, Portfolio replied that its auditors had suggested that it should not be liable for carrying the commission charges, and that these should be passed on to its advertisers. This is contrary to industry practice.

Accommodation establishments advertising in Portfolio's Bed & Breakfast Guide have also been burdened by a three page set of new criteria Portfolio demands to be met of its advertiser establishments, including evening turndowns, wooden hangers, fresh milk in bedrooms, room fridges, bathrobes, and a ban on plastic pool chairs. These criteria do not take into account that three, four and five star establishments advertise in the Bed & Breakfast Guide, and that the expectations of guests and prices paid vary dramatically relative to the star grading.

Many establishments are unable to afford or unwilling to pay Portfolio's advertising rates, its booking commission, and meeting the newest criteria for their establishments, and are opting to not renew their advertising.

RUGBY WORLD CUP BID FOR 2011

Following the success of winning the Soccer World Cup bid for 2010, South Africa has announced that it will bid for the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

Popular past South African rugby captain François Pienaar has just been appointed the Director of the South African World Cup Rugby Bid Committee.

South Africans were euphoric when the FIFA President announced that South Africa would host the Soccer World Cup, the win being attributed to the magic of Madiba, former President Nelson Mandela, who had travelled to Zurich for the presentation by the South African delegation. This was one of his last official activities prior to his retirement. It is the first time a Soccer World Cup will be hosted in Africa, and South African's opponents for the bid all came from the African continent.

The spin-offs of the Soccer World Cup are tremendous, with estimates of R 13 - R 30 billion being injected into the economy and 160 000 jobs being created.

For the tourism industry the opportunities are expected to be enormous, with 400 000 visitors expected - by contrast the Cricket World Cup attracted 18 500 visitors to South Africa. Not only is the number of tourists a tremendous boost, but the fact that the Soccer World Cup will take place in June and July 2010, traditionally the quietest time in Cape Town and the Western Cape, is a huge advantage, even though Cape Town will not host the opening or closing functions, nor the final game. But Cape Town is very likely to feature on the itinerary of visiting soccer fans anyway.

Other benefits will be huge infrastructure improvements, including public transportation, airport upgrades, more soccer facilities and greater attention to crime prevention and security.

WHALE WORKSHOP HELD IN CAPE TOWN

The first international Whale Watching Workshop was held in Cape Town in March, with the view to properly manage whale-watching globally, reports Travel News Now.

The focus on the whale-watching management workshop was to ensure minimum negative impacts and sustainable tourism. The socio-economic benefits of whale watching were also covered.

Twelve countries attended the Workshop, which was supported by the International Whaling Commission. South Africa was selected as the host country due to its experience in whale watching and shark cage tourism.

NEW ACCOMMODATION GUIDE

The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa, which has been set up to be the official grading body for tourism products and services, launched its first Accommodation Guide at Indaba in May.

Despite a reprint being required due the numerous errors in the first print run, the Accommodation Guide is set to become the leading and trusted accommodation guide, and will be the "guide of choice" of South African Tourism, according to Travel News Now, being made exclusively available to tourists who request information about accommodation in South Africa from South African Tourism offices around the world.

WhaleTales is a newsletter issued by the Whale Cottage Guest House
Portfolio
and is edited by Chris von Ulmenstein. Feedback is welcomed. Please
write to Chris at info@whalecottage.com. Past issues of WhaleTales can be read
on our website www.whalecottage.com.
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