June 2002
South Africa safest tourist destination

Research conducted amongst international tour operators has indicated that South Africa is now viewed as the safest haven for tourists since the 11 September tragedy in the USA. This group has also rated Cape Town as the number one destination in South Africa, followed by game reserves.

Since 9/11, the definition of safe tourist destinations has changed, benefiting South Africa, which previously was labelled as a crime-ridden country. According to the Minister of Tourism, Mohammed Valli Moosa, South Africa has been the only tourist destination in the world to have increased its market share in major countries, especially in Europe and Asia, with the exception of the USA. Tourism numbers from Germany and the United Kingdom, South Africa's largest markets, grew by more than 14% in the past season.

Cheryl Carolus, new CEO of South African Tourism, recently described South Africa as a "sexy" destination, with high tourist return rates, at a Cape Times Breakfast Club. She has advised the local industry to be customer-driven in its creation of packages, rather than being product-driven. She has requested Capetonians to not call their colder season "winter", as it cannot compare with the severity of a European or American winter.

Seasonality in the Cape Town area, which results in 25 000 fewer passengers being flown to Cape Town during the low season, is to be addressed by hosting events in this period. Visitors are also to be encouraged to enjoy whale watching and game viewing during these months. Conferences and workshops, especially once the Cape Town International Convention Centre has been completed next year, are also seen to be important in flattening seasonality.

Chapman's Peak to re-open in 2003

Chapman's Peak, one of the most scenic routes in Cape Town, and which has been closed to traffic for the past two years due to the danger of rockfalls, is scheduled to re-open in time for the summer season of 2003/2004. Construction is scheduled to commence next month.

Improvements and safety features include rock catch fences, rock shelters, a half-tunnel near the viewing point, bolting rocks, improved drainage and new retaining walls. Additional width is to be created in sharp bends.

To pay the close to R130 million repair bill, Chapman's Peak Drive is to become a toll road, with toll charges of R17,50 per one-way trip mooted. Toll plazas will be built at Noordhoek and Hout Bay.

The Argus Cycle Tour and Two Oceans Marathon will be able to re-include Chapman's Peak into their routes as of 2004. Chapman's Peak Drive was used by 3500 cars on average per day, and up to 8500 cars per day during December, before its closure.

Bumper tourism season

All indications are that the forthcoming summer season could be even better than 2001/2002, which was judged to be the best ever. More than 500 000 South Africans and 100 000 international tourists alone are estimated to have visited Cape Town over the last Christmas and New Year.

This projection comes amidst Cape Town having been rated third most popular overseas city, after Sydney and Melbourne, to British tourists, as researched by the London Observer/Guardian. The World Cup Cricket matches, to be played in cities across South Africa during February and early March, will ensure that Cape Town will be close to sold out during this period.

Cape of Storms wreaks havoc

Cape Town and the south east Cape coast suffered extensive damage during the last weekend of May. Unusually high seas, caused by spring tides and enhanced by global warming, pounded the Camps Bay, Bakoven, Langebaan and Hermanus coastlines, causing severe damage to houses built close to the sea. Even the National Sea Rescue Institute boathouse at Bakoven was damaged, and its lifeboat had to be rescued from the stormy sea by helicopter.

In Hermanus the cold front was accompanied by a gale force wind, causing severe damage. Whale Cottage Hermanus lost its roof over the entrance porch as the wind swept it up and blew it onto a neighbouring property.

The storm comes just eight months after a severe storm and high seas similarly damaged properties along the Atlantic coastline in Cape Town.

The City of Cape Town is currently stabilising the mountain slope alongside Victoria Road, between Bakoven and Hout Bay, to prevent rockfalls and resultant damage to property and life. The route is an important link for Hout Bay residents to the city, and is also a popular tourist route.

Cape Town safer

Crime in the centre of Cape Town has decreased by 60% since the Central City Improvement District (CID) was established about 18 months ago, and is now mainly of a non-violent kind. In Green Point crime has decreased by 40% in the past 9 months, while the Gardens/Tamboerskloof/Oranjezicht CID, established only a few months ago, has dramatically improved safety in this area.

The safer city and its environs has led to planned investments of more than R8 million in the city centre. The Cape Town Partnership, which runs the CIDs, now plans to transform the city into a 24-hour a day activity area, divided into entertainment, retail, legal, financial, advertising and e-commerce districts.

Tourism offices to close

South African Tourism is to close six of its international offices, and will consolidate its tourism functions into offices rented from SAA or South African embassies in Australia, the USA, Austria, the Netherlands, France and Italy. All Marketing campaigns for Europe will be run from the London and Frankfurt offices of South African Tourism.

In this way the country's international tourism marketing agency hopes to plough back its savings on the purchase of furniture and payment of office rentals into marketing South Africa more effectively as a tourist destination.

South African Tourism is soon to sign a memorandum of understanding with China. It is estimated that 10 000 Chinese tourists could visit South Africa every month.

Sleepout takes a break!

Eat Out, Eat In, Drive Out and SHOP!, has relaunched its Sleepover accommodation guide in a new format, and has renamed it sleepout.

Positioned as South Africa's leading traveller's guide, sleepout will be a South African orientated travel publication which will advise international as well as domestic tourists about child-friendly destinations, wonderful wedding venues, wellness and health safaris, trendy weekend breakaways, golfing holidays, and solo travelling.

More details are available from mherselm@newmediapub.co.za

Le Quartier Francais a top restaurant in the world

Le Quartier Francais, a Top 10 restaurant in South Africa and based in South Africa's gastronomic capital Franschhoek, has been named as one of the world's Top 50 restaurants. The restaurant was praised for its setting, adventurous cuisine and local wines it serves.

Gourmet Gala

The delicious dining offered during the Fleur du Cap Restaurant Week in Cape Town during May has delivered a number of winners: Yum won Best Contemporary, Zanzibar won Best South African, Zero932 won Best Foreign, Ocean Basket in Kloof Street won Best Seafood, Famous Butcher's Grill in Claremont won Best Steakhouse, Aubergine won Best Fine Dining and Madame Zingara won Best New Restaurant awards.

A whale of a loyal customer!

Sieglinde Ruehl, a regular guest of Whale Cottage Camps Bay, has just spent her 50th paid night at a Whale Cottage. Sieglinde came across Whale Cottage Camps Bay just as it was opening five years ago, was one of its first guests, and attended the opening function officiated by the then Minister of Tourism Hennie Bester.

Working for Lufthansa in Frankfurt makes it easy for Sieglinde to come to one of her favourite destinations every year, and she has even invested in Afrikaans language courses while she has been in Cape Town. Sieglinde has enjoyed one night free for every 10 nights spent at a Whale Cottage, on the Whale Cottage Loyalty Card, which all Whale Cottage guests receive.

Duty Free Rip-Off

It would appear as if the so-called Duty Free shop at Cape Town International Airport is anything but duty-free, and in fact charges more than regular shops.

Tourists leaving Cape Town International have reported that prices have more than doubled compared to a year ago for some items, and that even a carton of cigarettes at the airport is up to R80 more expensive than at a supermarket in the Waterfront.

WhaleTales is a newsletter issued by the Whale Cottage Guest House Portfolio and is edited by Chris von Ulmenstein.
Christiane von Ulmenstein
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