Bookings ahead for the accommodation industry look promising, as the world appears to have gotten used to the credit crunch, and is rewarding itself with holidays as a result of what it has endured last year.

February is always a heavily booked month, and Whale Cottage Camps Bay is already 95 % booked ahead, a very different picture to that experienced for November, when only half the accommodation was booked prior to the start of the month and the rest was booked last minute during the month.

It would appear that the remainder of the summer season will be a booming one. Bookings from the UK market are as strong as in seasons before, and the 2 % cut in the UK VAT rate, and interest rate cuts, coupled with the favourable exchange rate, are stimulating confidence, and therefore tourism bookings. The UK, USA and Europe are also experiencing a very cold and early winter.

The petrol price decrease by R 1,35 per litre at the beginning of January, and the anticipated cut in the interest rate early next month, is encouraging South Africans to travel locally. With the cost of a tank of petrol around R 350, bookings for the Garden Route and country towns and villages outside of Cape Town have seen a strong and very welcome increase. The rise in the petrol price, by 65 c a litre, this week is unfortunate.

Given the doom and gloom in the world, we declare all of February Valentine's month, and wish all our readers a wonderfully romantic and loving February!

Chris von Ulmenstein
Owner, Whale Cottage Portfolio

Festive season mixed feedback
Cape Town glows in German movie
Camps Bay celebrity coup
Good Food Guide to Restaurant

World Cup taxis go for a ride!

Sweet & Sour Service Awards

Festive season mixed feedback




A confusing picture about the festive season emerged from media reports. Before the festive season was over, Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) was trying to draw comparisons between this season and that of last year.    The Cape Times report quoted CTRU as stating:”… they (Tourism Managers) had experienced a festive season that was “similar or better” than those in previous years”    However, the article does not state which Managers CTRU refers to.   Further reference is made to tourism having improved on the West Coast, the Winelands, and Central Karoo, with a decline in the Garden Route and Klein Karoo.  The basis of the trend information is not specified.   Surprisingly, no mention is made of Cape Town’s festive season success, which was exceptional.    The Cape Times article also stated that the Airports Company serviced more passengers in December 2008 at Cape Town International compared to a year ago.   This trend was also experienced by the V & A Waterfront, and in Kirstenbosch, while the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company had its worst performance in 10 years in December, due to the weather.    Rented cars were hard to find over the festive season.

South Africa is one of 44 countries to be included on the New York Times “most compelling holiday destinations” list, as voted for by its readers.  The country is ranked 34th on the 2009 Places to Go list and is rated for its “affordable luxury”.   “With the Rand down about 35 percent against the dollar over the last year, this idyllic country - which offers, in addition to its famed safaris, world class wineries, and fabulous beaches - is fast becoming one of the best bets for American travellers looking for high-end experiences at relatively low-end prices”.   The article quotes the Cape Grace as an example of affordability, having cost $ 821 in 2007, and now costs $ 605, due to the Rand exchange rate weakness.   Other Top Ten countries on the Places to Go list. ranked from number one, are Beirut, Washington, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador,  Berlin, Las Vegas, Fjallnas in Sweden, Hawaii, Vienna, Doha in Qatar, and Dakar in Senegal.

Quirk eMarketing has won an award for the Google Earth layer it created for the S A Tourism website in the E-consultancy Innovation Award, for Innovation in SEO (search engine optimisation) & Natural Search, reported www.sagoodnews.co.za.   The Google Earth linkage was felt by the judges to be an innovative way to “driving links and improving natural search visibility” for South Africa’s tourism website.  The Google Earth layer for South Africa is the third in the world to be used for tourism purposes, and includes more than 120 points of interest, which enables “users to travel the world by means of satellite imagery and aerial photography.”

Airlines have been slow to reduce the cost of their tickets, or more specifically the fuel levies and airport taxes, making up almost half the cost of an international airline ticket, despite the dramatic fall in the price of fuel.  Airlines are blaming the original sky-high oil prices of $ 140 per barrel, from which they are still recovering their costs.   They say it can take up to four months for a fall in oil prices to reflect in lower airline ticket prices.   For SAA the problem is exacerbated by the weakened Rand exchange rate against the dollar.  Comair, which operates kulula.com and the local British Airways flights, reduced its fuel surcharge by 20 % recently, reports the Weekend Argus.   Virgin Atlantic has decreased its surcharge from around $426 in August last year to $ 200 currently, for a ticket to South Africa.

