Entries tagged with “travel agents”.

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   More than 400 African tourism products and services have signed up as exhibitors at INDABA2015, to be held in Durban from 9 – 11 May.

*   SAA is resuming daily direct non-stop flights between Johannesburg and New York from 7 March, a time reduction on the northern route of one and a half hours.

*   ‘Fifty Shades of Grey‘ is on everyone’s lips the world over, with its international release today, (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and Minister of Tourism Alan Winde will launch three wifi hotspots next week, in Atlantis, George, and Robertson, with Delft to follow two months later, connecting 50000  residents in the province to the internet. (received via media release from Minister Winde’s office)

*   Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown is talking about collapsing’ SAA, SA Express, and Mango into one airline, which would have one Board of Directors, and create a ‘leaner and meaner‘ airline.   Privatisation is not being considered.

*   Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde has issued a media statement regarding the new Immigration Regulations and their effect on Tourism for the first time.  Acting on feedback from hoteliers, travel agents and tour operators in the province, he (more…)

TourismIt was a shock to see that, after a steady improvement in Tourism Confidence in the past few quarters, it has done an about-turn and declined in the second quarter of this year, as reflected in the latest reading of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa FNB Tourism Business Index.

The Tourism Business Index measured 94.7 for the past three months, below the normal average of 100, and far below the 112,4 reading of the first quarter of this year.   Whilst the forecast for the second quarter Tourism Index in the first quarter was 103, actual confidence was ten points lower than expected.  The lower Tourism Index is attributed to travel agents, transport operators, and conference centres, a far more pessimistic tourism segment, in that its average Index was only 86,2, an extreme contrast to the Accommodation segment, which more optimistically measured 105,8.

The Tourism Business Council expressed its concern about the obstacles to the growth in the Tourism industry, including (more…)

Camps Bay beachA survey conducted amongst 20000 travel agents by Benchmark Hospitality International in the USA has culminated in the ‘Top Ten Travel Trends for 2014′.  Good news is that travel bookings are on the up, and that beach holidays are on an upward trend too!

The results were as follows:

1.   80% of the travel agents were optimistic about travel growth, half of these expecting it to be ‘very strong’.

2.   Most growth will come from leisure travel, and half of this from the luxury segment.  However, leisure and business travel often is combined.

3.   An increasing number of clients are booking directly, understandably of concern to travel agents.

4.   Beach-related travel is showing the strongest growth, responsible for about half of all travel. The balance of (more…)

The results of a World Independent Hotels Promotion survey of 22000 guests found that Past Guests, being friends and family, have the greatest influence in the choice of accommodation when travelling, and that Social Media has the lowest influence, reports Tnooz.com.

The survey was conducted off-line between April – June this year, and found that 23% of American hotel guests rely on recommendations from friends and family in their choice of holiday accommodation, followed by Online Travel Agencies at 21%, TripAdvisor at 18%, and Return Guests at 12%.  Travel agents, magazine ads and articles, Facebook, Blogs, Travel Guides, and Twitter had a minimal influence, each of these influencers scoring below 3%.  The degree of influence has barely changed in the past twelve months.

The minimal role of Social Media Marketing in influencing accommodation choice is ascribed to the ‘low level of ROI’, and therefore plays more of a Public Relations role to communicate with current and potential guests. Yet accommodation information and experiences shared on Social Media, such as holiday photographs posted on Facebook and/or Twitter, may have a subliminal influence on accommodation selection.

One can suspect that the choice of restaurants to eat at whilst on holiday may have similar influence levels as for accommodation, with the exception of Travel Agents, with perhaps a lower influence of TripAdvisor in shaping the restaurant choice and a higher influence of Social Media.

The survey also raises the role of TripAdvisor, and the unbalanced picture it represents about establishments, given that satisfied guests will tell others and will write nice messages in the establishments’ guest books or sent directly to the hotel by e-mail, and that dissatisfied guests will write on TripAdvisor, without a reply to the allegations posted from the establishment in the main.

The results of the survey also raise the question about Cape Town Tourism’s current nonsensical Facebook profile 5 day holiday promotion, being on a Social Media Marketing platform, but also for its content.  We registered for the promotion, and received some suggestions of places to visit and eat at. The communication via e-mail and Facebook notifications stopped abruptly (presumably after five days), and there has been no follow-up since then to check the interest in booking a holiday to Cape Town!

At the end of the day, the strong influence of Friends and Family shows that every accommodation establishment and hospitality service provider must strive to make their guests as happy as possible during their interaction with the establishment.  Word of mouth from satisfied guests is free, the best marketing tool one could wish for!

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

International booking agency Expedia has advised South African hotels to compete globally against other destinations and not against other local hotels, reports Travel News Weekly.

Diego Lofeudo, Expedia Marketing Management Director for the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa, commenting on 30 South African hotels having closed their doors since the beginning of this year, said: “South Africans tend to compete with the hotel next door rather than competing with another destination, for example Cape Town competing against Sydney”.  He added that overcapitalisation of rooms by South African hoteliers has led to over-pricing.  He advised against ‘flash sales’, as it ‘simply degrades the market‘.   In his opinion, the domestic market should become the focus of local hoteliers, and the country’s tourism product has to compare itself globally, and then set prices accordingly.

Lofeudo also encouraged hoteliers to stop relying on travel agents and tour operators, and to become their own sales managers, taking control of their stock, and managing the online content of their property. This includes checking what is being said about them on social media platforms.

Expedia has 2000 hotels on its books, and is setting up a co.za site in the next year and a half.  Once low-cost carriers service Africa, the continent should see an explosion of business, given political stability and safety.  The booking site offers hoteliers more profit in selling empty rooms than selling them through other distribution channels, it claims.

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

Given the near drought of UK accommodation bookings for the coming summer season, it is gratifying to see an above average number of bookings from German tourists.  A recent visit to South Africa, and to Cape Town specifically, of a group of German travel agents should see an even greater number of German tourists.

The 2010 Soccer World Cup led to the immediate benefit of German bookings, given the outstanding coverage our city and country received on each of the days that a German team played during the World Cup.  German TV station ZDF, using our ex-Miss South Africa Jo-Ann Strauss as its presenter, and directed by local resident Dagmar Schumacher, broadcast from a number of destinations around the country for an hour prior to each match.

Last week a group of 55 travel agents from Meier’s Weltreisen, a tourism company specialising in long-distance package tours for Germans and Austrians, including the rental of cars and campervans, as well as offering tailor-made tours, visited South Africa, and spent time in Cape Town too.   Meier’s Welreisen is one of the largest German tour operators, and is celebrating its 30th year of operation this year.

“Germany is a key and crucial tourism market for South Africa, and we invest significantly in encouraging Germans to visit here. While our arrivals from the country are already posting a strong recovery, more than 17.5% increase recorded for the first five months of 2011, we also recognise the need to continue strengthening trade relations as an avenue to long term sustainable growth”, said Fiona Buchner, Regional Director: Europe, of SA Tourism.

The itinerary of the Meier’s Weltreisen group visit, organised in conjunction with SA Tourism, SAA and Private Safaris, included Johannesburg, Sun City, the Garden Route, the Eastern Cape, Madikwe Game Reserve, and the Western Cape.  Buchner said that over and above showing the agents the tourist sites, they also wanted to show them the ‘welcoming people and enriching experiences‘ of the country, being the ‘typical encounter that the German traveller sees’. Meier’s Weltreisen Director of the Africa Division, Martina Beeken, said: “South Africa is one of our most important partners in terms of long-haul travel and we look forward to fully experiencing the fascinating cultural mix; warm, friendly and welcoming people and the beautiful scenery that South Africa offers.  South Africa is a world-class tourism destination with an outstanding hospitality offering of which service, accessibility, and value for money are the foundation”. Fantastic praise indeed!

In Cape Town the group was spoilt with a welcome dinner at which Cape Minstrels performed, an Amazing Race-style event through the V&A Waterfront, ‘champagne and oysters’ (one would hope that it was good Winelands MCC!) at Cape Point, and a transfer to the Winelands in vintage cars, reports The Event.

The Whale Cottage Portfolio has seen a marked increase in bookings from German guests, some being return visitors, and others booking at Whale Cottage Hermanus in particular, to see the whales, guests seeing listings about the guest house in a number of German travel guides.

It is surprising and disappointing that Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited appeared to not have been involved in the visit by the Meier’s Weltreisen travel agents, in that no welcome was accorded the group via Twitter or media presence!

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

Chef Reuben Riffel’s connection with the One&Only Cape Town is putting him, and Cape Town with it, on the world map, and he recently returned from a whirlwind tour of New York, with the compliments of SAA and the One&Only Hotel group. 

He stepped off the aircraft with his Reuben’s Franschhoek chef William Carolissen, and was whisked off to the studios of the Martha Stewart Show  immediately.  Despite her poor performance at the Design Indaba a year ago, Stewart remains an icon of American domesticity, and her show is watched by an audience of about 80000.  Chef Reuben had to prepare South African dishes in front of the camera and studio audience, and had pre-organised which ingredients he would require for it.  He had a time limit of 4 minutes to create Cape Malay pickled fish, and a grilled peri peri beef salad.  The Reuben’s slot ran for 15 minutes and had shots of the One&Only Cape Town too, with Stewart endorsing the hotel by stating that it is her favourite resort in South Africa.  The show will be broadcast on 9 March. 

He was also invited to appear on NBC’s Today Show, with a viewership of 3,3 million on the day of broadcast. Chef Reuben cooked with Today Show personalities Al Roker and Natalie Moralis, and here too he had to prepare two dishes (crisp prawn dumplings with rooibos tea salt, and pan roasted red snapper prepared in a West Coast basting sauce of apricot jam, garlic and soya, served with a salsa of tomato, cucumber, chilli and cilantro) in front of the audience.  

Reuben is no stranger to cooking in front of a camera, making more and more TV appearances, on Pasella in particular, so this stood him in good stead to do our city and country proud.  Chef Reuben said the American TV staff are well organised.   Chef Reuben also prepared food for an One&Only Hotel event for travel agents and tour operators, as well as one for the media (journalists represented the New York Times Style Magazine, Travel+Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, New York Post and Travel Africa.)    

Meeting Chef Reuben and his wife Maryke at Reuben’s at the One & Only Cape Town last week was an opportunity to catch up, and to check whether he is still connected to his restaurant in Cape Town, given my observations after my last visit.  He laughed when we chatted about how incorrect deductions can be made from bits of staff information one receives, and it showed him how important it is for him to communicate with all levels of staff.  Talking of staff, a number of changes have taken place since Reuben’s opened in Cape Town in October:   The Manager Samantha Housden has left, after only a short stint, and has been replaced by Kagiso Mmebe.  In the kitchen Maritz Jacobs has been joined by Aviv Liebenberg, previously at Reuben’s Robertson, and Chef Reuben is encouraging them to visit the Old Biscuit Mill market on Saturdays, so that they can stay in touch with interesting food suppliers, and they come back with fresh products for a new special “Market Day” menu on Saturdays. Reuben’s staff will ‘cross-pollinate’ between Cape Town and Franschhoek, so that they get to experience the other branch.   Camil Haas, who was meant to shadow Chef Reuben in Franschhoek and Cape Town, will be more behind the scenes now, and will manage Chef Reuben’s appearances, and the requirements linked to these, as well as the preparation for outside events. 

Chef Reuben explained why the current menu does not have the chefs’ names on it, and why the Reuben’s branding is so low key, in that the hotel had printed it at a time when the regular Reuben’s printer was closed over the festive season.  The new menu to be launched on 16 February will go back to its “Reuben’s” look, and its content will have a stronger Cape Town focus, with a new dessert for example called ‘Taste of Cape Town’, with small tastes of Hertzoggies, date slices, melktert, rooibos tea ice cream and a coconut koeksister.   In Franschhoek a menu change can be expected at the end of the month, but will have a different focus to the Cape Town one.   A Sunday buffet lunch will be introduced in Cape Town on 27 February, costing R 195.  The Reuben’s Cape Town menu indicates which dishes contain alcohol (for Sol Kerzner, who does not drink alcohol, and for Muslim guests), shellfish, nuts, and pork.

We spoke about the winelist, which I see as overpowering, and not really suiting a Bistro-style restaurant.  Chef Reuben said that Singita is buying up a portion of the wine collection, and he said that they may develop a reduced winelist for Reuben’s.  The One&Only Hotel has influenced the operation of Reuben’s in Cape Town, and has meant more paperwork and adherence to systems, but there are benefits too, such as the international marketing that the hotel group does.  Chef Reuben emphasised that Kerzner does not interfere with his operation of the restaurant. In fact, there is a good relationship between the hotel and the restaurant management, and they meet regularly to address common issues.  Reuben is featured in the international One&Only Hotel newsletter, which was sent out earlier this week.

The decor is evolving, and new multi-coloured glass menu boards have been erected on the columns of the restaurant, to advertise specials.  When I visited last week, a West Coast seafood special was advertised, consisting of a number of dishes.  The boards help the Cape Town branch make spontaneous additions to the menu, without having to reprint it, a greater logistical challenge here than in Franschhoek, Chef Reuben explained. 

A new cookbook is in the pipeline, and will focus on seasons.   It will allow Chef Reuben to continue with the format of his first recipe book, and to reminisce about his childhood in Franschhoek, and his mother’s influence on his cooking.   Richard Carstens is highly praised by Chef Reuben, and he says that Richard “is one of the best” and that “no one can touch him”.

Chef Reuben says there are definitely no further restaurant openings on his agenda, and he is learning to delegate more, to enjoy a more balanced personal and business life.  I left him and Maryke with the feeling that they will make the best of their new relationship with the One&Only Hotel, and that there will be no repeat of Gordon Ramsay’s distant relationship with the ex-maze, the previous restaurant at the One&Only Cape Town, and the resultant demise.

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

2010 World Cup soccer fans coming to South Africa next year will be the target of overpricing of car rental, hotel accommodation and air transport, according to a number of travel industry players interviewed by Travel News Weekly.

Tour operators and travel agents complain about the “2010 rip-off”, and many have been quoted double the normal accommodation rate by hotels.  Showing their greedy side, the hotels are also cutting the commission percentage they are offering agents, given that they expect to be fully booked.   “It is great for those making the money, but in the long run, it is going to reflect badly on South Africa.” said an agent.  Others have decided to not be part of the ‘rip-off brigade’, and Dorienne Levitt of African Stay said as follows: “I have decided to not be part of that and am only dealing with providers who offer reasonable prices.  I will try my hardest not to use vendors who are acting without integrity, during 2010 and thereafter”.    In addition the conditions set by hotels with minimum stays of 8 – 30 days are too stringent, agents say.   Protea Hotels has contracted 80 % of its rooms to MATCH, at prices ranging between R 950 – R 4 500 per room. 

The Travel News Weekly article also quotes Brett Dungan, the national CEO of FEDHASA, as saying that his organisation would not “associate with nor support hotels that were not affiliated to MATCH and were “ripping off” clients.  The reason why we have been working so closely with MATCH is to eradicate the issue of price gouging”.  But it is MATCH that is ripping soccer fans off, by adding 30 % commission on all its contracted accommodation rates!

Transport costs too have soared, with car rental prices doubling from the already high 2009 Confederations Cup rates levels.  Avis says it will increase its rates by 15 – 20 %, justifying this on the basis of “the expected demand and additional work required”!

Airfares for 2010 too are a rip-off, for both incoming and outgoing flights, and for domestic travel, that is if any tickets can be found to be available.  Most airlines have not released their seats for the World Cup period.    Domestic flight tickets are likely to cost double the normal fare, reports the Weekend Argus, at about R 3 800 for a return airfare between Johannesburg and Cape Town on SAA, and at R 5 300 on BA/Comair.   International flight prices are set to triple, the airlines milking a money-making opportunity after many years of tough trading.  

Coach companies too have imposed “crippling conditions”, agents say.

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

The global economic crisis may not be such a bad thing for South African tourism after all, given its effect on the Rand exchange rates, and resultant greater affordability as a destination for international tourists.  Domestic tourism too should benefit from the exchange rate volatility, in that locals may switch to local holidays over the festive season, instead of going overseas.

The outlook for 2009 and 2010 is favourable, given the Confederations Cup and British Lions Tour taking place in winter 2009, and the soccer World Cup taking place in winter 2010.  Winter traditionally is a very low income period for the Western Cape in particular.

The past week has seen the US dollar exceed R 10, its weakest ever,  and exchange rates of R 18 to the pound sterling and R 14 to the Euro.   It is the dollar exchange rate volatility that may cost the country a petrol price decrease next month, and also may see an interest rate increase instead of the hoped-for decrease.

The tourism industry appears to be optimistic to date about the effect of the international credit crunch.   Tourism Business Africa quotes Joop Demes of Pam Golding Hospitality as saying that the hotel market grew by 19% in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year.  Growth is in Gauteng, and particlurly for hotels at OR Thambo airport in Johannesburg.   Revenue per available room has increased by 16 %, and by 19 % for 5-star hotels, and by 25% in Johannesburg.  Demes says that about three-quarters of the country’s 57 000 hotel rooms are booked by locals, driven in particular by the MICE market of conferences and meetings, as well as budget holidays.  

Travel agents are seeing a switch to domestic products. Their international clients are booking accommodation inclusive of meals, as a result of the exchange rate weakening, and are paying more promptly, to avoid further price increases, reports Travel News Weekly.

The credit crunch is also driving locals to game reserves, instead of overseas, says FEDHASA KwaZulu-Natal, as well as to beach hotels in the province.

Southern Sun Hotels is confidently predicting that 2009 will be busier than 2010, not only because of the Confederations Cup and British Lions Tour, but also due to the elections and inauguration of the new President, Soccerex, the Australian and English cricket tours, and the FIFA World Cup Final Draw, which takes place in Cape Town in December 2009, reports Travel News Weekly.   Southern Sun has contracted about 10000 of its rooms to MATCH, the FIFA accommodation agency, and is the single largest accommodation provider for the World Cup 2010.