News 24 published an article this weekend about the plight of businesses in Franschhoek. It paints a horrific picture of the once famous Gourmet Town, known for its top Restaurants and boutique wineries, to what one business owner speculated could become a ‘Ghost Town’ if tourists do not return to it soon.
Franschhoek, like many other towns and cities in our country, has been hard hit by the Corona Virus pandemic, the South African one-year anniversary of its Lockdown to be ‘celebrated’ later this week. The new South African Virus mutation has made our country very unattractive to visit by international tourists, which probably are the type of tourists South African tourism businesses would love to see return.
The News24 article quotes Taki’s Restaurant owner Julina Abrahams, the restaurant hardly gourmet, and popular among locals, as sharing that the family put all its savings into the business, and that there is uncertainty. ‘This is my pension. It’s my son’s future and it’s a family business. I’ve felt so many times that I’m going to lose everything’. He added: We’re hanging in there. All our staff are working short time and we had to think differently because we couldn’t afford to carry the cost. It is going to be a ghost town. There is (sic) no visitors in the town’s restaurants. The status quo stays no tourists, no business, no food on the table’.
African Touch curio shop owner Mary Ackerman echoes the ‘Ghost Town’ scenario for Franschhoek, adding that ‘if we don’t get foot traffic quickly then this won’t be Franschhoek anymore’.
Flambé Gallery owner Regine Theron shares that she has had to move to smaller premises to keep up with the rest. She is quoted as saying that ‘even locals don’t visit our destination. Everybody who owns a business in the area is affected in a negative way’.
Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane visited Franschhoek last Thursday, dining at Foliage. She is quoted as saying (quite heartlessly) that ‘Because of the pandemic in its nature, you can’t say this is a guarantee (for businesses). Our best bet is to push the domestic tourism market, to assist and visit places like Franschhoek. It’s not possible for me to give guarantees’! Yet she added that there are no funds left to support the industry!
The article quotes statistics of the decline in visitor numbers between December 2019 and 2020, of some of Cape Town’s leading tourist destinations:
# Robben Island – 83% decline
#. Cape Point – down by 69%
# Table Mountain – 66% decline
# Two Oceans Aquarium – 56 % drop
# V & A Waterfront – 50 % decline
# Kirstenbosch – 48 % decrease.
It is a surprise that the CEO of Franschhoek Wine Valley, Franschhoek’s Tourism Marketing body Reinher Behrens, is not quoted in the article, nor any top gourmet restaurant or boutique wine farm owners interviewed. It surprises me too that Franschhoek does not actively market the Village to Capetonians in these tough times!
Given how tough business is, each Franschhoek business needs to focus on superior service. This past weekend two Franschhoek restaurants received very negative reviews on the Cape Town Restaurants : The Good, Bad & Nasty Facebook Group: Essence and Reuben’s!
Last year I wrote a story of how the village was recovering from Covid, and booming, with new restaurants opening.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whaletalesblog.com www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide