Tag Archives: establishments

Franschhoek Literary Festival Sweet and ADT Sour Service Awards

The Sweet Service Award  goes to Jenny Hobbs and Sheenagh Tyler, tireless organisers of the Franschhoek Literary Festival, for a fantastic 5th Festival, and for filling the beds and restaurants of Franschhoek over this stimulating weekend.  More than 7000 tickets were sold for 70 programme sessions, up by 50 % compared to 2010.  It is the first time in many months that the village has been buzzing, and that most establishments were fully booked.  It also created a wonderful interaction between Festival goers, who enjoyed chatting to complete strangers, sharing their passion for reading books and writing.

The Sour Service Award  goes to ADT, for suspending its service to Whale Cottage Franschhoek due to an account that was not paid according to their records, even though our records showed that we had, thereby leaving the guest house unarmed for 24 hours until we got to Franschhoek for the Literary Festival.  We subscribe to their service in Plettenberg Bay too, and this may have caused the confusion, especially as the company now runs its administrative operation from Cape Town, and does not state which regional service it is communicating about or sending invoices for.  The suspension was communicated by empty sms, to which we reacted by call.  SMS’s sent in reply are ignored and not reacted to.  The ADT Paarl manager Emile Weaver was able to expedite the re-connection as soon as they had received our cheque.  One would have expected a manager to have called proactively, to prevent the suspension in the first instance.  ADT has a near-monopoly in Franschhoek, there being no security company alternative. ADT appears to be run by the accounts department.

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog.  Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at info@whalecottage.com.   Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

Hoteliers take a stand against dishonest guest reviews

The New York Times reported earlier this week that American hotels are looking to take legal action against accommodation and restaurant review websites such as TripAdvisor, given the often unsubstantiated and libelous comments and claims made by guests, with damaging effects on the reputation and income of such establishments.

A class action lawsuit is being planned in the USA against TripAdvisor , which has 35 million guest reviews posted for almost every hospitality business around the world.  Guests can have a free-for-all and report their views without any proof presented to TripAdvisor or input sought from the owners of the hospitality establishment.   This leads to an unbalanced perspective presented, and it is clear that there are many more negative than positive reviews posted, and that most negative reviews are about a dispute about money, often relating to a walk-out and refund demanded but not paid due to a cancellation or booking policy.

TripAdvisor does allow the management of hospitality establishments to respond to such reviews, but has very strict guidelines about such response, in that one may not even mildly disparage the guests who have posted the review (for example, describing the state of inebriation of the guest!), no matter how true it is, one may not use the same words as used in the guest comment, and one may not mention the guest by name, if one knows who the complaint comes from.  TripAdvisor does not remove negative reviews of a property that has been sold, and will not remove reviews identified by the management concerned as being dubious.   TripAdvisor has clear guidelines that guests may not be incentivised in any manner to write positive reviews.

In the past year TripAdvisor has been lambasted for the false positive reviews that many accommodation establishments have posted about their businesses, to raise the average rating, and to ‘suppress’ the negative reviews to a next page.    In addition, negative reviews have been posted by competitors or ex-staff members who wish to settle scores.  TripAdvisor does not validate the accuracy of the reviews posted, does not screen the content, and abdicates legal liability for the content of the reviews posted on its site via the USA Communications Decency Act.   Yet TripAdvisor sends owners of hospitality establishments regular summaries of its listed properties, and it is a recent e-mail that highlighted “Hotel horror stories” that showed that TripAdvisor was endorsing its reviewers’ opinions, and thereby no longer was protected by the Act.

Hospitality businesses say that many reviews are “unsubstantiated, inflammatory claims”.  “The world of the Internet and particularly social media has pretty much outstripped ethical guidelines, and some legal ones as well”, says the founder of KwikChex, an UK reputation management company that is managing the lawsuit against TripAdvisor.   Reviews that claim that staff stole money, assaulted guests or discriminated against clients may not be legal on such review sites, as they allege criminal actions, argues KwikCheck.

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of the lawsuit against TripAdvisor will be, and what affect it will have on greater fairness and balance in guest reviews.

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

International World Cup soccer fan attendance halves

The boom projection of foreign attendance of the World Cup of 483 000 has been revised to a still-optimistic 373 000 by Grant Thornton, the tourism consultancy that created the original projection about 3 years ago, a drop of 23 %, reports SA Tourism Update.

The Grant Thornton estimate contradicts the FIFA estimates that the number of international soccer fans attending matches in South Africa has dropped by almost half, from 500 000 to 220000, reports The Times.

Based on the original optimistic international soccer fan attendance, the hospitality industry saw $-signs , and actively renovated their establishments, and put excessive price tags onto their properties.  Private home owners did quick renovations of their properties in the major cities, and planned to travel overseas during the World Cup period, spending their rental income, only to find the rental market being almost non-existent for the World Cup, given the over-supply of accommodation.

MATCH, the accommodation and ticketing agency for FIFA, also greedily added a 30 % surcharge onto the accommodation it contracted, and will have added similar commission rates to transport, flight and ticket prices, giving South Africa a dreadful label of “rip-off” pricing in the international media.  It is the fear of the excessive costs as well as the soccer fans’ fear of the perceived crime risk, that has kept soccer fans away in the main, report the international media.

Grant Thornton only revised its international attendance projections in the last month, when it became clear that MATCH could not sell all its contracted rooms, and gave them back to establishments, and that more than two-thirds of the tickets sold to date are to South Africans.  Even World Cup sponsors and football associations have not been able to sell all their tickets, and have returned them to MATCH.  

One wonders why it took Grant Thornton such a long time to revise the estimates, as its first estimate set the expectations for the hospitality industry.   The tourism consultancy now blames the credit crunch (which has been around for 2 years) and the distance of our country from the qualifying nations as the main reasons for the poor international bookings.  It also says that accredited Tour Operators also did poorly in selling packages.   Such Tour Operators had to pay $ 30 000 for a licence fee per country in which they were looking to sell packages, reports The Daily Maverick.

MATCH cancelled 1,3 million room nights out of the 1,9 million it had originally contracted, reports SA Tourism Update.    Many of the rooms released were in Zimbabwe, Mauritius, and in smaller local country towns (e.g. Plettenberg Bay, Hermanus).  The Protea Hotel Group has had 60 % of its rooms returned, in Cape Town, Durban and smaller towns, having originally been forced to allocate 80 % of their rooms to MATCH.  The Kruger National Park had 25 000 room nights returned.

Grant Thornton is trying to put a positive spin on the tourism benefit of the World Cup, by claiming that the average length of stay now is 18 days as opposed to 14 days as estimated originally, and that the average spend per trip would be R 30 200 as opposed to the originally estimated R 22 000.  On average, international soccer fans will watch 5 World Cup  matches, as opposed to the 3 previously estimated.

Attendance by African soccer fans has fallen to an estimate of 11 000, in what was meant to be an “African World Cup”, reports Business Report.    High ticket prices and lack of access to credit cards and the internet in other African countries has been blamed on the poor support from this continent.   It had originally been estimated that 48 000 African soccer fans would attend the World Cup, which still would not have been a satisfactory attendance level.

Grant Thornton in 2007 estimated the impact of the World Cup on the economy of R21,3 billion, with 159000 new jobs created.   International consultants Morgan Stanley published an estimate two months ago, of 350000 international fans attending and the local economy benefit being R15 billion.  The government has spent R33 billion on the tournament, for the building of stadiums and upgrading its infrastructure around the country to date, reports The Times. 

Grant Thornton now says that no new jobs appear to have been created due to the World Cup, but that it has prevented job losses, reports Business Report.   An estimated 2,5% – 3,5 % growth in the GDP of South Africa has been drastically reduced to 0,54 %.   Many fans have chosen to book via the internet, and are booking at B&B’s and guest houses, rather than hotels, and therefore are not booking via the “official MATCH-hosted channels”, says  Business Report.

FIFA President Sapp Blatter will be staying in the 5-star Michelangelo Towers during the World Cup, while the rest of his FIFA entourage of 200 will be accommodated at the Michelangelo Hotel next door, reports The Times.   Herr President’s requirements are a minibar stocked with South African wines, which is a good boost for the local wine industry, but the ice cubes in his fridge must be made from Evian water.  He will be protected by 5 bodyguards.   While sponsors’ products are meant to be used, which would mean that Blatter would have to drink Coca Cola’s Bonaqua, he is breaking protocol by drinking imported San Pellegrino mineral water.

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