Entries tagged with “tourism industry”.

MangoThe Sweet Service Award goes to low-cost airline Mango, which is the first local airline to pass on fuel savings to its passengers, due to the decrease in the cost of crude oil.  Mango announced this week that it was dropping fares by up to 25%, with immediate effect.  The tourism industry is more than delighted.




FebruaryFebruary is the best month for the Tourism industry in Cape Town, mainly driven by the Mining Indaba, as well as Valentine’s Day, which falls on a Saturday this year.

The following events will boost the coffers of the Western Cape in the next three weeks:

*   The Cape Town Electronic Music Festival runs from 3 – 8 February.  The website reflects that the City of Cape Town is sponsoring the event, no doubt in providing the City Hall at no charge.  This is how the venue is described: ‘Voted number 1 global destination by New York Times (that was in (more…)

Le Bernardin private roomIt was interesting to read a critical article about the perceived extravagance and inappropriateness of a recent media lunch hosted by SA Tourism and Marthinus van Schalkwyk, our Minister of Tourism, in New York.

The article was posted on eTurboNews, but the writer is not identified.  Looking at the editorial panel of the online newsletter, one can assume it was written by Dr Elinor Garely, who is the only journalist for the newsletter based in New York.

Dr Garely writes that she had previously visited South Africa ‘many years’ ago, and Cape Town in particular, whilst she was working on her doctoral dissertation in international business.   Her overriding impression was the contradiction she saw then:While the hotels were lovely, the restaurants for dining and tasting South African (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Auslese Summer Sessions will pair tapas dishes created by Aubergine owner Chef Harald Bresselschmidt, fine wines, and good jazz every second Thursday evening, from 21 November onwards. (received from Auslese via e-mail)

*   The 325th anniversary of the arrival of the French Huguenots was celebrated with a special concert, ranging from classical music to cabaret, last night at the Endler Hall. (received from the University of Stellenbosch via e-mail)

*  Tour operator ‘Great Safaris’  has launched a ‘South African Culinary Treasures Journey’ 7 day tour of the Winelands and Cape Town, which includes learning about wine blending, food and wine pairing, bread baking, and a cooking class ‘in Cape Malay‘!

*   The South African Pinotage restaurant is opening in Beijing.

*   Scandinavia, Russia and the United Kingdom could become the main vine growing regions in Europe by 2050.

*   ‘Franschhoek Uncorked’, the annual event in which the (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   BA is seeing increased business on its Africa routes and has already announced that it is putting ts A380 onto the Johannesburg route from February 2014.  The airline also is increasing its flights to Ghana, Uganda, Liberia, and Serria Leone,  whilst cutting those to Lusaka.

*   Increasing power and staff costs are major threats to the local wine industry, a study by PricewatershouseCoopers has revealed.

*   The Captain DoRegos take-away franchise is to be expanded into the rest of South Africa, and even into Africa, the Spur Corporation has announced.

*  Hein Koegelenberg has written an informative blogpost about how to protect (more…)

Councillor Grant Pascoe has been rubbing his hands with glee since The Times reported the extent of the financial losses the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2013 Host Cities are suffering, when he single-handedly was responsible for Cape Town losing out on being selected as a Host City.  Even Western Cape Premier Helen Zille Tweeted a link to the article, which only quotes DA politicians in the respective Host Cities, despite this being a City of Cape Town and not a provincial issue!

The Times article reflects that it is the smaller municipalities that are struggling in particular, including Nelson Mandela Bay municipality in Port Elizabeth, using R11,6 million of ratepayers’ monies to fund its hosting of the event. The city is still bearing the load of the cost of hosting the 2010 World Cup, having overspent on that event by more than R500 million. Mbombela municipality in Nelspruit is allegedly spending money it does not have on AFCON 2013, not yet having signed a memorandum of understanding with the government to obtain R31,5 million in funding for the event.

Cape Town withdrew from the bid to be a Host City initially, and ‘refused to be bullied’ into the event.  When the city changed its mind about its participation, the door was closed on what was deemed to be too many demands made by City of Cape Town Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing!  This cost Cape Town the bid for Host City!

Reacting to an editorial by the Cape Times, Councillor Pascoe wrote a letter in response, which was posted on the City’s website, justifying Cape Town’s non-participation, sounding very different to his explanation of the Host City snub when it was announced last year.  He wrote this week that the City is supportive of Bafana Bafana (that is not being debated!) and the growth of African football, and that ‘we would have, in principle, been more than pleased to host AFCON matches.  In fact, we did everything in our power to make the hosting of matches a reality’. This contradicts the Local Organising Committee feedback about Cape Town’s failed bid at the time.

He continued:However, as a responsible government, this administration needed to weigh the service delivery needs of all our residents with the benefits of hosting AFCON. Our mandate remains to make every cent of our ratepayers’ money count. And our commitment to caring and providing for our citizens, particularly the poor and vulnerable, remains paramount. We must always ensure that money spent by the City, is done so to drive economic growth, development and inclusion.  We had entered the negotiations with AFCON in good faith and were committed to the process. But it became clear we could not accept demands which could place an unfair burden on Cape Town’s ratepayers. At the time, costs to the ratepayer for the tournament were estimated to exceed R50 million.  Your editorial refers to the “enthusiastic support” Cape Town’s soccer fans displayed at last week’s friendly encounter. This event was hosted by the City as a show of support for Bafana Bafana before their participation in AFCON. It is just one indication that the City of Cape Town and its residents remain highly supportive of Bafana Bafana and AFCON.  While Cape Town will not host AFCON matches, we wanted Cape Town sports enthusiasts to experience live international soccer in the run up to the tournament. Ticket sales were in excess of 37 000.  The City remains committed to the hosting of high profile national, regional and international football matches. We are currently in negotiations with a range of partners to this effect”.

He also expressed a touch of Schadenfreude to a Cape Times journalist on Friday, saying that Cape Town had ‘dodged a bullet’ financially ‘by being snubbed from the tournament’, and ‘sympathised’ with the Host Cities’ financial woes and poor ticket sales.  ‘I think that we have dodged a bullet because the government guarantees came too late. There was no clarity on how much host cities would have to spend.  I’m really sorry that the host cities are battling with money for the tournament. It is something that we were concerned about because we had to think about our service delivery obligations’, Pascoe told the journalist.

Ticket sales have been sluggish across all matches, and only the opening match yesterday between Bafana Bafana and Cape Verde resulting in a goalless draw, was sold out.  The television coverage showed that not all ticket holders had arrived at the stadium, with lots of empty seating, possibly due to the torrential rain which Johannesburg experienced yesterday. Umbrellas were listed on the banned list of dangerous items!  It appears that one way that the municipalities can make their money back is via beverages.  Yesterday a Tweet of the beverage prices at the (AFCON 2013 renamed) National Stadium in Soweto showed a 500ml bottle of water costing an exorbitant R45!

The City of Cape Town is conveniently hiding behind the financial problems of the two smaller municipalities, which have not been reported for Durban and Johannesburg, being more comparable to Cape Town. The loss in tourism revenue at a time when Cape Town is almost devoid of tourists over the next two weeks, and the international television coverage for AFCON 2013, would have been valuable for brands Cape Town and the Western Cape and its tourism industry, and soccer fans too.  It is hard to believe Councillor’s Pascoe supposed concern for ratepayers’ monies when he knows that he was part of a 10 person sightseeing tour of Turkey last year, of which no Turkish tourism benefit has been seen locally, he allows Cape Town Tourism to squander ratepayers’ monies, and he organised the loss-making Bafana Bafana vs Norway friendly at the Cape Town Stadium two weeks ago!

POSTSCRIPT 20/1: The Times reported on Friday that an estimated 1 billion television viewers will have seen the Opening Ceremony yesterday, reflecting the AFCON 2013 theme of ‘Celebrate Africa – The Beat at Africa’s Feet’. The newspaper also reported the concern about the African invader fly being an unwelcome visitor to South Africa for AFCON 2013, food (fruit especially) brought along by soccer fans from Africa potentially being contaminated with the fly.  On Friday Spar took a full page advertisement in The Times to apologise ‘to all our loyal customers for any inconvenience created by the AFCON voucher/ticket redemption process’. However, it is not clear what problems the retailer is referring to.

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

In order to reassure its members about its future role, Cape Town Tourism issued a media statement late yesterday afternoon, the content of which will make the tourism industry even more confused.

At the AGM of Cape Town Tourism on Thursday, preceded by an e-mail sent to members the day before, it was announced that the City of Cape Town is taking over Cape Town Tourism’s role of Destination Marketing, and that the tourism organisation would focus in future on Visitor Services and on Tourism Marketing, even though it was not clear what the difference is between Tourism Marketing and Destination Marketing.

The media statement says that Cape Town Tourism as an ‘organisation will remain a dynamic industry organisation delivering tourism destination marketing and visitor services in line with its Constitution’. On Monday we wrote that taking away the Destination Marketing function of Cape Town Tourism is in breach of Cape Town Tourism’s Constitution.

While the City of Cape Town’s Executive Director of Tourism, Events, and Marketing (TEAM), Anton Groenewald, had been clear that Cape Town Tourism will only handle ‘Tourism Marketing’ with Visitor Services, Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold is quoted in the Cape Town Tourism media statement as referring to ‘tourism destination marketing‘, a term not used by the City of Cape Town in its presentation at the AGM.  Interesting too is the reference to the Constitution, which may make the City’s move, even if the ex-Cape Town Tourism Chairman Ian Bartes signed the Service Level Agreement with the City, agreeing to it shedding its role, unconstitutional in itself – we question whether the Constitution allows Bartes to sign such an agreement without Board approval, as intimated at the AGM.

Interesting is that Mrs Helmbold praises her own organisation, as if to plead to the City for a rethink: ‘Cape Town Tourism was the best vehicle to deliver tourism destination marketing and visitor services for Cape Town’, but it would appear that the City of Cape Town does not agree, a number of media reports agreeing with our interpretation that the events at the AGM were in fact a vote of no confidence in Cape Town Tourism’s ability to market Cape Town!

The media statement changes tack, and contradicts its earlier paragraph about its future role, and explains that Cape Town Tourism will perform a support role to the new Places Marketing  division in the City’s new TEAM directorate, headed by Mr Groenewald: “The City of Cape Town introduced their new Tourism, Events and Marketing (incorporating Arts & Culture and Strategic Assets) Directorate to the industry at the Cape Town Tourism AGM. The function of the new directorate includes Place Marketing – a department that will, in future, take care of destination marketing at large for the city. Cape Town Tourism will focus on tourism marketing, whilst supporting the directorate with Place Marketing programmes”.

The media statement defines the future role of Cape Town Tourism as representing Cape Town at international exhibitions, hosting local and international media, digital marketing (i.e. lots more Tweeting!), and any further tourism marketing requirements of the City of Cape Town, for which it would have to pay extra!

History has shown that Cape Town Tourism cannot but accept the City’s directive, otherwise it will be bled dry by the City of Cape Town, as happened to the previous Cape Town Tourism section 21 company in 2004.  Mrs Helmbold confirmed her organisation’s acceptance of the new directive: ” We are encouraged by the City’s commitment to conclude a three year visitor services and tourism marketing agreement with Cape Town Tourism before June 2013. We are committed to work with the City of Cape Town to co-design our future partnership with the City and agree on Cape Town Tourism’s role and responsibility within the broader Place Marketing agenda of the City. Tourism, the third largest contributor to the global economy, after the automobile and banking sectors, is a sector that really matters. As the world prepares to witness one billion arrivals by the end of 2012, we will never lose sight of the fact that tourism makes a significant contribution to shaping Cape Town’s future and a better life for its citizens. The partnership between tourism and local government must realise growth and opportunities for the tourism industry and those that work in and provide services to the sector.”

Mrs Helmbold also acknowledged that her organisation had not delivered on tourism growth, as we have pointed out on numerous occasions: “Cape Town Tourism is ready to work with the City on a new destination marketing model for Cape Town. We remain single-minded in our belief that we can help to turn the tide on shrinking demand and seasonality and will continue rolling out cutting edge visitor and tourism destination marketing programmes. Some elements will have to be delayed or reimagined in lieu of our reduced funding and ever changing trends. We will cut our cloth according to our available resources, but we will stay future-minded, never compromising innovation, creativity and excellence. We will improve the balance between “bricks and mortar” and digital visitor service delivery, and focus a lot more on marketing in partnership with the tourism industry and business at large.”

The rest of the long media statement was an encapsulation of information presented at the AGM, but did not explain the muddled definitions of ‘Destination Marketing‘ and ‘Tourism Marketing’, nor why Mrs Helmbold has given her organisation the new mandate of ‘tourism destination marketing’. One hopes that Cape Town Tourism and the City of Cape Town will clarify their exact roles and relationship, and will get on with the much-needed job of marketing Cape Town as a world class tourist destination!

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

A concern about the future marketing of the tourism industry in the Western Cape, given the closure of Cape Town Routes Unlimited and its incorporation within Wesgro, and the departure of its CEO Calvyn Gilfellan on 31 March, motivated me to call Wesgro and request an appointment with its CEO Nils Flaatten.  Despite the busy and short week prior to Easter, he made time for the interview on 5 April.

The hurdles put in my way to meet Mr Flaatten were considerable, and demonstrated the personality of the organisation and told me more about the company than the time I spent with Mr Flaatten.  It also demonstrated how far removed Wesgro, the Western Cape Trade promotion and Investment agency, is from the Tourism industry, if ‘customer service’ is anything to go by.  When I called to set up the interview, Mr Flaatten’s secretary insisted that I follow ‘protocol’ and e-mail her the meeting request, and tell her who I am.  I had done this telephonically, and it became a power struggle, with constant interruptions from her, before she accepted my meeting request telephonically.  She indicated that it would take a considerable time to get an appointment date, which she would e-mail me!  A Tweet to express my dismay about this lack of approachability by our province’s new tourism head, combined with an e-mail to Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Development, Finance and Tourism, led to a call directly from Mr Flaatten, offering a meeting for a few days later at 11h30, or so I heard.  Mr Flaatten called at 7h45 on that day, asking where I was, having expected me at 7h30!  As a late night blogger and guest house owner I would never have accepted such a time slot, which seemed very ‘Johannesburg’ to me!  Mr Flaatten said he would be out of town for two weeks, and could only reschedule a meeting thereafter.  Yet his secretary called later in the morning, and offered me a midday meeting, which I accepted with gratitude.  For the first time, she offered parking, and took all the relevant details telephonically.  I arrived at the building half an hour early, wanting to make sure that I arrived on time, but I was not allowed into the building as Wesgro had not alerted the parking garage staff at the boom! They refused to let me in, and traffic problems were caused with other garage users wanting to enter.  I had to call Wesgro to ask them to let me in. However, all the staff were in a meeting, and Mr Flaatten’s secretary could not be contacted. I was told that I would be called back.  No such call came, and I had to call again after 20 minutes of being trapped at the boom, and having been threatened by the parking staff that the traffic department would be called if I did not move my car!  I was given a bay number by the Wesgro switchboard and relayed this to the boom operator, but it was refused because it had not been sent to them on the prescribed form!  Needless to say, this incompetent stakeholder-unfriendly introduction to Wesgro twice in one week made my heart sink, and realise how much smarter and visitor-friendly the Western Cape tourism industry is.

I was shocked when I saw the reception area in which I had to wait for Mr Flaatten, which doubled up as an office, with two ugly red chairs. Mr Flaatten’s office did not look much better, the same style ugly red chairs serving as visitor chairs with a rather nice blue desk, but the blue not matching Wesgro’s corporate blue, the functional office having no warmth or professionalism. Mr Flaatten seemed professional but distant, not giving one the feeling that one could ever have a collegial relationship with him in his new role as provincial tourism head. He has headed up Wesgro for the last two years. I was surprised when he asked me to tell me who I am, not what the interview was about, and he made it appear that he knew nothing about me at all!  I at least had Googled his name, and had found out that he went to school in Stellenbosch, served in the South African Navy, and had worked in investment banks in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong.

I told him that other than its name, and having only a broad idea of what Wesgro does, I knew nothing more, and that I wanted to know what its role will be in taking over the duties of Cape Town Routes Unlimited.  Wesgro is governed by the Wesgro Act, and has three duties according to the Act:

*   to attract and retain foreign investment in the Western Cape

*   to grow exports

*   to increasingly attract business to the city and the province

Wesgro is funded by both the City of Cape Town (R10 million) and the Western Cape government (R18,4 million), the R25 million which Cape Town Routes Unlimited received from the Western Cape government being added to give a total of R53 million, larger than the budget of Cape Town Tourism.  The organisation services the province, ultimately reporting to Minister Winde.  It also works with the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee member Belinda Walker, doing strategy planning.  The organisation’s operations include:

*   hosting inward trade missions, at which they try to ‘matchmake’ the visiting delegation members with local businesses via ‘speed dating’

*   outward missions travel overseas, promoting trade with the Western Cape, benefiting from sponsorships for flights and other travel costs from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Any Western Cape business is seen to be a ‘member’ of Wesgro, although one does not take out or pay for a membership. The organisation also looks to stimulate the setting up and development of ‘SMME’s’ (small businesses), including entrepreneurs, emerging entrepreneurs, and start-up businesses.  They also look to grow sectors of Western Cape businesses, and a number of such sector development agencies have been developed, for IT, Craft and Design, etc.  Geographically, Wesgro is concentrating on the ‘West African Trade Corridor’, which includes Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, Namibia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  “The Headquarter for African business should be Cape Town”, Mr Flaatten said.  He shared that a trip to Accra the week before had seen distribution agreements signed with 20 companies represented in the trade delegation.  It was at this point that Mr Flaatten justified his organisation’s take-over of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, saying that Wesgro already has links to the chambers of commerce and influential players in these West African countries, so in the same way they can engage with the leading tourism players in these countries to attract more West African tourists to Cape Town and the Western Cape. He added that the Northern Hemisphere countries of the UK, the USA, Europe and Japan would only show a 1,5 % growth, labelling them as ‘concentration risk’.  Currently most of the Western Cape exports go to the UK, to the Netherlands, and to Germany, in that order. Mr Flaatten also said that 73% of South Africa’s foreign direct investment in Africa comes from Cape Town businesses, mainly being in the financial services, real estate, and hospitality sectors. He added that by 2030 there would be more middle income earners in Africa than in India.  He also emphasised the potential of the BRICS countries.  Further high growth high income countries are Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates. Inward missions coming to Cape Town are from the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, and they offer marketing services, sales support, and call centre services.

Mr Flaatten gave his views of our tourism industry by saying that it has a number of outspoken characters in it, implying that this would be something he would have to get used to!  Wesgro has taken over the 25 Cape Town Routes Unlimited staff, who were in the same building, and will be assimilated into his team, retaining the benefits, and terms and conditions at which they were employed originally.  Wesgro will ‘capitalise on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited’ marketing knowledge, Mr Flaatten said, but I was concerned that he could not tell me the name of the most senior marketing executive (we think it is Debbie Damant, not known to most) that he has ‘inherited’, especially given that the marketing of Cape Town Routes Unlimited had been strongly driven by its then CEO Calvyn Gilfellan.  The Board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, now led by ACSA’s Deon Cloete due to the move of its previous Chairman Peter Bacon to Mauritius, will oversee the activities that are in the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Annual Performance Plan, until the organisation with its Board is dissolved when the Western Cape Tourism Act of 2004 is repealed.  Similarly, the Wesgro Act must be amended, to allow it to additionally manage destination marketing for the Western Cape.

Mr Flaatten requested the industry to give him a month, so that he can get to know his new staff, and what the capacity requirements are, not wanting to be irresponsible in becoming unnecessarily large.  First he must stabilise the staff situation, and then they must focus on planning for the following financial year. They have already hosted a workshop with 100 regional and local tourism bureaus, seeing them as ‘subject matter experts’, and not wishing to duplicate their work, he said. He will also engage with industry representative bodies such as FEDHASA Cape, SATSA, etc, but I left him with a reminder that the tourism industry consists of a large number of small businesses, many not belonging to the big tourism associations, and that their voices should be heard too. Listening to the tourism industry will be the biggest challenge for him currently, Mr Flaatten said. He realises that the ‘Cape Town & Western Cape’ brand is a problem ‘which will not be easy to fix’.

The Board of Directors of Wesgro raises interesting questions.  Board members Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette Du Toit-Helmbold, its Board Vice-Chairman and CEO of the Cape Town Partnership, Bulelwa Ngewana, and Board member Guy Lundy, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town and Wesgro Vice Chairman, may prevent duplication of marketing activity between Wesgro and Cape Town Tourism, but ideally should remain independent tourism bodies, so that the industry benefits from the best of both bodies.  Ravi Naidoo, organiser of the Design Indaba, is well-known and highly regarded.  Interesting too is that Alderman Belinda Walker is on the Board, but does not deal with Tourism matters in the City of Cape Town, which could lead to duplication of tourism management within the City.  One could be concerned about two Boards of Directors managing the duties of Wesgro, until Cape Town Routes Unlimited is closed down legally, and about the incestuous duplication of Board members of Wesgro and Cape Town Tourism.

For an organisation that had a number of months warning of taking over Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and that had taken over its operations four days prior to my visit, I was concerned about the general lack of marketing insight, terminology (other than the branding issue), and discussion that I heard from Mr Flaatten during our lengthy interview.  He did not mention Cape Town Tourism, and how Wesgro will avoid duplication of marketing activities with the city tourism marketing body.  The Wesgro website only shows an amended logo, in that the new duty is incorporated in its descriptor underneath it: ‘The Western Cape Destination Marketing, Investment and Trade Promotion Agency’, and contains a block of information to state that it has taken over the duties of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, with a link to the now defunct tourism body’s website!  I was concerned about the very business-like Wesgro culture, which does not appear ‘customer friendly’ nor service-orientated in simple requests of setting up a meeting and honouring a parking arrangement, which does not auger well for our tourism industry. The offices are functional but unattractive, not matching the tourism industry image. I was concerned that Mr Flaaten did not seem to know anything about Minister Winde’s EDP, which I thought would reside in Wesgro, and would eventually become the home of most Western Cape industry development bodies, the products and services of which Wesgro appears to market.  Mr Flaatten was very responsive in providing the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Annual Performance Plan which they will be working to achieve.  The 27 page Plan lists the mission as marketing the Western Cape as a desirable leisure, business and events tourism destination, and its main goal is to ‘position Cape Town and the Western Cape as a premier leisure, events and business tourism destination in Africa’. However, none of the defined goals are measurable.  The budget breakdown is disconcerting, with about 50% going to staff salaries, and only 24% going to marketing expenditure. Much of the performance is measured in terms of the number of meetings held, the number of convention bids presented, and the only tourism related measurement targets are the number of international arrivals (1,6 million) and domestic arrivals (3,2 million) for the current financial year, Cape Town Routes Unlimited only expecting to generate 5% of each kind of tourist through its marketing efforts, which begs the question as to why it existed in the first instance!

We will give Wesgro the month that has been requested, and await the way forward for the marketing of the Western Cape with trepidation.

POSTSCRIPT 18/4: In a media release sent out by Wesgro a week ago (but not to contacts on the Cape Town Routes Unlimited media list!), Nils Flaatten said that he would continue to report to the Wesgro Board of Directors, and to the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board on a quarterly basis about ‘expenditure and performance against predetermined objects’. “Flaatten assured tourism industry stakeholder (sic) that there would be no ‘disruption to the delivery of the tourism destination function in our province'”, the media release added. It also stated that Cape Town Routes Unlimited and Wesgro will continue to occupy their respective offices in their current building, and that the telephone and e-mail details of the Cape Town Routes Unlimited staff ‘will remain in operation until further notice’.

This Tourism Week asked some critical questions about Wesgro’s new role in handling the Tourism marketing responsibility for the Western Cape in its newsletter on 13 April.

Wesgro, Waldorf Arcade, 80 St George’s Mall, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 487-8600.  www.wesgro.co.za Twitter: @Wesgro

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

Surprisingly few Capetonians attended the Cape Town International Jazz Festival this past weekend, and one gets the feeling that the organisers tend to market the event to non-Capetonians, which may be a very good thing for tourism.  It is disappointing that the Jazz Festival is not expanded, both in terms of the size of the venues, as well as the number of days over which it is hosted, the event of the past weekend clearly not being long enough, the Weekend Argus reporting that the tickets had sold out two months prior to the event.

It is estimated that 34000 jazz fans attended the Festival, some being from overseas, including other parts of Africa, and many from other parts of South Africa, judging by the large number of non-Cape Town number-plated cars driving in the city centre.  Traffic was hectic near the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Friday afternoon, long before the start of the performances, and organisers were quoted as saying that the Centre’s capacity, limited at 17000, would necessitate a large venue in future. Festival Operations Manager Billy Domingo said that they could have printed a million more tickets, and would have sold them all!  One wonders why the organisers do not stretch the Festival over more days, to benefit the hospitality industry, its effect being low key for accommodation establishments in Camps Bay, for example. Guests from Germany staying at Whale Cottage Camps Bay had read about the Jazz Festival in their guide book, and were most disappointed that they were unable to book tickets on arrival in Cape Town.

Last year the Cape Town International Jazz Festival generated just short of R500 million for the Western Cape economy, and created 2700 jobs.  Attendance has more than doubled over the 13 year history of the Jazz Festival.

It is embarrassing to read the media statements by Michael Bagraim, President of the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce, who described March as a ‘second Christmas for Cape Town, and I believe it is getting bigger year on year’.  If we compare our Whale Cottage Camps Bay occupancy for February (89%) and March (74%), it is clear that Mr Bagraim’s descriptor should apply to February and not March.  The March occupancy is on a par with that of March 2010, well up on the poor 60% last year, but still far below the 2007 – 2009 period of 94% plus.  The Cape Town Carnival had a minimal hospitality benefit, and the Argus Cycle Tour had fewer out-of-town participants, with few Camps Bay guest houses fully booked for that weekend. Only one of our Whale Cottage Camps Bay rooms was taken by guests attending the International Jazz Festival.  Mr Bagraim seems to be poorly briefed for media statements, most being irresponsible, and embarrassing for our tourism industry in hitting such false notes!

In hosting ‘Black Diamond’ guests from Johannesburg for the International Jazz Festival, who had not pre-booked but had called from the airport for a room, the cultural differences across two spectrums of South Africa were evident.  At breakfast, for example, which we allowed them to eat as late as at midday, they expressed their disappointment that we serve a standard Continental and English breakfast. They were expecting gravy and baked beans with their eggs.  They shared the room with a third visitor, not booked, and were surprised that they had to pay for him too. SA Tourism may have to embark on an educational campaign, to explain to accommodation establishments the breakfast and other expectations of the ‘New Horizon’s Families’, as they call this market segment, while accommodation establishment do’s and don’ts should be communicated to prospective domestic tourists too.

What was noticeable is how many events were scheduled for this past weekend, including the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, the Toffie Pop Festival, rugby matches, Franschhoek Summer Wines, and a massive Kfm KDay concert at Val de Vie. One wonders why all these events were hosted on the same weekend, instead of being stretched out over the whole month of March.

Given that the Cape Town International Jazz Festival is based in Cape Town, one would like to encourage the organisers to market the festival to locals too, and for them to keep an allocation of tickets for tourists who happen to be in the city at the time of the Festival, to allow them to experience this top event. We would love to see the Cape Town International Jazz Festival to run over a long weekend in future, such as the one coming up at the end of April.

POSTSCRIPT 2/4: The Times asked today if headline act Lauren Hill, who was a last minute stand in for Jill Scott, could be ‘over the hill?’, receiving negative publicity, half the audience at her Klippies concert walking out due to poor sound and ‘erratic vocals’.  ESP Afrika Jazz Festival Organiser Rashid Lombard blamed Hill’s management for wanting to manage the sound themselves.

POSTSCRIPT 8/4: The Times reported that the Cape Town International Jazz Festival is not expected ‘to break even financially’, despite its record attendance. The cost of hosting the Festival is R35 million, with R7 million coming from the Department of Arts and Culture.  The newspaper also quotes Rashid Lombard as saying that the planned expansion of the Cape Town International Convention Centre will double the size of the Festival, and to reach 470000 by 2018, a commendable if not daunting target!  Lombard hopes to see the Jazz Festival can be structured like the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, ‘for which all hotels, restaurants and the host city, and all structures of government, get together and contribute the event’s success’.

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

Reports about the status of the tourism industry in Cape Town and the Western Cape in the last few days are enough to confuse anyone, as the view on how the industry is doing this summer, two months into the season, appear contradictory, some saying that it is better, and others saying that it is the worst ever!

Reports about a FEDHASA Cape media review held last week contradict each other.  The Cape Argus, using the headline ‘Hotels catch the scent of recovery’, reported that a ‘fair’ season is expected this summer. It stated that the industry had come through a ‘pretty bad year’.   Gotravel24 had a more realistic headline ‘Worst year yet for Cape Town tourism’, quoting FEDHASA Cape Chairman Dirk Elzinga admitting for the first time that the past year has been ‘one of the worst the Cape Town tourism industry has ever seen’.  When we wrote about the tourism crisis in winter, which was subsequently picked up by the Cape Argus, Elzinga did not seem perturbed, and said that Cape Town was just experiencing its annual seasonal dip!

In its review FEDHASA Cape indicated that average revenue per available room decreased by 10% this year, due to the ‘double dip recession’ in Europe as well as the 20% increase in accommodation rooms for the World Cup. The past winter was particularly tough, with four hotels and 10 restaurants that were FEDHASA Cape members closing their doors (many more non-FEDHASA restaurants closed their doors too). Elzinga is hopeful of a recovery, based on average revenue per available room increasing by 5 % in October, relative to the same month a year ago.  Occupancy was estimated to reach 60 – 80 % this summer, Elzinga said, and events such as the J&B Met, the Two Oceans Marathon, and Cape Town International Jazz Festival would attract more local tourists, the type of tourist Elzinga said Cape Town tourism businesses should encourage.  However, Eye Witness News’ report on the FEDHASA Cape  meeting was that ’70-80 percent hotel occupancy (could not be referred) ‘as a standard anymore’.  Elzinga sees positive spin-off from Cape Town being named the World Design Capital 2014, and a provisional New7Wonders of Nature. We have written before that none of the accolades that were heaped upon Cape Town so far this year have led to any significant increase in tourism to Cape Town, probably because tourism from the United Kingdom has all but dried up.

FEDHASA Cape also used the opportunity to share results of a 30-week pricing survey conducted not only for Cape Town hotels, but also for hotels in Barcelona, Melbourne, Vancouver, Boston, Nice, Hong Kong and Munich, chosen to be comparable to Cape Town in that they are not capital cities, and attract convention business.  The survey was instituted due to feedback levelled against the local accommodation industry for its high prices, which FEDHASA Cape wished to dispute.  Predictably it did so, stating that ‘….the Mother City is not out of line with its peers around the world’.  No hard statistics, such as average hotel prices, are provided from the survey. The FEDHASA Cape survey had found that Cape Town’s price and room offering is wider than that of the comparative cities, with the exception of Barcelona.  Five star hotel rates generally are on a par with the comparative international hotels.  Room rates for 4-star hotels were up to 20 % lower than the international hotels, the report states.  We too have checked Cape Town rates at the top-end hotels, and conducted three telephonic surveys, in May, August and November this year, finding a wide range of 5-star hotel rates, and that rates had been lowered in the harsh winter months.

Moneyweb also reported on the hotel pricing survey of FEDHASA Cape, writing that the finding about Cape Town’s hotel prices being on a par with those in other international cities was a ‘surprising result’.  The description about the worst winter is far more explicit, as being ‘one of the most dismal in recent memory”! Elzinga is quoted as saying that Cape Town is ‘not cheaper, but also not more expensive. People think that prices in Africa should be lower than in Munich or Singapore. But luxury costs the same; it doesn’t matter where you are’. An interesting observation by FEDHASA Cape was that those hotels that did not drop rates recovered more quickly than those hotels that cut rates. Our Whale Cottage hotel surveys demonstrated that all hotels decreased rates in winter, contradicting FEDHASA Cape’s observation!  What Elzinga did not appear to consider was that given the lower operational costs of running an accommodation establishment in Cape Town relative to the comparative cities, on labour costs alone, combined with the 20 % increase in accommodation supply since last year, accommodation prices should have decreased, based on the law of supply and demand.  A further negative impact on rates should be the cost of long haul air travel and airport taxes to Cape Town. Therefore there can be no justification for Cape Town’s hotel prices to be the same as those of its international counterparts.

FEDHASA Cape sees a positive impact of direct flights to Cape Town by Air France and Swiss-based Edelweiss, but which could be countered by the cancellation of Malaysian Airlines flights to Cape Town next year.  Elzinga has called for more marketing by Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited in India and China, given the problems with the USA and European economies.

At Whale Cottage we have compared Occupancy over the past five years, and we have seen a steady decline over this period, halving over the five year period.  Occupancy at Whale Cottage Camps Bay this month will be the second best this year after the record 88% in February, and an improvement on last November, but is far below the 88 – 96% occupancy experienced in November between 2007 -2009.

FEDHASA Cape only predicts a recovery for the Cape Town accommodation industry in 2013, with occupancy and room rates returning to a ‘normal level’.   The European and USA economies are in such disarray that one wonders how any tourism body can make any prediction about the future of tourism, especially given FEDHASA Cape’s poor interpretation of the industry in winter!  FEDHASA Cape also indicates that bookings are increasingly last-minute, which makes it even more difficult to predict future tourism performance. We urge FEDHASA Cape to be conservative in its estimates, and to not create hopes about the season for the industry, which led to disastrous results when Grant Thornton did the same about the soccer World Cup last year.

The Protea Hospitality Group has seen similar cause for optimism, its Danny Bryer, Director of Sales, Marketing and Revenue, writing a letter to the editor of Southern African Tourism Update that it saw occupancy increase by 3-4% in August and September. Against the background of the unstable USA and European economies, Bryer says that it is hard to make predictions for the hospitality industry, especially with the heavy discounting taking place (contradicting Elzinga too).  Bryer pleads for an end to discounting, even though his hotel group probably is the one to slash rates most severely, quoting day by day rates, and generally is at the bottom end of the rates scale in the comparative hotel rate surveys we have conducted: “Continued discounting devalues every hotel in South Africa, as the battle is fought on price rather than value”. Bryer says the proof of this is that the average daily rate has decreased and the costs are increasing, meaning a declining profit.  This can only be turned around with an increase in rates, he argues.  He deplores that developers, investors and owners added on new rooms, the accommodation oversupply resulting in hotel closures and local companies taking over the management of international hotel groups. Bryer warned against reducing one’s offering to justify a lower price.  Offering value for money is vital.  He also warned that 3, 4 and 5 star hotels are marketing their rooms at similar price points, which he believes to be ‘foolhardy and unnecessary‘.  The Protea Hospitality Group is focusing on offering value-added packages for the domestic market this summer.

Bryer was also quoted in Business Report, saying that their December bookings are up on a year ago, that 5-star guests are travelling again, but that ‘inbound business to South Africa is still quite tight and long haul flights are losing out to short haul’.  The South African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) CEO Michael Tatalias predicts a better ‘holiday’ season than last year, but says that the rates charged will be more realistic than in the past.

Western Cape Provincial Minister of Tourism Alan Winde warned that he will present a ‘bare-bones’ 2012 budget in March, and about ‘emptier’ provincial government coffers and budget cuts, which could impact on its funding of tourism too, reported the Cape Argus last week.  Winde said that the local economy had to be ‘buffered against current shocks in traditional markets’, and urged exporters in the province to find ‘high-growth emerging markets’.  The European growth outlook is poor too, the fourth quarter prediction being one of slipping back into recession, reports Business Report.

What is certain is that it is impossible to predict the summer season until Easter, given the continued economic woes of our tourism source markets, the UK market being sorely missed, and the forecast of Europe slipping back into recession.  Bookings for the summer ahead for Whale Cottage Camps Bay look good until 10 January. Domestic tourism will be the major source market for the medium term, until the global economy recovers.

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