Entries tagged with “travel”.


WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   The ban on taking liquids on board flights is said to be lifted in the European Union from January. Special scanners at airports will be able to test liquids.

*   ‘Silver Surfers’ are an important tourist segment, the 50+ year olds estimated to represent 30% of travelers in the UK, USA, and South East Asia by 2018. Almost half of all Apple product purchasers are members of this segment, 35% of them travel in Europe, 42 % book travel online, and 68% use Facebook.

*   The ABSA Cape Epic has been nominated for the Discovery Sport Industry Awards in the Sport Participation Event of the Year category.

*   The T20 Tourism Ministers of the G20 countries have agreed to push for better visa facilitation, to stimulate tourism, and the employment of staff in the industry.

*   Bistro Sixteen82 has returned to its summer Tapas dinner menu. ‘The Tapas: Summer 2013‘ menu is a combination of classic Spanish tapas Patatas Bravas and Empandillas; Mexican Albondigas and a spicy black Beans dish; Fish Balls, No Lettuce salad, Anti Pasti platter, Profiteroles, and Chocolate Whities. (received via Communications Services Africa)

*   Aerolineas Argentinas has not denied that it may take over (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Traveling should be easier, and barriers to entry by tourists should be reduced.  E-passports have been proposed for 2020, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said when he addressed the e-Tourism Africa Summit in Cape Town earlier this week.  ‘We need to address the present outdated system of always having to go to Embassies, filling in forms and standing in queues. In a few years times this will be non-existent’, Van Schalkwyk said.  He also highlighted that industry taxes should be regulated, to make travel more viable and accessible.

*   Cape Town blogger Kamini Pather wins MasterChef SA Season 2, against tight competition from Leandri van der Wat !

*   Travel by young persons has decreased dramatically in the past six years, from 75% in 2007 to 47% currently, to focus on improving their CVs, a study by the World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation has found.

*   Col’Cacchio has introduced a Mobi-friendly Loyalty program, offering R20 (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Good news is that the UK travel industry is seeing the first signs of recovery, after two years of a ‘meltdown‘, which severely affected the Western Cape tourism industry too!

*   One third of active American travelers travel with a smart phone and a tablet, and are an important market to watch for trends, now called the ‘Digital Elite’!

*   Ataraxia Serenity 2008 was the best selling wine at the recent Free State FNB Wine Show. (via media release from Ataraxia)

*   Sarah Baker of Wild Peacock Emporium has moved to the wholesale division of Wild Peacock, focusing on the supply of artisanal boutique cheeses.

*   French wine estate owners are being warned against fraudulent (more…)

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

The Department of Tourism has announced a last minute service excellence campaign “Tourism Service Excellence Initiative” (TSEI) for all front-line staff dealing with soccer fans during the World Cup, less than one month prior to the start of this world sport event.   While its intentions are extremely noble, and it will be offered for free, a two-hour session will hardly make any difference to generally poor service attitudes in Cape Town and South Africa.

The Department of Tourism has contracted The Disney Institute from Orlando to conduct a number of free two-hour seminars around the country, the Cape Town ones taking place next Thursday (at His People Center in Goodwood) and Friday (at the Cape Town International Convention Centre), at 10h00 and 14h00 on each of these days.  The same presentations will be held in Stellenbosch on 15 May, in George on 17 May, and in Knysna on 18 May.

The Disney Institute is a highly regarded “university of service excellence”, and a company like Pick ‘n Pay has regularly sent its managers to Orlando to improve its stores’ customer care and service excellence.   But it is impossible to change a service mentality in 2 hours!

The Western Cape province sent the invitation to attend the seminars in Cape Town as a Press Release, and it states that one can call to make a booking (a friendly and reasonably efficient process requiring ID numbers of staff, and more) or go the TSEI website www.tsei.co.za.    Dr Laurine Platzky, the “2010 FIFA World Cup Coordinator from Provincial Government Western Cape”, describes the seminars as “energetic” and “inspiring”, their aim being to “give all football guests an unforgettable experience in the Mother City and the Province”.

The TSEI document has the logos of the Department of Tourism, TSEI and the Disney Institute, as well as of FEDHASA, at the bottom of the document. FEDHASA’s has a web address linked to it (no other web addresses are supplied), but it is not FEDHASA’s web address – it is the web address of FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan’s private Rooms4U booking portal, which has been criticised on this blog previously!

The TSEI document states that customer service should be improved “in anticipation of the millions of guests to the games” (our underlining).   One wonders where this statistic comes from - 3 million tickets are meant to have been sold, but this does not mean 3 million ticket holders, given that tourism consultancy Grant Thornton has estimated that each visitor will watch 5 matches on average, reducing the number of ticketholders to 600 000 on average!   Also, one talks about “games” for the Olympics, but for the World Cup they are called “matches”!   In a “mastery” of copywriting, it claims that The Department of Tourism had in 2008 already “crafted” (did they mean drafted?) the Tourism Service Excellence Strategy, to “take Service Excellence in the Tourism Service Value Chain to greater heights”. 

It then explains why service levels must be taken to greater heights, in that service excellence in the past has been hampered by (wait for it…….) “the negative impact of apartheid (!), a largely autocratic management style (!), the lack of an established culture of customer service, insufficient training, systemic educational concerns, the poor image of the service industry by most, and the harsh economic realities of many workers who remain focused on survival rather than service” (our exclamation marks).  Phew!  

Internationally, we rank in the middle, at 62nd of 124 countries, on competitiveness, in the 2007(!) World Tourism Council Competitiveness Report.   The Department says that the level of service delivery ranges from good to very poor in our country.   That is why it has appointed The Disney Institute to conduct Service Excellence Seminars, “which are designed and focused in creating a culture of service excellence”.  Come on – can a 2-hour seminar create a culture of Service Excellence, no matter if it is presented by The Disney Institute?! 

Boldly the document continues about the objectives of the Service Excellence Initiative, all defined as being for “2010 and beyond”:

1.  “Championing service transformation

2.   Creating a customer service orientated SA

3.   Crafting a ‘solution-minded’ customer service culture in SA

4.   Providing human behaviour solution to SA

5.   Ensuring SA delivers world-class customer service

6.   Touch the entire service economy so that 2010 leaves a legacy”.

While it is clear that not all points are meant to be addressed by the seminars, the last one is – once again, how can they think that they can achieve this in two hours?!

The document states who should attend, and it lists immigration and customs officials, the police, tourism officials, “local government”, as well as private sector front-line staff in tourism and travel, hospitality, petrol stations, transport and banking.  Each participant is to receive a certificate and a Service Guideline Card, for which an extra half an hour has been allowed.

The best is kept for last – the value that a company’s staff will gain from attendance at the seminars:

“*   Engage employees to be personally involved in creating and delivering quality customer service

 *   Explore the significance of performance accountability, ensuring an equal weight value between business results and employee behaviors (sic) that enhances a positive work culture (straight from the Disney Institute literature no doubt)

 *   Learn the significance of creating and sustaining a corporate culture by design rather than default (?)

 *   Introduce the concept of “Common Purpose” as the organization’s chief global service driver” (we are tiny local non-global tourism related businesses in the main!)

The final best is the “dynamic” pay-off line that the copywriter ends off with : “Be Brilliant – Tourism Service Excellence Initiative” !!!!!!!!!! 

If the Department of Tourism’s Tourism Service Excellence Initiative document is anything to go by, its Service Excellence Workshops will be Mickey Mouse!  I cannot wait to attend, to experience this magical 2-hour transformation in Service Excellence!

POSTSCRIPT:  After writing this post, I found an article written earlier this week by Natalia Thomson of S A Tourism Update about the same topic.  She writes that the Disney Institute contract is worth R 9,5 million, and that 250 000 persons will be put through the workshops around the country.   Read her cynical and critical article here.

Read our follow-up article about the presentation here.

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

A novel relationship between Hilton Hotels and the producers of the (Oscar nominated) “Up in the Air” has led to a most successful marketing campaign for the American hotel chain at little cost.

The fast-paced movie stars George Clooney in the lead role, and his love for being on the move around the USA, utilising his credit and loyalty cards to travel efficiently and cost-effectively.   When his boss threatens to ground him, his world collapses, especially as he is on the brink of reaching his one and only goal of 10 million frequent flyer miles.

The movie was shot at various Hilton Hotels, and “signature” Hilton products and amenities were used in the filming, reports the Weekend Argus.   The movie director Jason Reitman was a ‘Hilton HHonors frequent traveller scheme’ member before making the movie, and was familiar with the HIlton brand.   Most of the filming took place at the hotel group’s St Louis branches.  No payment changed hands, but the hotel group made accommodation and filming space available, and launched its own marketing campaign in conjunction with the movie.

Whilst the Hilton branding was visible, it never dominated, nor alienated the viewer of the movie.  In reading the article, the subtle Hilton branding became more evident.   Some of the Hilton products shown in the movie include the HHonors Diamond VIP card, MP3 alarm clock radio, room service menu, phones, uniforms, and name badges.   Services such as the Hilton HHonors check-in service, the shuttle service, the restaurants, and the hotel bathrobes, are shown.

A website www.hilton.com/UpintheAir has been created, to show how Hilton staff have helped frequent travellers and provided service by walking the extra mile.

“‘Up in the Air’ is set within the world of travel and Hilton is the most recognised name in hospitality, so our involvement provides additional credibility and authenticity.  Hilton links to the messages in the film in a seamless and subtle manner” said a Hilton spokesperson.

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

Tourism and travel in 2010 will remain depressed, but travellers will demand more individualised holidays, and will be seeking value for money, in the form of good rates, travelling to countries that offer good exchange rates, and joining clubs that offer exclusive discounts, according to the website www.mrandmrssmith.com, reports The Star.

Stark minimalist hotels will be replaced with homely “granny-chic” ones, which are comfortable and “homey”.   “Green” travel becomes more important, with travellers checking out the “green credentials” of their destinations.

The Top 10 specific travel and tourism trends highlighted by the website are the following:

1.   “Cheap-chic holiday houses and apartments”, opening up more self-catering accommodation with higher levels of service and presentation

2.   Guest Houses and B&B’s will become “Boutique”, as have their hotel counterparts, to give them “come-hither sexiness”

3.   All-inclusive packages, with no hidden service charges or extras

4.   Hotels are increasingly becoming environmentally independent, to lower their carbon emissions – water from a local spring, solar energy, saving seabirds,  etc.

5.   “Bleisure” travel will increase, whereby business and leisure travel are combined, with business travellers wanting their corporate travel needs met, but within a leisure environment, or adding on extra time to a business trip, to which they invite their partner.

6.   Mexico, and surrounding countries, have increased in attractiveness as a luxury travel destination

7.   “Traincations”  will increase, with high-speed train travel across Europe.

8.   “Flashpacking” is backpacking with a higher budget and more style, closer to 5-star accommodation than youth hostels

9.   “Granny chic” is a move away from “look-don’t-touch minimalist” to “traditional-with-a-twist homey comforts” hotels.

10.   “Hip hotels” that are family friendly – they not only “tolerate” children, but welcome them and make the family holiday an enjoyable one.

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

Cape Town has been voted as the second favourite holiday city in the world by more than 19 000 UK Guardian and Observer readers.   The Mother City ranked 7th last year, and has made a fantastic leap to follow Sydney, as the favourite overseas city, into second place.  New York, San Francisco and Berlin followed as 3rd, 4th and 5th favourite overseas cities.

South Africa did less well on the vote for favourite long-haul overseas country, especially with the 2010 World Cup coming up, and was not included in the top 5 list of New Zealand, Cambodia, Chile, Vietnam and Japan.

Switzerland, Norway, Austria, Sweden and Italy were the top five European countries voted for by the British readers.

Swiss was voted the best short-haul airline, and Singapore Airlines the best long-haul and best business airline.   Silversea Cruises won the best cruise line vote.   Eurostar was voted the best train company.   Taj Hotels won the best international hotel vote – a Taj Hotel is due to open in Cape Town soon.

In the “Ethical travel award category”, Bulungula Lodge in the Eastern Cape won second place.   It is located on the Wild Coast, and was one of the first Fair Trade accredited lodges, and runs on solar power, reports sagoodnews.co.zawww.kayak.com won the vote for the best travel website.

The full list of awards can be read here.

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

Popular singer Josh Groban has chosen South Africa as “My favourite Place on earth”, in a book by the same title written by travel writer Jerry Camarillo Dunn and published by National Geographic, reports www.MediaClubSouthAfrica.com.

The book invited 75 personalities to name their ‘favourite travel discovery’.   Groban has visited South Africa a number of times, the last time being just over a year ago.   He has met Nelson Mandela, who appointed him as an ambassodor for his 46662 AIDS awareness project.  The Josh Groban Foundation was established to create educational and health facilities.    He describes his visits to South Africa, and meeting Mandela in particular, as being “life-changing”.

Other personalities include George Lucas, whose favourite place is Monument Valley, Robin Williams (San Francisco), Donald Trump (Palm Beach), and Calvin Klein (Massai country in Tanzania).

S A Tourism and Cape Town Tourism worked hard in marketing the country at the ITB travel and tourism expo in Berlin, which was held earlier this month.

According to TravelHub,  S A Tourism launched the new ‘Voices’ advertising campaign, which sees Germans being asked to relate their positive experiences of South Africa.    It is planned to have over a million Germans talking positively about South Africa by June 2010.

FIFA and the Local Organising Committee for the 2010 World Cup used ITB as a platform to encourage and inform the German market about the event, reassuring them about the country’s readiness, infrastructure and sustainability, the report says.

S A Tourism won third prize for its ‘Numbers’ ad in the Golden Gate international film advertising awards competition at ITB.

Cape Town Tourism too was active at ITB, and its CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold reported back on the successes her association achieved:    Cape Town Tourism was invited to present its visitor services and marketing innovation to the World Tourism Organisation International Destination Council;   the 2010 World Cup mascot Zakumi was used in a competition, in which ITB attendees could be photographed with Zakumi, post it on the Cape Town Tourism website with a creative comment about Cape Town, to win two tickets for the 2010 World Cup, resulting in 200 images being received;   via a German PR company, Cape Town Tourism’s PR and Communications Manager met 15  journalists individually, presented its marketing toolkit to Dr Michael Kaiser from News Corporation Germany, who will do a presentation on Cape Town to the German Press Club,  Suedafrika magazine will do a free two-page spread on Cape Town, and a free feature on Cape Town will appear in the bi-annual German 1 Golf publication.  

In addition, Cape Town Tourism will be running a winter promotion on Expedia; an educational campaign with FTI, Germany’s third largest tour operator, was concluded;  joint marketing agreements were concluded with Tripadvisor, Google, and BBC News on-line; an agreement was reached with Petit Fute to develop a French guide book for Cape Town;  and assistance will be provided in the production of the official 2010 FIFA World Cup documentary.

However, Cape Town Routes Unlimited Marketing executive David Frandsen, on his return from ITB, has predicted that leisure tourism from Germany will decline by 20 % in the coming season.   He based his forecast on the 30 % drop in bookings received by the top five German tour operators making bookings in South Africa, in January and February this year.    He said however that 200 smaller special tour operators are making up for the decline in bookings received from the big tour operators.   Namibia is attracting bookings from the German market, and has become a trendy destination for Germans.