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BUMPER TOURIST SEASON FOR CAPE

Despite a reasonable August and a sluggish September, the Cape tourism season ahead appears to be a bumper one, with accommodation in areas such as Camps Bay already close to fully booked in November and December. Hermanus has been experiencing a record season since August, and bookings for the next two months are excellent.

A superb boost for tourism to the country, and to Cape Town in particular, is an article as well as front cover dedicated to the region in the September edition of Conde Nast Traveler. The cover features actress Ashley Judd with a cheetah, photographed on Meerlust wine farm outside Stellenbosch, with its Cape Dutch homestead in the background. The article waxes lyrical about Cape Town, stating : "No place has come so far in so short a time as Cape Town. Today, it's bustling, with chic restaurants and celebrity tourists." Photographs of the Cape to Cuba restaurant in Kalk Bay, Bo-Kaap, the beaches in Clifton, Lola's Cafe and Ellerman House accompany the article. In the same issue, S A Tourism has placed a four page advertorial for the country, with a list of "Top Ten at the Tip" of the African continent, encouraging visitors to 'explore Cape Town', 'tour the wine country', 'indulge in South African cuisine', 'see the Big Five', 'take a Soul Safari', 'follow the Garden Route', 'head out to sea', 'take a hike', 'shop and play in Jo'burg', and 'mix, blend, and let your senses be stirred'.

While the number of overseas tourists increased by 2,7 % between 2003 and 2004 to 6,7 million, tourism income decreased by 7 % in the same period, to R 93,6 billion, according to Business Report.

Travel News Now reports that bednights sold from April to June 2005 decreased by 12 %, with tourism accommodation income decreasing by 22%, reflecting winter occupancy seasonality and reduced winter rates. Hotels accounted for the largest share of tourist accommodation revenue in this period, at R 1,1 billion; followed by the lodges, B & B and self-catering accommodation category at R 278,9 million; and guest houses and guest farms at R 108,9 million.

An interesting analysis of the accommodation industry in the latest Hotel & Restaurant 'Hotel Review' reflects the demise of the country town hotel over the last 30 years. Currently there are 465 hotels in South Africa, down by two-thirds compared to 1976. One and two star hotels have declined dramatically over the period, while the largest growth has been in the three star hotel numbers. Over the same period the average daily rate of a hotel room grew from R 8,43 to R 510,00.

S A Tourism made a heavy financial loss in the past twelve months due to foreign exchange losses of more than R 3 million, heavy expenditure in marketing South Africa, the R 6 million cost of getting out of an office lease in Sandton for its head office in Johannesburg, and staff recruiting and training costs . Business Report reflects that the national tourism marketing body posted a deficit of R 15,8 million in 2004/5, with an income of R 435 million.

Despite its financial woes, S A Tourism proudly celebrated the 10,3 % increase in tourists to South Africa in the first three months in 2005, compared to the same period in 2004, with a total of 1,7 million visitors arriving in this period, according to the Sunday Times and Travel News Now. This growth rate is double that of the world tourism growth rate, and is the best ever for tourism in this country. An increase of 22 % in tourist arrivals from Africa - from Nigeria, Mozambique and Kenya in particular - boosted tourism numbers, a result of recent relaxed visa regulations between African countries. Tourism from Germany appears to have recovered somewhat, while the decline in tourism from France is still a cause for concern.

South Africa has done exceptionally well on the American Express 2005 Holiday Cost of Living Index, ranking as second cheapest holiday destination, according to CapeInfo. Only Thailand ranked ahead of South Africa on low holiday costs. In Norway and Ireland average tourism prices were twice that of South Africa. The survey was conducted by comparing a basket of holiday expenditures, including beer, Coca Cola, film, dinner and wine, ice cream, and sunscreen, in eleven countries, including Australia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland.

The tourism industry in South Africa is not expected to do as well as predicted and in fact has been over estimated, says Gillian Saunders, tourism expert at Grant Thornton, and reported in Restaurant Business. Saunders says that South Africans do not have a "holiday-taking culture", and this impacts on domestic tourism. Interesting information from Saunders' research is that the V & A Waterfront is the top tourist attraction in the country; only 6 - 7 % of foreign tourists visit a wildlife reserve on their trip to South Africa; the average tourist spends R 8 800 per trip, while business travellers spend R 13 000 on average, excluding the cost of accommodation and transport; UK and Japanese tourists are the biggest spenders on their South African holidays, while Chinese and Australian tourists do not spend much; there are 11 000 accommodation establishments in the country, of which more than 80 % have 15 rooms or less - 3 700 are B & B's and self-catering establishments while there are 3 300 guest houses and guest farms; hotel occupancies have been negatively affected by shorter stays, guests buying their own holiday homes or flats, tourists downtrading to self-catering accommodation, the increase in guest houses and B & B's, and an oversupply of accommodation in game lodges, by as much as an estimated 60 %.

Controversial airline Civair, that did not get off the ground last December due to a black empowerment backer failing to deliver the funds for the deposit on a Boeing 747, is set to try to resume its service between Cape Town International and Stansted airports. The airline's application for the operating licence is facing opposition from some of the 7 000 passengers who booked with the airline for a Christmas visit to South Africa, and who were stranded when it did not operate as advertised. Repayments of flight tickets to foreigners took an exceptionally long time and were not done in full, causing further resentment. Civair is hoping to add weekly flights to Malaga and Athens to its schedule.

American Express and Nedbank have jointly committed more than R 600 000 to a tourism teacher training grant, aimed at training tourism teachers at high schools, given the importance of tourism to the South African economy, reports Travel News Now.

The Western Cape government is investing R 500 000 to do an audit of the tourism facilities on the Cape Flats and in the townships, and to develop it as a tourism route, reports the Cape Times. The focus of the route would be on the arts and crafts made by the residents in these areas.



STARGAZING HAS ASTRONOMICAL TOURISM POTENTIAL FOR KAROO!

The new South African Large Telescope (SALT), the largest in the southern hemisphere, and one of the largest in the world, was utilised for the first time at the beginning of this month. Based in Sutherland, the R 200 million project utilises a camera that is so strong that it could record the image of the light of a candle on the moon, reports the Cape Argus.

The official inauguration of the telescope by President Mbeki in November is seen to herald a new tourism era for the Karoo town, that until recently has only had the dubious honour of being the coldest town in South Africa.



WHALE COTTAGE SCORES WITH SCHALK BURGER

South African rugby hero Schalk Burger stayed at Whale Cottage Camps Bay recently. Burger was a member of the Springbok rugby team that beat the All Blacks at Newlands in August, for the first time in 29 years. Last year he was awarded the International Rugby Board and International Rugby Players' Association Player of the Year titles.

A new staff member of the Whale Cottage Portfolio is Jonathan Iversen, a Swede studying at the International Hotel School in Neuchatel in Switzerland, and doing a six month traineeship at the four Whale Cottages.

Whale Cottage staff were very sad to lose their colleague Rosie Jordaan, who passed away last month after a short illness. Rosie had been a housekeeper at Whale Cottage Camps Bay and Whale Cottage Bakoven for more than five years, and was an avid cleaner, committed to looking after the guests at Whale Cottage Bakoven in particular. A special Whale Cottage Rosie Jordaan Service Excellence Award has been introduced in her honour, to recognise the Whale Cottage staff members who offer service to guests beyond the call of duty. The first recipient of the Award is Barry Lewis, Manager of Whale Cottage Hermanus, for whom no guest request is too much trouble, and who receives accolade after accolade in the Whale Cottage Hermanus guest book.



SELECT WINES STAR ON PLATTER'S PALATE

Only eleven of the country's more than 5 000 wine estate brands and varietals have made the coveted five star grade in the 2006 'John Platter SA Wine Guide', which will be available from November. The star wines are Glen Carlou Syrah 2004, Rijk's Private Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2000, Thelema Reserve Merlot 2003, Axe Hill Cape Vintage Port 2003, De Krans Vintage Reserve Port 2003, Kaapzicht Steytler Vision 2002, Steenberg Vineyards Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2005, Steenberg Vineyards Semillon 2005, Vergelegen White 2004, and The Sadie Family Palladius 2004.

The Grand Prix prize in the Michelangelo International Wine Awards has been won by Cloof Crucible Shiraz 2003. Trophy winners include Allee Bleue Pinotage 2004, Soet Karoo Red Muscat d' Alexandrie 2004 for best Garagiste wine, and Bon Cap Organic Pinotage 2004 for best organic wine.

Grande Provence winemaker Jaco Marais has won the General Smuts Trophy for his Wooded Merlot 2005 at the 2005 National Young Wine Show. The wine also won trophies for Champion Merlot, Best Wooded Red Wine, Best Red Wine Overall and Best Producer in the under 2000 tons category. The Franschhoek estate, previously called Agusta, will soon release a new Grande Provence range of wines, including a Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

The Western Cape Award of Excellence winners in the Diner's Club International Winelist of the Year Award are the winelists at the following restaurants: La Colombe, Bosmans, Zacharys, Au Jardin, Le Quartier Francais, The Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel, Villa Belmonte Manor House Hotel, The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, The Sommelier, Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve, Die Ou Pastorie, The Plettenberg, De Oude Welgemoed, Cape Colony, Bahia and The Farmhouse Hotel.

The grape harvest of 2005 is seen to be one of the best in many years in terms of the quality of the grapes harvested, and this will be particularly beneficial to red wine production. The quantity of grapes harvested declined by 12% due to the drought, in the Worcester/Breedekloof and Robertson regions in particular, affecting the supply of quality chardonnay and sauvignon blanc wines

Ten wine cellars in Worcester have blended their wines to create the country's first blind user-friendly wine in a Braille bottle, reports the Top of the Times. A Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, with "100 % Worcester, South Africa" imprinted into the bottles in Braille, will be sold, a portion of the proceeds going to the Institute for the Blind and Pioneer Printers, who print all Braille books in the country, and are based in Worcester. The wines will be brought to the UK town of the same name, also home to a college for the blind, in October.

Five leading Constantia wine estates are to use a special bottle embossed with "Constantia South Africa" for bottling their wines. The estates are Buitenverwachting, Constantia Uitsig, Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Steenberg. Constantia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, and Groot Constantia is the oldest wine farm in the country, celebrating its 320th birthday this year.

Controversial trade union association COSATU says that the KWV brand must die if the KWV goes ahead with its plans to retrench 104 workers, reports Business Report. The KWV is one of the oldest wine co-operatives in the country, and is a well-known export brand. The company did a Black Economic Empowerment deal last year, but according to Tony Ehrenreich, Western Cape regional secretary of COSATU, this deal has not changed the culture and management of the KWV. He is quoted as saying :"I will add my voice to killing the brand forever in South Africa and undermining them internationally". Ironically, Ehrenreich serves on the Board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the tourism body promoting tourism in Cape Town and the Western Cape. Wine tourism is an important component of tourism in this region.

A group of wine farmers is seeking to cut out agents in marketing their wines, in a campaign they have called "Bring it Home", says Business Report. Agents take up to 30 % of the price of a bottle of wine, and can have as many as 50 estates on their books. The new campaign, driven by Alluvia's Delarey Brugman, counts Tokara as one of its supporters. Research conducted by Brugman shows that a wine estate's biggest asset is its brand rather than the real estate.

Greg Olsen, American millionaire and owner of Paarl wine farm La Vinette, is the third space tourist to visit the International Space Station this weekend. He is taking along with him root stock from his farm, to research whether they will grow in space. Olsen is also taking 500 special wine labels along, to be stamped in space, reports the Cape Times.

The wine industries in Australia and South Africa are expected to benefit from the closer ties that are to be forged between the South African Wine and Brandy Company and the Winemakers Federation of Australia, according to Travel News Now. Both countries encourage wine tourism and feel that a southern hemisphere collaboration makes sense in light of the stiff competition they face from the wine producing regions in Europe and America.



MOVIES MARKET DESTINATIONS

Movies set in a particular destination have a significant impact on tourism to those countries. The Greek tourism industry received a boost from 'Shirley Valentine' and 'Zorba the Greek', as did Tuscany from the number of movies shot in that region, and Kenya boomed from 'Out of Africa'.

A poll conducted amongst readers of Conde Nast Traveler rated the following 'travel movies' as the best ever in their authenticity in country or region filmed and popularity: 'Il Postino' (Salina and Procida in Italy), 'Zorba the Greek' (Greece), 'Out of Africa' (Kenya), 'Cinema Paridiso' (Italy), 'Jean de Florette' (Provence in France), 'The Motorcycle Diaries' (Latin America), 'The Last Emperor' (China), 'Manon of the Spring' (Provence in France), 'Roman Holiday' (Rome in Italy) and 'Summertime' (Venice in Italy).



PORTFOLIO LOSES FURTHER APPEAL

The latest Portfolio 'Bed and Breakfast Collection' accommodation directory has lost further appeal, in that 19 % of the advertisers of the previous year are no longer advertising in the publication. The same pattern was evident last year, when the publication also lost about a fifth of its advertisers.

An award-winning B & B in Swellendam, Adin and Sharon's Hideaway, has announced in a newsletter that it is no longer advertising in the 'Bed and Breakfast Collection'. The cost-cutting achieved has enabled the owners to hold their prices at the same level as last year. The B & B had advertised in Portfolio for the past 15 years.

Portfolio is reflecting the number of years, from 10 years and up, over which advertisers have supported the publication, by means of a special plaque next to the entries in the Guide. Some advertisers in this group have even received a generous 5 % discount on their advertising cost, although the advertising costs increase by more than the inflation rate every year.

Advertiser loyalty appears to be a further problem for Portfolio, with fewer than 10 % of its advertisers in the 'Bed and Breakfast Guide' having advertised in it for 10 years or more. Die-hard supporters, who have advertised for 13 years or more, include Villa Merwe, Bergzicht Cottages, Mtubatuba B & B, Bishops' Glen and Nassau.

A relatively new publication which could take over from Portfolio is the 'Big Book on Places to Stay in Southern Africa', and is experiencing growth in its support. The latest edition has just been launched and lists 3 500 accommodation establishments.



FREE WILLY

An increase in the entanglement of whales in fishing nets and ropes off the Cape coast has led to the call for a specialised unit to free such trapped whales, a highly dangerous operation. Nan Rice of the Dolphin Action and Protection Group and Mike Meyer of Marine Coastal Management are spearheading the establishment of the unit, reports the Cape Times. Once the unit has been established, an American expert is to be invited to South Africa to train locals to disentangle whales. New equipment to better assist in the entanglement of whales is being tested, reports the Cape Argus. This includes special knives to cut ropes. A whale was freed in False Bay earlier this month, after having been entangled in seven crayfish buoys and ropes.

The 27th annual aerial survey of whales along the southern Cape coast will be conducted in October, in which whales will be counted and photographed. The return visits by whales will be tracked, given that the wart-like callosities on Southern Right whales makes each whale distinctive and comparable to previous visits. The Mammal Research Institute's Whale Unit will conduct the survey, and says that the Southern Right population in the region has grown by a steady 7 % per annum, the maximum possible biological growth rate, and therefore reflecting that whale conservation is paying off. The Whale Unit has identified 850 whales and recorded the birth of 2 500 calves, reports the Cape Argus.

The non-attendance by Horst Kleinschmidt, South Africa's representative at the International Whaling Commission and the organisation's Vice Chairman, at the Commission's meeting in South Korea earlier this year has been criticised, especially as it would appear that internal politics were responsible, speculates the Cape Argus. The sudden resignation by Kleinschmidt from his job at the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism is seen to be a blow for whale conservation in the country.

At the International Whaling Commission meeting, the ban on commercial whale hunting was continued, despite Japan seeking to lift the ban. Japanese can now buy whale burgers at the Lucky Pierrot, a fast food chain in Hakodate, utilising meat from whales that were caught for experimental purposes.



SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM UNDER THE WEATHER

Climatic changes in South Africa could have an important impact on tourism, according to the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk The future of the R 100 billion tourism industry could be threatened by greenhouse gas emissions, inefficient energy use and wasteful production. A conference on climatic change will be organised by Van Schalkwyk's department in October.

Despite excellent winter rainfalls and Cape dam levels currently averaging 84 %, concern for the future water supply in the region is high, given a prediction that the Western Cape could run out of water by 2015, according to a warning raised by the World Wide Fund for Nature published in the Cape Times. Climatic changes are seen to lead to lower rainfalls for South Africa as a whole in the next ten years, making the country one of the two driest places on earth, alongside China's Yantze River Valley. The country has been asked to address the problem by introducing an effective public transportation system, utilising water recycling rainwater storage tanks, and installing solar heating on rooftops.


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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