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BOOKED OUT NOVEMBER FOR CAPE TOURISM

The busy November seems to have caught many tourism players in Cape Town and the Western Cape by surprise, and many cannot explain why the season has started of on such a busy note. Areas such as Camps Bay and Hermanus are close to booked out, while Franschhoek visitor numbers have also increased dramatically this month. A poor European summer, and disasters in other parts of the world, as well as the good reputation for quality and value for money the local tourism productshave may be responsible for the increase in tourism numbers.

A good sign is the return of German tourists, whose numbers have been severely depressed in the past three years, mainly due to that country's economic woes. While it is still too early to predict whether the change in government leadership in that country will benefit outgoing tourism, more German tourists appear to be visiting the county, October and November being the most popular months for Germans to visit South Africa. Popular German singer Heino performedthe first of a series of his retirement farewell concerts in Cape Town in September, and a programme about his visit to the Cape, featuring Camps Bay, the Winelands and Table Mountain, was screened on ZDF, a TV channel with one of the highest German viewerships,last month.

The Conde Nast Traveller Readers' Choice Awards saw more than 28 000 readers of the publication choose Cape Town as the best city in Africa and the Middle East, it was announced last month. The Cape Grace in Cape Town was chosen as the Best Hotel in Africa/Middle East, while The Grande Roche in Paarl achieved third place in this ranking. The Twelve Apostles Hotelachieved sixth position, whileitsSanctuary Spa was voted as the top Overseas Hotel Spa in Africa, and was ranked eighth overall on best Overseas Hotel Spas, the only South African spa to make the top 10 list. The well-known Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, always in the top lists, did not feature on the awards list. South Africa was ranked ninth as favourite holiday destination, afterwinner New Zealand, and Australia, Thailand, Italy, India, France, USA and Singapore. SAA was voted tenth best long-haul airline, after Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways, Qantas, and Air New Zealand.

All eyes were on South Africa last week, with VIP visitors Diana Ross, Westlife and Christina Aguilera performing at the Altech South African Grand Prix 'Unite of the Stars' charity event, benefiting the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. Ross and Westlife also performed in Cape Town. Ross and her familyalso visited Franschhoek, the village in which her husband died whilst hiking in the mountains last year. Racing drivers Mikka Hakinen, Emerson Fittapaldi, Alan Jones, Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet participated in theGrand Prix in Johannesburg. South Africa is working on a bid to stage the Formula One Grand Prix in Cape Town from 2009.

Capetonians rushed to the airport to see David Beckham visit the city last week, and listeners called in to radio stations to say where they had spotted the football star. It turned out to be a clever marketing exercise, with a David Beckham look-alike from the UK having been used by fast-food chicken chain Nando's for attendance at a conference about the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

The Swatch FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour is currently being held on Camps Bay beach, and is an Olympic qualifying event. It is the largest ever volleyball event to be held in Cape Town, and runs over two weeks, a further boost to sold-outCamps Bay this month. A stadium seating 2 000 spectators has been erected on the beach.

Camps Bay beach did not makeBlue Flag status this year, largely because it does not offer a life-saving facility. South Africa has 20 Blue Flag beaches,including Clifton 4th Beach, Grotto Beach in Hermanus and Bikini Beach in Gordon's Bay.

A boost to tourism numbers is the addition of flights during summer. Virgin Atlantic Airways is increasing its flights to five per week, KLM and Lufthansa have a daily flight to Cape Town, and British Airways offers 12 direct flights between London and Cape Town a week.

A new Cape To Namibia Route is on the cards, Cape Town Routes Unlimited CEO Noki Dube told FEDHASA Western Cape members recently. Dube also said that she wishes to change the working hours of the tourism industry, to create a 24/7 availability for tourists in the city. Wine estates that are closed on Saturdays and Sundays, and accommodation establishments and restaurants that close in winterwouldbe addressed.

A bid by Johannesburg to host the2010 Gay Games, which would have had an indirect spin-off for Cape Town, has failed, and has been awarded to Cologne, reports Travel News Now. So too the bid by South Africa to host the Rugby World Cup in 2011 has failed and has gone to New Zealand.

Western Cape provincial Tourism Minister Lynn Brown has lashed out at the local tourism industry for overcharging in the province, and in Cape Town specifically, according to feedback she received from large tour operators about hotels and restaurants in particular, whilst attending World Travel Market in London this week. The jam-packed bookings this season would appear to contradict this criticism. FEDHASA Western Cape Chairman Nils Heckscher has also challenged this criticism, and states that the region offers excellent value for money.

South Africa organised its largest ever tourism exhibitionat the recent Nan Fei Total, dedicated to the country, in Shanghai, to attract the huge Chinese travel market. SA Tourism is targeting China as a market with significant tourism opportunity for the country.



2010 WORLD CUP PREPARATIONS KICK OFF!

Athlone Stadium on the Cape Flats in Cape Town is likely to become the official soccer stadium for the matches to be played in Cape Town, even though the Newlands stadium currently is thestadium which featured in the original bid.

The municipality of Cape Town and Western Cape province, with the assistance of business and national government, is determined to upgrade Athlone stadium and expand it into a 47 000 seat facility, irrespective of whether it becomes an official World Cup Soccer stadium in 2010 or not. An investment of R 236 million is required to transform the stadium into a world-class facility. The socio-economic benefits of such a stadium to the Cape Flats area is the basis of the city's bid to develop this stadium, whichwill be linked to the city by means of a rail connection. However, the Western Cape branch of the South African Football Association would prefer to see the Blue Downs stadium expanded into a 65 000-seat facility, costing R 450 million.

A FIFA delegation visited Cape Town last month, and the alternative stadia were discussed. The stadiums receiving World Cup status will only be announced by FIFA in 2008. Contenders are FNB Soccer City and Ellis Park in Johannesburg, ABSA Stadium in Durban, Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, Vodacom Park in Bloemfontein, the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg, and the planned Port Elizabeth Stadium and Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.

More than R 2 billion will be spent on upgrading these stadia, reports You. More than 350 000 international visitors are expected for the event. The accommodation supply in cities is seen to be adequate, but is lacking in smaller towns. The public transport systems will be upgraded in all cities and towns hosting the World Cup event, and the airports company is investing more than R 5 billion to upgrade its airports,to make space for the new large Airbus, and to provide more parking. The first section of the newly built parking garage at Cape Town International has just opened.

Three weeks prior to the World Cup event, the participating soccer teams will be coming to South Africa to play128 friendly matches around the country, said Gert Bam, Director of Social Development at the City of Cape Town in an address to the Western Cape branch of FEDHASA. One third of the World Cup tickets will be available to locals, but the prices will not be discounted for locals. During the event, 64 matches will be played by 32 teams. In Cape Town practice venues for the soccer teams are likely to be stadia in Gugulethu, Swartklip, Hartleyvale, Bellville and the University of the Western Cape.

Branding at the event is closely guarded by FIFA, and its sponsors' brands will be sold exclusively, including Budweiser, Coca Cola, and McDonalds.

The planned Gautrain, connecting Pretoria, Johannesburg and the airport, may not make the 2010 deadline. The estimated R 7 billion project has grown in cost to R 20 billion, and will see the train travel at between 160 and 180 km per hour. The project has not yet received Cabinet approval.



WHALE COTTAGE GOES WIRELESS

The Whale Cottage Portfolio has introduced hi-speed wireless internet facilities at all four its Whale Cottages in Camps Bay, Hermanus and Franschhoek, to enable its guests to access the internet in their rooms and in any other section of the guest houses. This service is offered at no charge to Whale Cottage guests.

The October issue of Woman & Home has profiled the Whale Cottage Portfolio, and used it as a case study of how business owners can change direction from other careers. It has also highlighted how the Whale Cottage Portfolio has achieved industry leadership. Tips in starting a guest house are provided in the article.



MEGA WINE TASTING IN LONDON

The first ever Mega Tasting of South African wines was hosted in London last month, with more than 280 local wine producers presenting their wines to wine buyers from the USA, Europe and UK, according to Business Report. Organised by Wines of South Africa at the cost of R 7 million, the event was planned to showcase 'Brand South Africa' rather than focus on individual winelabels, on the basis of the competitive advantages resulting from the variety of wines and wine styles. South Africa has a 10 % market share in the UK.

One of the most highly regarded wine awards by wine producers is the Veritas Awards, and this year saw 43 wines out of 1 738 entries received from313 wineries win double gold awards. Simonsig received three double gold awards for their 2002 Chenin Blanc, 2003 Frans Malan, and 2003 Redhill Pinotage, while Boplaas received three double gold awards, for its N/V Tawny Port, 2003 Vintage Reserve Port, and 2003 Vintage Reserve Port Vintners Selection. Avondale, Bon Courage, Graham Beck, Havana Hills, Raka, Saronsberg and Tokara received two double gold awards each.

Wine has published its 2006 'Best Value Wine Guide', focusing on wines under R 40, and selected Bat's Rock Ruby Cabernet 2004, BC Ruby Cabernet Merlot 2004, Bakenskop Roothman Cape Red, Du Toitskloof Pinotage Merlot Ruby Cab, Quantum Classic Ruby Red 2004, Simonsvlei Lifestyle Merlot 2004, Rooiberg Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2004, Suikerbosch Shiraz Merlot 2004, Nordale Steen 2005 and Du Toitskloof Blanc de Blanc as its Top Ten Value winners.

The winners of the ABSA Top 10 Pinotage competition are Devon Hill, Diemersfontein Carpe Diem, Kanonkop, Klein Tulbagh, La Cave,Longridge, Manley, Simonsig Red Hill, Somerbosch, and Stellenzicht Golden Triangle.

Charles Back of Fairview and Beyers Truter of Beyerskloof are the only two South African winemakers who have been nominated for the International Wine Personality of the Year award, organised by Wine International. The winner will be announced next month. Truter has been reported to have set up a new Beyers Truter FAITH Fund to address alcohol abuse amongst workers in the winelands.

Haute Cabriere in Franschhoek has won 'Best Winery Restaurant' in South Africa in the 'Best of Wine Tourism' international competition. A restaurant with one of the most extensive 'wine by the glass' selections, Belthazar in the Waterfront, is the overall national winner of the 2005 Chateau LIbertas South African Grainfed Beef Steakhouse of the Year Award.

Pernod Ricard, the international beverages marketer, has become a shareholder in and will be marketing Lanzerac wines, says Cape Business News. This implies that the brand will be available in hotels and restaurants in future.

The '2006 John Platter Wine Guide', which has just been launched, lists 72 new wine producers, despite fierce price competition and the trend to amalgamation in the wine industry, says Travel News Now. The Guide features reviews of 5 400 wines, 500 of these having been launched in the past year. A new 'Super Quaffer of the Year' category has been added to the Guide, evaluating value-for-money-wines. Angels Tears, from Grande Provence in Franschhoek, has won the inaugural category.

A new wine route has been launched in Elgin, reports the Cape Argus. Six wine producers have created Elgin Vintners to market their wines collectively. Elgin is a coolerarea, ideal for wine production. Different members of the new group will be responsible for making different varieties. In addition to the local wine estates, grapes from Elgin are used in the production of Tokara, Thelema and wines marketed by Distell.Elgin is known for its apple production.

Franschhoek is celebrating its six Methode Cap Classique champagne style wines with a Champagne Festival in the village on 3 December.

The first ever Cape Wine Tourism Conference is to be held at Nelson's Creek in Paarl in April next year, withlocal and international speakers. South Africa is the ninth largest wine producer in the world.

An interesting wine tourism trend is the creation of 'wine clubs' in America, in which individuals can buy into a wine estate, and assist in the hands-on making of the wines of the estate, reports the New York Times.



FILM INDUSTRY FACES FUTURE

The Film industry in Cape Town is still buoyant, despite a reduction in business due to the stronger Rand. It adds R 1 billion direct income to the economy of the city and province, with a further R 2,5 billion indirect income. The industry is controlled by the City of Cape Town, which issues permits for shoots held on any public space. A Film Permit handbook issued by the City spells out the rules and regulations about filming in the city. The City is trying hard to address the cost issue, and has reduced some of its film permit tariffs and service charges.

Cape Town is the fifth largest film production location in the world, reports Cape Business News,and its biggest competitors are Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The local industry has 150 production companies. Thefilm industry not only benefits the film production and related as well as tourismindustries, but also helps sell the beauty of the region, which has a further positive impact on tourism.

The film industry has seen a decline in the past two years, and has seen its competitors receive subsidies from their governments, or scrapping location fees, to attract productions and to position themselves as "film-friendly" cities. Few such benefits are available to producers filming in South Africa. Cape Town has been singled out by the local film industry for not offering incentives, for charging excessive location fees, for its bureaucratic red tape and over-regulation,and for its accommodation having become too expensive, says AdVantage. The planned R 400 million Dreamworld film studio, to be built outside Cape Town,appears to be on hold, and is not seen to help improve the attractiveness of the local film industry.

Richard E. Grant's new movie ' Wah Wah', his first as director, premiered at the World Cinema Festival in Cape Town this week. Grant was born in Swaziland, and studied dramaat the University of Cape Town. The movie documents his traumatic childhood.

A Russian 'Survivor' series is being shot in KwaZulu Natal, reports the Sunday Argus. The 18 participants will experience various aspects of the Zulu culture, including drinking sorghum beer, making pottery and beadwork, and lighting a fire without matches.

South African film maker Caroline Rowland produced the film for London's winning bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, reports the Sunday Times. Some of the scenes for the film were shot in Johannesburg.



POLITICS POISON TOURISM

It is sad to see how politics has permeated tourism. At the recent AGM of the new Cape Town Tourism, members were asked to vote for a pre-set quota of three 'black persons' as directors of the Executive Committee, out of a list of ten such nominees, and then the remaining seven nominees as well as the white nominees were the candidates from which the remaining seven directors had to be voted for by members in a two-stage voting system. When the Chairman Arno Voster was asked why such an outdated racist system had to be introduced into the constitution, he said that the first General Meeting of the new Cape Town Tourism, which was held at Grand West last year, would have been disrupted had the demand from a pressure group to guaranteeBoard seats for 'black' directors not been met in the eleventh hour.

At its recent AGM, the Chairman of the Board of Cape Town Tourismand its financial management lost face when they told members that they were not raising the membership fees, but were only adding VAT, meaning an effective 14 % increase after all! After being challenged, a heated debate followed, and the membership voted for a 5 % membership fee increase instead, as the fees already were VAT inclusive.

Staff at Cape Town Tourism are grumbling about the nepotistic appointment of friends and family since the new Manager has taken over the running of the tourism body. Members too are disenchanted with the service and lack of bookings. The estimated 2 400 members which should have resulted from the amalgamation of the six tourism bodies within Cape Town a year ago has not materialised, and in fact has led to a loss of members, down to aslow as 1 400 about a year ago, and now in the region of 1 700.

A faulty new switchboard system has meant that Cape Town Tourism could not receive any calls in the last two weeks, in a period in which Cape Town is bursting at its seams, and tourists desperately are seeking accommodation. Staff at parent company Cape Town Routes Unlimited had no idea of the communication problem, and various attempts at contacting the Manager of Cape Town Tourism directly wereunsuccessful.



SHARKSWIM SOUTH

The focus on sharks continues, andrecent research into the migratory patterns of sharks, published in Science, has identified that the Great White sharks travel between South Africa and Australia.

A satellite tagged shark, called 'Nicole' by the scientists in honour of Nicole Kidman,was tracked swimming from Gansbaai (near Hermanus) to Australia, a distance of more than 22 000 km,in 99 days,returning to Gansbaai six months later, reported the Cape Times. The study also showed that sharks tend to move along the South African coast, but tend to return to their original area.



CAPE TOWN CONVENTION CENTRE CAPACITY EXPANDS

The success of the Cape Town International Convention Centre has led to plans to expand the facility.

A study by the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business has calculated that the Convention Centre can contribute more than R 10 billion to the economy in the next five years, and that in the past year the contribution wasR 1,2 billion, reports the Cape Argus.

An office tower and 1 200 square meters of additional exhibition space for the Convention Centre is planned to be complete by the end of next year. The expanded space will be used to host the growing Cape Town Jazz Festival, and popular Decorex and Homemakers Fair exhibitions. It is hoped that the additional exhibition space will enable Cape Town to bid for the local tourism industry Indaba showcase, which has been held in Durban for many years.

Now two years old, the Convention Centre has 360 events, including 89 international conventions, booked for the next ten years. One of these takes place at the end of next year - the International DiabetesFederation conference is set to bring 10 000 delegates to the city, the largestbusiness tourism group ever to visit Cape Town. More than 600 000 visitors have visited events at the Convention Centre in the last year, an increase of more than 10 % compared to the year before.

Cape Town is the only African city to make the Top 100 list of the International Congress and Convention Association. It is ranked joint 30th on this list alongside Sydney, Vancouver and Glasgow, and receives 60 % of all conference business on the African continent. Business tourists spend more per day than their leisure tourist counterparts, and therefore are an attractive market for the city.


WhaleTales is a newsletter issued by the Whale Cottage Guest House Portfolio
and is edited by Chris von Ulmenstein. Past issues of WhaleTales can be read on the website
www.whalecottage.com



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