Good scorecard for Cape Town tourism over the festive season, but with some service problems!


The busy festive season, with ideal holiday weather, is at an end, and Cape Town has won itself many happy fans amongst South Africans, the first time that such a large proportion of the visitors to the Mother City were locals living in other parts of South Africa, or working overseas.

Asking for feedback from guests in our guest houses, at shops, and in restaurants, the visitors raved about Cape Town, and how much they enjoyed their time here.  Being in holiday mode, they seemed undisturbed by the slow service in some restaurants, the busy roads and resultant slow traffic through areas like the Camps Bay beachfront, the cost of the restaurant dinners on New Year’s Eve, the out-of-stocks in shops, the lack of parking in beach suburbs and the V&A Waterfront, and the many city centre restaurants and artisanal shops they may have read about which were all closed.  Extra guarding was provided by restaurants on the Camps Bay beachfront, and this was visible to our visitors, and meant that there were no major incidents. Camps Bay had the largest number of bottles of alcohol confiscated from beachgoers, of all beaches in Cape Town, contributing to an almost incident-free period.

All was not perfect however:  the Cape Minstrel procession was criticised for being disorganised, with only two troops coming through in a three-hour period, a waste of time for tourists. Resultant road closures also were an irritation. Making bookings at restaurants was a challenge, especially at the One&Only’s Nobu, where it took three calls for them to answer.  Sedan taxis took half an hour to collect guests when called. Finding somewhere decent to eat on 25 December and 1 January was a problem, as most restaurants had closed down for these days.  It appears that those restaurants that were open on these days had staff not arrive at work (a new ‘disease’ called absenteeism) or had arrived at work under the influence and had to be sent home, giving the city and Winelands area a poor service image on these special days. Some restaurants refused to accommodate patrons on a walk-in basis, due to staff shortages, giving their establishments a bad name, as the patrons could see that the restaurants were not fully occupied.  One hopes the tourism authorities, who themselves were out of town in this period, will encourage more restaurants to be open to service tourists in our city in future.

It appears that it was the local Capetonians that were annoyed by the GP-numberplated drivers’ poor and cheeky driving habits, by sedan taxis making U-turns on major throughroads, by the shortage of parking, by the full restaurants which they could not go to without making a booking, the empty shelves at their local supermarkets, and by the closing down of all their maintenance suppliers over this period.  Those restaurants and shops that were open were found to be under-staffed relative to the volume of customers.

Restaurants were taken by surprise, in being exceptionally busy for lunch trade especially, and the biggest challenge for them was that so few pre-bookings were received, with walk-in guests arriving in large numbers, creating stock and staff challenges, as the the guest numbers were not predictable in advance. Guests booking tables but not arriving was the overall biggest problem restaurants experienced.  In Franschhoek staff no-shows caused severe service problems for the village.  Guests booking accommodation at this time of the year seemed nicer this festive season than in previous years, but one did get the feeling that some of them were better suited to 5-star accommodation, expecting finger-snapping 24 hour service.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portofolio: Twitter:@WhaleCottage

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