Tag Archives: Camps Bay Accommodation Association

Azure Restaurant at Twelve Apostles Hotel moves closer to Camps Bay!

The Twelve Apostles Hotel is located at the foot of the mountain with the same name, with a wonderful view on to the Atlantic Ocean, and whales and dolphins can be seen from it on occasion.   Last night it took a step to move closer to Camps Bay, by inviting the Camps Bay Accommodation Association  member guest houses to dinner at its Azure Restaurant.

The impression created throughout, from the time that the guest house members entered the hotel, a member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World and voted Best Hotel in Cape Town in 2010 by Travel & Leisure USA, was two-fold:  Belonging to The Red Carnation Hotel Collection South Africa, every member of staff interacting with the public proudly wears a red carnation in his/her shirt/jacket pocket, a very clever touch in creating brand awareness for the hotel group, which has other interests in South Africa, being The Oyster Box and the regularly award-winning Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, in addition to properties in London, Geneva, Guernsey, Florida, and Dorset.  Secondly, each member of staff that we met during our evening at the hotel went out of their way to be friendly, to chat, and to become one of our group, sharing pre-dinner drinks, and seated with us at dinner at Azure.

Horst Frehse is the new GM of the hotel, a doyen of GM’s, and for many years he was “Mr Grande Roche”, followed by Singita. He moved from Asara to the Twelve Apostles in December.  He personally greeted every guest house member, and apologised for not being able to join us for dinner.  He announced that the Spa will close for two months, to undergo a R5 million renovation, whereafter it will be operated by the hotel itself.  Hotel Manager Brett Davidge and his team were present.  A nice touch was that Chef Henrico Grobbelaar flew back from a meeting in Johannesburg especially to prepare the meal, and he chose the guest house group to try out two new starters and two main courses he is including in his new winter menu, to be launched on 1 June.  He personally introduced the menu, and came to us after the meal, to obtain feedback. Chef Henrico told us that he is wanting to focus more on seafood in his new menu, and that he is sourcing ingredients locally and fresh, seafood coming from Hout Bay. Chef Henrico was a FIFA Executive Chef during the World Cup last year, was Sunday Times  Chef of the Year in 2009, and leads the South African team for the Culinary Olympics.

Azure is a very large restaurant room, but divided into two halves via a central table, with big blue and silver vases and lots of candles.  One side has a fireplace, adding atmosphere, and it was cosy and warm in the room, despite the wintry weather outside.   The colour blue given to the name of the restaurant is reflected by day through the lovely seaview from the restaurant, and from Moroccan-style blue lights by night.  Tables have tablecloths, good quality large material serviettes, and were laid with Hepp Exclusive cutlery and good glassware.

The bread basket contained a wonderful selection of home-made breads and rolls, including rye bread, wholewheat bread, and olive bread, as well as bread sticks, impressive in its presentation.   The starter choices were a most delicious Grilled Yellowfin Tuna served with a sweetcorn relish, avocado puree and cilantro vinaigrette.  The tuna looked beautiful on the plate, almost like marrow bones.  The other starter was a salad of roast beetroot, zucchini, parsnip and Fairview goat’s curd with black olive paint.  The tuna starter was by far the most ordered, and was an absolute hit.

The main course choice was lamb loin with stirfried tatsoi, mizuna, julienne vegetables, lentils and spicy peanut sauce, a fusion dish that Frehse had requested of the chef.  The generous portion of pan roasted kingklip with cauliflower white bean truffle puree, mushroom and adzuki with Port miso veal jelly was excellent.  It was nice to see a fish knife for the kingklip. There was no choice of dessert, as Chef Henrico wanted us to try Mrs Bea Tollman’s Lemon cheese cake with Honeycomb ice cream, a special recipe that Chef Henrico described as the one of the best in the country, and which takes three days to make.  

Azure’s current menu is low key in being typed pages bound in a black holder.  Its introduction lists the fynbos that is added to the food preparation, this having been the speciality of previous chef Ricardo de Carvalho.  It states that the Abalone for its main course has been ‘purchased in terms of Section 13 of the Marine Living Resources Act 1998, and is in keeping with Live Aquaculture Abalone harvesting’.  Starters range from R60 for a trio of cold soup, and a chicken noodle soup, to R 175 for Bea’s Eggs Royale, three scrambled eggs served in their shell, with smoked salmon, black caviar and oysters. Main courses start at R110 for mushroom and tofu lasagne, to R 455 for Crispy fried abalone.  Steaks cost around R150.  Desserts cost R70, with Bea’s cheesecake costing R85.

It is clear that The Twelve Apostles hotel group is ultra professional, and all guest houses left with a bag of information about the hotel’s facilities, including the current Azure menu, and about its sister property Bushman’s Kloof.   Thabang Rapotu was an excellent sales executive in encouraging a group of us to book for the “Tea by the Sea” afternoon tea next month.  The guest house guests were invited on a tour around the hotel, and were shown some guest rooms too, the hotel using the opportunity to educate our group about its facilities.  Malusi offered excellent service in looking after the water and wines, and I enjoyed the Rust en Vrede Merlot 2009.  A most generous and enjoyable evening was spent with the Twelve Apostles Hotel team, and the guest houses left the Twelve Apostles feeling that Azure is the best restaurant that Camps Bay has, and that they would recommend it to their guests for fine-dining in future.

POSTSCRIPT 26/5: Thanks to Kurt Ackermann for pointing out an error as to the tuna used in the starter last night.  I must have misheard Chef Henrico, and I called him this evening to check with him, after seeing Kurt’s comment.  He has assured me that he used Yellowfin Tuna, on the Green SASSI list, and I have corrected it above. 

Azure, Twelve Apostles Hotel, Camps Bay.  Tel (021) 437-9000. www.12apostleshotel.com (The website contains the menu but not the winelist.  It is a pity that the Image Gallery does not contain any photographs of the food served at Azure, other than of the seafood platter).

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Hotels in Cape Town offer good range of rates, but discriminatory to foreigners

An article in the Cape Business News, entitled “Fedhasa to monitor Cape hotel pricing”, echoed a promise of such a survey by FEDHASA Cape Chairman Dirk Elzinga at the recent Tourism Destination Conference.  Elzinga promised that his association would conduct the survey in response to the accusation by Conference speaker and Cape Town Routes Unlimited Chairman Peter Bacon as well as provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde, that Cape Town’s hotels are expensive, and do not reflect the law of supply and demand, which should bring down rates, given poor demand, thereby giving our city a bad reputation, it was alleged. 

Given that FEDHASA Cape still has not conducted the promised survey, I decided to do my own independent survey last week, to get a feel for pricing of the largest and best known Cape Town hotels, asking them for their May rates.  Ellerman House is the most expensive Cape Town hotel by far, starting at R5000 per room, and the Peninsula All Suite Hotel is the least expensive 5-star hotel, at R1570 per room.  The opening offer of R1875 per room at the Queen Victoria Hotel is exceptional, given what it offers.  Interesting too is that a number of 4-star hotels are more expensive than some 5-star hotels.  The survey found that the average rate of the sixteen 5-star hotels surveyed is R2939 per room, just under R1500 per person.   Across all 27 hotels surveyed, the average rate per room is R2419, or just over R1200 per person, not cheap given that it is winter in May, and that there is poor demand. 

It was interesting to hear how the calls were handled, most hotel reservation departments asking careful questions, to identify if the caller was a travel agent/tour operator, single or double, a corporate business client, South African ID book holder, and/or a Protea Hotel Prokard holder, all of which would have affected the rate quoted.  Few hotels called had a rate sheet from which to quote immediately, having to access their computer for the information, costing time.

The rates were checked for 3 – 6 May (or the dates nearest these if one or more dates were fully booked already), per room for 2 adults sharing and inclusive of Breakfast per day, so as to compare the rates fairly.  We added breakfast to the rates where these were quoted separately.   We have ranked the hotel rates from most to least expensive:

Ellerman House, 5 star, R5000 – R15700, Tel (021) 430-3200

Cape Grace Hotel, 5 star, R 4510 – R 5680, Tel (021) 410-7100

One&Only Cape Town, 5 star, R3889 for South Africans – R5990 for non-South Africans. Tel (021) 819-2000

Dock House, 5 star, R3790 (but pay for 2 days, stay for 3 days offer). Tel (021) 421-9334

Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, 5 star, R3565.  Tel (021) 430-0500

Table Bay Hotel, 5 star, R3166 for South Africans, R 6000 for non-South Africans, Tel (021) 406-5000

V & A Hotel, 4 star, R3115 (but special 2 days pay for 3 days stay offer), Tel (021) 415-1000

Mount Nelson Hotel, 5 star, R 3000. Tel (021) 483-1000

Westin Grand Arabella Quays, 5 star, R 2960. Tel (021) 412-9999

Twelve Apostles, 5 star, R2865 – R4480.  Tel (021) 437-9000

15 on Orange Hotel, 5 star, R2770 – R2970, Tel (021) 469-8000

The Taj Hotel, 5 star, R2200. Tel (021) 819-2000

Cullinan Hotel, 5 star, R2150.  Tel (021) 415-4000

Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa, 5 star, R2120 – R3220.  Tel (021) 525-3888

Ambassador Hotel, 4 star, R1920 (but stay for 3 and pay for 2 nights offer), Tel (021) 439-6176

Queen Victoria Hotel, not graded yet but seeking 5 stars, R1875 special opening rate until July, Tel (021) 418-1466

Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel, 4 star, R1750. Tel (021) 409-4000

Victoria Junction Hotel, 4 star, R 1686. Tel (021) 418-1234

Commodore Hotel, 4 star, R1600.  Tel (021) 415-1000

Portswood Hotel, 4 star, R 1600.  tel (021) 415-1000

Bay Hotel, 5 star, R1600 – R2100 for South Africans, R 2590 – R3690 for non-South Africans.  Tel (021) 438-4444

Peninsula All Suite Hotel, 5 star, R 1570.  Tel (021) 430-7777

Cape Sun Hotel, 4 star, R1500.  Tel (021) 488-5100

Winchester Mansions Hotel, 4 star,  R1470 – R1930.  Tel (021) 434-2351

President Hotel, 4 star, R1460 – R1660. Tel (021) 434-8111

Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge, no star grading, R 1295 standard, R1665 business rooms. Tel (021) 406-1911 

Protea Hotel Fire & Ice Hotel, 3 star, R 900, Tel (021) 488-2555

To contrast the rates of hotels in the city, a rate survey was also conducted amongst the 24 members of the Camps Bay Accommodation Association, consisting of mainly 4-star guest houses.  The average May rate for the Association members is R766 – R1173 per room, the lowest rate being R500 per room.  The most expensive rate is R1600 for the 5-star Atlantic House.  Guest houses have dropped their winter rates by up to 50 % for many years already, understanding about demand and supply

What is most disturbing is that some hotels are offering South Africans better rates than they would offer international guests, very short-sighted in our opinion, given that it signals to international guests that they are not as desired, and means that they could be staying away from Cape Town and going on holiday elsewhere.  Price discrimination against foreigners is something the provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde should urge FEDHASA Cape to fight against, and to encourage hotels to drop this practice.

POSTSCRIPT 20/4: Rey Franco, Deputy Chairman of FEDHASA Cape, has e-mailed this comment: “Thanks for this, I do need to correct you on one specific comment you have made by saying we have not done the survey. Rema and I are checking the rates daily, on Expedia, booking.com and others. It is important to note that we decided to do the survey over a minimum of 3 months before releasing any information in order to ascertain the actual status of the rates stituation. Something the media forgot to mention. I am sure you would agree that looking at rates for only a few days is certainly not going to show any worthy trend. To show you why this survey must be conducted over a longer period I have attached the rates as displayed this morning under the certain categories for your perusal. You will see how low they are. See what you can get from the Taj! It is also important to note that rates will vary dependant on demand especially where large conferences and events are concerned. Another reason why rates need to be averaged out correctly. I will do the same daily searches on the additional hotels you have tested to ensure a wider trend analysis.”

POSTSCRIPT 24/4:  We received the following e-mail from Dirk Elzinga, Chairman of FEDHASA Cape: thank you for your email/copy of your blog that was passed on to me while I am travelling overseas. It made some interesting reading, and I am sure that we are able to make good use of your suggestions. I trust that the response you received from Rey Franco is clear to you, and that you do understand that we as Fedhasa try to get some 
realy (sic) reliable information about the relative pricing of our hotels in Cape Town. A once off snap shot comparison obviously does not serve this purpose. We definitely will inform our members and the media about our findings of this ongoing survey as soon as we feel that we have collected sufficient data to express an opinion based on facts. As Rey wrote, this will at least take three months or so.”

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter:@WhaleCottage

‘Star wars’ lead to much milder Tourism Grading accommodation assessment!

In March accommodation establishments were shocked to receive an onerous set of guidelines for a new grading assessment system to be implemented by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.  It caused such an outcry that the Tourism Grading Council had to delay its implementation of the new grading criteria by four months.  

Input was sought from assessors, who themselves appeared to be unhappy with the greater number and more onerous criteria to be evaluated, and from accommodation establishments, both individually and as representatives of accommodation associations, such as the Camps Bay Accommodation association, which I head up.   The Tourism Grading Council must have been overwhelmed by the response it received from the industry, to such an extent that it had to go back to the drawing board, and delay the implementation of the new assessment criteria to this month.

The new criteria have been implemented, and many accommodation establishments have been in shock, and taken the bold decision to revoke their star grading, not feeling that they will meet the new criteria sufficiently enough to make them retain their previous star grading.   What is surprising is the poor communication by the Tourism Grading Council, in having had feedback that many establishments would withdraw from the voluntary grading assessment system, and that many others were unhappy with the extremely onerous proposed requirements.   The CEO of the Tourism Grading Council was invited to speak to accommodation establishments in Franschhoek, Somerset West and Hermanus, but no one (least of all Cape Town Tourism, who sadly remained silent on the topic) set up an information session with Cape Town based accommodation establishments.

We were critical of a number of new grading assessment criteria which were proposed, but are willing to give the new system a try.  Despite having been assessed by the Tourism Grading Council since its inception about ten years ago,  the new grading systems requires all existing clients of the Tourism Grading Council to be registered from scratch.  When I received the close to 20-page document for registration alone, and knowing that I would have to complete it for four Whale Cottages and not just for one guest house, I was immediately switched off, so switched off in fact that I have not had the energy to complete it yet.  Some of the information that is requested purely for the registration process includes the following: 

*   Company turnover (this should have no relevance to the grading)

*   Number of employees (this should have no relevance to the grading)

*   Number of “visitors handled by your company on an annual basis” – most establishments might know their occupancy, but number of guests per annum is not a standard measurement in an establishment.

*   Bank details are required, with onerous details requested such as date of opening the account, with details of the accountant and insurer too, information which has no relevance to the Tourism Grading Council, in our opinion.   The questionnaire states that bank details are requested in the case of (unspecified) refunds – however, the ‘Schedule of Conditions’ excludes any refunds to be payable “for any reason whatsoever”.  

*   Documentation is required for company registration, provincial/municipal registration, ‘sufficient’ insurance cover from one’s insurer (would they ever say it is sufficient?), BEE scorecard compliance, liquor licence and municipal rezoning.

Ten pages are dedicated to the Tourism Grading Council “Schedule of Conditions”, which include the following:  assessors may “overnight”, and in that instance accommodation, lunch or dinner (specifying that it be a 3-course meal – most guest houses and B&B’s do not offer meals other than breakfasts), one drink, one local call and one breakfast must be provided.  The form on which one has to sign acceptance of these assessor rights differs from the detail provided in the Schedule of Conditions, the former being very vague.  We have seen the ‘overnight’ privilege abused in the past, with assessors bringing partners and using their assessment visits as their annual holiday.   It is also a way in which establishments can ‘influence’ the assessor in terms of the expenditure on the meal and drinks offered, taking the assessment out of the purely professional level.  The time commitment to an “overnighting” assessor is tremendous – instead of a 2 -3 hour assessment visit, one is required to entertain the assessor from late afternoon until check-out the next morning, an extremely onerous time commitment for the owner/manager of the business.

*   fees are payable annually, which is as before – in fact the fees must be paid upfront, so that the assessment can take place. 

*   assessments must be done annually

*   “The TGCSA has the choice of the assessor to be assigned for the annual assessment at its discretion” – this is most contentious, as grading is voluntary in general, and one has always been able to select one’s own assessor.

*    The Tourism Grading Council will award a star grading.

*   One may dispute the grading awarded

*   Graded establishments must maintain their establishments’ standards to comply with the grading awarded, and must display their grading plaque (which has been changed, meaning that each establishment must order a new one).

*   Establishments must promise to not offer “any gratuity/incentive/bribe to any person in order to influence such person…”, clearly referring to the assessors, and to only provide truthful information

*   The Tourism Grading Council excludes its liability for any claims against it caused by any claims which may be lodged against a graded establishment.

*   Should the establishment be sold, it cannot cede or sell with it the current grading, which means that it has to be terminated, and the establishment must be assessed from scratch for the new owners.

All of the above relates to the paperwork purely to be (re)registered with the Tourism Grading Council!  The application form was not offered to the industry for input originally.  We have been told that most of questions are for one to receive government business!

A most pleasant surprise is that the actual assessment has been vastly simplified compared to the initial draft, which ran to 60 pages, and the criteria have been relaxed relative to what was intended in the draft, making most of them little different to the existing assessment criteria.  We highlight the most important ones:

*   The scoring for 4 stars, which was proposed to change to 74 – 88 % in the draft, has been changed back to the current 85 – 94 %

*   The draft document required a security guard, and onerous specified security features.   This caused an outcry due to the cost of the extra staff and features needed.  Now the minimum requirement is for the ‘best possible” safety and security to be offered for one’s guests, including providing emergency information, contact details of staff on 24 hour call, adequate lighting outside and inside the establishment, the “best possible locking devices”, and a safe for valuables (in the draft the safe was specified to be a laptop size one, but this requirement has been dropped, probably out of cost considerations in replacing existing safes).

*  Statutory obligations include being registered as a business; registered with the provincial authority (the exact registration is unclear); having public liability insurance; and complying with local authority fire; and hygiene and building access regulations.

*   The establishment must be open throughout the year, except if seasonal in nature, and if being renovated

*   No discrimination of any kind is allowed, in terms of denying access to any guests

*   Marketing communications must specify the cost of accommodation, meals, refreshments and any extra services, as well as surcharges and levies, and must be quoted inclusive of VAT;  the cancellation policy must be communicated; the “in-house rules” must be visibly communicated; and all facilities and amenities must be “honestly” described

*   Bed linen and towels must be changed every five days – given water shortages and rising electricity costs, the draft requirement of changing towels daily and of changing bed linen every three days having caused an outcry.

*   The bedroom and bathroom size, specified in square meters per accommodation type and star grading in the draft document, has been dropped, the only requirement being that the space “should allow guests to move easily”, with a minimum ceiling height to cater for guests 1,8 m tall, and should provide “freedom of movement”.   The minimum bedroom and bathroom sizes were a very sore point in the draft, and would have disqualified many establishments from retaining their current star grading.

*   Airconditioning is only required of 5-star establishments – the draft required all 4-star and 5-star establishments to have airconditioning, causing an outcry due to the cost of purchase, as well as cost of running in terms of electricity.   A heater or fan must be made available.

*   Colour TV’s are required, but no longer have to be flat-screen, as specified in the draft

*   “Stationary (sic) and writing materials” must be supplied, a new requirement

*   Telephones in guest rooms are optional, and not a requirement

*   One of the biggest issues was the provision of an 18 hour reception service in the draft document – this has mercifully been changed to “reasonable hours during the period that the establishment is open”.

*   the minimum Breakfast requirement is a Continental one.  Breakfast serving time was specified in the draft, and this has been removed.

The Tourism Grading document for Guest Houses contains 38 pages of guidelines of how assessors are likely to score the criteria out of 10 points.  Assessors welcome the new criteria and scoring sheet, saying that it takes the subjectivity out of the assessment.

It is a shame that the Tourism Grading Council communicated the initial draconian draft document, as it frightened many of its existing graded properties from renewing their grading.   The Tourism Grading Council has made no attempt to inform its clients that the initially strict criteria have been greatly relaxed, making it likely that establishments will retain their  existing grading – a PR campaign aimed at existing graded establishments is sorely needed!   One wonders how much of taxpayers’ money was wasted by designing a draft assessment document, utilising consultants, when the Tourism Grading Council has largely reverted back to where it was in March this year!   It needs to address the registration questionnaire, in terms of length and onerous requirements, as this is now the only off-putting part of being assessed.

POSTSCRIPT 28/10:  We believe that this blog post may have led to the Tourism Grading Council sending out an invitation to Cape Town accommodation owners/managers to attend a four hour breakfast presentation at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on 3 November.  While we salute this very late attention to Cape Town’s accommodation industry, in trying to obtain buy-in to the new grading assessment criteria, breakfast time is the one time of the day that guest houses and B&B owners cannot be away from their establishments, and certainly not for four hours!    It proves how out of the touch the Tourism Grading Council is with its customers. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage