Looking at 2012, I consulted some Numerology sites, and I was reminded of the prediction that the world will end on 21 December this year, an interesting focus to start the year with, and encouraging one to make the most of this year. Adding up the numbers in 2012, giving a total of 5, the emphasis this year will be one of Change, Change and Change, as one site wrote. A political change is forecast for the USA, more natural disasters are predicted, and the world economy looks to remain shaky. We enter the Year of the Dragon later this month, being the 5th and a very powerful sign in the Chinese calendar, signalling change, power, and improvement.
What does that mean for us:
* Tourism from Europe and the UK will remain depressed. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her New Year’s Eve address last night that this year will be even tougher than last year, but she has promised to do everything in her power to stabilise the Euro, introduced ten years ago today, and to build a stronger bond in the European Union. The UK market is likely to remain depressed, and no great increase in tourism numbers can be expected, with the exception of February, a popular travel month for Britons who like to get away from a bitterly cold winter, and who like to celebrate ‘Valentine’s Month’ in the Cape. Bookings for February already look promising for Whale Cottage Camps Bay. August has become a relatively good tourism month, despite it still being winter, with many Europeans coming on holiday. This year this period coincides with the Olympic Games in London, which may reduce tourism numbers in the first half of the month.
* South Africans will remain the foundation of tourism this year, and the summer season will end early, with Easter falling on the first weekend of April. However, there are six public holidays falling on weekdays this year, and these are normally good for tourism business. A 5-day long weekend, from 27 April to 1 May, could be a last summer highlight for the hospitality industry.
Other predictions we would like to see become reality are the following:
* Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited being amalgamated in one private sector driven body, to prevent the current duplication of marketing activity and spend, with sharper strategic and marketing thinking. Cape Town Routes Unlimited will be incorporated into Wesgro in April. There is no sign of the new Cape Town Tourism “You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town” campaign or its effect, which was launched locally with great fanfare at the AGM in October, and internationally at World Travel Market in London in November. Any work that Cape Town Tourism’s UK trade and media representative may be doing is not bearing fruit. Its Australian consultant Ian Macfarlane seems to have vanished, his contract having ended last month. Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold is on maternity leave, and one can speculate that no marketing of Cape Town will happen until she returns, if the past month is anything to go by. We would like to see a greater transparency by Cape Town Tourism in how it is spending its members’ and Cape Town ratepayers monies (R40 million), information which Mrs Helmbold has refused to release to date!
* A new Eat Out editor and Top 10 restaurant judge, given that the current incumbent has lost credibility, and a fairer and transparent judging process.
* Better support of Cape Town and Winelands restaurants by locals, especially in winter, when unbelievable specials are offered
* Better service in restaurants, shops, and in any other businesses dealing with the public. Franschhoek, for example, is fast losing its professional image due to poorly trained staff, often left to their own devices, without any management support.
* Better ability of businesses to accept service and other feedback, in the interest of improving things, rather than to be defensive and vindictive about it.
* A longer life for new restaurants, which means that they need to do better research to understand their market and potential diners before opening, and must build loyalty.
* A reorientation of when the country goes on holiday, and its bosses in particular. It seems crazy that businesses close on 15 December for 2 - 3 weeks, and that hospitality and tourism bureau management goes on leave, at a time when business is at its peak, instead of in winter, when business is at its poorest!
* A total revamp of labour legislation (a big dream, I know!), in discouraging employee departures without giving notice, greater checking of employee references, the development of a register of unreliable staff to the benefit of all employers, and a better balance in the rights of employers. If there is one aspect of business that most owners complain about and are most influenced by in terms of service delivery it is staff. Such changes may lead to higher employment.
* A better rates dispensation by municipalities, to recognise that most accommodation establishments and other tourism businesses operate at 50 % occupancy at best in winter, yet must pay rates in full.
* More responsible reporting about the state of tourism in the Cape by the media and tourism bodies, and to not exaggerate its status.
* More responsible behaviour in terms of the effect that our lifestyle has on climate change, the negative effects of which were well demonstrated in 2011.
* More kindness and niceness to others, putting the ’social’ back into Social Media!
We wish all our guests, suppliers, staff, tourism colleagues, friends, and readers a successful, healthy, and bubbly 2012!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage