Entries tagged with “Grant Thornton”.
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Tuesday 15th April 2014 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines
* More direct flights between Cape Town and Luanda in Angola could create close to 4000 jobs and close to R400 million for the economy, an Air Access strategy study has estimated said Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development, and Tourism. The province’s Air Access strategy ‘is to improve our competitiveness and we will focus on routes into Africa. Research shows a direct link between economic growth and improved air access. We are serious about investment, exports and tourism and direct routes play a major role in stimulating growth in these areas‘, the Minister said. Two years ago the value of trade between Angola and our country was R31 billion, almost half of this from the Western Cape. An increased number of direct flights would benefit tourism, and the oil and gas industry. The Minister said that his department will work on increasing the number of flights. (received via media release from Minister Winde’s offices)
* Tourism performance in the first quarter of 2014 (at 114.6) dipped slightly from the last quarter of 2013 (112.4), despite the weaker exchange rate and international leisure tourism demand, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa FNB Tourism Business Index has measured, in a study conducted by Grant Thornton. Tourism businesses’ optimism remains for the period ahead. Interesting is that the study found that the tourism industry sees the general election on 7 May to have a negative impact on tourism. (received via e-mail from the Tourism Business Council of South Africa)
* The Van Ryn range has won a double gold for the Van Ryn 15 Year Old, and two gold medals for its 12 Year Old and 20 Year Old at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. (received via media release from De Kock Communications)
* The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa sister hotel Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat will host a 5 course (more…)
Thursday 5th December 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines
* Wine judge and writer Tim James, and winner of a number of wine writing competitions, including the inaugural Du Toitskloof Wine Writer of the Year as well as the Franschhoek Literary Festival wine writing award, has expressed his strongest criticism of the announcement of the 2014 Franschhoek Literary Festival wine writing competition. It has been announced that the competition and its prize money will be split into short writing (less than 1500 words) and long writing (3000 – 4000 words). No award will be given to any writing submitted of between 1500 – 3000 words! Earlier this year the Franschhoek Literary Festival, and the convenor of its wine writing judging committee John Maytham, were lambasted when they chose to not award the prize at all, stating that no entry was of a good enough standard. (Note: the category definitions have subsequently been changed to under 1000 words, and 1000 – 4000 words)
* Only 8% of South African tourism and hospitality businesses plan to appoint more staff, according to tourism consultants Grant Thornton, compared to 25% by their global counterparts.
* South African restaurant brands operating in the United Arab Emirates include Nando’s, Butcher Shop, Meat & Co, Mug & Bean, and Debonairs Pizza.
* Argentina is encouraging its citizens to stay home with a punitive 35% tax on all credit card payments made outside the country, to protect its monetary reserves.
* The Stellenbosch Wine Festival will take place from 24 January – 2 (more…)
Sunday 22nd September 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
It is interesting to see how Councillor Grant Pascoe, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing, has interpreted the results of a Grant Thornton survey of ‘spend on tourism in Cape Town‘, to obtain maximum PR spin out of the survey results.
While the Grant Thornton study shows that the average rate of growth between 2009 and 2012 was 5,6 % per annum, there were increases and decreases in revenue in this period, the revenue generated having peaked in 2010 at R16 billion, growing from R12,4 billion in 2009 to R14,6 billion in 2012, a City of Cape Town media release reveals. Fascinating is that the value of the tourism industry in Cape Town in 2009 was quantified at R 17,3 billion, when the City announced the appointment of the consultancy in conducting the study. Now the 2009 value has been reduced by R5 billion – could this have been done to make the tourism industry show growth instead of a loss in revenue over the 2009 – 2012 period?!
The tourism consultancy was contracted to conduct a three year study on the (more…)
Wednesday 24th April 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Both the Bureau of Economic Research and the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) FNB Tourism Business Index reflect that the first three months of this year showed an improvement in the confidence level for the South African tourism industry. While Cape restaurants would agree, the confidence may not have been shared by the Cape accommodation industry, who still cannot see a significant improvement in their occupancy levels, and dread the early arrival of the winter season.
The Bureau of Market Research released its results for the first quarter of this year last week, and showed a 7% growth in the volume of Accommodation business, with a very positive expectation of an 11% growth rate in the second quarter – this contrasted strongly with the 16% decline reported for the last quarter of 2012. Since 2009 the Bureau had measured declining volumes of Accommodation business, the first sign of a turn around being measured in the first and third quarters of 2012, but with declines in the second and fourth quarters of the same year, demonstrating how variable the growth is and how susceptible it is to global recessionary influences. Business confidence in the Accommodation sector increased to 52 (an index measured out of 100) in the first quarter of this year, a significant increase from 38 the quarter before. In contrast, the real estate and business services industries showed minimal business confidence growth in the same period.
The TBCSA FNB Tourism Index was introduced in 2010, and is based on a study of tourism confidence conducted quarterly by Grant Thornton. The Index is measured and compared against a score of 100 reflecting ‘normality’. For the third consecutive reading the Tourism Business Index has exceeded the score of 100, a positive step given that most of the scores since 2010 lay below the 100 mark. The latest index measurement is 111, just below that measured at the time our country hosted the World Cup, the highest score ever achieved, before the scores slid. Respondents are asked to quantify their expectations for the quarter ahead, and the actual first quarter confidence score far exceeded the anticipated score of 102,5.
Grant Thornton’s Gillian Saunders said that the survey results were split, with 30% reporting strong demand and another 30% reporting it as weak. ‘Playing in different geographic markets may impact this; for instance in 2012, Asian markets saw a huge growth in tourist arrivals and businesses targeting those markets have no doubt benefited’. One hopes that Mrs Saunders is not referring to the SA Tourism statistics for China, which appear to include transit passengers! More likely could be a geographical difference, in that Gauteng and Durban may have been more positive in the past quarter due to the AFCON Cup of Nations which took place in Johannesburg and Durban in January – February, while Cape Town missed out as a host city for the soccer event due to the City of Cape Town’s mismanagement of the bid process, and therefore Cape Town’s tourism industry may not have been as confident as a result! Durban has hosted a number of top conferences and events, including a meeting of the BRICS country presidents, and an Indian tour operator conference. Saunders emphasised that there is still concern about the impact of the recessionary problems of Europe. While tourism confidence may have improved, the TBCSA CEO Mmatšatši Ramawela stated that the petrol price, cost of sales, electricity prices, municipal tariffs, and labour issues negated the confidence levels of tourism players.
Grant Thornton, the company that got the estimate of the World Cup 2010 attendance so badly wrong, is to conduct a three year study of the Cape Town tourism industry, to measure the value of its tourism industry. A 2009 survey had put a value of R17,3 billion on our City’s tourism industry, a 6% increase on the 2008 value of R16,3 billion. The study results will become a benchmark to measure the economic value of Cape Town’s tourism industry, said Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events and Marketing Grant Pascoe. The study will use national data (read highly criticised) SA Tourism statistics and tourism surveys to measure the spend by tourists whilst in the city. Tourism businesses will be interviewed, to establish their turnover and employment figures. One can be sceptical about the co-operation that the researchers will receive from the hospitality industry in extracting turnover figures! Councillor Pascoe said that collecting the tourism industry information could be used to assess the infrastructure requirements for Cape Town, and could be used to motivate infrastructure upgrades to benefit the tourism industry! One wonders how many millions the Grant Thornton Cape Town tourism study will cost, and how reliable its results will be, given the sensitive information sought!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: WhaleCottage
Thursday 14th March 2013 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Yesterday afternoon Anton Groenewald, Executive Director of the City of Cape Town’s new TEAM (Tourism, Events, Arts, Marketing) Directorate, addressed the French networking group CAP40 at the Alliance Française on the topic ‘Perspective on strategic and policy intiatives to grow the Tourism business in Cape Town‘. He was described as the ‘keyholder that can unlock tourism to the Cape’. Groenewald has become the most powerful person in Tourism in Cape Town, and has a considerable budget.
Groenewald is an interesting man, very honest (often at his own expense) and direct, very goal-orientated, non-political in his actions, and charming even though he may be ruthlessly honest. He is not always ‘media-correct’ in his honesty, yet he does not seem to mind being quoted, no matter how sensitive his response may be to the parties he may be commenting about, as we discovered last year when Cape Town Tourism was blowing its own horn about the number of Twitter impressions it had created by inviting four international bloggers to the city. For Groenewald it is all about the bottom line, his mantra being ‘commercialisation’ to achieve revenue targets. His department has promised Cape Town Tourism R117 million for the three year period from 1 July 2013 onwards, but with demanding revenue and commercialisation targets to be achieved. He certainly means business, and was honest in admitting that a head of Cape Town Tourism who has been in the position for nine years no longer is fresh enough to be on top of her game. He confirmed that its outgoing-CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold did not need any encouragement to not renew her contract. They will shortly start recruiting a replacement CEO nationally as well as internationally. His no-nonsense attitude shows when he stopped Cape Town Tourism PR (more…)
Sunday 29th January 2012 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Increasingly the tourism industry is seeing information that informs it about its successful performance, but this information does not tie in with actual business experience.
Yesterday on Twitter Guy Lundy, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town and Board member of Cape Town Tourism, created a PR gaffe (accommodation establishments make up a substantial proportion of Cape Town tourism members) by writing disparagingly: ‘So if the airport & Table Mountain had a record December, why are the hotels crying? Because people want bargains & they’re too expensive’. When challenged on his statement, Lundy quoted the record 813000 arrivals at Cape Town International in December, and its best ever year in 2011, and the record Table Mountain Aerial Cableway 142000 ticket sales from mid-December – mid-January, attributing this success as follows: Positive legacy of 2010 World Cup; increased profile & awareness’. Few tourism businesses would agree with Lundy about the tourism benefit of the 2010 World Cup.
The Tourism Business Council of South Africa also described its 4th quarter Tourism Business Index of 87 as a ‘marked improvement in business performance for the last quarter of 2011′, correct relative to last year’s 3rd quarter (70), 2nd quarter (74,5), and 1st quarter (79) Index measurements. What the Tourism Business Council media release neglected to point out is that the 4th quarter Index of 2011 is below that of the 4th quarter of 2010, which was at at 89. The improved performance was attributed to the COP17 Climate Change Conference and the better than expected festive season.
The Tourism Business Index is sponsored by FNB, and compiled by Grant Thornton, the tourism consultancy that got the 2010 World Cup tourism estimates so badly wrong. Pieter de Bruin, Head of Industry Sales at FNB, said that the results showed that there are ‘different cycles in business, such is the importance of South Africa being an events destination and having a healthy domestic tourism market. We trust that this may be the first sign of the industry making a turn into positive territory’. Tourism Business Council CEO Mmatšatši Marobe commented: “When we launched the TBI (Tourism Business Index) project in 2010, one of the key objectives was to develop a business tool which would produce relevant information that will assist us to map out a clear picture of general ‘health’ our (sic) industry. At this point the index is showing positive signs of progress; however it also highlights the important role that the domestic and regional markets can play in boosting tourism trade”. The Tourism Business Index is a national measure of current and future performance of the tourism and travel industry, and sub-sectors within the sector. A score of 100 is the norm, reflecting that the tourism industry is still operating below par. The industry has predicted an Index of 82 for the first quarter of 2012.
Durban bragged about its excellent performance over the past two years, claiming to have ‘outperformed other major SA cities’, reports The Mercury, due to the COP 17 Conference, achieving near 100 % occupancy for about a month, and the excellent local visitor numbers over the December school holidays, with hotel occupancy of around 80%, according to the local FEDHASA branch.
FEDHASA Cape Chairman Dirk Elzinga would not admit to a tourism crisis last winter, blaming the poor hospitality performance on the Cape scapegoat of Seasonality. Eventually he had to admit that it was the worst season ever. Elzinga has deplored the cancellation of direct flights to Cape Town by Malaysia Airlines and Etihad Airways, stating that Cape Town’s tourism fortune is reliant on ‘direct access’.
Once again we would like to encourage the tourism authorities to be honest and realistic in reporting tourism successes, and to be correct in defining the summer season being from October, which showed poor performance with November too, and runs until April. The Cape is currently experiencing a ten-day dip, and yesterday’s J&B Met was the poorest ever for the hospitality industry. Very encouraging is the almost fully-booked February, due to the Mining Conference taking place in Cape Town, as well as Valentine’s Day, with a welcome increase in British tourists too.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Monday 28th November 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Reports about the status of the tourism industry in Cape Town and the Western Cape in the last few days are enough to confuse anyone, as the view on how the industry is doing this summer, two months into the season, appear contradictory, some saying that it is better, and others saying that it is the worst ever!
Reports about a FEDHASA Cape media review held last week contradict each other. The Cape Argus, using the headline ‘Hotels catch the scent of recovery’, reported that a ‘fair’ season is expected this summer. It stated that the industry had come through a ‘pretty bad year’. Gotravel24 had a more realistic headline ‘Worst year yet for Cape Town tourism’, quoting FEDHASA Cape Chairman Dirk Elzinga admitting for the first time that the past year has been ‘one of the worst the Cape Town tourism industry has ever seen’. When we wrote about the tourism crisis in winter, which was subsequently picked up by the Cape Argus, Elzinga did not seem perturbed, and said that Cape Town was just experiencing its annual seasonal dip!
In its review FEDHASA Cape indicated that average revenue per available room decreased by 10% this year, due to the ‘double dip recession’ in Europe as well as the 20% increase in accommodation rooms for the World Cup. The past winter was particularly tough, with four hotels and 10 restaurants that were FEDHASA Cape members closing their doors (many more non-FEDHASA restaurants closed their doors too). Elzinga is hopeful of a recovery, based on average revenue per available room increasing by 5 % in October, relative to the same month a year ago. Occupancy was estimated to reach 60 – 80 % this summer, Elzinga said, and events such as the J&B Met, the Two Oceans Marathon, and Cape Town International Jazz Festival would attract more local tourists, the type of tourist Elzinga said Cape Town tourism businesses should encourage. However, Eye Witness News’ report on the FEDHASA Cape meeting was that ’70-80 percent hotel occupancy (could not be referred) ‘as a standard anymore’. Elzinga sees positive spin-off from Cape Town being named the World Design Capital 2014, and a provisional New7Wonders of Nature. We have written before that none of the accolades that were heaped upon Cape Town so far this year have led to any significant increase in tourism to Cape Town, probably because tourism from the United Kingdom has all but dried up.
FEDHASA Cape also used the opportunity to share results of a 30-week pricing survey conducted not only for Cape Town hotels, but also for hotels in Barcelona, Melbourne, Vancouver, Boston, Nice, Hong Kong and Munich, chosen to be comparable to Cape Town in that they are not capital cities, and attract convention business. The survey was instituted due to feedback levelled against the local accommodation industry for its high prices, which FEDHASA Cape wished to dispute. Predictably it did so, stating that ‘….the Mother City is not out of line with its peers around the world’. No hard statistics, such as average hotel prices, are provided from the survey. The FEDHASA Cape survey had found that Cape Town’s price and room offering is wider than that of the comparative cities, with the exception of Barcelona. Five star hotel rates generally are on a par with the comparative international hotels. Room rates for 4-star hotels were up to 20 % lower than the international hotels, the report states. We too have checked Cape Town rates at the top-end hotels, and conducted three telephonic surveys, in May, August and November this year, finding a wide range of 5-star hotel rates, and that rates had been lowered in the harsh winter months.
Moneyweb also reported on the hotel pricing survey of FEDHASA Cape, writing that the finding about Cape Town’s hotel prices being on a par with those in other international cities was a ‘surprising result’. The description about the worst winter is far more explicit, as being ‘one of the most dismal in recent memory”! Elzinga is quoted as saying that Cape Town is ‘not cheaper, but also not more expensive. People think that prices in Africa should be lower than in Munich or Singapore. But luxury costs the same; it doesn’t matter where you are’. An interesting observation by FEDHASA Cape was that those hotels that did not drop rates recovered more quickly than those hotels that cut rates. Our Whale Cottage hotel surveys demonstrated that all hotels decreased rates in winter, contradicting FEDHASA Cape’s observation! What Elzinga did not appear to consider was that given the lower operational costs of running an accommodation establishment in Cape Town relative to the comparative cities, on labour costs alone, combined with the 20 % increase in accommodation supply since last year, accommodation prices should have decreased, based on the law of supply and demand. A further negative impact on rates should be the cost of long haul air travel and airport taxes to Cape Town. Therefore there can be no justification for Cape Town’s hotel prices to be the same as those of its international counterparts.
FEDHASA Cape sees a positive impact of direct flights to Cape Town by Air France and Swiss-based Edelweiss, but which could be countered by the cancellation of Malaysian Airlines flights to Cape Town next year. Elzinga has called for more marketing by Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited in India and China, given the problems with the USA and European economies.
At Whale Cottage we have compared Occupancy over the past five years, and we have seen a steady decline over this period, halving over the five year period. Occupancy at Whale Cottage Camps Bay this month will be the second best this year after the record 88% in February, and an improvement on last November, but is far below the 88 – 96% occupancy experienced in November between 2007 -2009.
FEDHASA Cape only predicts a recovery for the Cape Town accommodation industry in 2013, with occupancy and room rates returning to a ‘normal level’. The European and USA economies are in such disarray that one wonders how any tourism body can make any prediction about the future of tourism, especially given FEDHASA Cape’s poor interpretation of the industry in winter! FEDHASA Cape also indicates that bookings are increasingly last-minute, which makes it even more difficult to predict future tourism performance. We urge FEDHASA Cape to be conservative in its estimates, and to not create hopes about the season for the industry, which led to disastrous results when Grant Thornton did the same about the soccer World Cup last year.
The Protea Hospitality Group has seen similar cause for optimism, its Danny Bryer, Director of Sales, Marketing and Revenue, writing a letter to the editor of Southern African Tourism Update that it saw occupancy increase by 3-4% in August and September. Against the background of the unstable USA and European economies, Bryer says that it is hard to make predictions for the hospitality industry, especially with the heavy discounting taking place (contradicting Elzinga too). Bryer pleads for an end to discounting, even though his hotel group probably is the one to slash rates most severely, quoting day by day rates, and generally is at the bottom end of the rates scale in the comparative hotel rate surveys we have conducted: “Continued discounting devalues every hotel in South Africa, as the battle is fought on price rather than value”. Bryer says the proof of this is that the average daily rate has decreased and the costs are increasing, meaning a declining profit. This can only be turned around with an increase in rates, he argues. He deplores that developers, investors and owners added on new rooms, the accommodation oversupply resulting in hotel closures and local companies taking over the management of international hotel groups. Bryer warned against reducing one’s offering to justify a lower price. Offering value for money is vital. He also warned that 3, 4 and 5 star hotels are marketing their rooms at similar price points, which he believes to be ‘foolhardy and unnecessary‘. The Protea Hospitality Group is focusing on offering value-added packages for the domestic market this summer.
Bryer was also quoted in Business Report, saying that their December bookings are up on a year ago, that 5-star guests are travelling again, but that ‘inbound business to South Africa is still quite tight and long haul flights are losing out to short haul’. The South African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) CEO Michael Tatalias predicts a better ‘holiday’ season than last year, but says that the rates charged will be more realistic than in the past.
Western Cape Provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde warned that he will present a ‘bare-bones’ 2012 budget in March, and about ‘emptier’ provincial government coffers and budget cuts, which could impact on its funding of tourism too, reported the Cape Argus last week. Winde said that the local economy had to be ‘buffered against current shocks in traditional markets’, and urged exporters in the province to find ‘high-growth emerging markets’. The European growth outlook is poor too, the fourth quarter prediction being one of slipping back into recession, reports Business Report.
What is certain is that it is impossible to predict the summer season until Easter, given the continued economic woes of our tourism source markets, the UK market being sorely missed, and the forecast of Europe slipping back into recession. Bookings for the summer ahead for Whale Cottage Camps Bay look good until 10 January. Domestic tourism will be the major source market for the medium term, until the global economy recovers.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portoflio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Thursday 24th November 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
When Table Mountain was in the running for New7Wonders of Nature, the City of Cape Town ran an advertising campaign, spending more than R1 million to encourage South Africans to vote for Cape Town’s icon. Voting for Table Mountain was motivated as the tourism revenue benefit of R1,4 billion per annum and for its resultant job creation. Now a report has shown that the estimates were based on 2007 tourism information!
The Cape Times journalist Zara Nicholson has taken a lot of flack for her report on the New7Wonders competition, in having questioned the credibility of its organisers, and the monies that were generated via vote SMS’s. Last week Ms Nicholson wrote another article about the tourism benefit, and has questioned the accuracy of the projections made by tourism consultancy Grant Thornton, having found that their projections about the tourism benefits of having been named New7Wonders of Nature were based on outdated 2007 tourism arrival statistics. 2007 was the last good year our tourism industry experienced, and our experience is that tourism has reduced steadily every year since 2008, and halved in the past five years.
The Grant Thornton study was commissioned by the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company, and projected that the Table Mountain Cableway would attract 155000 more visitors, a 20 % increase, which they translated into a R1,4 billion tourism revenue increase per year, for the next five years. In their short report, Grant Thornton had estimated that 70 % of the new arrivals to Cape Town would be international visitors (109000 in total, and 9000 per month), 31000 domestic visitors, and 15500 Capetonians, based on the experience of the winners of the 2007 New7Wonders competition. However, the world was not in recession in 2007, and the tourism industry was projected at that time to grow by leaps and bounds.
Grant Thornton gained notoriety during the soccer World Cup last year, in having vastly overestimated the visitor numbers and the resultant financial benefit that the event would have. We have seen that all the wonderful international accolades that have been awarded to Cape Town during the course of this year have made little impact on tourism.
It has gone very quiet around Table Mountain and its New7Wonder status, given the proviso of the announcement of the seven New7Wonders that results are only provisional, and that the count is subject to verification and audit in the next two months, a bizarre conclusion to this highly publicised competition. Cape Town Tourism and the City of Cape Town did not qualify Table Mountain’s win status, whereas the cities linked to the other six New7Wonders were very specific about talking about their ‘provisional’ win.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
Friday 11th November 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
Just when all of Cape Town, and even South Africa, is feverishly voting to make Table Mountain a New7Wonders of Nature when voting closes today, damning articles were published yesterday in the Cape Times and The Guardian, questioning the credibility of this competition.
The Guardian wrote that the 4-year competition has become controversial, with some countries having been charged millions of dollars for the marketing use of the campaign. In its final leg of voting, to select the top seven ‘natural landscapes and places’, a short-list of 28 includes Table Mountain, the Great Barrier Reef, the Maldives, Mount Kilimanjaro, Uluru, the Dead Sea, and the Amazon rainforest. Charged a mere $199 registration fee to enter initially, some participating countries have since been charged exorbitant fees for a global marketing campaign, leading to the threatened withdrawal from the competition by the Maldives and the Komodo Island national park in Indonesia. The organisers have encouraged these two attractions to remain in the competition, without any further payment.
Past CEO of Cape Town Tourism and past Mayor of Cape Town, Gordon Oliver, is quoted in The Guardian as asking: “What authority does this organisation have to determine a natural wonder as a finalist? It’s important that our authorities get the credentials of such organisations who set themselves up as the authority to decide the prominence of natural features”. The New7Wonders Foundation has denied charging excessive fees, yet it has confirmed that there are fees to be paid if the Foundation’s branding is used. A spokesperson said that the income derived from the competition funds the running of the competition and ‘maintaining a voting platform’.
In its lead story yesterday, the Cape Times wrote a damning report about the New7Wonders competition, the Foundation earning half of the R2 SMS fee per vote (potentially generating up to R1 billion, if it achieves its goal of 1 billion votes). The report also states that the campaign does not have any standing with international official or scientific bodies. It has no relationship to UNESCO, which governs the World Heritage sites. The article also quotes Oliver, and he asks what additional benefit the New7Wonders of Nature title would have. Being based purely on a vote by SMS or on MXit restricts the campaign to a vote by cellphone and computer owners, and does not reflect the views of the ‘entire world’, said a UNESCO spokesperson, the organisation having distanced itself from the campaign. The City of Cape Town confirmed that it has spent R1,7 million on advertising country-wide, to encourage South Africans to vote for Table Mountain. The City has justified its expenditure , in that Table Mountain has made it to the finalist list of 28, from 440 initial entrants. It also quoted research by Grant Thornton (the consultants who grossly over-estimated the economic value of the World Cup), which estimated that Cape Town specifically and South Africa generally could benefit from being named a New7Wonder of Nature, through an increase of R1,4 billion in tourism revenue.
We have seen that the accolades which Cape Town has received this year, including being named top world travel destination by TripAdvisor, have had little benefit for tourism to date, and therefore question the value of the New7Wonders competition for tourism. Earlier this week it was announced that votes for Table Mountain were lagging badly behind those of many other finalists destinations. It has been noticeable that Cape Town Tourism has given Table Mountain little support for its New7Wonders of Nature campaign, despite Sabine Lehmann, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company CEO and driver of the Table Mountain New7Wonders campaign, being a Board member of the tourism body.
Voting for the Top New7Wonders of Nature will end at 11h11 GMT (13h11 in South Africa) today, 11 November 2011, reports The Guardian. In a Southern African Tourism Update article received last night, it is announced that the result will be announced at 21h00 in the V&A Waterfront this evening. www.new7wonders.com
POSTSCRIPT 11/11: I read the City of Cape Town’s ad properly after writing this blogpost – it features Archbishop Tutu with outstretched arms, standing on top of Table Mountain, so badly photographed by Oryx Multi Media that he is unrecognisable. It also contains a quote by him: “I really can understand how, when God created all that there is he said, ‘I think I’ve got to do something special here’. And so God produced this fantastic gateway in the South – Table Mountain – our mountain, what a wonder!”. Over-optimistically, the ad claims boldly that becoming a New7 Wonders of Nature will ‘boost the South African economy by R1,4 billion per annum’, and that ‘11000 new jobs will be created’.
POSTSCRIPT 11/11 21h15: Table Mountain has just been announced as one of the New7Wonders of Nature, with the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil, Halong Bay in Vietnam, Iguazu Falls in Argentina, Jeju Island in South Korea, Komodo in Indonesia, and Puerto Princesa Underground River in the Phillipines. What is extraordinary is that the organisers write that the list of seven is provisional, and subject to verification, as late as the start of 2012!
POSTSCRIPT 12/11: Tourism consultants Grant Thornton have issued a media release today, predicting that Table Mountain’s inclusion in the New7Wonders of Nature will attract 108000 new tourists per annum, and that this translates to additional tourism revenue of R 1,4 billion per year, for the next five years.
POSTSCRIPT 12/11: City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee member for Tourism Grant Pascoe has been extensively quoted in Kfm news reports this morning, stating that Table Mountain’s inclusion as a New7Wonders of Nature will boost tourism and create jobs, emphasising the latter in particular. One hopes that the expectations he is creating will not be dashed!
POSTSCRIPT 12/11: The organisers of the New7Wonders of Nature have found a new way to generate income, and announced last night that they are starting a new campaign to choose the New7Wonders Cities, for which city nominations close on 31 December.
POSTSCRIPT 13/11: A surprise sentiment is expressed in a media release sent today by Cape Town Routes Unlimited, its CEO Calvyn Gilfellan subtly requesting lower rates for ‘ordinary people’ to go up Table Mountain: “We want to salute the thousands of ordinary South Africans who voted for Table Mountain, and whose support ensured that the city’s iconic peak was named one of the New7Wonders of Nature. These ordinary people, we believe, stand tall among the real heroes in this accomplishment. Together with the official organizing committee, they deserve our richest praise and congratulations. Now the challenge is to make Table Mountain, and the rest of Cape Town’s tourist attractions usually associated with visitors who have deep pockets, more accessible to ordinary people. After all, it was the ordinary people who stood up to vote for Table Mountain. We at Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the official destination marketing voice of Cape Town and the Western Cape, stand ready to assist with this”.
POSTSCRIPT 13/11: Earlier this week provincial Tourism Minister Alan Winde did a tandem jump from Signal Hill, taking a ‘leap of faith‘ in the vote for Table Mountain. He said: “As nervous as I am for this jump, I am far more nervous about this vote”. The Minister stated that the win for Table Mountain would mean a 20 % increase in tourism numbers, reported the Cape Argus.
POSTSCRIPT 4/5: The status of Table Mountain as a New7Wonders of Nature has finally been confirmed, six months after Cape Town’s landmark received a provisional award, subject to a voting audit. All seven New7Wonders of Nature have had their status confirmed.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Thursday 16th June 2011 - Posted by Chris von Ulmenstein
We have been very happy to have you as our Minister of Tourism, especially when your portfolio became a dedicated one. Since May, however, I sense that our tourism authorities in cities, SA Tourism, and your department are seeing the development of a crisis in our tourism industry, but that nothing is being done about it. I remember a song Jeremy Taylor once sang about the Ministers that ‘minis’ – I feel that you and your department are ‘minis-ing’, not playing open book with us, and that you are deserting us in our time of need. Here is why:
1. You appointed tourism consultancy Grant Thornton, who created fantastic forecasts of how many tourists would come to South Africa for the World Cup. The recession hit the world in 2008, and at no stage did Grant Thornton revise its forecast for the event attendance. On the basis of their projections, Cape Town alone saw the addition of 9 new hotels and 1500 beds, not to talk about the numbers of apartments that were hastily vacated and renovated, for letting purposes. We all painted and polished our guest houses, yet the soccer fans that came to stay were just like all our other tourists in the end. Home and flat owners, taken by Seeff’s campaign with Gary Bailey as a spokesperson, sat with empty accommodation when they cancelled leases with their existing tenants to make a quick buck.
2. You allowed us to be ripped off by MATCH, a FIFA affiliate hospitality company, who milked us with unheard-of commissions of 30%, with your blessing! And then they cancelled the largest part of the booked stock, on their own favourable cancellation terms, just eight weeks or less prior to 11 June 2010.
3. You sent the Mickey Mouse team from Disney to quickly spruce up our service excellence, at a cost to taxpayers of R9 million or so, a waste of time for all that attended. Our nation is one known for Ubuntu, and we were recognised for it as one of our success factors – we did not need Disney to teach us that!
4. But it is the current post-World Cup crisis, which Cape Town Tourism confidently tells us a year down the line was predictable, given the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games example, that is getting to all of us. The Bureau of Economic Research survey results released earlier this week shows us that confidence in the Accommodation sector is at its lowest ever, at 25 % (even estate agents are more confident at 41%, and they are not having a great time!). There has been no growth in confidence since 2007, even though we knew that the World Cup was coming in 2010.