Plans to upgrade the airport at Plettenberg Bay to receive commercial flights have been rejected by the Bitou municipality as being too costly, reports The Herald.   The decision is a serious blow to tourism to the town. The extension to the runway, creating a navigation apron, implementing approach lights, building a control tower and a new terminal building would cost more than R 130 million.   S A Airlink, kulula.com and SA Express have all expressed an interest in operating from the Plettenberg Bay airport.   All is not lost, however, as the Bitou Council voted to invite private operators to lease the property, and develop the airport to the Council’s specification

Cape Town glows in German movie





One of the largest German TV channels, ARD, broadcast a wonderfully positive one and a half hour movie called “Traumhotel - Kap der Guten Hoffnung” (Dream Hotel - Cape of Good Hope) last month.    It is the most positive PR for the city in the German market, which no S A Tourism, Cape Town Routes Unlimited or Cape Town Tourism budget could afford, in terms of exposure and positive communication.

Although stretching credibility a little by throwing in a side-story about a wonderful game reserve at which wild animals like elephants, giraffe, rhino’s, gnu and other buck walk around the actors as if it is the most natural thing in the world, the scenes shot in Cape Town captured the beauty of the city, and focused on all the most scenic spots, including Table Mountain, The Sentinel in Hout Bay, Seal Island off Hout Bay, Cape Point, the V & A Waterfront, Boulder’s Beach and the penguins, killer whales breaching (killer whales are rarely seen in Cape Town), dolphins (sometimes seen around Clifton), the Mouille Point lighthouse, Muizenberg Beach, Greenmarket Square, Noordhoek beach, a Constantia wine estate, and even some shots of a township. 

The main action of the story was set in the Table Bay Hotel, of which the hero of the movie is the General Manager.  He is so well connected that he can organise the move of a soccer stadium to be built from the township to an undefined new area, and can help save the theft of baby lions by poachers at the game reserve.   Not much of his time was spent managing his hotel in the movie!    An impressive cruise liner was also in Cape Town harbour when the movie was shot.   Not one negative aspect of the city was reflected in the movie - it was a glowing testimony to one of the most beautiful cities in the world!    All that was missing was some action at Camps Bay beach, although the closing shot was of the Atlantic seaboard.

Germany’s best known cruise liner, the MS Deutschland, visited Cape Town for a number of days.  Cruise liner business is excellent for Cape Town, especially for the V & A Waterfront.  A popular TV series called “Traumschiff” has been filmed on the cruise liner for the past five years, and takes ZDF viewers to exotic locations.   The cheapest suite on the cruise liner costs $ 8 117 per person, including the return flight from Frankfurt, for the 15-day cruise from Cape Town to Walvis Bay, Luederitz, East London, Durban, Port Elizabeth and back to Cape Town.     Another cruise started from Cape Town, with stops in Port Elizabeth, Durban, Richard’s Bay, Zanzibar, and Mombasa.  The cruise liner is small by luxury liner standards, with 490 passengers on board.  

The Independent on Sunday featured Cape Town in an article entitled “48 hours in: Cape Town”, one of a series of “48 hours in ” articles, earlier last month   The article motivates Cape Town for its “dramatic location, tumultuous history and collision of cultures, Cape Town should be on everyone’s wish-list.   In January South Africa’s most attractive city offers the ideal escape from the northern hemisphere winter: near-perfect days and cool nights.  And, bluntly, it’s a cheap city: the South African rand has mirrored sterling’s decline, and the exchange rate at the start of this year is exactly the same as a year ago.”     The article recommends accommodation in the Mount Nelson, or the ”boutique hotel for a more modest option”, An African Villa, or Cape Town Backpackers.   It recommends the following for the 48-hour visit: going up Table Mountain with the cable car, window shopping in Long Street, lunch at the Noon Gun restaurant to eat koeksisters, museum visits, visiting the Castle, dinner at Nyoni’s Kraal (”dining with the locals”!), attending a church service at St George’s Cathedral, the Footstep’s to Freedom city walk, lunch at Andiamo in De Waterkant, a picnic in Kirstenbosch, and wine-tasting in Constantia.  Sadly, the article has neglected mentioning the beauty and popularity of Camps Bay’s and Clifton’s beaches, and the restaurants in Camps Bay, which are jam-packed this summer.

The UK paper The Herald compiled a top ten non-Euro holiday destination list, which offers British visitors good value for money.  South Africa is one of the destinations on the list, and Cape Town is mentioned specifically.   The Herald says the following about South Africa:  “A beautiful climate, staggering scenery and chance to experience a safari make modern South Africa a dream destination. The fact that the rand has been faring badly against the pound, and is now 12% weaker than it was last year, makes it more affordable for UK visitors. While airfares to South Africa are not cheap, after touching down there are a number of excellent budget accommodation options.”     The paper recommends the following “must see”: ‘Table Mountain dominates the city’s skyline and a visit makes for a memorable holiday highlight. Experienced hikers can get to the top for free under their own steam. However, most visitors opt for the revolving cablecar which costs R130. (£8.80). From the top you can enjoy views which stretch as far as the Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope.’   Other destinations that are on the top ten list are Turkey, Iceland, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kenya, Mexico and Egypt.

Sol Kerzner, owner of the One&Only hotel group, which is opening a new hotel in the Waterfront, and was the visionary creator of Sun City and the Palace of the Lost City, celebrated the New Year with 300 friends and family at his Leeukoppie Estate in Hout Bay on New Year’s Eve.   While Kerzner lives in the UK now, he chose sunny Cape Town to entertain VIP guests including John Cleese, Sir Richard Branson, and Sarah, Duchess of York and her two daughters, the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, reports The Times.    The newspaper reports that “showgirls” served the Moet & Chandon, while guests dined on Beluga caviar, oysters, crayfish, braaied chops and chicken, and pancakes.  The crowning glory was a “magnificent” fireworks display at midnight.

The Times reports that the One&Only in the Waterfront is running four months ahead of schedule, unheard of in hotel construction.  Kerzner plans to throw a memorable opening party, and is now to open the doors of his hotel on 3 April.

For the first time ever, the illustrious Oscar-style advertising industry Loerie Awards will be held in Cape Town, from 25 - 27 September.   Cape Town bid for the Loeries, driven by Cape Town Tourism and the Cape Town Partnership, against Johannesburg, Sun City, and the incumbent Margate.   The Loeries will be held in the revamped Good Hope Centre.   Loerie Award MD Andrew Human said that some industry members had reservations about hosting the Loeries in a big city such as Cape Town.   ” …we feel very confident that we will keep the intimate atmosphere that the Loeries is renowned for, while offering all the glamour of Cape Town”.   City of Cape Town Executive Director for Economic, Social Development and Tourism Mansoor Mohamed  said:  “The legacy projects that accompany Loeries will help to position Cape Town as a home for the creative industries.  It offers great economic opportunities for the residents of Cape Town.”

A number of Hollywood stars will make Cape Town their temporary home for the next few months, to shoot movies in the city, reports the Weekend Argus.    'The Human Factor' is a movie about South Africa winning the Rugby World Cup in 1995, and will star Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.   It is based on the book 'The Human Factor: Nelson Mandela and the Game that changed the world'.   Damon plays Francois Pienaar, then Springbok rugby team captain.  'Heaven and Earth' will feature Pierce Brosnan, playing Lord Charles Somerset, the Cape's first governor.   The Castle will be used as one of the locations for the shoot.  Seven international movies will commence shooting in Cape Town in the next three months.

Table Mountain is South Africa’s only nominee for the New7Wonders of Nature, after the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company stepped in by funding the entry fee for this icon of Cape Town, and even South African tourism, reports News24.   Last month it was reported that S A Tourism was supporting the nomination process for the four South African finalists Kruger National Park, Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain and the Vredefort Crater.   However, S A Tourism has now withdrawn its support and sponsorship, on the grounds of its lack of funds for the $ 199 administration fee per entry!   SA Tourism Global Communications Manager Wendy Tlou is quoted as saying:”    As you may know, we work on budgets that have been allocated according to projects that are planned for a particular financial year.   Given the impact of the fluctuating exchange rate, and that we operate mostly internationally, where the rand is not as strong as we would like it to be, this has a very negative impact on our budgets.    As such, we’ve had to let go of projects that could have brought SA even more publicity purely because of some of these constraints.”     The public around the world can vote for its top seven wonders of nature between January and July, whereafter 21 finalists will be chosen, open to further voting to select the New7Wonders of Nature.

Camps Bay celebrity coup




Camps Bay became the temporary home and eating place to a number of celebrity visitors to Cape Town over the festive season, reports The Times.  

The Grand Cafe has only been open for three months, and was the dinner venue for John Cleese (of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers fame), Adrian Brophy (Oscar winning actor), Sir Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings), Sir Richard Branson, and Queen drummer Roger Taylor.  Cleese left a card behind which praised the restaurant’s “wonderful lobster and CHEAP”!   Sir Richard Branson also entertained 13 ladies at Blues, and 30 guests at Paranga for New Year’s eve lunch.  

Sir Branson rented a six-bedroom house in Camps Bay, directly opposite Whale Cottage Camps Bay in First Cresent, as did John Cleese, lower down in Frist Cresent.  The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, and her two daughters, the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, rented a house in Atholl Road in Camps Bay.

Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, former SA TV talk-show queen and ex-South African Tourism representative in the USA, partied with her daughters at Dizzies in Camps Bay, before seeing in the New Year at Sol Kerzner’s estate in Hout Bay, a party attended by Sarah Ferguson and her princess daughters as well.   Sir Elton John and Jamie Oliver were spotted in Cape Town over this period as well.

Three new restaurants have opened in Camps Bay on trendy Victoria Road, opposite the beachfront, thereby bringing the number of restaurants in Camps Bay to close to 30.    The three new restaurants opened in the space of the erstwhile Caltex petrol station.   The Kove and Bungalow are owned by the same owner (Paul Kovensky) as Paranga in Camps Bay, just a hop away, and Pepenero in Mouille Point.    The rather oddly-named The Kove is “a traditional grill house”, according to its advertorial in the Cape Times.   “Combining old-school classics with new-age cuisine, this beach grill offers upmarket dining for discerning patrons”, its PR blurb boasts.   Its interior has a red and white rose and ivy design on the ceiling, intended to create an “Alice in Wonderland” effect.   It sports a sommelier and an “award-winning wine list”, the latter being a claim it cannot make as the restaurant only opened last month.   

Bungalow is described as a “cutting-edge, contemporary cafe”, with “cutting-edge molecular gastronomy”, its advertorial claims.    Chef Gabriel le Roux has international experience, including at Michelin-star restaurants, and he creates unusual dishes with unique flavour combinations.  “Lime airs, citric atoms, foams and liquid nitrogen are all an integral part of his culinary creations.”   Christian Barnard, a partner with Kovensky in Paranga, does not seem to be involved in the new ventures at all.  

Gateway to India is a sister restaurant to a same-name Indian restaurant in Umhlanga Rocks.    Its luxury chandeliers attract attention from the beachfront, but may be over the top for an Indian restaurant, and for a restaurant in general in the time of the global credit crunch.

Good Food Guide to Restaurant



A survey conducted amongst 20 000 foodlovers by the Good Food Guide in the UK has identified the ten aspects about restaurants which diners dislike most intensely.   The Telegraph reports that double -tipping tops the list of restaurant bugbears by far, i.e. requesting a tip when a service charge has already been added to the bill.    Second on the list is over-attentive waiters, who top up wine glasses when they are still full, and take plates away when diners have hardly finished eating.    The other gripes restaurant patrons have are charging for a cover or bread without disclosing this upfront, offering small food portions, turning tables by pressurising current diners to finish eating quickly, charging for tap water, sitting too close to other patrons, being served out-of-season ingredients, the use of French terms on menus, and open salt and pepper bowls.    The Good Food Guide advises restaurants to heed the customer feedback, to ensure that they survive the global credit crunch.   

The Champagne and Oyster Bar Bouillabaisse, which has successfully operated in Franschhoek for the past two years, has spread its wings and opened a new branch in Cape Town.  The upmarket tapas-style eatery is designed around a central food preparation station, and patrons sit on bar chairs with a full view of the station.   The menu is identical to that of the Franschhoek restaurant, and includes predominantly fish dishes, but meat lovers and vegetarians are catered for as well.    The portions are small, and the idea is that one enjoy a number of different bites to eat, building up one’s own menu.   Located in The Rockwell, parallel to Somerset Road in De Waterkant, Bouillabaisse and its sister restaurant Crepe Suzette are the first retail outlets to open in what is planned to become the food centre of Cape Town, when its Epicurean Food Emporium opens.    The Market will provide the freshest foods under one roof.    Camil Haas, the Bouillabaisse chef and owner, will be largely based at the Cape Town branch, while his wife Ingrid will travel between Franschhoek and Cape Town.

Vida e Caffe is set to open its first two London stores, its magazine Obrigado reports.  The hotshot coffee shop with a Portuguese touch and distinctive red branding, has spread to major cities and towns.

The wine industry is expected to feel the impact of the global credit crunch, and the effect of the adverse weather conditions in November next year, reports the Cape Argus.    The S A Wine Industry & Information Systems says that domestic wine sales have remained constant at 313 million liters in the past year, and is expected to be so this year as well.   The wine harvest is expected to be 7 % smaller, at just over 1 million liters.   The biggest decrease in the wine crop is expected to be in the Orange River region, with a 20 % drop, and in the Worcester region, with a 8 % drop estimated.  The only region to show reasonable growth is expected to be the Klein Karoo, with a 5 % increase.   Whilst wine exports rose by a third in the past year, largely due to the favourable Rand exchange rate for importers, and doubled in the past five years, the credit crunch is expected to dampen export sales growth.

An international Riesling Festival will be held in Cape Town and Johannesburg in February, says the Fine Wine magazine.    Organised by sommelier Joerg Pfuetzner of The Riesling Club, the ‘Under the Influence of Riesling Festival’  will be hosted at the Roundhouse in Camps Bay and at The Hyatt in Johannesburg from 19 - 22 February.  Golf und Wein, the Under the Influence Wine Society and Lexus are the sponsors of the Festival.   Riesling producers from thirteen regions in Germany, as well as from Slovakia, Austria, Portugal, USA and Australia will rub shoulders with the top South African Riesling producers.   The international participants will include Egon Müller, JL Wolf and Dr Loosen Estates, Willi Bründlmayer, Philipp Wittmann, Hermann Dönhoff, Dirk van der Niepoort, Werner Mayer-Näkel, and representatives from Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt and Robert Weil.    The festival will consist of workshops, fine dining tasting events, a food and wine pairing tasting and exhibition with four of South Africa’s top celebrity chefs and all participating local and international Riesling producers, and a three course degustation picnic accompanied by both international and local Rieslings, featuring one of Germany’s top live performers, Sven Meyer.

On 2 February 1659 the first wine was made in the Cape by Jan van Riebeeck and his team, leading to one of the most successful wine industries in the world, selling more than 300 million litres per year.  South Africa's wine industry is the second oldest of the New World wines, and is 100 years older than that of Australia.  The wine industry is celebrating the 350th anniversary of this eventful day, and a number of wine estates are offering free tastings, and restaurant specials to celebrate.   Graham Beck Wines in Franschhoek celebrated by offering a glass of bubbly and an oyster to its cellar visitors.

Capeinfo.com has gone deadly quiet, and it is no surprise to hear that Vanessa Clarke, who wrote the Wines blog for the website, has also cancelled her writing services.  Whale Cottage withdrew its blog on the site in October last year, due to attempts at editorial intervention and gagging from its owner Carl Momberg.

World Cup taxis go for a ride!




With less than 500 days to go to the World Cup 2010, almost 300 metered taxi drivers in the Western Cape have undergone a four-month training programme, to make them welcoming hosts and information guides for the 2010 World Cup, reports the Cape Argus.   The course content included the security and safety of their passengers, tour guiding around Cape Town and the province, and business skills.    Cab driver Gale Jacobs, one of the newly trained metered taxi-drivers, said:   “The training was like a breath of fresh air.   I always thought the job was just about getting the client from point A to B, but now I’ll also be able to show clients and tourists around on a guided tour of the city.”

The role of minibus taxis is uncertain, and was the cause of a one-day taxi strike in December, causing wide-spread chaos as employees tried to get to work.   FIFA is not allowing minibus taxis to become involved in the World Cup, given their poor safety record, and the minibus taxi industry is unhappy about being cut out of the action.   In addition, it feels threatened by the new Bus Rapid Transit system, that is being introduced in Cape Town prior to the start of the World Cup as an improved public transport system.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has once again reiterated that the 2010 World Cup will be held in South Africa, reports Associated Press.   According to the report, the growing cost of building the stadia, due to the global economic crisis and South Africa’s weakened exchange rate, as well as concerns about crime and security, have once again led to the speculation that the event could be moved.   In June last year Blatter had admitted that he had a Plan B, in case of a natural disaster.  Blatter has confirmed that there no longer is an alternative plan:   “There is no Plan B, C or D.  There is only one plan.” he said.   Danny Jordaan, head of the Local Organising Committee, said that the biggest concern for South Africa was the ability of the soccer fans to fly to South Africa, given the global economic crisis, and its effect on soccer fans’ finances.

Zakumi, the World Cup 2010 mascot, was launched to Portuguese soccer fans in Lisbon earlier this month, reports bizcommunity.com.   Dr Danny Jordaan, CEO of the 2010 South African Local Organising Committee, and Calvyn Gilfellan, CEO of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, addressed a 2010 tourism promotional event.  The event was hosted by the South African embassy in Lisbon, and focused on South Africa’s readiness to host the World Cup, and its tourism potential in the Western Cape.

Sweet & Sour Service Awards




Two months ago the Sweet & Sour Service Awards were introduced on the Whale Cottage Portfolio blog www.whalecottage.com/blog.    Nominations for Sweet and Sour Service Awards are welcomed , and can be sent to info@whalecottage.com.

Recent Sweet Service Award winners are the following:  

Westpac Bank, for transferring funds from Australia to South Africa within 24 hours - read more
CIRO Beverage Solutions, for overriding its Accounts department in the interest of customer service - read more
Doppio Zero in Claremont, for waiving the bill due to poor service - read more
W Food Bar at Willowbridge, for relaxing its Breakfast serving time on New Year's Day - read more
Spar, Regent Road in Sea Point, for giving a customer flowers as thanks for a large purchase - read more
PostNet in Steenberg Village, for making a free photocopy as a Christmas gesture of goodwill - read more
Hermanus residents, for mobilising sms-votes to help win 'Town of the Year' - read more
TELKOM, for its allocation of a new telephone and fax number - read more
ULTRA in Green Point, for the excellent service from Kate - read more

Sour Service Award winners were:

Core Catering Supplies, for poor and rude service - read more
Independent Newspapers, for continuous non-delivery of newspapers - read more
The Roundhouse, for wanting to blacklist patrons who arrive late - read more
Sunday Times, who have the worst call centre in the country, and are unwilling to sell new or renew existing subscriptions - read more
LimelightDesign, who has the most arrogant owner/designer who makes promises he cannot keep - read more
City of Cape Town Cleaning Department, who beg for Christmas boxes and extra payment, and love waking up the neighbourhood at 7h00 - read more
TELKOM, for being unable to fix an ADSL problem at Whale Cottage Camps Bay for 2 months - read more
Rest Assured, for late delivery of a bed - read more
FEDHASA Cape, for ignoring correspondence sent over a 3 month period, and for not implementing its Code of Conduct - read more





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