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TOURISM IN THE CAPE SET TO BLOOM

Tourism Month kicked off on a blooming note at the beginning of this month, with the launchof the Flower Route by the Western Cape Minister of Finance and Tourism, Lynne Brown. The Flower Map is a joint initiative between Cape Town Routes Unlimited and the Northern Cape tourism marketing agency, and highlights a far broader region for seeing flowers than the traditional West Coast and Namaqualand area. Regions included in the Map for their unique flora are Cape Town (fynbos), the Winelands (mountain fynbos), the Overberg (fynbos, including proteas), the Garden Route (forests) and the Karoo (succulents).The Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town is the only botanical garden in the world that is located in aWorld Heritage Site. A host of wild flower shows have been held in towns around the Western Cape this month.

A route, linking tourism between the Cape West Coast and Namibia, is in the pipeline. The Cape-Namibia Route is a joint venture between Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the Namibia Tourism Board and Northern Cape Tourism Authority. It is expected to be launched late this year or early next year, reports Travel News Now.

A new Crayfish Hiking Trail has been launched, to encourage hikers to visit the West Coast, and particularly the Elands Bay area, famous for its crayfish.

A most successful tourism season lies ahead, as the rand continues its slide against the dollar (close to R8), euro ( R 10)and pound (close to R 15). October and November, and even the beginning of December, usually a quieter time, are very well booked already. The 19th World Diabetes Congress will take place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in December, with 10 000 delegates, the largest ever business event hosted in the Mother City, andfirst ever to be hosted in Africa. The Congressis a welcome tourism boost not only for Cape Town but also for surrounding areas, with pre- and post-conference treats for delegates in surrounding towns, sponsoredby major pharmaceutical companies.A large Danish delegation, for example, will be visiting Franschhoek.

The city has also just been awarded the World Pharmacology Congress, which will take place in July 2014. More than 10 000 doctors from around the world are expected to attend WorldPharma2014, a congress bid won against Japan, Brazil, Israel and Korea. An international Gynaecology congress has been booked in the city for 8 000 delegates in 2009, ashasan International Congress of Psychology for 6 000 delegates in 2012, reports the Cape Argus. To date the Convention Centre has hosted conferences of up to 2 500 delegates.

Cape365 is a new initiative which was launched to the tourism industry at an 'Access the Cape' workshop earlier this month by the Western Cape Department of Tourism, working in conjunction with Cachet Consulting. The campaign aims to address seasonality in the Western Cape, given the drop in visitors during the region's winter months. The campaign focuses on the April - September period, when rain can be expected, and packages five key highlights of the province to local visitors, with the aim of ensuring that tourism players can employ their staff throughout the year, and not only during the six-month summer season.The campaign builds on the "weather immune" assets of the province, and highlights 'Pampering' (wellness), 'Playing' (winter sports such as golf and shark-diving, and watching international sport events), 'Food and Fireplace' (highlighting the gourmet delights and matching wines), 'Super-natural' (whale watching, spring flowers) and 'Sound, Stage and Style' (theatre, fashion, and music performances). The consultants visited Melbourne, Dubai and Dublin to study how seasonality is dealt with in these cities. The provincial government's goal with the campaign is to significantly grow the employment opportunities in the tourism sector and to reduce seasonality by 2014. More than 150 000 tourism employees lose their jobs in the winter months. The campaign will see the establishment of a Trust, whereby tourism players can bid for funding to host events during the winter months. Cape365 will be managed by Cape Town Routes Unlimited. Its previous CEO Noki Dube, who left the company last month, advocated during her reign that the winter period should be referred to as 'cool summer'. Cape 365 is the antithesis of this view, and acknowledges that it rains during the Cape winter. As locals are the prime target of the Cape365 campaign, every bit of marketing effort will be needed to encourage winter-hibernating Capetonians to leave their homes during the winter months. Wine estates and tourism bureau offices closing early in the afternoons and over weekends, and restaurants and accommodation establishments closing during this period, will be encouraged to stay open for business, to keep the Cape alive 365 days of the year.

The sky of Cape Town has been rated as the fifth bluest in the world, as measured by the British National Physical Laboratory, testing the skies over 22 countries around the world for the best hue, brightness and colour. Rio de Janeiro's sky was rated as the bluest in the world, followed by Bay of Islands in New Zealand, Ayres Rock in Australia and Denarau Island in Fiji. The skies over San Francisco, Peru and the UK rated lowest on the list. Cape Town's ranking was achieved despite cloud cover on test days.

South Africa has been selected as the county in Africa in which it is easiest to conductbusiness, but ranks 29th out of 175 countries overall onbusiness-friendliness, saysthe latestWorld Bank and International Finance Corporation study. Singapore was selected as the most business-friendly country in the world, followed by New Zealand, USA, Hong Kong, UK, Denmark, Australia, Norway, Ireland, Japan and Iceland, according to Business Report. South Africa's rigid labour laws cost the country one position in the ranking, compared to last year.

Singita has been named 'Best in the World' in the Travel & Leisure 2006 World's Best Awards, being named as World's Best Hotel, Best Small Hotel and Best Hotel in Africa and the Middle East.The Singita Grouphas recently been awarded the management of three lodges in the Serengeti in Tanzania. The company is rumoured to be opening a hotel in Cape Town soon. The Sante Winelands Wellness Centre near Franschhoek has been awarded the Crystal Award 'Favourite Spa of Africa' by the USA Spa Finder, based on readers' choice.

Passengers travelling to other countries via South Africa no longer have to apply for a transit visa, says Business Report. Passengers from India, Hong Kong and southeast Asia were previously inconvenienced by the requirement of a transit visa. SAA expects to benefit from the scrapping of the transit visa. Air India may resume flights to South Africa as a result.

SA Tourism is advertising South Africa in Conde Nast Traveller, and the latest issue contains a two-page spread on Durban and KwaZulu-Natal, featuring the beaches of Durban, Zulu dancers and rickshaw riders, the Drakensberg, the Playhouse theatre, the Marine Parade and Impilo Spa. Readers are encouraged to visit the 'Zulu Kingdom'. The ad describes Durban as an 'eclectic city' and as being a 'fabulous destination'!

The Heritage Day long weekend wascelebrated with numerous festivals in the Western Cape. The best known of these was the Whale Festival in Hermanus, which enjoyed largely sunny skies, after being washed out for many years. The Welcome Whales Wave saw about 5 000 residents and tourists create a welcome chain along the Walker Bay cliff paths in honour of the Southern Right whales visiting the village waters every year.The Whale Festival generates overR 1 million in direct income, and boosts the coffers of all tourism players in the village over the weekend-long event. It is estimated that 60 000 visitors streamed into Hermanus for the Festival. Sedgefield hosted the Lakes Festival, with a number of sporting activities, while Knysna is staging Gastronimica, saluting food, fashion and art. Plettenberg Bay also celebrated the whales, with a first-time 'Whiskey, Whales and all that Jazz' festival, combining whiskey and jazz at a number of restaurants.Paarl presented the first ever Cultivaria festival, focusing on wine, art and cultural events.


GARDEN ROUTE UNDER REPAIR

Two heavy downpours in the past two months have caused considerable damage to roads and propertyon the Garden Route, which is severely affecting tourism to this beautiful and popular region. The Kaaimans Pass between George and Wilderness was so severely damaged that a section of the road through the Pass has cracked and is sinking. A guest house at Dolphin's Point outside Wilderness is in the process of collapsing and sliding into the seaas a result of the mud- and rockslides. Unfortunately, the Pass has been undergoing a lengthy renovation and widening programme for some time already, and traffic has now been reduced to one of four lanes at a time, causing waiting periods of between 30 - 60 minutes for motorists. The South African National Roads Agency predicts in a full-page ad that an additional lane will be re-opened to trafficfrom mid-October, whilst the Knysna Tourism Bureau newsletter says it is more likely to happen in November.

Tour busses were banned fromusing the Kaaimans Pass initially and had to take a 400 km detour, but a potential tourism catastrophesaw this decision overturned, with buses being allowed though the Pass between 9h00 and 15h00. Extensive roadworks, part of a general road maintenance and upgrade programme, exacerbate the problem, with numerous stoppages and slow driving sections around Wilderness, Sedgefield, on both sides of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, and between George and Mossel Bay. The main road in Plettenberg also is currently being resurfaced and made more pedestrian-friendly, and will seriously hamper traffic in season. It is surprising that the construction resources of the province are not consolidated to focus on fixing Kaaimans Pass as quickly as possible, rather than doing minor roadworks over a 100 km area. The traffic chaos in Wilderness due to the stoppages is unfathomable, as trafficin the direction of George backs up through the village in the waiting period. Residents have to walk and cycle to the shops, as roadworks allow only one open lane in each direction, and these are clogged up with traffic backing up.

The Plettenberg Bay airport may soon be upgraded, with an extension to its runway and the construction of an air traffic control tower, says the Cape Times. Currently only small private aircraft can use the airport, which is managed by a staff of three.Visitors to the town currently have to fly in via George or Port Elizabeth.

Heavy rains in the Port Elizabeth areadamaged the roads leading to the Addo National Park, and the Weekend Post reports that the road has dangerous 'craters', making it unsafe to drive them. Construction work on a new road is planned to commence in April next year, and is to be completed in 2010.


WHALE COTTAGE HERMANUS HOSTS WHALE PROTECTOR

Whale Cottage Hermanus hosted Captain Paul Watson, the Canadian founder and President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who was invited to address whale enthusiasts attending the Whale Festival in Hermanus about the work of his Society. The Society is known for its unorthodox and outspoken action against whale fishing by the Japanese in the Antarctic. It is feared that up to 935 minke and 10 fin whales will be fished by the Japanese, under the guise of 'scientific research'.

The Society has recently purchased a new fasterlonger-range boat, called The Leviathan, and is advertising for crew. It will meet up with the Society's Farley Mowat ship, which is already in Melbourne, and both will travel to the Whale Sanctuary in the Antarctic at the beginning ofDecember.Fremantle has acknowledged the work of the Society, and has been declared the home port of the Farley Mowat.


CAPE RESTAURANT WINELISTS SCORE

More than two-thirds of the 2006winners of the top Award of Excellence in the Diners Club InternationalWinelist Awards are from Cape Town (Balducci and Belthazar in the Waterfront, Catharina's at Steenberg Hotel, Harvey's at Winchester Mansions, La Colombe, Au Jardin at The Vineyard, the Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel, Villa Belmonte, Poplars, De Oude Welgemoed, and The Cape Colony at the Mount Nelson); the Winelands (Bosman's at the Grand Roche Hotel, 96 Winery Road near Somerset West, Marc's in Paarland Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek); and the Garden Route (Stonehill at Little Brak River, JJ's in Knysna, The Plettenberg Hotel and The Bahia Dos Vaqueiros in Mossel Bay). Bushman's Kloof Reserve in the Cedarberg also won an award. Award-winning winelists were recognised for the wine selection and its match to the foods served, the storage conditions in the establishments' wine cellars, the presence of a trained wine steward, and the wine-by-the-glass selection.

Whilst the 2007 edition of the definitive South African wine bible, the John Platter SA Wine Guide, will only be launched in November, theselection of 25 five-star rated wines out of the more than 6 000 wines evaluated has already been announced. Only four wine estates have achieved the honour of winning two five-star ratings: Cape Point Vineyards for its 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (produced for Woolworths)and its 2005 Isliedh;Franschhoek-based Boekenhoutskloof, for its 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2004 Syrah; Rudera Wines' 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Robusto chenin blanc: and Boplaas 2004 Vintage Reserve Port and 1980 Cape Tawny Vintners' Reserve Port. Other five-star winnersare Vergelegen 2005 White, Hamilton Russell 2005 Chardonnay, Waterford 2005 Chardonnay, Spier Private Collection 2005 chenin blanc, De Morgenzon 2005 chenin blanc, Bouchard Finlayson 2005 Tete deCuvee Galpin Peak pinot noir,Fairview 2004 Solitude shiraz, Raka 2004 Biography shiraz, Hartenberg 2004 The Stork shiraz, Saxenburg 2003 Select shiraz, Ernie Els 2004 red blend, Neil Ellis 2004 Vineyard Selection cabernet sauvignon, Ken Forrester 2005 'T' Noble Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, Paul Cluver 2005 Weisser Riesling Noble Late Harvest, Signal Hill Eszencia, De Krans 2004 Vintage Reserve Port and JP Bredell 2001 Cape Vintage Reserve port.

A new wine competition evaluates the production of wines suiting their terroir. Winners of the SA Terroir Wine Awards Competition include Bon Courage from Robertson for Top Shiraz and Top Fortified Dessert wines; Steenberg in Constantia for Top Red Blend and Top Merlot; and Bloemendal for Top Sauvignon Blanc and top wine overall. The competition organiser, Marius Labuschagne, says that the competition indicated that certain wine areas are best for specific wine grape varieties. According to him, top Sauvignon Blancs are coming fromDurbanville, top Cabernet Sauvignons from Stellenbosch, top Merlots from Constantia, top Pinot Noir from Walker Bay, and top Muscadels from Robertson, reports the Cape Argus.

Franschhoek will be hosting a first ever Nedbank Cap Classique and Champagne Festival on 9 and 10 December. Cap Classique producers such as Krone, Bon Courage, Cabriere, Graham Beck, Boschendal, Pongracz, Simonsig and Villiera will bubble alongside champagne brands such as Bollinger, Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon, Mumm and Veuve Clicquot, and will be paired with gourmet delicacies such as strawberries, oysters, salmonand foie gras.

Local winemaker Mike Ratcliffe, withpartners from the USA, Zelma Long and Phill Freese of Vilafonte in Paarl, producemerlot and cabernet style wines, which they are exporting to America, for sale in the luxury segment of the market, at between $ 50 - 70 a bottle, says Business Report. The wines sell for R 250 a bottle locally.

Partnerships with French winemakers are on the increase, says Business Report. Wine estatesAnwilka, Ingwe, Morgenster and Remhoogte Estate have French partners or consultants.

Clos Malverne won a Gold Award for its General Smuts Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2001 at the 2006 Decanter World Wine Awards, while Blaauwklippen won a silver medal for its BVS Cabriolet 2003, and bronze medals for its BVS Merlot 2004 and Shiraz 2004. Blaauwklippenis to build a new R 28 million cellar next year. The Groot Eiland winery in Goudini, in the newest wine of origin region Breedekloof, has won the SA Champion Young Wine Award for its Merlot/Ruby Cabernet blend.

The high-profile Nederburg Auction will be moved from April to September from 2007, to also allowwhite and blended wines to receive proper recognition, and to better accommodate attendance by the international trade. The Cape Argus reports that the Auction traditionally focussed on vintage reds and dessert wines.

Eat Out, the magazine that annually decides the fate of the top restaurants in the country by announcing its Top 10 List of best restaurants, has revamped its website www.eatout.co.za. New editor Abigail Donnelley says that 1 400 restaurants are listed on the website. An 'Eat Out Fab Fifteen' section on the site will highlight the most popular restaurants in the country, based on feedback by the public.

A campaign to preserve South Africa's scarce fish resources has been launched, to guide consumers as to which fish types to buy or to order in restaurants. The Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative was spearheaded by celebrity chef Pete Goffe-Wood and food writer Justine Drake. Funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and the WWF-SA's Green Trust, the campaign has colour-coded fish varieties on the basis of their degree of over-fishing and threat of becoming extinct, in a newly published 'Consumer's Seafood Pocket Guide'. Red-coded fish varieties are most in danger of becoming extinct,and include galjoen, white steenbras, blacktail, bronze beam, leervis, kingfishes, spotted grunter, white musselcracker, John Brown and Zebra fish. Green-coded fish varieties that are fine to eat include hake, mussels, snoek, sardines and most tuna varieties. Kingklip, bluefin tuna, swordfish, cob, red steenbras and local prawns fall into the orange category, indicating that they are vulnerable to overfishing but that it is legal to buy them.


CAPE CASHES IN ON BOLLYWOOD MOVIE

The production of the first Bollywood movie to be set in Cape Town, called 'Cash', has been announced, the result of a joint venture between Cape Town Routes Unlimited, S A Tourism and the Cape Film Commission to encourage film productions in the city. The producer Sohail Maklai will be featuring popular tourism locations in Cape Town and the Western Cape. A visit by him to this region two years ago inspired the making of the film. The movie is to resemble an 'Oceans Eleven' action type movie. A crew of 65 from India will be working on the production, alongside local suppliers of production services, and an estimated R 6 million is set to benefit the local economy. The movie will run in 700 cinemas around the world at any one time, giving the region huge exposure. An Indian movie shot in New Zealand recently increased tourism to that country by Indians by 500 %.

The R 400 million Dreamworld production facility may soon see the light, four years after the province awarded the tender to film-maker Anant Singh. Reports about imminent construction are contradicted by news that a water-use licence has not yet been issued for the development, planned to be built near Faure, off the N2 highway. CapeNature and the Wildlife and Environmental Society have protested against the proposed size of the development, given that it would mean the loss of sensitive wetlands in the area. Wesgro has taken a 10 % stake in Dreamworld, reports Cape Business News. As the Rand weakens, Cape Town's attractiveness as a film production venue should improve again.

A marketing strategy to attract young locals to visit the countries' national parks has resulted in the location for some of the shoots of the 'Isidingo' TV series being some of theclose to 20 national parks around the country.

The production company of Caroline Rowland, previously from Welkom in theFree State and now living in London, and producer of the London Olympic Bid video presentation for 2012, has been contracted to produce a movie called 'The Legend of the Rings', to co-incide with the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The movie will expand onthe London bidvideo, whichfeatured 12-year old Sowetan Simphiwe Mbatha running on dusty South African roads, inspired by Olympic athletes, reports the Sunday Times.

John Malkovich is to star as the central character in a newfilm to be made of the award-winning book 'Disgrace', written by Booker Prize and Nobel Prize winner JM Coetzee, previously of Cape Town and now living in Adelaide in Australia, reports the Sunday Times. A South African actress will be cast in the female lead role.


PORTFOLIO NO LONGER BENCHMARK OF ACCOMMODATION BEST

Portfolio's advertiser base is continuing its downward slide. The latest 'Bed and Breakfast Collection', for 2006/2007, shows a loss of 16 % in advertisers from the previous year, despite a first-ever offer in 14 yeas to accommodation establishments advertising in the publication to hold the advertising rates on a par with the previous year. The company is not usually known for its kindness or generosity to its advertisers. For the first time, the B&B publication has fewer than 500 advertisers.The 'Retreat's Collection' 2006 has also lost a similar proportion of advertisers. The 'Country Places, City and Safari Collection', the most expensive of the Portfolio publications, is the thinnest ever, with just more than fifty establishments, and now includes accommodation establishments in Mozambique. It has become largely a Game Reserve publication.

A recent e-mail to Portfolio advertisers admonishes them for charging higher prices when quoting on Portfolio's online reservation system, to cover the 10 % commission they have to pass on to Portfolio. This could lead to a loss of bookings for the establishment, and therefore a loss of commission for Portfolio. The commission charged by Portfolio on its on-line reservation system, in addition to its steep advertising rates, has been an issue for many advertisers ever since the on-line reservations system was introduced, especially as Portfolio's performance in delivering bookings is declining and therefore no longer making this advertisingoption financially viable for many accommodation establishments.

Portfolio appears to have become a publication for new B&B and guest house owners to use for their first years of operation, but once established, they leave the publication.Its claim to being the 'Benchmark of the Best' no longer can apply, as many of the leading accommodation establishments no longer advertise in any of the three Portfolio publications.


ROBBEN ISLAND IN ROUGH WATER

Thedecision by the Robben Island Museum to not renew the contract of the ferry operator it had used for seven years, has had the tourism industry up in arms, especially as the announcement came in the last minute, after the contract had been cancelled and the ferries had been sold. A three and a half hour Robben Island tour now takes closer to five hours, as the original 50-year old ferry boats, which were used to transport prisoners and staff to and from the harbour to Robben Island, are being used.

Robben Island Museum has commissioned the construction of two new 300-seat vessels at the cost of R 26 million, but these will only be ready in February, reports the Cape Times and the Cape Argus. Concern has been expressed that the planned new ferries, with twice the capacity of the previous ones, can endanger the World Heritage status of Robben Island, as the Wold Heritage Council feels that the Island is already being over-utilised.


STAR OLIVE OIL PIPS WORLD'S BEST

South Africa is known for its wines and food, but it is becoming famous for a new gourmet treat. Morgenster olive oil, produced in Somerset West, has been voted best blended extra virgin oliveoil by the authoritative Italian 'L'Extravergine - A Guide to the Best Certified Quality Olive Oil in the World', ahead of olive oils from 25 other countries, according to the Cape Argus. Giulio Bertrand, Morgenster owner, sees the recipe for his olive oil success being the terroir of his farm, the cultivars he has imported from Italy, and the blend of the cultivars. Morgenster has also won the Italian L'Orciolo d'Oro olive oil prize for seven years running. The estate is also a producer of wines.

Willow Creek, from the Nuy valley, also has been recognised, with a Grand Mention Diploma at the Leone d'Oro dei Mastri Oleari olive oil awards in Italy.The company exported about 4 000 litres of olive oil last year.

Local olive oils are to voluntarily carry the SA Olive seal, to certify their accurate labelling and compliance with quality standards and code of conductset by S A Olive and the Consumer Council. The world production of olive oil is about 10 million tons per year, while South Africa produces about 500 tons, reports the Cape Times.

WhaleTales is a newsletter issued by the Whale Cottage Guest House Portfolio
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