As the most senior official driving tourism in our country, we would have expected that you would guide and lead us, that you would tell us what drastic steps your department and SA Tourism are taking to help us to get international tourists to our country, and local ones to our cities and provinces. All we hear from you is how successful South Africa has been, and how the World Cup has contributed to this success. For the first time you have acknowledged that things are not going so well, and that “growth in the tourism sector is expected to slow down towards the end of 2011“, reports Eye Witness News about your address to FEDHASA Cape earlier this week. You are reported to have said at that same meeting that ‘visitor number (sic) still look good following the country’s successful hosting of the soccer showpiece. The minister replied by stating some establishments invested too much in catering for an influx of tourists prior to the tournament”! Sir, with respect, it was your consultants that guided us on visitor numbers. Now the proverbial has hit the fan, and there will be none of us left in this industry if you are saying that it will get even worse towards the end of this year!
5. I feel for you, being reliant on those on the ground to feed back to you how bad things really are, and that you are misinformed and misled by some. I cringed when I read that FEDHASA Cape Chairman Dirk Elzinga put the poor booking situation down to the usual Cape winter seasonality, demonstrating that he is not a hotelier, and does not have a clue about the hospitality industry, having headed up the Cape Town International Convention Centre previously. I was depressed by Cape Town Tourism’s long-winded acknowledgement that something mustbe done about changing how Cape Town is marketed, as if we have months and years to do so. Cape Town Routes Unlimited has been the most proactive in talking to our industry via the media, in asking us to slash our rates, but clearly they do not know that we charge rates of up to 50 % less in winter, and have done so for the past 15 years or more. Many ofus have not increased our summer rates since 2007, yet costs are rising continuously.
6. Your own consultants Grant Thornton are saying that not enough local and international marketing is being done, especially in the newly opened markets of China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. I like that you have addressed the ‘silo’ mentality of the tourism industry, as reported in the Cape Argus, and even see this at our local level. Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited are operating independently, and without apparent collaboration. High airfares are one of the reasons for the poor tourism performance – please help us to get SAA to price flights realistically, so that we can get the tourists to our country. Help us to get direct flights to Cape Town, instead of via Johannesburg. It is interesting that you identified that the power of tourism is in the hands of a small number of powerful operators. Share the tourism pie with all of us. Please open the doors, and create dialogue between the different sectors that feed and sustain the tourism industry. I was shocked to hear that the Board of Directors of Cape Town Routes Unlimited is now hand-picked by provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde- what happened to getting privatesector input, via nominated Board candidates? All we are getting is the same perpetuation of provincial-friendly players and their thinking, and most Board members that were newly elected in April are unknown to us!
We are receiving no guidance from your Department, SA Tourism and our local tourism authorities about how we keep our businesses afloat, and how we prevent a bloodbath of restaurant, hotel and guest house closures in the next few months, which has already started. It does not help to hear that your CEO of SA Tourism, Ms Thandiwe January-McLean, has just resigned, and will leave at the end of August, in a time that we need SA Tourism desperately.
Sir, we need your help. Help us with negotiating extensions of bond repayments at the banks; help us by not allowing the Reserve Bank to increase interest rates; help us with better tax breaks; help us by getting electricity increases suspended; help us with loan facilities to help us survive and to continue to offer employment to our staff; help us with an urgent campaign to encourage locals to travel – it has been talked about but we are not seeing its impact; help us by pushing PR internationally, to not allow South Africa, and the Cape in particular, to lose visibility when New Zealand hosts the Rugby World Cup in September and October; and lastly, be honest with us – do not give us false hope by telling us how fantastic our industry is right now. We are bleeding Sir, and we need your help!
POSTSCRIPT 16/6: Business Report today quotes the Minister as saying: “Although tourism had continued to grow since the World Cup ended last July, the industry was slowing down worldwide.” He is also quoted as saying that international tourism growth to South Africa will continue but that we must “be more competitive than our opposition”. He added: “Our prices and products must remain competitive, and unnecessary cost drivers must be identified.” He would not be issuing price guidelines, and he confirmed that the traditional source markets remain Europe, the UK and the USA, due to their longer holiday period, but recognises the longer-term value of the Asian market. He urged that visa applications for tourists be made easier, and even become electronic. The Minister’s Department of Tourism is to set up a conventions bureau, to spread the business ‘beyond the three main cities’, and he indicated that benefits could flow from the expiry this year of the current system of granting air traffic rights to fly into South Africa.
POSTSCRIPT 17/6: Southern African Tourism Update reports that the Minister is to have also said at the FEDHASA Cape AGM that local tourism authorities should not market internationally, as SA Tourism is doing so already, and that they should focus on local marketing instead. He quoted the example of KZN Tourism, which has a marketing office in Gauteng. Was he addressing Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited?
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage