Entries tagged with “Hermanus Tourism Bureau”.


2011: what a year it’s been for the world, South Africa, and Whale Cottage – unpredictable, up and down, and a year in which one had to rethink every way in which one has run one’s business and life.  Most would say that it’s been one of the worst years ever!  But despite the tough times, there has been a lot to be grateful for as well.  I have summarised some of the high and low lights of the year:

1.  The knock which tourism took, especially from May – August, in being one of the worst winters ever experienced, had an effect on all sectors of the economy.  Restaurants frantically offered specials to gain cashflow, guest houses went back to dropping rates as they do in winter, and few took rate increases in summer, unlike their hotel colleagues, who suffered poor occupancy too.  More hotels and restaurants closed down than ever seen before. The recession in the UK hit South African tourism and wine sales badly, previously our major source market. From 50 % of our business in the summer months in Camps Bay, the UK business will be no more than 5 % this summer.  High airfares and the crippling UK airport taxes have not helped. The tourism situation was so bad that we wrote an Open Letter to national Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, as Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited were not aware of how bad things were in the Cape, and therefore did nothing to market the region and to help the tourism industry. Cape Town Tourism spent all its energy on Twitter, not yet the medium of communication of our average tourist, and on wasteful promotions, and therefore we did not renew our 20 year membership. The welcome increase in German tourists has not made up this shortfall, but we have been delighted to welcome many more South African guests.   The World Cup has become a swearword, the reality of its lack of a tourism benefit becoming clear. A blessing from Santa has been a much improved festive season, with no snow-bound tourists or strong south-easter wind, as happened last year.

2.  Events are hugely beneficial for business, and the Argus Cycle Tour, J&B Met, and Cape Town International Jazz Festival attracted out of town guests. The U2 and Coldplay concerts helped fill beds and delighted Cape Town audiences.  A fantastic outcome of Coldplay’s performance is that the music video for ‘Paradise’ was filmed in our city, the Boland and the Karoo – no better part of the world could have been chosen for this song!

3.  Cape Town has had an exceptional year, the darling of the world, winning the World Design Capital 2014 bid, Table Mountain being named one of New7Wonders of Nature (amid some controversy and as yet subject to verification), named top destination in TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Destination (for what it was worth!), and featuring strongly in the new James Bond book ‘Carte Blanche’.  Our city hotels, especially the Cape Grace and Steenberg Hotel, featured on international top hotel lists. Good news was the sale of the V&A Waterfront to a local company, which is investing in the upgrade of and addition to the country’s most popular tourist destination.

4.   Despite the doom and gloom, there were more restaurant openings, and chef and restaurant staff changes this year than in many years: The Pot Luck Club, Hemelhuijs, Dash, Casparus, Dear Me Foodworld, The Franschhoek Kitchen, Il Cappero, Café Benedict, The Kitchen at Maison, Sotano by Caveau, Knife, De Oude Bank Bakkerij, Ryan’s Kitchen, Caffe Milano, Mozzarella Bar, Cassis Salon de Thé, Power & the Glory, Haas Coffee, Johan’s @ Longridge, Skinny Legs & All, KOS Coffee & Cuisine, Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet, Le Coq, Act and Play Bar at the Baxter, Sunbird Bistro, Societi Brasserie, Jason’s, Bird Café with new owners, Maria’s after a long renovation closure, Toro Wine & Aperitif Bar, Valora, Café Le Chocolatier, Haute Cabriere Cellar Restaurant after a renovation and chef change, Art’s Café, Spice Route, Mitico, Knead on Kloof, Chez Chez, La Bella, 5 Rooms, Terbodore Coffee Bar, Wale Rose Lifestyle, The Black Pearl, Bistro on Rose, Slainte, Babel Tea House, Rhapsody’s, Café Extrablatt, Harvest, McDonalds in the V&A,  The Mussel Bar, The Franschhoek Food Emporium, Makaron, F.east, Bean There Fair Trade, Sabrina’s, Harbour House in the V&A, MCC Franschhoek, Clarke Bar & Dining Room, Roberto’s, French Toast, Saboroso, Mezepoli, Rocca in the Cape Quarter, and Roca in Franschhoek opening their doors, and new suppliers Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants and The Creamery opening too.

5.  Sadly, the recession was noticeable as it hit restaurants, and it was some of the newer restaurants that were badly hit, including What’s On Eatery, The Olive Shack, Bella Lucia, Blonde, Jardine, Caveau at the Mill, Nando’s in Camps Bay, The Sandbar, The Bistro, Restaurant Christophe, Doppio Zero in Green Point and Clarement, shu, Oiishi Delicious Caffe, Hermanos, The Kitchen Bar, Wildwoods, The Green Dolphin, De Huguenot restaurant, Wildflour, Depasco, Kuzina, and 221 Waterfront.

6.  The eating highlight of the year was the tribute dinner to the closing of El Bulli, one of the world’s best restaurants, by Tokara, Chef Richard Carstens excelling in serving a 13-course meal to a packed restaurant on 30 July, earning him and his team a standing ovation.  This meal alone should have made Chef Richard South Africa’s top chef in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards, but sole judge Abigail Donnelly proved that she was incapable of handling this new role and responsibility, not only in excluding Chef Richard from her Top 10 list, but also in awarding the new Boschendal Style Award to her client Makaron.

7.   Franschhoek evolved as THE wine region, Boekenhoutskloof being recognised as South Africa’s top winery by the Platter Guide, and La Motte the top wine estate in South Africa by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.  In the latter competition, Tokara was selected as top wine estate restaurant in the country. The sale of the Franschhoek Graham Beck farm was announced, and the operation closes mid-year in 2012. The winemaking will take place at Steenberg and at Graham Beck in Robertson, while a Graham Beck tasting bar Gorgeous will open at Steenberg in February.

8.   Hermanus was in the tourism marketing spotlight, when miraculously both the committee of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau resigned, and the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation was disbanded by the Overstrand Mayor.  We had written about the self-interest which had been served by the previous leaders of these two bodies in ‘Lermanus’!  A welcome product for Hermanus is the recently created Hermanus Wine Route, marketing of which will be in the capable hands of Carolyn Martin of Creation.

9.   The Consumer Protection Act was introduced in April, and has shown benefits in product deficiencies and returns.  Little effect has been seen for the tourism industry.  The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa tried to change its accommodation assessment standards, which caused a huge outcry.  Despite changing back to what they had before, many accommodation establishments lost faith in the organisation, and have not renewed their accreditation.

10.  The wedding of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlène in July put South Africa in the world spotlight, not only due to the televised broadcast of the wedding, but also as they celebrated their wedding with a second reception, at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga, now the country’s best known hotel.

11.  This year proved that the ‘social’ in Social Media is a misnomer in many respects, but it is the marketing platform which cannot be excluded.  We celebrated the 10th anniversary of our WhaleTales newsletter, the 3rd year of blogging, and our 1000 th blogpost this year.  We are grateful to our Facebook friends and likers, Twitter followers, and blog and newsletter readers for their support.

It is hard to predict 2012, and we will go with the flow.  2011 has made us tougher and even more thick-skinned, we have learnt to change with changed tourism times.  We look forward to a stable world economy, politics, as well as weather in 2012!

POSTSCRIPT 2/1: The most read posts on our blog in 2011 were the restaurant winter specials, the Festive Season packages, the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Charléne, the review of Casparus, the restaurant summer specials, the review of Gaaitjie in Paternoster, the death in Cape Town of the President of Ferrero Rocher,  the listing of restaurant openings and closures, the Consumer Protection Act, and Table Mountain making the New7Wonders of Nature.

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

The Sweet Service Award goes to the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, for almost daily calls since the Whale Festival, for accommodation enquiries for tourists visiting the town.  This is something we have not seen for a good two years, and reflects on the greater fairness in spreading tourist bookings across the broad spectrum of accommodation establishments, and not favouring a select few, as was the case during the regime of the previous Board of the Bureau.  The enquiries are turning into bookings, and are most welcome.  The Bureau also assisted in passing on CVs it had received for a position it had advertised, leading to a successful appointment.

The Sour Service Award goes to the South African gas industry, which is in short supply, leaving half of the estimated 2500 restaurants in the country powerless to prepare food for their clients this week, says the Restaurant Association of South Africa, and reported in Mail & Guardian.  In the past few years most commercial enterprises switched to gas, to not be vulnerable to ESKOM electricity outages experienced in the past.  The SA Petroleum Industry body has not been able to indicate when production of LPG will return to normal, after ‘unplanned shutdowns in the local oil refinery industry’.

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.

The Sweet Service Award goes to the organisers of the Two Oceans Hermanus Whale Festival, Kfm, the sponsors Distell marketing Two Oceans Wines, and the staff of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, for the most successful Hermanus Whale Festival hosted in twenty years. The sponsorship by Distell created massive exposure on Kfm, the radio station reaching the Cape Town and environs catchment area, which is the most important source area for Hermanus. Kfm brought all its presenters to Hermanus, and broadcast from the town for two days.  In the week running up to the Festival, regular announcements were made, and whale sounds were played, likely to generate benefits beyond the Festival days, as the presenters raved about seeing the whales breaching, and regularly mentioning the Whalecrier blowing his kelp horn whenever he spotted a whale. The events organised for the Festival were fresh and different, and a greater focus was placed on pairing foods and wines.  The Hermanus Tourism Bureau staff were run off their feet as last minute visitors booked accommodation on Friday and Saturday, ensuring that almost every guest house and hotel was fully booked on both nights, a bonus given that there wasn’t a long weekend to link to the Festival, as is the case usually.

The Sour Service Award goes to Eskom, and the City of Cape Town, for a city-wide power failure 10 days ago, due to a fire in the Acacia sub-station.  Social Media was not used to communicate with Capetonians, even though the City of Cape Town has a Twitter account.   The power failure was close to lunchtime, and was a costly loss to a lot of hospitality businesses.  Information from Eskom about the duration was vague on radio, and Independent Newspapers estimated a 6-hour outage.   In the end it lasted about 90 minutes in most areas.  Grant Pascoe, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee member for Events, Tourism, and Marketing, smugly Tweeted as follows from a Council meeting: “Power restored, council meeting proceeds undeterred during outage in CPT”, without expressing any care or concern about the citizens of Cape Town, and what the effect may have been on them and their businesses!

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.

Ian Bartes

Chairman: Cape Town Tourism

15 September 2011

Dear Ian

MEMBERSHIP OF CAPE TOWN TOURISM

Thank you for your letter regarding the status of our Whale Cottage Camps Bay membership of Cape Town Tourism, dated 8 September 2011.   In your 9-page letter you request us to motivate why Cape Town Tourism should not terminate our membership due to our Blog, and more specifically, selected comments on it!

I thank you for the opportunity to set the record straight in terms of the allegations you make about our alleged ‘barrage of cyber-criticism’, ‘cyber attacks’, and ‘CTT bashing’ in your letter, and for the challenge to revisit our policy as far as comments on our Whale Cottage Blog goes. As the criticism is about our Blog, I am posting my reply to you on our Blog, so that members of Cape Town Tourism should be informed of your proposed action, and allow them to participate in the debate about Social Media and its responsible use in tourism marketing, being a public interest matter.

For the background, you will no doubt know that my PR company Relationship Marketing previously, and now my Whale Cottage Camps Bay, have been a member of Cape Town Tourism for about 20 years, motivated by our belief that it is the right thing to be a member of one’s local tourism bureau, and we have adopted this policy in the four towns in the Western Cape in which we have Whale Cottages.  In addition, I was a Board member of Cape Town Tourism for a number of years, of its previous (still not yet wound-up) Section 21 company, and was its Deputy Chairman, working closely with then-CEO Sheryl Ozinsky to run the most successful tourism bureau in the country at the time.  Our loyalty towards Cape Town Tourism has been visible to your CEO, in that we assisted her to get her current job, and in that I invited her to address members of our Camps Bay Accommodation association, which I head up, to motivate our members to become members of Cape Town Tourism. In fact, we made it mandatory for members of our association to be members of Cape Town Tourism, until our members regrettably voted against this membership criterion a few months ago, due to their dissatisfaction with the benefits of membership of Cape Town Tourism, leading most Camps Bay guest houses to not renew their membership of your organisation.

You may also know that we have written a WhaleTales newsletter for the past ten years, and it is a tourism newsletter, including general news about tourism in Cape Town and the Western Cape, and news about local restaurants, the wine industry, the film industry, whale watching, and any other news that is related to tourism.  Our Whale Cottage Portfolio Blog was started three years ago, and we publish a daily post about a tourism-related topic.  Our blog is known for its honesty, and achieved the honour of a Top 10 listing of ‘Most Controversial Blog’ in the SA Blog Awards last year.   You will note our blog credo is “independent.incisive.informative”, and we have lived up to this at all times.   Over time, both the newsletter and blog have achieved a substantial readership.  Our writing has not changed over the past ten years, and Cape Town Tourism has been allowed to contribute input and response over the years.  In the past three months (i.e. out of 92 blogposts), we have written nine blogposts about Cape Town Tourism and its marketing activities, and another 21 have referred to Cape Town Tourism in a secondary manner.

It is therefore a surprise that we should receive your letter of allegations relating to our recent writing about Cape Town Tourism, given that it is no more or less in quantity than before.  What has changed in content is that we have become more critical of the Marketing activities (or rather, lack of) by Cape Town Tourism, after it became clear to us that there was no recognition of nor action by your management of the tourism crisis in our city, until we wrote about it on our Blog, and it was then picked up as a front page story by the Cape Argus. In our capacity as a member of Cape Town Tourism, as a ratepayer of Cape Town, and as a writer, it concerned me greatly to hear your CEO answer a question about the positioning of Cape Town at the ‘strategic plan’ presentation at the Baxter Theatre recently, which reflected her obviously uninformed Marketing understanding.  The fact that she had to call in consultants to write the plan, and Australian ones at that, deserved intense debate in the interest of the industry.

Our response to your adverse allegations about our Blog is as follows:

*   No Code of Conduct has ever been sent to us as members, and therefore not signed or agreed to in acceptance.  In the past week your offices have not been able to honour our request to send us such a signed document.

*   Your nine-page letter refers repeatedly to us not treating Cape Town Tourism, its staff, and its representatives with ‘honesty, respect and dignity’, as per the Cape Town Tourism Code of Conduct, in six comments and two blogposts on our Blog, for which you present examples of alleged ‘disrespect’, but no allegations of dishonesty nor loss of dignity are made or substantiated by you.  We reject these allegations with contempt, given that our blogposts and comments have not been designed to prejudice Cape Town Tourism and its agents.

*   You write about the ‘immense volume, intensity and frequency of the criticism’ (clause 5.1.1), ‘frequency and intensity of these cyber-attacks’ (clause 5.1.2), and ‘torrent of criticism’ (clause 5.1.3), and it demonstrates your lack of understanding of Social Media.   None of these alleged criticisms of frequency by yourselves are contrary to any code of conduct nor to Social Media practice, and cannot be linked to an alleged ‘attempt to denigrate CTT (Cape Town Tourism)’, as claimed by you.

*   You refer to “Twitter posts” (the word is ‘Tweets’) as being a problem, yet present no evidence of this!

*   You (mistakenly) refer to a commenter on our blog as a ‘follower’, implying that we have a special relationship with our commenters!  Most commenters are unknown to us, especially as they use false names and/or gmail addresses.  Interesting is how you take one comment out of hundreds on our blog out of context, to support your ‘argument’!  You have not fairly highlighted the numerous replies to comments that I have written, defending our relationship with your CEO, and stating over and over again that nothing that we write is meant personally about her or her colleagues.  We have also expressed over the years our respect for your CEO and the good work that she and her team has done in amalgamating the Visitor Bureaus in Cape Town. This does not mean, however, that some activities by your organisation are not worthy of criticism.

*   Your clause 5.1.3. is devoid of all logic

*   Your clause 5.1.4. alleges ‘CTT bashing’, which you link directly to comments being disallowed on our blog.  As the owner of a blog, one has the right to disallow defamatory, disparaging, and dishonest comments.  Whenever we post a blogpost about Cape Town Tourism, we receive what can be described as ‘hate speech’ towards ourselves, and while they may state their support for Cape Town Tourism, they also ‘bash’, to use your word, myself and my Whale Cottages, which is not what comments are intended for.  A question begging an answer is how you would know that (unpublished) comments have been sent to our blog, given that comments are not visible until I allow them?  Could it be that the sending of comments in support of Cape Town Tourism has been encouraged by your PR department, or dare I allege, even written by Cape Town Tourism, using pseudonyms and gmail accounts?!

*   It is the comment we received from Mavis Wilken (clause 5.2.1) that appears to be at the crux of your letter, as we received a separate letter from your lawyers Webber Wentzel on the same day, threatening legal action if her comment is not removed from our Blog in its entirety.   We had edited the comment soon after it was allowed (30 hours is an extreme exaggeration), to protect your CEO.  The comment was received on the same day as Ms Wilken forwarded an e-mail to us which she had sent to the tourism representatives of the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape government, alleging mismanagement by Cape Town Tourism in a number of respects.  Under threat of legal action by yourselves, but not in admission of any wrong-doing, we have removed Ms Wilken’s comment in its entirety.

*   The remark made by Ian Macfarlane, the Australian ‘Strategetic consultant’ of Cape Town Tourism, was written by me in a positive manner, and was expressed by him as a compliment to your CEO in her ability to obtain funds from the City of Cape Town and other sources.  To read an allegation of ‘corruption’ , defamation, and disparagement into this compliment is preposterous, and is disparaging in itself!

*  We have noted a surge in disparaging comments from a small collection of commenters (Marco, Mike, and Jeremy Claasen in the main, the latter sometimes writing the same comment six times a day, in the mistaken belief that it will be published), all in support of Cape Town Tourism, and wildly disparaging towards ourselves, whenever we publish a blogpost about Cape Town Tourism.  We have had to increasingly request these commenters to rewrite their comments by editing out their disparagement, and we delete these comments if they are not rephrased.  It is our Blog, and quite frankly we can write on it what we wish (you appear to have little problem with its content, and more with its comments), and can allow reasonable comments.  For the first time we have edited two commenters’ comments, both of these edits relating to blogposts in which Cape Town Tourism is mentioned, received from Ms Wilken and Maria.  No disparagement was intended nor implied in our reply to Mike’s comment (clauses 5.2.3 and 5.2.4).  To read into our reply to him that Cape Town Tourism ‘…is deserving of no support…’, as alleged by you, and that it is an ‘..attempt on your part to undermine and cause embarrassment to the organisation’ is ludicrous, and is rejected with contempt! Being a member of the tourism industry, it would be ludicrous for me to defame or disparage the good name of an industry association that my company is a member of.

*   The comment we made about your CEO’s lack of support of the Grand Prix in Cape Town was exactly as you stated it, made in ‘jest’ (clause 5.2.5). No allegation was made that your CEO is ‘…not of sound mind and sober senses’, and cannot be deduced from our writing.  We reject your allegation.

*   You appear to be looking for allegations of implied ‘corruption’ in reading our Blog and its comments. The ‘corruption’ link you make to my observation about your Board members Nils Heckscher and Susanne Faussner-Ringer, in their capacity as previous Board members of FEDHASA Cape, and their irresponsible attempts at coercing the accommodation industry to sign with MATCH for the FIFA World Cup last year, is far-fetched and incomprehensible (clause 5.2.6).  It therefore cannot be seen to be ..‘unfounded, unsubstantiated and patently disparaging’, as alleged by you, as the tourism industry knows about the financial loss it suffered as a result of signing with MATCH on the recommendation of these two directors, and it is ironic that the loss suffered included the properties managed by Mr Heckscher and Mrs Faussner-Ringer!  It is also rather obvious that your organisation is using the same threatening technique to terminate our membership, as FEDHASA Cape attempted to two years ago, when we spoke out against MATCH!

*   Your response to our claim that Cape Town Tourism ‘planted’ the ’100 Women 100 Wine’ blogpost comment from ‘Thandiwe Motse’ is factually incorrect, as I did not write that it emanated ‘..from the offices of CTT’, as alleged by you.  Comments can be sent to a blog from any computer, and after hours too (clause 5.2.7).  Cape Town Tourism’s link to this comment is clear, especially given that no Google reference exists for ‘Ms Motse’, that she provided an incorrect e-mail address for herself, very odd for a businessperson, and that her surname was incorrectly spelt in both the comment and Cape Town Tourism Tweets about this event.  ’Ms Motse’ would have been welcome to e-mail and to call me, to express her point of view to me directly, as the owner of the Blog, rather than to complain via her ‘friend’ about our Blog to Cape Town Tourism!  No racial slur was implied, as alleged by you!   We have proof that your PR Manager has directed an (unpublished) comment to our Blog, using a false name.

*  Over and above the specific denials we have made against your allegations, we categorically deny your allegations of ‘bad faith’, ‘malicious intent’, ‘evident satisfaction in what you perceive to be failings…’ , as well as of ‘disparaging, undermining and even defamatory comment and criticism’.

Lastly, comments have become the bane of blogs, and are increasingly disparaging, rude, and even crude, not always aimed at the subject matter of the blogpost, but often at the blog owner too.  Initially our policy was to allow most comments, in the interest of freedom of speech without prejudicing tourism, but soon it became evident that commenters saw our Blog as a means of ‘blog bashing’ us in the main.  As the blog is a voluntary unpaid-for activity we do for the love of it, we see no reason to post such disparaging comments.

We are delighted that you support that ‘..our members are entitled to engage in debate about the direction, strategy and performance of CTT, and that this debate may be ‘robust’. We believe that we have acted within these guidelines, as well as the Freedom of Speech which is ensconced in the Constitution of our country. We feel that your organisation’s CEO may be over-sensitive to Social Media, which spares no one, including myself and my company!

While you and I are debating ‘respect‘ in the main, I believe that respect is a two-way courtesy, and therefore we have the right to demand respect, and that we should not be disparaged or defamed by your organisation, its CEO, and staff too.  Consider the following examples of disrespect which have been shown to ourselves as a member of Cape Town Tourism, and as a blogger listed on your Cape Town Tourism media list:

*   The Re-Tweet in October last year by your PR Manager Skye Grove of a Tweet by Naashon Zalk, of which the content was defamatory to ourselves, making her guilty of defamation too.  A complaint lodged to your CEO about the defamation was rejected, reflecting your CEO’s lack of understanding of the law of defamation.  Another defamatory Tweet by @Lesterkk was also Re-Tweeted by Ms Grove on 22 November 2010.

*   The acceptance by Cape Town Tourism of a complaint lodged against our Whale Cottage Hermanus (not a member of Cape Town Tourism), by Mr Zalk about our warning to our guest house colleagues in Hermanus about an attempt by him and his House & Leisure editor wife Naomi Larkin to defraud us, instead of it being passed on to the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, as would have been the correct procedure. Cape Town Tourism attempted to bring us into disrepute with the provincial Consumer Protector, by passing on Mr Zalk’s complaint to them.  We have never heard from them again about the matter, after explaining Mr Zalk’s alleged fraud attempt against us.

*   Ms Grove attempted to have our website www.whalecottage.com, which was hosted with Hetzner, closed down last year, which led us to move it to an American server, at a cost to ourselves.

*   The accusation on 22 November 2010 by Ms Grove, in a comment posted on the ‘Spaniard in the Works’ blog, that I had ‘unlawful‘(ly) taken down Martin Hatchuel’s website is defamatory.  It was clear, by Mr Hatchuel’s own admission, that his refusal to delete a defamatory comment on his website, leading to a complaint against his site, had led Hetzner to close down the website.  In the same comment, Ms Grove disparages my ‘lack of journalistic quality and substance’!  Further content in her comment to this blogpost, as well as on the Salma Gandi blog, demonstrates the personal issues she has with ourselves, something a ‘professional’ PR Manager should not express of a member of Cape Town Tourism, or any other person for that matter, on a public platform!

*   In the past three months Whale Cottage has made a concerted effort to improve its Facebook presence. Proactive suggestions by Facebook about prospective persons to ‘befriend’ led us to Ms Grove, and so we sent a Facebook Friend request.  The immediate message we received from her questioned why we would want to be a friend.  Ms Grove never accepted the Friend request, as is her right. However, later that day, she Tweeted that she could still taste the vomit in her mouth from the Friend request that she had received earlier that day!

*   Your CEO, new Marketing Manager Velma Corcoran, and PR Manager have blocked us on Twitter, but your CEO reconsidered her action, and unblocked us.  Blocking is a severe sign of disrespect on Twitter.  It is such a shame that your managers should be missing out on my pearls of wisdom contained in my Tweets about Cape Town!

*  We have good reason to believe that Ms Grove is part of the team writing the disparaging, libelous, and defamatory ‘Whalespotter’ Twitter campaign about Whale Cottage and myself.  A Tweet on Monday this week  referred to your letter by implication, which Ms Grove would have inside knowledge of.

*   In the past month your CEO has refused to respond to our e-mails, which have requested information for input to our blogposts, despite an invitation by the City of Cape Town representative on your Board, Ms Mkefa, to direct any question to Mrs Helmbold.  Your CEO Tweeted on 31 August that she would only answer questions from us via the Cape Town Tourism website, and a few days later a detailed justification for the appointment of the Australian Strategetic Consultants was posted on your website.  When one receives no reply to e-mails, the negative inference is that the organisation is trying to hide something.

*  Cape Town Tourism has not reacted to the blogposts that you refer to in your letter, having the opportunity to do so via a comment to each blogpost, as would any other commenter.  In the past we have posted all comments received from your CEO, either in the blogpost, or as a comment.

*  Your City of Cape Town Mayoral Executive Committee member for Tourism, Grant Pascoe, directly responsible for the R40 million allocation of the City’s monies to your organisation, has refused to return our calls or to respond to our e-mails relating to Cape Town Tourism.

No blog forces readership of it on anyone, and therefore your CEO and staff are welcome to save their valuable time and to not read our Whale Cottage Portfolio Blog in such detail, and to rather focus that time on marketing Cape Town, given the severity of the tourism crisis.

It would appear that you hold me solely responsible for criticism of Cape Town Tourism’s performance. However, blogger Carl Momberg recently wrote a critical piece, also questioning your organisation’s ability to market Cape Town.  The Cape Times picked this up and ran with the story, quoting additional tourism players expressing their dissatisfaction with the performance of your organisation.  Will you also be attempting to censor Mr Momberg?

Surely the monies of Cape Town Tourism should more wisely be spent on marketing Cape Town, and not on lawyers’ fees?   Surely your organisation would want to retain members and not lose even more members?  Surely you do not want Cape Town Tourism to be perceived as the ‘big bully’ of tourism media censorship?

Earlier this year your membership officer Mrs Cathy Alberts begged us to rejoin as a member of Cape Town Tourism, and I explained to her my reservations to do so, given the unprofessional behaviour and disrespect I and my company have experienced from Cape Town Tourism and its staff, as detailed above.  We were surprised about Mrs Alberts’ insistence that we rejoin Cape Town Tourism, and it was our ‘patriotism’ to Cape Town, and loyalty to Cape Town Tourism, that made us rejoin.

Given the disrespect which Cape Town Tourism, your CEO Mrs Helmbold, your PR Manager Ms Grove, and you as Chairman with your Board of Directors, through this one-sided disparaging letter, have shown Whale Cottage, coupled with the lack of delivery on the promised Cape Town Tourism membership benefits, we have decided to not renew our membership of Cape Town Tourism, which expired at the end of August 2011, for the next year.  We reserve the right to re-apply for membership in future.  We will continue the debate about the marketing of Cape Town, and will continue to write about the activities of your organisation, as well as any other body handling the marketing of Cape Town.   I am available to share my tourism and marketing experience with your organisation’s management at any time that it is needed, in the interest of our common passion for our beautiful city Cape Town!

Warm whale wishes

Chris von Ulmenstein

Member

Whale Cottage Portfolio cc

POSTSCRIPT 15/9: We have just (11h41) received a follow-up letter from Webber Wentzel, Cape Town Tourism’s lawyers, making a demand that we apologise to Mrs Helmbold for Ms Wilken’s alleged ‘defamatory comment’, promise to “…desist from, in the future, publishing any further such defamatory comments about our clients on the Blog and/or any other cyber-medium used by you to communicate to the public including,but not limited to, Twitter and Facebook”, and provide the ‘correct and full name’ of ‘the so-called Mavis Wilken’, so that they can take ‘steps on behalf of our clients against the author’. We are shocked that Cape Town Tourism could be setting itself as the Tourism information censor!  We await with interest their reaction to our Open Letter!

POSTSCRIPT 18/9:  In an interview with the Cape Argus published today, Cape Town CEO Mrs Helmbold is quoted as saying that Whale Cottage Camps Bay is still a member of Cape Town Tourism, as our membership has not been resigned by letter.  There is no form that we are aware of to complete to resign one’s membership, and one would have thought that the last paragraph to this blogpost, addressed to its Chairperson, motivating why we will not be renewing our long-standing membership, as well as the non-payment of the annual membership fee, for the period 1 September 2011 – August 2012, would have been a clear communication that we have no intention to renew our membership for the next year!   We are considering our legal options regarding a defamatory Tweet sent by Cape Town Tourism on 15 September, and Re-Tweeted by Mrs Helmbold, stating “Whale Cottage Membership Termination“.

POSTSCRIPT 19/9: We have posted our new policy on comments received to blogposts written about Cape Town Tourism today, in the light of the letter we received from the Chairman of Cape Town Tourism, as well as two letters received from the lawyers of Cape Town Tourism.

POSTSCRIPT 23/9:  In response to our lawyer’s letter to Cape Town Tourism, to confirm that our Letter to its Chairman Ian Bartes posted on our Blog above is confirmation of our non-renewal of our membership of Cape Town Tourism for the next year, Cape Town Tourism lawyers Webber Wentzel have sent a three-page lawyer’s letter, accepting our non-renewal, which somehow had not been clear to Cape Town Tourism from our blogpost above!  One wonders why Cape Town Tourism is wasting its scarce financial resources on legal fees against a past member of Cape Town Tourism!

POSTSCRIPT 6/10:  Under pressure from ourselves, Cape Town Tourism has revised its misleading and defamatory statement about our membership of Cape Town Tourism on its website, confirming their acceptance of our communication that we have chosen to not renew our membership for 2011/2012.

I had the most heavenly experience, visiting the little-known and relatively new Hermanus Wine Route with outstanding wine estates located in the beautiful Hemel en Aarde Valley outside Hermanus recently, on a perfect warm winter’s day.

As a guest house owner in Hermanus, I stopped at the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and at the Village Wine Shop, in search of a map of the wine estates in the area.  I was most surprised that both stops could only offer me the ’2011 Overberg Wine: Cape South Coast’ booklet, which lists wine estates in the broader Overberg district, including Hermanus.  Our experience is that a wine map, such as that of Franschhoek, is a handy way to explore a wine route.   I drove to the furthest wine estate on the Hemel en Aarde Road, to start my winetasting journey at Creation, of which I have heard such good things, and then made my way back towards Hermanus. It was at Creation that I received a number of A4 copies of the brand new Hermanus Wine Route map. I did not manage to visit all 17 wine estates, as my stay in Hermanus was cut short due to an emergency which necessitated my return to Cape Town.  I have provided contact details, and impressions of the estates which I visited:

*   Creation: Dynamic husband-and-wife team Swiss-born JC and Carolyn Martin (daughter of Walter Finlayson) are producing excellent artisanal, terroir-driven wines at the foot of the Babylons Toren mountain range, on 22 ha, 350 meters above sea level, 7 km from the Atlantic Ocean, in conjunction with Swiss winemaker Christoph Kaser.  The last 7 km is on gravel road, and the province has promised to prioritise the tarring of this road connecting Caledon and Hermanus.  The tasting room staff is headed by Joanne Kuhn, who used to be the Manager of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau.  She is a friendly, chatty and informative hostess, supported by Pamela.   The tasting room is also the restaurant, with an interesting collection of tables (made from wine crates, and some from floorboards) and Biedermeier chairs, in different colours.  I loved the chandelier made from sparkling wine glasses. Works of art (e.g. by Jaco Sieberhagen, Jeanette Unite, Leon Müller) are an interesting part of the tasting room, and are for sale. The view onto the mountain range is amazing, and Joanne told me that it is 80 meters higher than Table Mountain.   The wine estate uses Social Media actively, being on Twitter, Facebook, and having a Blog.  Its range of wines includes Creation (Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Syrah/Grenache),  Whale Pod (which we stock in our Honesty Bar), and Shark Alley (created in conjunction with White Shark Projects).   Creation is part of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative, and its A3 information sheet printed on recycled paper says the wine estate stands for ‘Original, distinctive flavours.  Exceptional, harmonious matches’.  Creation has teamed up with chefs Anli and Andre van Vuuren of Season restaurant in Hermanus, to offer a small menu. A wine pairing menu is offered at R90, consisting of Asian salmon dumpling with aubergine and goat’s milk cheese canneloni, paired with Creation Sauvignon Blanc; spicy chicken and apricot satay is paired with Creation Viognier; cauliflower soup is paired with Creation Merlot; springbok rillete with cherry jelly is paired with Creation Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot blend; chorizo espanadita with duck and sour cherry pie is paired with Creation Syrah; and bobotie spring roll, beef carpaccio, and prune chutney is paired with Creation Syrah/Grenache blend.   Should one just wish to taste wines, there is no charge.  One can order Creation wines with a meal, at R 20,50 – R 40 per glass, or R79,50 – R159 per bottle.  The information sheet details the food suppliers used, including Nouvelle Mushrooms, Chocolates by Tomes, Richard Bosman’s cured meats, Adamskloof olive oil from the same property, and Camphill Bakery. Monday – Saturday 10h00 – 17h00, Sunday 10h00 – 16h00. Tel (028) 212-1107. www.creationwines.com

*   Jakob’s Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux blend. ‘Passion, excellence and simplicity’ form the foundation of this wine estate.  Located next door to Creation, tastings by appointment only.  Tel (028) 371-5686. www.jakobsvineyards.co.za

*   Domaine des Dieux – located next door to Creation, tasting by appointment and at La Vierge restaurant.  Tel (028) 313-2126. www.domainedesdieux.co.za

*   Mount Babylon – SMV (Shiraz, Mourvedre, Viognier blend). Located next door to Creation, tastings by appointment.  Tel 084 511 8180. www.mountbabylon.co.za

*   Ataraxia – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Serenity.  Located just before Creation.  Wine tasting Monday – Friday 9h00 – 16h00, Saturday 10h00 – 15h30.  Tel (028) 212-2007. www.ataraxiawines.co.za

*   La Vierge Collection – private cellar, with tasting and sales at La Vierge restaurant, not on same property.  La Vierge Noir, Original Sin Sauvignon Blanc, The Last Temptation Riesling, Satyricon Italian blend, Nymphomane Bordeaux blend, Shiraz, and Chardonnay.  Tel (028) 313-0130. www.lavierge.co.za

*   Spookfontein – Merlot, Phantom Bordeaux blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc.  Wines made using ‘Old-World techniques with New-Age attitude’.  Organic and single vineyard wines.  Tasting by appointment.  Tel 082 265 1071.  No website.

*   Newton Johnson Vineyards – the only wine estate of those that I visited that was seemingly disinterested in providing information and doing a tasting.  I arrived at 15h20, forty minutes before closing time,  and I got the feeling that everything was packed away already.  There was no wine in the counter, and the tasting room was extremely bare, with only one couch.  Lisa, the tasting room lady, told me that due to cash flow problems, that is the only furniture that the winery can afford!   First wines were made by Dave Newton Johnson, with sons Bevan and Gordon, in 1997.  Natural methods are used in the winemaking, including hand-picking grapes, yeast is not added to the fermentation, using gravity, no chemicals added, with soft extraction, creating wines with a ‘purity of flavour and natural expression’.  Newton Johnson Domaine Range (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir), Newton Johnson range (Resonance, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah Mouvedre), and Felicité Range (No Oak Chardonnay, Dry Rosé, Pinot Noir).  New Patron Chef Stefan Louw has taken over Heaven Restaurant, with a heavenly setting.  Lunches only currently, but will open for dinner in season.   Interesting menu, and all starters and main courses have a Newton Johnson wine recommendation.  Monday – Friday 9h00 – 16h00, Saturday 10h00 – 14h00.  www.newtonjohnson.com

*   Sumaridge – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Maritimus, Merlot Rosé, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinotage, Syrah and Epitome.   Monday – Sunday 10h00 – 15h00. www.sumaridge.co.za

*   Bouchard Finlayson – Peter Finlayson was the first winemaker in this valley.  Blanc de Mer, Walker Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Kaaimansgat Limited Chardonnay, Sans Barrique Chardonnay, Hannibal, Galpin Peak Pinot Noir, and Tête de Cuvée Pinot Noir.  Monday – Friday 9h30 – 17h00, Saturday 9h30 – 12h30.  Tel (028) 312-3515  www.bouchardfinlayson.co.za

*   Ashbourne – part of the Hamilton Russell collection.  Tasting by appointment.  Sales via Southern Right.  Tel (028) 312-3595.  No website.

*   Hamilton Russell Vineyards - one of the best-known wine estates in this valley, owned by Anthony Hamilton Russell, and synonymous with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00, Saturday 9h00 – 13h00.  Tel (028) 312-3595.  No website.

*   Southern Right – also part of Hamilton Russell collection, and co-owned by Mark Wilcox.   Stocked by Whale Cottage Honesty Bar.  Sauvignon Blanc and Pinotage. 33000 olive trees on farm.  Paintings by Olive Hamilton Russell, with earthy textures created by mixing paint and soil from the farm.  Big quartz from farm in the tasting room, representing the quartz in the sandstone soils.  Tasting room has brown earthy decor.  Very friendly and informative manager Elmarie Pretorius.  Sell Southern Right Eucalyptus honey too.  Meat and cheese platters available in summer.  Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00, Saturday 9h00 – 13h00.  No website. Tel (028) 312-1318.  Independently operated Deli on property, Tuesday – Sunday 9h00 – 15h00.

*   Whalehaven – Whalehaven Pinot Noir, Merlot, Old Harbour; The Idiom Collection Idiom Cape, Viognier, Sangiovese, Zinfandel.  Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00, Saturday and Sunday 10h30 – 16h30.  Tel (028) 316-1633. www.whalehaven.co.za

*   Hermanuspietersfontein : Located in the Hemel en Aarde Village, the modern wine cellar building is visible as one comes into Hermanus. Well-known venue for its Saturday morning Food  & Wine Market with interesting products and Hermanuspietersfontein wines, and for the excellent and creative Afrikaans -dominated marketing of its wines.  Probably has the longest wine brand name in the country, being the original name of Hermanus, but frequently abbreviated to HPF.   Winemaker Bartho Eksteen is highly regarded for Sauvignon Blanc, and won the 2010 Diners’ Club Winemaker of the Year Award.  He only makes wines that he likes, the brochure says!  They commit to “produce terroir-driven wines of the highest quality, focusing on Sauvignon Blancs and Rhône and Bordeaux-style blends. We are intent on adding value to the Walker Bay reputation as South Africa’s premium cool climate wine-producing region”. Wine range includes Bloos (‘blush wine’), Sonner Nommer (Sauvignon Blanc), Swartskaap (Cabernet Franc), 1855 Posmeester (Bordeaux-style blend), Kleinboet (Bordeaux-style blend), Nr 3 Sauvignon Blanc, Die Bartho (Sauvignon Blanc blend), Nr. 5 Sauvignon Blanc, Die Arnoldus  (Bordeaux-style blend), Nr 7 Sauvignon Blanc, and Die Martha (Rhône-style Shiraz dominant blend).  Open Monday – Friday 9h00 – 17h00, Saturday 9h00 – 16h00.  Tel (028) 316-1875.  www.hpf1855.co.za

*   Benguela Cove:  Open Monday – Friday 9h30 – 17h00, Saturday 10h00 – 14h00.  Tel 087 754 8650. www.benguelacove.co.za

Guest houses in Hermanus would love their guests to spend more than one night in Hermanus, and to come to Hermanus, even when there are no whales (December – April).   The Hermanus Wine Route is an ideal way to enhance the tourist experience of Hermanus, in experiencing its excellent quality wines and friendly wine estates.  One would like to see far more marketing of the Hermanus Wine Route, helping the tourism industry of Hermanus as well as the wine estates themselves.  The Hermanus Wine Route map has an empty back, which could contain valuable information about the wines made by each wine estate, to help one select which wine estates to visit.  Information about the restaurants on the estates should also be listed.  The opening hours of some of the wine estates should also be extended, to be as uniform as possible on the Wine Route, and to be open as late as possible (some close as early as 2 pm!). The Hermanus Wine Route map should be made available at the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, the Wine Village wine shop, and at guest houses in the area.  In the Hermanus Info booklet it is surprising that the first reference to the Hermanus Wine Route (they call it the ‘Wine Wander‘) is two-thirds into the booklet!

Hermanus Wine Route, Hemel en Aarde Valley, Hermanus.  Tel (028) 316-2761. www.hermanuswine.com Twitter: @HermanusWine

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

What a stormy meeting it was at the Municipal Auditorium in Hermanus last night, when the Special General Meeting, which had been called by a number of members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau to table a motion of no confidence in its committee, commenced with the announcement that the whole committee had resigned.

The resignation in itself was unknown to some of the Committee members, and they only found about it at the meeting, ex-Committee member Fabio Lenzi bringing the house down when he stated that he didn’t know that he had resigned from the old Committee!  It appears that many decisions about the running of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau were made by a handful of members of the Committee, and that such decisions were not minuted, and/or ratified by the whole Committee!  We have written over the past eighteen months  that things have not been well in the tourism industry in Hermanus, and how Committee members/Directors of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing (DMO) advantaged their businesses whilst serving on these two bodies.

Given the anticipated stormy nature of the Special General Meeting, the calling of which resulted from the unfair dismissal of Storm Kreusch as Manager of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau earlier this year, the Overstrand Municipality appointed advocate Professor Henning Viljoen as the independent chairman of the meeting.  He had his hands full, in controlling the accusations of mismanagement from the side of the ex-Committee chairman Charl de Kock, assisted by Joan-Anne Harris, versus the representatives of the members who had called the meeting, being Mary Faure and Pam Nel.  Ms Harris is a feisty lady, but lost severe face in her brave attempts to counter ex-Committee mismanagement allegations.  In general, meeting attendees reported that the Lerm family and the ex-Committee did not come out of the meeting well.  They must have realised that they would not win the No Confidence vote, and surprisingly an e-mail was sent by then-Chairperson Charl de Kock to Hermanus Tourism Bureau members an hour prior to the start of the meeting, with the Subject Line “The Hermanus Tourism Committee – Resignation Letter”, but no resignation was contained in the body of the e-mail.  Instead it contained another pre-meeting attack against Ms Kreusch, and referred to ”irregularities” alleged to have occurred during her management of the Bureau. It does request “the new HT committee members elected, if any, to proceed with further investigations and resolve current problems as discovered”.  The issues are listed for the new Committee, and are similar to those contained in an e-mail sent by De Kock to members last Thursday, including the alleged intimidation of Bureau staff, cellphone usage and contracts, sale of cupboards, volunteering, Tourism Grading Council assessor’s alleged ‘misuse of power and possibly transgressing the code of conduct’, and internet abuse.  It was mentioned in the meeting by De Kock that the Bureau had spent R40000 in legal fees to date on the unfair dismissal and CCMA hearing relating to Ms Kreusch.

Some of these issues were discussed in the meeting, and the focus by De Kock was largely on Ms Kreusch, in an attempt to save face.  “It was obvious from the start that the committee were out of their depth as the mismanagement, misinformation, and non-information to members issues were laid bare”, wrote a Tourism Bureau member who attended the meeting.  “As the meeting progressed, it was clear that the committee had not functioned as a unit, were totally dysfunctional, acting independently from each other, making unconstitutional personal decisions out of meetings on matters affecting the members and Hermanus Tourism”, she added.

One of the outcomes of the meeting, although not on the agenda for discussion at the Special General Meeting, was the members’ dissatisfaction with the DMO, the ‘parent body’ of all the Tourism Bureaus in the Overstrand municipal area, stretching from Rooi Els to Gansbaai.  It emerged at the meeting that the icon of Hermanus whale watching, the Whale Crier, has been appointed by the DMO, when he previously reported to the Hermanus Tourism Bureau.  This follows the DMO setting up a membership scheme in competition with the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, as well as an information and booking kiosk closer to the whale watching area.   In a clever move prior to its resignation, the ex-Committee signed a Memorandum of Understanding that gives the DMO the right to appoint Hermanus Tourism Bureau staff, something the Gansbaai and Stanford Tourism Bureaus have refused to do! 

At the meeting the new Hermanus Tourism Bureau Committee was elected: Mary Faure, Jenny Bowes-Meyer, Bill Harling, Ryno Rabie, Quintin Mitchell, Fabio Lenzi, Suzanne Clarke, Pam Nel, Jenna Raubenheimer, and Maurice Douree.  

The way forward for the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and its new committee will remain stormy, as many of the ex-Hermanus Tourism Bureau members serve on the DMO, which means that further clashes and politics can be expected, when the DMO, headed by Clinton Lerm of Misty Waves Hotel and ex-Vice Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, can be expected to ‘punish’ the Hermanus Tourism Bureau for the loss of face it suffered last night!

POSTSCRIPT 19/7:  Mary Faure has been elected Chairman and Fabio Lenzi Deputy Chairman of the new Hermanus Tourism Bureau Committee, which met this morning.

POSTCRIPT 20/7: The Hermanus Tourism Bureau has announced two additional co-opted Committee members, being Nikki Stanley and Neels Terblanche.  As per the Constitution, the DMO Chairman and Deputy Chairman, Clinton Lerm and Dan Acker, respectively, will also serve on the Committee.

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

The powers that control tourism in Hermanus are holding on for dear life, and are using every possible means to hold on to their power, at the cost of disparaging their members.  A huge fight for their political life takes place on Monday evening, when a Special General Meeting of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau is held at the request of its members, calling for a vote of no confidence in its current committee.

We have previously reported about the Hermanus Tourism Bureau reneging on its CCMA settlement agreement to pay their ex-Manager Storm Kreusch R10000 (Daniel Acker is the labour lawyer advisor on this matter, and a director  of the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation), and this has been reported in the July issue of Noseweek too.  We have reported about the conflict of interest in that the Deputy Chairman of the Tourism Bureau, Clinton Lerm, is also the Chairman of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, that his mother Maxie serves on both tourism bodies too, and that all tourism meetings are held at the Lerm’s Misty Waves Hotel.  Following from the unfair dismissal of Ms Kreusch, a group of Hermanus Tourism Bureau members signed a petition, calling for a Special General Meeting, in accordance with the constitution of the Bureau.  Given the potential stormy nature of the meeting, the Overstrand Municipality has appointed an independent advocate, Professor Henning Viljoen, to chair the meeting. 

As the honour of the Lerm family is under threat, one can expect some nasty politics ahead and at the meeting.  Earlier this week the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, Charl de Kock, who appears a mere puppet of said family, wrote a denigrating e-mail to his members as a first salvo of attack, headed “Information we think you should know”.  The three-page e-mail alleges:

   *   that some members were “lured to sign a ‘petition’ document whilst not having real facts”

   *   the agenda for the meeting on Monday is based on “one-sided defence and accusations

   *   some volunteers that have helped in the Tourism Bureau offices have sent tourists to their own establishments, proudly adding that members of the management committee “decided not to take any bookings since late last year”

   *   Ms Kreusch’s staff did not collect outstanding monies due to the Bureau by its members, allowed non-paid members to display brochures and to receive bookings, was the cause of ‘wasteful expenditure’ ‘in respect of cellphone contracts and telephone costs, and used the internet for private purposes ‘remotely’ after hours.  Ms Kreusch shared information from meetings with certain members (who were not on the committee).

   *  a member of the ‘petition committee’ intimidated the Bureau staff twice.  “The person is known to us and we will act in due course as it is the policy of Hermanus Tourism to protect personnel from intimidation”!

   *   allegations that the current committee had withheld information from its members, as claimed by the ‘petition committee’, are denied 

   *   the CCMA agreement, accepting responsibility on behalf of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau for unfair dismissal,  was signed by him as “I had compassion (for Ms Kreusch) and was lured into signing a document after being requested by Storm Kreusch to please just allow her to continue her life in this town”!

The e-mail ending stoops to a unprofessional and unprecedented low, and should be reason enough for the current committee to be dismissed by its members: “It is IMPORTANT TO NOTE that if you support the petition, you in fact support each and every action of mismanagement highlighted above and you will therefore be co-responsible for the current turmoil in Hermanus Tourism.  Support for the current committee means that you support the on-going efforts of myself as Chairperson and the current committee to make this one of the most effective tourism organisations in the country”!   The first sentence is libelous, strong words coming from a body that includes the litigious Lerms, who are the essence of the latest Noseweek article, while the second sentence is ludicrous in its claim of perfection!

Mary Faure, the spokesperson of the ‘petition committee’, has responded, by writing that the Special General Meeting has not been called about Ms Kreusch, but is about ”several unconstitutional matters”, including mismanagement, lack of integrity, lack of transparency, holding members in contempt (libelous comments have been made on social media), and lack of information, and ‘misinformation’ to members.  One member has already lodged a complaint with the municipality, for the Hermanus Tourism Bureau e-mail implying that some of its members are responsible for ‘criminal activities’, and has asked the Chairman for a public apology.

A complaint about a disparaging comment from the Cape Whale Coast DMO, which was posted on our blog in response to our blogpost about Ms Keusch’s dismissal, was sent to DMO Chairman Clinton Lerm and remains unaddressed more than a month later!  He has delegated the communication with ourselves to his DMO Deputy Chairman, Daniel Acker, who ends every e-mail in legalese, possibly intended to intimidate the recipient: “All the rights of the author, Cape Whale Coast DMO, and its directors are and remain reserved herein. Any response given herein is thus done without prejudice of / to these said rights”.

A further manifestation of the continued serving of self-interest amongst directors of the Cape Whale Coast DMO and Hermanus Tourism Bureau was the invitation of a select number of Hermanus tourism operators, in addition to the DMO committee, to participate in the presentation of their products and services to a  30-strong delegation of travel agents and tour operators visiting Hermanus, a visit sponsored by SA Tourism and SATSA.  The communication was sent to select members by DMO director Joan-Anne Harris of Southern Stroll Marketing, mainly to her clients, it would appear.  The participants were invited ‘to showcase their product/s to the agents and you will be able to network with them and build relationships over the 2 days’, advantaging a select number of members at the cost of the majority who were not invited!  A Hermanus Times photograph of the event includes representatives of Schulphoek Guest House, Walker Bay Adventures, Cliff Lodge Guest House, African Horse Company, White Shark Projects, Misty Waves Hotel as some of the attendees from Hermanus.  The caption reads: “SA Tourism brought 30 tour operators to the Whale Coast this week to give local accommodation establishments, restaurants, tour operators and organisations offering various adventure activities the opportunity to showcase their products”.  It does not declare the elitist selection of participants.  One wonders how Lerm could have thought that including this item in his recent newsletter to members would make the excluded members warm to him and his DMO and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau!

A rare Cape Whale Coast newsletter was sent by Cape Whale Coast DMO Chairman Clinton Lerm two weeks ago, clearly to present a good image in anticipation of the meeting on Monday, and announced that a Special General Meeting of the DMO will be called to address the dual membership of the DMO and of the Tourism Bureaus in the area, which meeting will be held almost a year after Lerm promised it.  He quotes the ‘Municipal Financial Act’ as being the reason for the dual membership, but that is nonsense, as no other tourism bureau we belong to has such a dual membership system.  Lerm writes: ‘a more inclusive membership structure stands to be adopted‘.  Lerm highlighted the marketing activities of the DMO, clearly feeling the need to justify his organisation’s work, and included the launch of the Cape Whale Coast, the contentious Getaway article, coverage in Süedafrika magazine,  attending Indaba (sharing a stand with Southern Stroll Marketing and other DMO directors, another contentious action), a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the DMO and Cape Town Tourism (as a member of Cape Town Tourism we have not seen this communicated to members!), and the visit by the travel agents/tour operators (making it sound as if only the DMO committee members were invited), hardly much to shout home about.  Bravely Lerm has disclosed the hard-to-find-elsewhere names of the nineteen directors of the Cape Whale Coast, but seven of these are co-opted due to their positions as Overstrand Councillors or Tourism Bureau Managers.  Ms Harris is widely rumoured to be the first incumbent of the position of Manager of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, but that will be another story for another day!

POSTSCRIPT 16/7: The Hermanus Times of 14 July says that the events leading up to the meeting on Monday is “the worst tourism crisis ever for the tourism industry in the region, Hermanus Tourism (HT) has been thrown into turmoil”!   It adds that tension has been brewing for some time ‘within the organisation’

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

In principle it sounded like a tourism marketer’s dream – a nine page editorial on the new Cape Whale Coast Route, and a front cover with a Southern Right whale and a headline “Cape Whale Coast 30 cool things to do”.  While all coverage is fantastic, it is a shame that the Cape Whale Coast DMO and Getaway magazine got it so badly wrong in many respects. 

The article commences with a route map of the newly created Cape Whale Coast, an excellent example of joint marketing of an 150 km area that spans Rooi Els to Gansbaai, and also includes Hermanus, Betty’s Bay, Kleinmond, Onrus, Stanford and Pringle Bay.  This delineation was created when the municipalities in the area were consolidated and the Overstrand municipality was created about three years ago.  Linked to this was the creation of a joint marketing body for the region, called the Cape Whale Coast Direct Marketing Organisation (DMO), with resultant politics that have been detrimental to the tourism industry in this region, with allegations of conflict of interests, and more. 

Another section of the article describes the annual trek of the Southern Right whales between the Antarctic and the Cape south coast, a journey of 10 – 20 days, as per research conducted by the Mammal Research Institute in Pretoria.  More information about the whales follows, and the guidelines about the distance to be kept from whales.  It is in the editorial content that Getaway journalist Fatima Jakoet makes a grave error, in writing that “The southern right whales stay in our waters for about four to five months (May to September)”.   Anyone who knows anything about whales will know that they stay in Hermanus until the beginning of December.  Ms Jakoet was unable to explain her error, inexcusable for a journalist working for South Africa’s top travel magazine, with a circulation of just under 50000, a readership of 614000, with 27000 Facebook fans and about 5000 Twitter followers.   The error could have a material effect on the business of the tourism and hospitality industry on the Cape Whale Coast, in a year that is seeing the worst ever occupancy and income.

Another section of the article is devoted to the Cape Whale Coast, and the annual Whale Festival (this year it runs from 30 September – 4 October).   For a second time, and on the same page, Ms Jakoet makes the error in writing that ‘the whale season usually lasts from May to September’.  Here a further faux pas occurs, in that she writes “so be prepared to pay a little more for accommodation during these months”,an absurd statement and clearly unresearched!  All accommodation establishments and restaurants are desperate for business, and reduce their rates and prices in the winter months of May – August, increase to Spring rates in September, and to summer rates from October onwards.  Once again, this is a material error which can severely affect the tourism industry on the Cape Whale Coast.  She adds insult to injury, by writing that one could struggle to find accommodation over the Whale Festival in Hermanus.  If this is not enough, Ms Jakoet recommends that one should not come to the Route during the Hermanus Whale Festival : “If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds, it’s best to steer clear of the route during this time”!

The article then offers two pages of accommodation, restaurant, and tourist attraction information on the Cape Whale Coast, and Ms Jakoet makes recommendations, and here the trouble really starts.  Her recommendations are no surprise, given what has been seen about the DMO Board members in the past, and include the following:

*   The Misty Waves Boutique Hotel is listed first in the Accommodation section.  The owners of the hotel are the Lerm family, son Clinton being the Chairman of the Cape Whale Coast DMO and Deputy Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau.  Mother Maxie is a Director of both the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and the Cape Whale Coast DMO, and a newly elected DA councillor. 

*   The only restaurant listed for Hermanus is Bientang’s Cave, which has a great location at the water’s edge, but is not the best restaurant in the village, and not the only one with a sea and whale view!  The owners of the restaurant are Clinton Lerm’s ex-in-laws.

*   Hermanus Beach Villa is owned by Charl de Kock, the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and he serves on the DMO.  On the day that the Cape Whale Coast Route was launched, Ms Jakoet requested accommodation in Hermanus, to give her more time to gather information for her article, and Joan-Anne Harris, DMO Director and Marketing Project Co-ordinator, organised the complimentary accommodation at this establishment, richly rewarded through coverage in the article.

*   Holidayscape lets self-catering accommodation, and is owned by Tom Prinsloo, a Director of the Cape Whale Coast DMO.

*  Hermanus Forest Adventures, a quad biking, treetop sliding and paintballing company, belongs to Clinton Lerm, Chairman of the DMO and Deputy Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau

*   Shark Diving Unlimited -  Marketing Manager Warren Hardenberg is a Director of the DMO

*   Percy Heywood of Percy Tours is mentioned in the article – he serves on the Board of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau

Glaring in its absence is the lack of reference to the Whale Crier, an icon associated with whale watching, and with Hermanus specifically.  Tour operators offering whale watching services, on land and by boat, are not mentioned.  It would appear that Ms Jakoet did not take the trouble to visit the Tourism Bureau in Hermanus for information, nor was she proactively provided information about the towns on the Cape Whale Coast by Ms Harris, the co-ordinator of the editorial coverage.  Hermanus’ unique point of difference, in offering the best land-based whale watching in the world, is not mentioned in the article!

The magazine cover ‘shouted’ ’30 cool things to do’ on the Cape Whale Coast Route, but one has to search for this in the feature, as it is not the headline of any sub-section.  If one counts the number of bold items listed under the half-page “What to do and see” section, one gets to 30, and it includes hiking, swimming, river rafting, tubing and mountainbiking in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, seeing penguins in Betty’s Bay, picnicing in the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, sandboarding on the Blesberg Dunes in Betty’s Bay, canoeing in Kleinmond, playing golf at Arabella, visiting Betty’s Bay chocolatier GaBoLi, winetasting in the Hemel en Aarde Valley, quadbiking, treetop siding and paintballing in Hermanus, hiking in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, kayaking in the harbour, visiting the Whale Museum and the Old Harbour Museums in Hermanus, playing golf at the Hermanus Golf Club, tasting wines on the Stanford Wine Route, river cruising and horse riding in Stanford, hiking and camping at Salmonsdam Nature Reserve, shark-cage diving in Gansbaai, taking a boat trip to Dyer Island, visiting Danger Point lighthouse, and hiking the Duiwelsgat trail.  No information is presented in the editorial about these activities, other than telephone numbers and website addresses.  Interestingly, the same list of 30 activities was the subject of an article by Ms Jakoet in the April issue of Getaway, entitled ’21 things to do on the Cape Whale Coast’ and qualified ‘besides whale watching’, ironic in reducing the importance of whale watching for the route named after the whales!

I called Ms Jakoet on Friday, and she admitted her errors immediately.  She said it was unusual that the article was not proofread by the DMO, their normal procedure.  It is surprising that Ms Harris did not chase Ms Jakoet for the article to proofread, before it went to print.  Ms Jakoet blames this oversight on Indaba, which took place at the beginning of May.  To make matters even worse, the internal Getaway proofreader is Margie (Snoek) Beves-Gibson, the sister of Ms Harris’ partner David Snoek!  Ms Jakoet assures me that Ms Snoek did proofread the article, yet she did not pick up the factual errors in its content.  Ms Jakoet had included the Whale Crier, but it was removed by her editor, in giving too much focus on Hermanus, she told me.  The errors will be fixed with an apology in the August issue of the magazine, and has already been corrected on-line.   We checked the on-line article, and the only correction that has been made is the whale-watching period.  No other factual errors highlighted in this blogpost have been corrected.  Ms Jakoet seemed to tap dance when I asked her on which basis she had made recommendations for the restaurants and accommodation establishments that she had included in the article.  She said that she had used her own experience of restaurants, guest houses and self-catering establishments in the area, as well as recommendations from her colleagues, to compile the list.  She gave contradictory answers as to whether she had paid to stay at the accommodation establishments listed.

Ms Harris has become extremely defensive, and hit the roof when she was told by Ms Jakoet that I had called.  She became heavy and threatening: “The Getwaway is a personal contact that I have developed over many years of ‘wining and dining’ and you have no authority or right to contact her…Your meddling could do this relationship a lot of damage as in future the Getaway may decide not to give us FREE EXPOSURE again, because of all the phone calls and hassles they will get!!!!… Please BACK OFF and stay out of my business and what I do as a volunteer”!  She added in a further e-mail: “I am upset because you contacted MY CONTACT.  You have no right to contact them. And as I mentioned this morning you have done MY RELATIONSHIP with them damage – so stay away from them!!!!”.   Ms Harris does not appear to understand that, in her position as a Director of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, she is accountable for her actions on behalf of the DMO. Naively she wrote to me: “NONE of the coverage that we received was paid for and thus we had no control over what they decided to print”,thereby absolving herself from any responsibility for the errors.  But she is not truthful in writing this, as Ms Jakoet told me that the DMO was meant to proofread the article, and that this had been discussed with Ms Harris.

A further bone of contention is the promotional offer, which will appear in the July issue of Getaway.  Once again, the page has been provided for free, but prizes to the total value of R 35000 had to be offered.  Ms Harris e-mailed tourism bureau members in the area, at short notice, to get them to participate in the give-away.  This promotion was handled by Kirsty of Ramsay Media, the publishers of Getaway, and she said that she was given the details about each participant by Ms Harris, and she was merely a ‘go-between’.  The contentious part was that Ms Harris only selected 4- and 5-star accommodation establishments to participate in the promotion opportunity, instead of all members.  Ms Harris explains her discrimination as follows: “Due to the haste of the ‘last minute’ request of prizes, I was requested to target 4 or 5 star establishments for the Getaway as they have LSM levels of 8 – 10, thus, a more affluent readership that would expect more luxurious accommodation.   The reality is that a wealthy family who fly down from Johannesburg for the weekend will not appreciate a 3 star establishment”.  Wow – quite a statement to make!  Ms Harris appears to not know the profile of the Getaway reader, certainly not being a luxury accommodation guest, but rather a self-drive value for money-seeking South African, probably more likely to be from the Western Cape. She also does not clarify who gave her the instruction about the star grading.

We call on the Cape Whale Coast DMO to appoint a more suitable person to handle the marketing of the Cape Whale Coast, given the poor handling by Ms Harris of this whale of a marketing opportunity for the Cape Whale Coast.  Miss Harris clearly is not suited to this portfolio, and by her own admission “is not a journalist or a wordsmith”. 

POSTSCRIPT 14/6: A recent report in the Hermanus Times highlighted the uniqueness of the Cape Whale Coast Route, in having “more plant species per square meter than anywhere else on the planet”, has three Blue Flag beaches, has one of only three African penguin colonies in Africa, has the best shark diving in the world, according to the Lonely Planet, award-winning wineries, a unique whale crier, and a wealth of whales.  None of these attributes of the Cape Whale Coast Route is reflected in the Getaway article.

Getaway, June 2011 issue.  R29,95. Ramsay Media. www.getaway.co.za   Twitter: @GetawayMagazine

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

I could not believe what I was told about the storm which is brewing in Hermanus tourism circles about the unfair dismissal of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau Manager Storm Kreusch about two months ago, and how this has become a political issue, given the municipal elections on 18 May.

The first I had heard was an e-mail sent to members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, stating that one should not believe everything one had heard about the dismissal, and that more information would be supplied.  In heavy legalese its Chairman Charl de Kock wrote the following under his first name only:  “We have become aware that certain unfounded & unsubstantiated rumours and slanderous information may have been initiated & circulated, as if they were facts, by members and non-members alike; following the Conciliation meeting with Ms G D (“Storm”) Kreusch, on 05 May 2011.  Kindly be advised that certain matters & issues, arising from the dismissal of Ms Kreusch, remain unfinalised, and that we shall issue an official statement in this regards (sic) as soon as the matter has, in fact, been finalized. We therefore call on Members of Hermanus Tourism to be patient, in the meantime, until the real and accurate facts have, in fact, been published. Lastly, we place on record that the contents of certain malicious and unfounded correspondences have been noted, and that we reserve the right to respond thereto / comment in full thereon, at a later stage, and in the proper forum. Note that all the rights of the Author hereof, Hermanus Tourism Bureau and any of its Directors are, and remain, fully reserved herein. Any response given in the content of this correspondence shall therefore be deemed to have been given without prejudice of any of the said rights”.

To date such information has not been sent to members, but immediately the rumour machine in Hermanus got going, and of course it has created a huge intrigue in this whale village. 

I was interested in the story from one perspective, and that is that the Lerm family appears to be in the midst of this controversy.   I have written about them before  on this blog, and we face a R1,3 million defamation claim from them as a result!   It is no surprise that Hermanus will soon be renamed Lermanus, it is said as a joke, if Maxie Lerm (second left, schmoozing the previous mayor Theo Beyleveldt) wins the election on behalf of the Democratic Alliance in Ward 3 in the Overstrand municipality.  Her son Clinton (second from right) already is Chairman of the Destination Marketing Organisation and Vice Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and both mother and son serve on the Executive Committees of both these bodies, mother Maxie Lerm handles the Public Relations portfolio for the Destination Marketing organisation.  

Someone who thinks that Maxie Lerm won’t win is John Williams, the Chairman of Cope, who is based in Stanford, in ward 11 of the Overstrand.  He has observed what the Lerm family is doing to tourism, and how the family, which owns the Misty Waves Hotel, has used its influence and positions to benefit its own business, directly and indirectly.  Father Henri Lerm (right) and his son Clinton have created a new Hermanus Sakekamer/Chamber of Commerce.  The Hermanus Tourism Bureau recently became a member of the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut Employers’ Organisation, making some Hermanus tourism players suspect that the Lerms want to amalgamate the business and tourism interests in the town, as they have attempted before, so that this time the amalgamated body will fall under their power and control.  Mother Maxie’s success in the municipal election would be the crowning glory to this scenario, controlling the tourism interests of the Overstrand Municipality, the Destination Marketing Organisation, and of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau!  Williams does not mince his words about his political opponent, and he says Mother Maxie is allegedly ‘loathed and despised’ in the region.  Williams has been involved in tourism, and wants to head up the Overstrand municipal tourism portfolio.

The outcome of a conciliatory meeting, called by the Commissioner of the CCMA, was settlement in favour of the Manager of the Tourism Bureau, whereby the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, under the chairmanship of Charl de Kock and mandated by his committee, admitted to a faulty procedure and unfair action in the dismissal process, and agreed to pay her a monetary settlement in full and final settlement of her case of appeal.  Clinton Lerm allegedly stated in a meeting held at the Tourism Bureau that he, as Vice Chairman, would resign should they have been found to not have followed the correct procedure with her dismissal, and he believed that the rest of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau committee should follow suit, but this resignation has not yet been forthcoming.  

The members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau are furious about the suspension of their manager, who was dedicated to tourism for over five years.  A number of the members of the management committee of the Bureau have resigned in the past few months, given the treatment of the Manager by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman.  

Further anger stems from a proposed Memorandum of Agreement which the Destination Marketing Organisation is requesting the tourism bureaus in the Overstrand municipal area to sign.   Disputed is the inclusion of a proposed clause accepting that the Destination Marketing Organisation will hire and fire staff of all the Tourism Bureaus under the Overstrand municipal control.  Also, a promise in September last year by the Destination Marketing Organisation, after a previous furore about the organisation, that members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and those of the Cape Whale Coast would automatically become members of the Destination Marketing Organisation without paying extra membership fees, has not yet been honoured.  It appears that in the past seven months the Destination Marketing Organisation has not yet called a General Meeting to obtain member approval for this constitutional change regarding membership.  

Concentration of power, by a family having a strong private and commercial interest in tourism, is dangerous for any town, and should be stopped in Hermanus at all costs.  What we said almost 18 months ago, more and more Hermanus tourism players are now seeing, and they appear to have reached the end of their tolerance of this blatant abuse of power.

POSTSCRIPT 11/5:  I have been informed that there was similar politicking in Bloemfontein, where the Lerms previously lived, and Maxie Lerm stood for the ANC, amongst others.  They appeared to change their political allegiance regularly.  

POSTSCRIPT 11/5:  It has been discovered that a number of Directors of the Destination Marketing Organisation had their personal businesses represented on the Cape Whale Coast stand at Indaba over the past weekend, including Southern Stroll Marketing and Shark Diving Unlimited.   It is alleged that members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and other tourism bureaux in the Overstrand Were not offered an opportunity to participate in this stand. 

POSTSCRIPT 15/5: The following serves as further input to the above debate, written by John Williams on his blog “Truth about Hermanus“:

The ‘Wonders that never cease’ on the Cape Whale Route are the damaging shenanigans that continue to rock the foundations of the organisation mandated to market this outstanding destination (Hermanus and the Overstrand coastal region) commonly known as the Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau (HTB).

Stormy seas ahead for the Lerm’s!

’The DMO has, in my opinion, made a right mess of things for the tourism industry. They have wasted our money and they have, as far as I can see, only one ambition – and that is to turn Hermanus into the glitziest, cheapest, nastiest destination in the Cape’. ..a comment made recently by a leading tourism personality in Hermanus.

If you didn’t know, Storm Kreusch, manager of Hermanus Tourism Bureau was unfairly suspended and was then subsequently “dismissed” after she has resigned! by the Hermanus Tourism Bureau of which Clinton Lerm (DMO chairman) is vice Chairman (Clinton, having stepped down to position of vice chair of HTB, earlier this year when it became obvious that a conflict of interest was present between his governance of both bodies) Ms Kreusch went to the CCMA and apparently after a conciliation meeting came out as the victor and was awarded compensation!

A very well done Storm! The whole town supports you (except the Lerm family) but now here is the nub. At a volunteer’s meeting at the HTB,Clinton had said that he would resign from the HTB Committee and believes that the rest of the Committee should also resign – (his mother serves on that committee as well as the DMO) should it be proven that the incorrect procedure was followed regarding Storm’s suspension. Rumour has it that Maxie Lerm has already or will now resign due, not to this statement by her son, but due to her DA candidature. Will it be from both HTB and DMO committees we wonder.

So, indeed, we are now waiting for the re-election of the HTB and the DMO committee’s, at a special meeting which will need to be called as soon as possible! 

Background to the formation of the DMO in 2007/8. This marketing body was put in place to, among other duties (and not necessarily in order) to undertake as follows:

1. Advertise the Cape Whale Coast generically in whatever media possible; 

2. Administer the grant from the Overstrand Municipality (OM) and any funds generated to the local Whale Coast Tourism Bureau’s via the management committee of each bureau, thereby maintaining (not managing) effective tourism bureaus; 

3. Be nominated and be represented on the management committees of the various Bureau’s.

N.B. All businesses who paid rates and taxes/previous business levy/ were eligible to be members of the DMO (2007/8 constitution

Background to the DMO the HTB feud over membership and Info Kiosk

The Hermanus Tourism Bureau had been lobbying for at least 5 years to have a satellite information kiosk on the seafront. This kiosk would also act as a shelter for the Whale crier during the rainy months. The Kiosk was granted to HTB by Mayor Beyleveldt in Sept 2009 at the AGM. In Dec 2009 the DMO hi jacked the kiosk from HTB, for DMO use and membership, thus generating income for the DMO. At this stage Clinton Lerm and his mother Maxie Lerm were serving on both committees and Clinton was Chairman of both. There was an outcry by many members regarding the loss of the kiosk. Most members showed a lethargy regarding the kiosk as they felt it was a battle HTB would never win against the DMO. (little did they realize the tide inevitably changes)

Clinton Lerm seemingly resigned as Chairman of HTB, when it was evident that there was a conflict of interest being chairman of both committees and that DMO had used their powers to “take” the kiosk. A very heated HTB AGM in Sept 2010 ensued and it was agreed that DMO was to return the Kiosk to HTB as soon as possible.

A formal announcement was then made in the Hermanus Times, by means of a letter from DMO, written by Lerm, that the DMO was to hand over the Kiosk, back to HTB in due course.

But what then followed was an extended idiotic squabble – all in very poor taste (astoundingly small minded and uncharitable behaviour by the DMO) when they continued to trade the Kiosk through the peak season and according to Lerm the criteria for membership of DMO had changed, constitutionally.

It became evident to the whole Whale Coast that the kiosk was only going to serve a “select few” – The DMO had pronounced that in order to get bookings via the Kiosk, HTB members now had to join and pay for membership to the DMO. In a nutshell – two memberships to partake in two “official” municipally funded Information Offices. One office trading on the doorstep of the other.

Progress to resolve conflict between DMO and HTB

It must now be understood that Clinton Lerm had promised in September 2010 in the same article in the HermanusTimes to take the issue of membership of the DMO to his committee and get the membership criteria changed to include all TB members of the Whale Coast. Apparently council had approved this change. It is now mid May 2011 and the membership issue has not yet been put in place. He once again made mention earlier this year that a special general meeting was to be called possibly in April to put the matter right and get approval from his small database of DMO members to change the constitution before taking on the Tourism Bureau members of the Whale Coast. Nothing has been affected to date!

The Kiosk was returned to the HTB during March/April and the HTB has been crisis managed by the committee ever since Ms Kreusch’s resignation, much to the member’s disgust.

There’s talk the Lerm clan is under siege and will finally realise that ‘vested interest’ actually disqualifies them from holding multiple posts in these tourism and marketing organisations.TheIr track record proves this to be the case (see below for some ‘hand to hand’ combat with the accommodation industry.” 

POSTSCRIPT 18/5: Today the Hermanus Tourism Bureau Chairman Charl de Kock has sent an e-mail regarding the ‘Storm”-saga, and has stated that they have received a written apology – Joan-Anne Harris has demanded one from ourselves (see Comments to this blogpost), but we have not sent one.  The final laugh is that Charl encourages members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau to vote today – we all know that Maxie Lerm is the DA candidate for Ward 3 in the Overstrand, and her connection to the tourism bodies in Hermanus is documented above!  The e-mail is not correct in stating that the CCMA process has not been concluded.  The Hermanus Tourism Bureau representatives signed a document that admits that their dismissal process was ‘fatally flawed’ and that the dismissal procedure was ‘unfair’.  They have reneged on the payment of the R 10000 settlement to Storm Kreusch by the agreed deadline of 12 May 2011.

“Dear Hermanus Tourism Members

We can understand the concerns expressed by members as to what has been happening lately with regards to Storm. 

 A word of thanks to everyone who has indicated that they trust the HT Committee to handle the process correctly and fairly – and allow it to run its course. We would appreciate it if NO ONE will draw conclusions or spread unfounded rumours as it is (sic) only to the detriment of our town.

 Please note that the CCMA case re the Hermanus Tourism Manager is still in process!

As soon as the verdict is confirmed and the case is concluded we will inform all our HT members of the outcome.

The HT Committee has tried to halt the unfounded rumours; however the ongoing personal slander and unsubstantiated accusations continue and have even resulted in a written apology.

Please let us all work together towards a better future for the hospitality industry of this town and assist the committee and personnel in delivering the service excellence that they have aiming for.

The Hermanus Tourism personnel are currently visiting accommodation establishments to get to know your property and everything that you have to offer your guests. This is the first step in the Product Knowledge training that we are implementing to ensure they can market our beautiful area and superb products / companies. 

Yours in tourism:

Charl de Kock and the Hermanus Tourism Committee       

 

POSTSCRIPT 23/5:I have received a copy of the CCMA Settlement Agreement signed between Storm Kreusch and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau representative Charl de Kock, in which R10000 was due to have been paid into Ms Kreusch’s bank account by 12 May.  In an unusual addition, but probably requested by Ms Kreusch’s attorney, the following was added under “Other”: “The employer admits that the process resulting in the dismissal of the employee was fatally flawed and that her dismissal was consequently procedurally unfair.  This agreement settles all or any dispute that had or may arise from the employment relationship between the parties”. 

POSTSCRIPT 30/5:  The Hermanus Tourism members were excited to see the new June issue of Getaway, which has a nine-page spread on its village.  This quickly changed to shock when they saw that the editorial content, guided by the Cape Whale Coast DMO, contained the following errors:

*   The Whale Season is stated as being from May to September, when it fact it stretches until the beginning of December 

*   The article also recommends that visitors to the Cape Whale Coast route that hate crowds should rather stay away – the only crowded period is during the Hermanus Whale Festival, falling around the 24 September public holiday.  Many other options are offered in the other villages along the Cape Whale Coast route, but these are not mentioned.

*   The article says that visitors to the Cape Whale Coast Route should expect to pay more during the whale watching period – this is utter nonsense, as rates are set by season and not be whale activity.  Most guest houses and restaurants have good winter offers until August, then have a spring rate in September, and charge summer rates from October.  Due to supply and demand, the Whale Festival weekend period may have higher rates for the 3 – 4 day duration.

*   Only 4- and 5-star accommodation was allowed to participate in a promotion in July, according to the rules of the Marketing Project co-ordinator of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, Joan-Anne Harris.  Tourism Bureau members were given very short notice to participate in the advertising. 

*   The article does not contain a pay-off line for Hermanus or the Cape Whale Coast (“Best land-based whale watching in the world”).  The editorial does not refer to the Whale Crier, the unique icon for Hermanus.  No Cape Whale Coast branding is visible. 

*   The article contains a number of typing errors relating to e-mail and website addresses, and it would appear that no DMO representative (Joan-Anne Harris of Southern Stroll Marketing is the DMO Marketing co-ordinator) proofread the article. 

Getaway has been contacted by some members, and it appears that no proofreading of the article was done by the DMO nor by the magazine (one wonders who supplied the information to journalist Fatima Jakoet, for it to contain so many errors)! Getaway has promised a correction in its August issue. 

POSTSCRIPT 5/6: The CCMA Settlement Agreement was ‘cancelled’ by Dan Acker, of Holwill Bosman Acker & Associates, writing on behalf of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and a Director of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, on 6 May: ”our client shall, with immediate effect, withdraw completely from the said ‘settlement agreement’ and shall hereafter deem said agreement to be null and void”,supposedly justifying why they did not pay Ms Kreusch the settlement of R10000 by the agreed date of 12 May.  This bullying ‘cancellation’ is motivated by a number of points, including that Ms Kreusch ‘breached the clearly expressed confidentiality, purpose and spirit of the said Conciliation discussions and subsequent agreement’ . We have seen the CCMA Settlement Agreement, and it does not contain any confidentiality clause by which the Hermanus Tourism Bureau can give itself the power to cancel the Settlement Agreement!

POSTSCRIPT 8/6: Charl de Kock, Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, wrote a rather strange letter to members of a “Petition Group”, who had signed a petition calling for a Special General Meeting, yesterday afternoon, just before this Group was due to meet.  He reinforces that he acted correctly in respect of Ms Kreusch’s disciplinary hearing, subsequent termination, and CCMA hearing, and blatantly accuses her of deceit: “It is now common knowledge that I was ‘conned’ and that Storm, her lawyer end (sic)Storm’s possible financial backers had no intention of keeping this document (the CCMA Settlement Agreement) confidential. I really believed I was signing an honourable agreement and that Storm wanted ‘to get on with her life’!  He does invite all members of the Group to view the documents, and does agree that the Mayor should ‘call for an impartial meeting where all the facts can be addressed and laid bare for all to see’.   

POSTSCRIPT 8/6:A Top Billing feature on Hermanus appears to include more DMO Director properties.  Once we have seen the detail, we will add it.

POSTSCRIPT 9/6:  At a DA Ward 3 Councillor’s meeting held without announcement to the Ward constituency last night, headed by new DA councillor Maxie Lerm, her husband Henri Lerm and DMO Board member Dan Acker were elected onto the Ward committee, the two ‘gentlemen’ nominating each other!

POSTSCRIPT 10/6: A highly defamatory Comment was sent by the Cape Whale Coast DMO to this blog, in reaction to this blogpost, as well as to our radio interview on Whale Coast FM earlier today.   Clinton Lerm, the Chairman of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, was invited to be interviewed, but refused to participate if he was on the same program as ourselves, based on legal advice.  Hermanus Tourism Bureau Chairman Charl de Kock did participate.  Joan-Anne Harris, a Director of the DMO, tried a number of times to get the topic of the radio programme stopped earlier this week.  We will not yet publish the defamatory comment, and will use it for possible legal action.

POSTSCRIPT 16/6: We believe that it is in the interest of transparency that the Cape Whale Coast Comment sent to this blog be published.  We have been challenged to do so by Joan-Anne Harris’ partner David Snoek :

anonymous
info@whalecoast.info | 198.54.202.210

I think you will all find that HTB is running smoothly, receiving positive feedback from Tourists, and NOT FIGHTING AMONGST EACH OTHER. Chris, however, feels the need to fight with everyone she comes into contact with! Why is this? Is she unhappy? – Or does she fancy herself as a bit of a ‘celebrity’ with all the comments on her blogs? I cannot see that she is any kind of ambassadeur (sic) for Hermanus, what with the amount of bad publicity she attracts. I say out with her! She’s a stirrer, a trouble-maker and horrible person!

POSTSCRIPT 30 June: Noseweek  was alerted to this blogpost, and its July issue contains an excellent article about the Lerm family, and its litigious approach to dealing with criticism!

POSTSCRIPT 10/8: We received the following apology from Fabio Lenci, Vice-Chairman of the new Hermanus Tourism Bureau committee, about the insulting blogpost which came from the now-defunct DMO : “The following is written on behalf of Hermanus Tourism of which we have all agreed and I have been mandated as vice chairperson by the new committee to send you a letter of apology.  Please note that we have exhausted every avenue and to confirm that we cannot trace the individual who used the terminal as it could have been anyone. It is with regret that I have to write you this letter of apology on behalf of the previous dispensation and also the new dispensation would like to extend their sincere apologies for the undesirable comments made on your blog dated May 2011.  We wish to inform you that we have begun with various encouraging motions in the right direction to get HTB and all its members on track in a positive frame of mind and rest assured that we have the backing of the whole of Hermanus. We look forward to a prosperous future with all the positive support while achieving our goals one at a time for the good of Hermanus & all its citizens”.

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

Yesterday was a day of reckoning for the bloggers of South Africa, who had been judged by a committee of three, and voted for by their fans, in making the short-list of ten finalists in 25 categories of the S A Blog Awards.  We are delighted to have been selected as a Finalist in the Most Controversial Blog category, and thank our loyal blog readers, friends, commenters, and Twitter followers for their votes in making the Finalist selection possible.

Now we are like Idols contestants, in that we please request your vote for our Blog, to win in the category (there is no prize, other than a badge that goes onto the blog). The Most Controversial Blog category is quite far down the list, and you need to please click on our blog name to vote, and then to scroll down to the bottom of the list, to enter your e-mail address.  You are allowed to vote for us every 24 hours, per e-mail address, until the competition closes on 17 September.

The Whale Cottage Blog had been nominated in a number of categories, including Best Food & Wine Blog, Best Blog Post, Most Controversial Blog and Best Travel Blog.  Being a unique blog that does not fit fully into any specific category (e.g. Food, Travel), we were delighted to have made the finals (somehow we never got to enter last year).  The Most Controversial Blog category is a new one introduced this year, and it seemed to suit us ideally!   If we have created a unique identity for our blog, it has been to be ”independent * incisive * informative”, and it is described as being controversial, due to our lack of fear to write the truth, no matter the consequences.

We are in excellent company in this category, with 2Oceansvibe being a fellow finalist – last year its editor ‘Seth Rotherham’ won almost every category in the Blog Awards, and his blog became the benchmark for many of us (this year a blog can only be nominated in two categories).   The rest of the Finalists’ list is a little more dubious, sex and swearing broadly summarising the content of the other blogs in the Most Controversial Blog category.

The WhaleTales newsletter has been distributed for the past nine years, and has been the foundation of our writing about controversial issues.   It has not always been easy to be outspoken, in that we have experienced the following:

*  being told to not come back to the Opal Lounge, due to an unfavourable review that we wrote (in fact the instruction to not return was issued telephonically by the co-owner before the review was written and published)

*  being escorted out of Beluga by the police during a invited lunch for members of an association of guest house owners in Camps Bay, of which I am the chairman, because sister restaurant Sevruga received a Sour Service Award on this blog for a Cape Times book launch lunch, which the restaurant handled poorly, both food and service-wise

*   being threatened with legal action when we tackled Carne about falsely claiming that all its beef, lamb and game served comes from its Karoo farm and is organic, our most controversial blog post in the two year history of blog-writing.  This blog post was nominated for Best Blog Post.  The Carne blog post, and its follow up, took investigative journalism of the bravest kind, in obtaining documentation from the suppliers of the meat, and in obtaining (by luck) a telephonic admission by a supplier of meat to Carne, resulting in Carne withdrawing its legal threat, declaring the matter closed, and taking the dishonest claim off their website.

*   being on the receiving end of FEDHASA Cape’s attempt to cancel our membership, which resulted in my resignation as a Director of the hotel old-boys’ club, when I wrote about the dangers of small accommodation establishments signing with FIFA’s MATCH for the World Cup, over the past five years.  My views about MATCH were not in line with the hotel interests which dominated the FEDHASA Cape Board, and Nils Heckscher, GM of the Winchester Mansions, tried his best to get me off the Board.  Ultimately, we were vindicated in our advice when MATCH cancelled the bulk of its booked small and hotel accommodation throughout South Africa, the Winchester Mansions being one of the hotels badly hit by the cancellation of booked rooms by MATCH.  

*   being threatened with legal action by the Cape Whale Coast DMO, after our blog post of 28 December 2009 raised questions about the conflict of interest created by Clinton Lerm being the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and of the DMO.   Nothing has come of this threat to date.  Yesterday we published a follow-up story on the DMO’s lack of transparency.

*  writing critical restaurant reviews, without “white-washing” them

*   awarding Sweet and Sour Service Awards on the blog every Friday.

We would also like to recommend the following blogging friends and colleagues, for your vote:

*  Food & Wine Blog category: Cooksister (Jeanne Horak-Druiff), My-Easy-Cooking (Nina Timm), JamieWho? (Andy Fenner) and The Foodie (David Cope) (all of last year’s finalists have dropped out of this category, other than Cooksister and My-Easy-Cooking)

*   Best Travel Blog category:   SA Venues and Cape Town Travel (Cape Town Tourism)

*   Best Twitter Microblogger category: Relax-with-Dax, Gus Silber, and Spit or Swallow

We thank you for your support and your votes.

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