Entries tagged with “Weekend Argus”.


February has drawn to a close, and has not disappointed the tourism industry in Cape Town in giving it a welcome confidence and income boost.  However, February occupancy in Camps Bay has been on a par with 2011, at just under 90%.  February is by far the most popular tourist month of the year now, which it previously shared with November.

February is attractive to the UK market specifically, and to the northern hemisphere generally, to have a break after a long and bitterly cold winter this year.  The UK had school half term in this period too, allowing families to travel.  The Mining Indaba earlier this month was a tremendous boost for the city.  Our statistics for Camps Bay show that the share of the UK market in February was at its lowest level in the past six years, at only 20%, with that of South African visitors having increased dramatically from 9 % in 2007 to 38% this month.  The German tourist share at 15 % this month is on a par with 2007 and 2008, a welcome improvement after a decline in the years between 2008 and 2012.

In January occupancy in Camps Bay improved significantly to 72%, from 58% the year before, but it was still below the occupancy achieved in January between 2007 and 2010.   A similar trend was evident in December 2011.  Hermanus showed a significant recovery in February, with a 40% occupancy, double that of February 2011, the best performance since 2008.  Sadly Franschhoek experienced by far its worst February ever in six years, largely due to the sharp decline in the number of weddings which have traditionally been held in the village in February, and German tourists being less interested in visiting Franschhoek, choosing Stellenbosch in preference.  The Franschhoek Wine Valley tourism association has done no visible marketing in the past year, other than the hosting of a few events, and its reduced marketing in using the services of a one-day-a-week consultant is not helping!

It was with concern that we read an article in the Weekend Argus last weekend, irresponsibly entitled ‘Tourists flock to Mother City in record numbers’. The article’s claim that ‘Cape Town’s extended summer has translated into the city’s best-ever holiday season, with tourism experts declaring that predictions for a much-improved season have been right on the money’, is misleading, and completely incorrect.  The problem probably lies with who the journalist interviewed as so-called ‘tourism experts’.

The article quoted a number of tourism players, and the statements of most would be shot down by the industry, given their own experiences of the past few months, and how these compare with previous years:

*   The biggest culprit is Cape Chamber of Commerce President Michael Bagraim, who has enjoyed using his position as President to make media statements about any possible topic, including tourism, about which he has little experience as a labour lawyer. He claimed that the tourism figures ‘were the best he had seen yet for the city’ (our underlining).  His statement implies that he may not have seen all potential past tourism information, and it shows in his subsequent quotes to the journalist, including the nonsensical statement that ‘This past summer has certainly been the best, and we hope the upcoming summer will be even better. At the current rate I think Cape Town could easily become the best tourist destination in the world’, not defining how he defines ‘best’!  He clearly does not understand the definition of ‘summer’, and that it still has another six weeks to go, with far lower occupancy expected in this period.

Mr Bagraim goes from bad to worse, by praising the World Cup for the good performance: “I believe that we are now experiencing the rewards from the World Cup, the reason being that so many tourists currently in the city were here during that period, and are now returning”. We cannot agree with Mr Bagraim at all, showing that he was completely out of his depth in this interview!   He added that word of mouth from those that had attended the World Cup 18 months ago, the resultant media coverage, Table Mountain’s New7Wonders of Nature (not yet confirmed for Cape Town), and being named 2014 World Design Capitalwould help ensure that Cape Town’s tourist enterprise would continue to thrive’ (our underlining).  Mr Bagraim clearly was not aware that the tourism industry experienced a crisis in 2011, and was nowhere near ‘thriving’!  He added:‘The one thing to remember about tourism is that it is foreign money which comes into the city, meaning it is new money that gets recycled throughout the economy’ (our underlining).  Once again Mr Bagraim has not been briefed about the visitor composition, and that the majority of tourists in the Cape are South African!  The rest of his statement would make economists shudder!  We can however agree with his declaration that ‘Tourism is certainly the biggest money-spinner for the city, and it will continue to be so for many years to come’!

*  Western Cape Minister of Tourism Alan Winde quoted improved visitor numbers for ‘Table Mountain National Park’ and Robben Island, but the time period was not stated.

*   Calvyn Gilfellan, CEO of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, issued a media statement a week ago, along similar lines of the Weekend Argus article, and the journalist must have sought inspiration for his headline from this irresponsible media statement about the ‘interim summer’ period.  Mr Gilfellan is quoted as saying that Table Mountain had seen a 25 % increase in visitor numbers between November – January relative to the same period a year ago.  His conclusion is that it proves ‘the impact an international accolade has on the popularity of the attraction’. What Gilfellan neglected to mention was that the improved weather (i.e. reduced number of days on which the Cableway did not operate due to rain and gale force wind) in the past three months relative to a year ago played a huge role in the tourism numbers achieved for Cape Town’s icon.

*   Cape Town Tourism’s Communication Manager Skye Grove was also quoted, in a nonsensical linkage made between tour guides and the increased use of technology, ‘which should spur tour guides to up their game’, she is quoted as saying.  Further she is quoted as saying that tour guides should maintain high standards of quality and content ‘to keep up both with the challenge of technology, but also with the high tourist numbers’, a statement that does not make sense!  Ms Grove sent out a media release last week, sharing informal ‘research’ Cape Town Tourism had conducted amongst its members about their performance in December and January. With the exception of the accommodation members, the sample sizes were not mentioned, yet detailed analyses were provided, and one can assume that the subsample sizes were tiny (only 106 accommodation establishments responded, representing by far their largest member segment).  Ms Grove quotes passenger arrival figures at Cape Town International, up on the year before, which was a particularly poor period of arrivals.  She quoted Ravi Nadasen, GM of The Cullinan, who stated that accommodation establishments had not experienced the same good performance as had tourism products, due to the oversupply of accommodation in the city, as well as a trend to visitors staying with family and friends.

*   Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, Grant Pascoe, is receiving a lot of coverage via Cape Town Tourism’s media releases, in the few that they issue, and his statements in the Cape Town Tourism media release were included in the Weekend Argus article, once again demonstrating how out of touch the Councillor is with tourism in the city.  He is quoted as saying that ‘the boost in the number of visitors to the city was a trend that was expected to continue into 2012′, given a number of events in March and April, including the Argus Cycle Tour, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Design Indaba, and the Two Oceans Marathon.  Our experience is that events (e.g. J&B Met) have attracted fewer non-Cape Town visitors to Cape Town this year, and even the Argus Cycle Tour has not yet filled Camps Bay, as it has in the past years.

We have previously pleaded for greater honesty and reliability in the reporting of the performance of the tourism industry.  The summer season is not yet over, and the past twelve months should not be the only benchmark of tourism performance, given that 2011 was the worst tourism year ever experienced in the Cape. It is no achievement to see tourism improvements relative to 2011!

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

Santé means health in French.  While it may be built in the Tuscan style, Santé is anything but healthy, and has a long way to go to reach the level it once had when it opened six or so years ago.   It is badly maintained and managed, and should not have opened so early, a mere two months ago, before achieving its 5-star grading it once had.

Let me start at the beginning.  Santé was the dream of Eduard du Plessis and his then partner in a design agency KSDP Pentagraph.  They sold their agency to the largest London-based design agency, and it was the money they made that led to the development of the “160 hectare working wine estate”, consisting of a 10-bedroom Manor House, 39 Spa Suites (different buildings with suites in each), and privately-owned homes, which were to be rented out to give the owners rental income.  Southern Sun was awarded the contract to run the hotel at that time, and it was professionally run, and its Walter Battiss collection, the private property of Du Plessis, lent it class and modernity.  It had an outstanding Spa, which Conde Nast voted as one of the Top 3 in the world in 2006.

Du Plessis and his partners sold Santé to Fidentia, whose Arthur Brown is facing fraud charges.  When he was arrested, the Hotel was closed down, as there was no money for its upkeep.  In the past two years numerous rumours circulated as to hotel groups buying the property, said to be valued at around R300 – R400 million.   I had stayed at Santé in both the Southern Sun and the Fidentia eras, the former a good, the latter a bad, experience.

In May this year, after a two year silence, the first media reports announced the re-opening of the Hotel and Spa on 1 June, it having been leased by Carlos Vilela from the liquidators for a 10 year period, with the option to buy it during this period, according to a media report.  It was a Cape Timesfeature on Santé, as well as a glowing review in the August edition of The Franschhoek Month, that made me pick up the phone and make a booking.   I wanted to stay after the Women’s Day long weekend, thinking the hotel would be full over the weekend, but the reverse was true.  A large contingent of police persons was to take over the hotel for a conference this week, and therefore I chose to spoil myself for the weekend. (After my stay, a staff member confirmed that the police party had cancelled).

I did the reservation with Ilse Bock, who quoted R 1500 per room, but R1000 for single occupancy.  She nagged me to book, but I received nothing from her.  In frustration I spoke to Janet Samuel, the Deputy GM, who had an attitude which should have served as a warning.   She told me that the server was down, which was not allowing e-mails to go through. They resorted to faxing the reservation details and credit card authorisation form (plus a string of most off-putting terms and conditions), barely legible because the type size was so small.   Lo and behold, a second warning I should have heeded, was that the rate was confirmed as R 1500, but Ilse quickly changed it, saying she had quoted me an incorrect rate but that she would honour it.

I asked Ilse what star grading the hotel has, and Ilse could not answer initially, but then said 5-stars.   She sounded so hesitant about this, that I asked her to ask the General Manager to call me.  Despite the GM Kristien De Kinder being off-duty, she did call, and confirmed that they are not 5-star graded yet.  She told me that she would not accept a lesser grading, and that they are working on achieving the 5-star requirements.  In the same breath, without asking her, she shared with me how difficult it is to manage staff, and told me that she had “fired” (her words) 20 staff in the previous week.  This should have been the strongest warning of all, but I was optimistic that the staff remaining would be efficient in running the Hotel and Spa.

I was chased by Spa Manager Anja Liebenberg to make the Spa bookings, as she said they book up very quickly, especially over weekends.  I understood later why she was pressurising me to book, as she was off for the first two days of my stay, and wanted to make the bookings personally, on request of her GM.  Second, I discovered that they have many treament rooms but only six therapists, which means that they cannot take many clients.  I checked with Anja whether I would be eligible for the 25 % Spa treatment discount, which Ilse had sent with all the documentation (8 pages of Spa prices alone) – she was shocked, saying it was only 10 % off, but if I had been sent this offer (an opening special for June), she would honour it!

The dreadful dirt-road to the hotel, off the R45 from Klapmuts to Franschhoek, is still as bad as ever, and no grader has been sent there recently to scrape the road.   When I came to what I thought were the gates of the estate, there was no branding for the Hotel – just a brown tourism sign and the name of a farm on the walls.  It took the security person five minutes to get up to move the cones, without checking who I was from the board he had in his hand – a worrying introduction to the hotel security!  I was greeted by name by receptionist Michelle, and I asked her how she knew who I was – it transpired that I was the only guest staying in the hotel on the first night.   I was assisted with my luggage, had a room with a view onto the Paarl mountains and a dam, and on the surface nothing had changed, the original furniture still being in place.  Towels are new.   Michelle sweetly helped me get the internet going, always a concern, and it worked perfectly.  I asked her which TV channels they have, and she told me 11!   She could not tell me which they were, and they were not in the room book (they are SABC 1,2, 3, e-tv, M-Net, two SuperSport channels, Movie Magic1 and CNN).  After dinner I discovered that SABC3, which had the only decent movie, had no volume, and it took 45 minutes for the staff on duty to fix this.

Much later that evening I discovered that there were no drinks in the room bar fridge, the bath towels were not bath sheets, which one would expect for a 5 star-to-be hotel.  There were no spare rolls of toilet paper.  The glass shelf in the shower tilts, so the products tend to slide off it when it gets wet.  I froze that evening, discovering that there was only a thin artificial duvet on the bed, and no blankets in the cupboards – I was told that the CEO does not want to allow down duvet inners (a cost issue?) .   I could not get the underfloor heating to work, even though the setting was at 30 C.  In the end I had to switch on the airconditioner, to be able to sleep.  I had to call Reception to check how to switch off all the room lights, in a central control panel hidden behind the bedside table, but too far from the bed to switch them off!

The next morning I rushed to breakfast to meet the 11h00 deadline (not how I like to spend my precious time off). I stepped into the Breakfast Room, only to find the tables laid but no buffet table laid out at all!  I was told by the waitress that they don’t do it when they have so few guests.   The Restaurant Manager Sofia reiterated this, and I told her that I did not find this acceptable, and she laid out a tiny set of bowls with cereals, fruit and yoghurt, on the corner of the buffet table furthest away from me.   There was miscommunication between the waitress and Sofia, as I had ordered two slices of toast with my eggs, and the waitress only brought one slice.  I was told that I had only ordered one slice, and therefore I did not receive another!  I had to beg for a second slice.   I had to ask Sofia to not serve me any further food, as she smelt so strongly of smoking when she brought the eggs.  Kristien the GM came to chat and asked if all was in order, but when I told her of my experiences since my arrival, she looked at me as if it was completely normal that I should have experienced all these problems.  She seemed particularly sensitive about my reaction to their restaurant winelist (see my review tomorrow of Sommelier Restaurant), which she had received from her staff.   I must commend her presence at the hotel on each weekend day – a first for a GM in any hotel I have ever visited!

The Housekeeping Manager Anja had come to chat at dinner on the first night, even though she had nothing to do with the restaurant, and gave me some valuable background.  She herself runs a guest house in Wellington, while the GM Kristien runs her 5-bedroom guest house Perle-du-Cap in Paarl alongside her GM job at Sante.  It transpired that the new CEO Carlos Vilela runs a restaurant called Asia in Paarl, and closed down another two weeks ago, called Perola Restaurant (could be first signs of cashflow problems, in conjunction with the staff firing, especially as some of the more forthcoming staff told me that the fired staff  – with one exception who is working out a month - left with immediate effect, due to cost cutting).  Anja met Carlos at the latter restaurant, and this led to her appointment, and seemed the route of the GM’s appointment too – these two managers were not mentioned in media reports covering the opening function on 1 June (at which Western Cape MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism Alan Winde spoke and over-optimistically praised the hotel for helping to boost the economy of the Western Cape, creating “150 employment opportunities”).   Most staff working in the Hotel come from Paarl, not known as being the centre of service excellence.  Both Anja and Kristien are Belgian and friends.  Anja was willing to please, and she organised extra blankets (very thin summer throws) but brought to the room by equally heavy smoking-smelling housekeeping staff, and got electric blankets from the Spa when I asked her if this was possible.   The bar fridge was stocked the following day, but was not switched on, so no drinks were cold.    After this I was ready to settle in and enjoy myself, after the bad start, or so I thought.  An enjoyable facial by a most friendly and obliging Charlene confirmed that all was on track, except that an error had been made for a massage booking for the following day, but was quickly fixed.   I was surprised that the GM and her Managers wear “civvies”, a most unusual dress code for a 5-star-to-be hotel.

In a paid-for advertorial in a Wellness supplement in the Cape Times of 30 July the hotel writes: “We are not here to re-invent the wheel, but to bring Santé back to life and provide our guests with the ultimate in service excellence and bestow upon them the luxury spa experience that one would expect from an establishment as ours”.  It goes on to state:  “All staff was hand-chosen and appointed for their distinctive customer-service ethics (sic) and their outstanding achievements in their professional fields.  Our mission is to offer you a place where you forget all your worries and trust us as professionals of beauty, rejuvenation, wellness, relaxation, tranquillity and peace to bring you back to life”.   It concludes with Vilela being quoted: “We are aiming high to exceed previous standards and guest expectations.  Every member of my team has the same vision and is committed to making this a reality”!  Promises I discovered that they are nowhere near achieving.

I was woken by the “Niagra Falls” outside my room on the second (rainy) day of my stay - the hotel building does not appear to have gutters, and all the rainwater came down in one section outside my room.   I saw some buckets in the passage to the Breakfast room too, to catch water from the leaks inside the hotel. The occupancy of the hotel had improved to full house in the Manor House, and so a Breakfast Buffet was set up in the Restaurant, and not in the breakfast room.  I was not told this, so once again I saw the bare buffet table, and sat waiting for service, but there was none!  When I went looking for staff, I was told that the breakfast was served in the restaurant.   Most dishes were three-quarter empty, and there was no fresh fruit at all.  There was no one to ask for some for about 15 minutes.  When I saw Sofia and asked her about the fruit, she said that they were busy cutting it, and stated that she had been checking the mini-bars in the rooms, explaining aggressively that she cannot be expected to be in the restaurant all the time, and that breakfast finishes at 11h00.  She had a list she was ticking off in terms of hotel guests who had come for breakfast, and she would have seen that three further rooms’ guests had not yet come for breakfast, arriving even later than I did.   Kristien the GM came to greet and chat to guests at a table close by, and ignored me completely, not a good sign.

I went to the Spa, to enjoy the facilities, or so I had hoped.  The first step was to sign an indemnity, requested by Anja the Spa Manager.   I went upstairs, and was shocked to see that most of the lovely innovative original features of the Spa were not working – the Experiential showers were in near-darkness, riddled with wet used towels lying on the floor, and the lovely fragrances of the showers of days gone by – e.g. rainforest, mint - have gone, and the water was ice cold, not attractive on a cold and wet winter’s day.   The Laconium door was open, and its light on, but it was not working – there was no sign on the door to tell one that it was out of order!   An open door intrigued me, but I soon discovered that it was the geyser room, and not a treatment room, so I retreated out of that quickly!   All that was left to enjoy then was the pool, but it had two babies and very loud foreigners dominating it, whom the Spa Manager was unable to get to leave, as children under 16 are not allowed in the Spa section of the property at all.  Some downlighters in the pool area do not work.   I wanted to shower after being in the pool, but all the showers in the Ladies cloakroom had no hot water.  I was now close to having had enough.  The Spa Manager Anja apologised, saying that it was a day in which everything was going wrong (it was only lunchtime then).   There was no notification on the cloakroom to warn one of the lack of hot water.

I saw Kristien the GM in Reception, and reported the Spa cold water problem to her – once again, she had the “I know all about it, and we are working on it” air about her, and then lashed out at me, in close distance of hotel guests who heard her, about how I had done nothing but complain since I had arrived.  I reminded her of all the problems I had experienced, and she did the “my staff are perfect” routine, adding insult to injury by asking why I had not left if I was not happy.  I told her it was because the hotel had taken a 50 % deposit, and would be taking the balance on my departure.  The way she said it, it sounded as if she would absolve me from the second 50 % payment, and this made me decide to leave, given everything that I had experienced.  When I went to the Reception, the Duty Manager Mannie asked me to sit down to pay – the second 50 % of the accommodation cost being on the bill, even though I was leaving one day early, at the “invitation” of the GM.  I “invited” Mannie to ask Mr Vilela, the hotel CEO, who once worked at Sun City, the only background that I could find about him on Google, to call me to discuss the bill.  I am still waiting for him to call, and to react to my review, which I sent to him for comment, offering to post his reply with it.

The Santé website is full of exaggerations and dishonesty: it describes the 10 Manor House rooms as “gorgeous suites”.  They have a massive bed (although 5 of them have two double beds, which cannot be made up as king beds, as they are stand-alone, annoying Larry and Heather Katz, one of the couples staying there).  It quotes UK Elle as it being “One of the Top 16 Spa’s on Earth” – yes, about 4 years ago, with working, state-of-the-art facilities at that time!  It provides the menu for Cadeaux, a restaurant meant to be in the Spa section, but the restaurant has not been in operation since the hotel opened!  The Sommelier restaurant is mentioned, but there is no menu for it!  Chef Neil Rogers is mentioned as being in charge of “both” restaurants, but he was one of the 20 staff to be fired!  (I heard that a chef from Grootbos is starting in September).  The food photographs on the website are nothing like the food that was served at Sommelier.  The “Terms and Conditions” state that children are welcomed in the Spa Suites only, but two children were in the Manor House, and were not kept quiet by their parents or the hotel staff.  The hotel brochures are more than two years old, reflecting the paintings on the walls at that time, and not what has replaced them now, and also refer to its “5-stars”, an absolute no-no!  The room folder had the “Happy Anniversary” card to Mr & Mrs Nothnagel still in it!

What can I praise? The location and its view, but far more attractive in summer – my room was in shade all day, making it cold and dark.  The “captiveness” of it, as the gravel road is so bad that one is not encouraged to leave the property to take a drive to Paarl, Franschhoek or Stellenbosch.   The Sunday Times and Weekend Argus being available.   The wonderful therapist Charlene, who did the facial.   The use of the innovative grape-based TheraVine product range in the Spa (but not carried through into the hotel rooms, where the Rooibos range is stocked).

I was most relieved to leave the Santé “zoo” after enduring two days of stress whilst staying there, the exact opposite to what I had come for!   The Hotel’s marketing is dishonest and its website misleading and out of date.  Santé is still a “sleeping beauty” and has not yet woken up to the real world of accommodation hospitality and Spa excellence it so proudly boasts about!

POSTSCRIPT 10/5: I was informed today that Santé has a new CEO, being Hans Heuer, who took over from 1 April. This has been confirmed in an article in the Indaba newsletter, which states that “Santé Hotel, Resort and Spa is under new management and ownership”.  I will look for more information on Mr Heuer’s background.  Carlos Vilela and his wife Sharon have left.  The receptionist told me that Kristien, and both Anjas left some time ago, and that all the managers working there in August last year have left.   The new Resident Manager is Leanne Myburgh, the Resident Manager is Basil Trompeter, and the new Spa Manager is Friena Beukes. 

POSTSCRIPT 10/8:  Hans Heuer, the new Santé CEO, read and left a comment with his cell number on this blogpost.  I called him and we agreed to meet for coffee.  I was keen to meet at Santé, to see how things have changed since my stay exactly a year ago.  We made an appointment to meet yesterday at 2 pm, on my way back from Franschhoek to Cape Town.  When I arrived at the security gate to Santé, and I told the ‘lady’ called Smit that I was seeing Mr Heuer, she let me past her traffic cones.  Two staff members stood outside in the sun when I walked to the reception, and both greeted me, but none asked how they could assist.  Mannie stood in Reception, and recognised me from my last visit, but called me ‘Mrs Ulmenstein’, getting both my surname and marital status wrong.  He seemed surprised when I told him about my appointment with Mr Heuer, saying that he was in Cape Town.  He called Mr Heuer, who said that something had come up!  Mr Heuer sent me an sms to apologise for standing me up fifteen minutes later, meaning that he had my cell number, and could therefore have called to cancel our appointment.  I did not respond to the sms, but Tweeted about being stood up.  This led to a number of less than complimentary Tweets about Santé, one of the Tweeters being a tour operator who had stayed at Santé the week before.  When we left the property, the security ‘lady’ did not remove the traffic cones, which meant that we had to stop at the gate and hoot for her to do so.  I asked whether she had not seen us driving the 200 meters to the gate.  She glared at me, and then burst forth in an uncalled-for attack, saying ‘You people with money think that you can be rude to us’!  What a send-off!  This morning Mr Heuer called, with quite an aggressive tone, saying that I should know that things come up in the last minute in the hospitality industry (no, I don’t know this!), and saying that he had sms’d me – I reminded that it was half an hour after our appointment time!  He then became personal, saying that he had done research on me, and that I am just out to write negative things.  Yet Mr Heuer had admitted in a previous conversation that things at Santé had been disastrous under the previous management, and that is why he had taken over the running of the hotel and spa!  I could not help but think that Santé is a stand-up comedy, and will never make it back to its original glory!

Santé Winelands Hotel & Wellness Centre, on R45, between Klapmuts and Franschhoek.  tel (021) 875-8100  www.santewellness.co.za

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

Cape Town has a super fun bakery that pulls out all the stops to make a special person’s birthday a special one, the creativity of Charly’s Bakery knowing no bounds.   Strictly speaking, Charly’s Bakery should be called Jacqui’s Bakery, as it is Jacqui Biess who is the energetic and creative powerhouse running Charly’s Bakery with her three daughters Alex, Daniella and Roche. 

In honour of Nelson Mandela’s birthday on Sunday, Jacqui has been infected by the spirit of unity and goodwill amongst South Africans resulting from the World Cup, and is calling on Capetonians to join her, her family, staff and friends in walking the Madiba Unity Fan Walk on Madiba’s special 92nd birthday.  At the end of the Walk, Charly’s Bakery will share a special 4-tiered Golden Wicked chocolate birthday cake with the walkers, serving at least 300, and singing Happy Birthday to Mandela.

Says Jacqui: “South Africans experienced a month of magic. We felt alive, united and inspired. We felt safe. We walked the streets of Cape Town for the first time in years and felt the magic of our city. Our relationship with our country and our people grew to new heights. We fell in love with our country again. This walk is not political, it’s not about blame, it is about keeping the gees and unity of the World Cup alive…opening our hearts and keeping South African unity a reality. Our Tata has shown us what it means to be free and to be able to live without fear of being who you are. He did it for 67 years, we can do it for 67 minutes”.

The planned route starts off at 12h00 on Sunday at St George’s Cathedral, moves along St George’s Mall, and links up with the bridge which crosses over Buitengracht Street, onto the Prestwich Memorial precinct at St Andrews Church (at Truth Coffees).  The Fan Walk will link in with the Ubuntu Festival, which takes place this weekend.  DJ’s and live musicians such as Hot Water, The Gugulethu Tenors, Coda, Sterling EQ, and Mthika will peform along the route. There will be a strong CCID presence in the city.

Charly’s Bakery was started by Jacqui’s husband Karl-Heinz (Charly).  After completing his baking apprenticeship at Cafe Anton in Swakopmund, Charly opened a cake and coffee shop on Thibault Square, and then Charly’s Cafe in the V&A Waterfront, their breakfasts being particularly popular, as were their buffet lunches. The next move was to Roeland Street, where Jacqui and Charly set up a wholesale bakery for two years, before switching to retail sales.  They never advertised, but relied on word-of-mouth from their happy customers to grow their business. They received coverage in magazines regularly, being close to the offices of Associated Magazines, and ad agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather.   It was their willingness “to play” when receiving an interesting challenge for a shoot that made them popular amongst the media.  Jacqui recalled how she was given six hours’ notice from Jane Raphaely of Associated Magazines to do a high tea for Oprah Winfrey at their offices.  She was asked to make a cake for Archbishop Tutu’s 75th birthday, reflecting his life.  They have recently gone onto Twitter, and will be starting a blog soon.

A year ago Charly’s Bakery moved out of their Roeland Street location as the building is earmarked for demolition.  Jacqui looked for a building she could own independently, and was delighted when she could first lease and now buy the current building in Canterbury Street, which was previously the Beinkenstadt Bookshop, and its 1898 heritage connected with her Jewish soul.   She renovated the building, keeping everything she could – the bookshelves were reused, and the pressed lead ceilings were renovated.   The outside of the building took five weeks to paint, and looks like a heavenly pink iced cake.

A Bakers’ supplies store will open in the upstairs floor, stocking icings, coloured dough, ganaches, and cake decorations, to enable working and upmarket moms to bake their own special birthday cakes.   The TV reality programme “Cake Boss” has encouraged a greater focus on baking and decorating, says Jacqui.   Jacqui is working on a book documenting the story of Charly’s Bakery.  

Charly worked himself out of the business three years ago, training his staff and daughters in fundamental cake baking, and this opened the door to Jacqui and her team to pursue creativity, playing with decorations, and having fun, “finding their inner child”.  They have no rules, and push the boat with words and visuals on their personalised cakes and cupcakes.   They use attractive pink and white striped boxes for their cakes, the words “mucking afazing” on them being an indication of their “wicked” humour!   I asked Jacqui whether she would move into food service again, given her previous experience in doing buffets, as she does sell quiches and pies, as well as cakes and coffees, for sit-down guests.   She is focused on her core business, which is cakes, and wants to keep it that way, she says.  

Birthday cakes and cupcakes for parties top the pops at Charly’s Bakery, but wedding cakes also keep them busy, with 5 – 7 orders per weekend in summer.   Charly’s Bakery works with Frances Bell, a classic cake decorator, and they make a good team in using Frances’ classical skills and marrying them with their own funky and fun decorating.  The bakery is open for customers to see, at least the decorating part of it, and the shelves display the cakes awaiting collection.   The World Cup inspired the Charly’s Bakery team to score with their country-theme cupcakes, and the football theme they applied in so many fun and creative ways.  Cakes range in price from R145 – R195, while the Decadent Chocolate Cakes range from R175 – R225.

It is rare that a family team gets on so well to all be involved in the business, and having fun while doing so.  Jacqui Biess is a character, a mensch, no-nonsense, a powerhouse, creative, goal-orientated, and a bit of a rebel, smoking her self-rolled Drum Original tobacco-filled cigarettes.  But most of all she has the “gees”, and she is determined to share it with her fellow Capetonians in honour of the father of our democracy.

Charly’s Bakery, 38 Canterbury Street, Tel 021 461-5181. www.charlysbakery.co.za  Twitter @charlysbakery. Mondays – Saturdays. Closed for winter break 1 – 23 August.

POSTSCRIPT 18/7:  It is estimated that 1 500 Capetonians particpated in the Madiba Unity Fan Walk today, an astounding turnout. Coverage on e-tv, the Weekend Argus, Voice of the Cape, and Cape Talk, as well as Tweets on Twitter helped to create awareness for the event, which was blessed by incredible weather.   The cake (photograph above), baked in honour of Nelson Mandela’s birthday was shared with the walkers.

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

Never in the history of World Cup soccer has a “player” made world TV and newspaper headlines as has Paul the psychic octopus.   We nominate him for the Golden Ball Award for being the most on-the-ball player of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, having correctly predicted Germany’s four wins and two losses.  

Paul lives in an aquarium in Oberhausen in Germany, but is British-born.  He started duty in the UEFA Cup final in 2008, but made an error when he predicted that Germany would win against Spain.   He was a little known player then, especially due to his incorrect prediction.  But since the start of the 2010 World Cup he has been spot-on with the results of each match, predicting Germany’s wins over Australia, Ghana, England and Argentina, and its losses against Serbia and Spain.  

All eyes will be on Paul as he predicts Germany to take 3rd place against Uruguay in Port Elizabeth today.   He has also bravely stepped out of his league in predicting the winner of the World Cup Final to be Spain, in its match against Netherlands tomorrow.

Poor Paul is being heavily taxed, in that he is now being asked to predict all sorts of other things, such as whether German coach Joachim Loew will renew his contract.

Paul has become such a talked-about VIP that he has his own Twitter page now (@PPsychicOctopus), and boy can he Tweet non-stop, usually putting some “biped” down when he/she make comments he does not like, and just in general, when he feels like it.  He is a cheeky opinionated chap!   He attracted 422 followers in just 2 days, and is hoping for 1000 by tomorrow.  He picks up almost every mention about himself on Twitter, and then replies to it. He has been featured on CNN, ZDF, BBC and SkyNews, and made the front page of the Cape Times and Germany’s Bild, and no doubt many more international and local newspapers.

While I am having fun, I am awarding some other unofficial 2010 World Cup awards:

Goldie Locks Award: goes to Diego Forlan of Uruguay, who has beautiful blond hair kept in place with a blue aliceband, and has the most beautiful blue eyes, for sure the most beautiful soccer player in the World Cup (on the other hand, Wayne Rooney has already been selected by the media as the ‘ugliest’ player of the soccer tournament)

Golden Trend Award:  Cristiano Ronaldo receives this award, for his black nailpolished toes, as seen on German TV station ZDF yesterday

Golden Coach Award:  superstitious German coach Joachim Loew wearing his beautiful blue jersey at every match in which Germany played, and refusing to wash it to not break the luck of his team, that is until it lost against Spain this week.    He was by far the best looking coach of all teams.

Golden Moneybags Award without a doubt goes to FIFA and its President Sepp Blatter, for taking all its money out of South Africa, untaxed as per its contract with the South African government, especially all the MATCH booking monies.  Ticket sales will have largely been received by credit card in Switzerland anyway.

Golden Service Award goes to the 25 000 or so volunteers at 10 stadiums and at the Fan Parks in Host Cities, as well as at airports and FIFA-designated hotels, who worked for a pittance of R 100 per day, irrespective of how long their working hours were.   Volunteers were specifically forced to sign away their rights to protection under South Africa’s labour legislation, such is the power of FIFA!   Volunteers were not even allowed to receive a copy of their 4-page contract.  Volunteers were the machine that made the running of the World Cup smooth and largely incident-free, in offering Spectator Services, Language Support, Transportation, Accreditation, Hospitality, IT and Telecommunications, and many more services to make the World Cup happen.   The ridiculously low “stipend” has to be taxed, at least 30 % being deducted, even for the meal allowance when it was first paid into the bank, while FIFA patted itself on the back for its 25 % increase in its media and marketing income for this World Cup, and announcing that millions of dollars will be paid to Football Associations and its executive.

Golden Aches Award goes to the World Cup Local Organising Committee (LOC), for forcing its 25 000 volunteers around the country to spend half of their R 120 daily meal allowance at a McDonald’s close by, for the past 40 days.  The Green Point branch, which is right at the Stadium, made a fortune from the Cape Town LOC for daily vouchers to the value of R 60 - it could easily be R2 million – out of a blind loyalty to the fast food company’s sponsorship of the World Cup.

Golden Handcuff Award goes to the S A Police Services for safeguarding South Africa and the soccer fans, and for taking over the security services when Stallion Security staff striked in Cape Town and in Durban at the start of the World Cup.   They were patient, dedicated and worked in the pouring rain in Cape Town at three of the matches, and in cold winter conditions for the other five matches, as well as on non-match days, checking bags and other belongings, keeping everyone inside the Stadium safe.

Golden Key Award goes to FIFA and the LOC, for forbidding its volunteers to criticise the two bodies whilst they were on duty, as per the volunteer contract.   What they did not understand was the power of word-of-mouth, aggrieved volunteers talking to each other and posting comments on the Cape Town Volunteers blog  www.ctvolunteers2010.wordpress.com.    E-mails were sent to other volunteers, and one even approached the Weekend Argus about the McDonald’s forced-diet, that uniforms were not supplied to all volunteers in the 5 weeks of them doing duty, prejudicing some in not working inside the stadiums and therefore not seeing all the matches, and that transport problems meant that volunteers stood in the rain and cold waiting for transportation to take them home after matches.

Golden “Gees” Award goes to all South Africans, who become ‘Proudly South African’ in the past month, becoming soccer fans (who was it that said that ‘White’ South Africans do not support soccer and do not watch local matches?) in addition to loving rugby; who went to watch the Stormers and the Blue Bulls play at Orlando Stadium in Soweto (I mean, have you ever?!) and loved the “gees” there just a short while prior to the start of the World Cup; for walking the Fan Walk  (153 000 in Cape Town last Saturday alone) and calling for the Fan Walk to become a permanent feature, locals requesting Capetonians to walk it once a month; for the loyal support for Bafana Bafana, a team we scorned and mocked prior to the World Cup, but who did us proud; and made us proud Africans, supporting BaGhana BaGhana when this was the last African team left in the tournament.

Golden Liquid Award goes to the beer producers and all the staff at pubs and restaurants around the country who made sure that soccer fans remained liquid, either to celebrate or commiserate their teams’ performance!   Vaughn Johnson’s Wine Shop sold 10 000 beer cans in the 4 hours prior to the England versus Algeria match in Cape Town, he says.

Golden Balls-Up Award goes to ACSA Durban for damaging the image of the country when flights bringing German and Spain fans to Durban on Tuesday after the match had finished, due to a congestion of aeroplanes at the new King Shaka airport in the city, reportedly due to private jets clogging up the parking bays and refusing to move their planes, the FIFA one being one of them!  Not surprisingly FIFA and the LOC have distanced themselves from any responsibility for this mess-up.     

Golden Fans Award goes to all the wonderful soccer fans, both local and international, that became infected with the “gees” of the World Cup, who got to endure the vuvuzelas and even bought their own, for dressing up in wigs, painting their faces, and proudly wearing their country’s flags – I can see a whole new fashion trend in proudly-South African colours.   They brought their dollars, pounds and Euros, and bought beers, ate at restaurants (manly pizzas, burgers and steaks), stayed at good value guest houses and did some sightseeing locally.    They showed up FIFA’s MATCH by making their own accommodation bookings (at non-MATCH guest houses) and by buying their own match tickets, instead of falling for MATCH packages.

Golden Rip-Off Award goes to MATCH, the hospitality and ticketing agency of FIFA, which conned the accommodation industry for a second World Cup, promising good accommodation returns, forcing establishments to give 80 % of their rooms, promising not to cancel rooms as it did in Germany four years before, and for adding an unjustified 30 % commission to accommodation rates, giving South Africa an unfortunate image of “rip-off pricing” in the European and English media, thereby keeping soccer fans away from the country.   As if this was not bad enough, the unfortunate accommodation establishments that signed with MATCH received the majority of their rooms back, just a few weeks before the start of the World Cup.

Golden City Award goes to Cape Town, which to date has had the highest number of goals scored (22) of all stadiums, and has achieved the highest occupancy of stadium seats, said Cape Town Stadium Venue Manager Terral Cullen at a Volunteer Farewell Lunch earlier this week.  The Stadium was moved a few meters and a new one built, for the benefit of the view from it onto Table Mountain.   Ironically it was not the mountain that became the focus of the world media, but it was the Stadium itself that formed the backdrop for report after report about our beautiful city and the matches that were taking place.  Even the sport commentators would refer to the beauty of the city during their match commentary.   President Zuma claimed it as the best World Cup city, and FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke said the Cape Town Stadium had the best pitch and was the most perfect stadium, so much so that the Olympic Committee has requested Cape Town to bid for the 2020 Olympic Games.  What an accolade!   Sepp Blatter has taken IOC President Rogge around Cape Town, and personally has recommended the city.  We know that what President Blatter wants, he gets!

Golden Card Award goes to the World Cup referees who loved the red and yellow ones, waving them at players at great regularity, and influencing outcomes of matches as a result – Klose and Mueller’s red and yellow cards were examples for the German team.

Golden Flop Award goes to all soccer players who collapsed every time another player bumped into them – from a distance many of them looked like primadonnas, hoping for a free kick whenever they flopped onto the grass

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

The tourism industry in Hermanus and related towns is up in arms about the new Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO), a body which was formed more than a year ago to market the whale coast from Rooi Els to Gansbaai.  

Whilst the mandate of the DMO is to market the Whale Coast, with monies supplied from the Overstrand municipality, generated from rates/taxes/levies on tourism businesses, according to its constitution, the DMO now is opening up an information kiosk in Hermanus, from which they will be taking bookings.  To receive such bookings, members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and other bureaux along the coast, must become members of the DMO as well, at an additional R 600 annual membership fee.

The irony is that the Hermanus Tourism Bureau had to send out the e-mail to its members, inviting membership of the DMO, offering such benefits as a discounted cost to distribute members’ marketing material at trade shows and for marketing and advertising projects, free listing on the Whale Coast website, and free brochure and collage display at the new Market Square Info kiosk, in competition to itself.   These should be standard benefits to members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau.

The criteria for membership state that one must pay the DMO a commission of 12 % (this is an unusually high rate, as 10 % is the norm. Cape Town Tourism charges 11 %) ; that one must be a member of a tourism bureau in the Cape Whale Coast area; and that one’s property must have a departure or zoning.

This means that all existing tourism bureau members, paying a membership fee to the Hermanus Tourism Bureau of R 520 for a medium-sized guesthouse/B&B must now pay another R 600 to the DMO to receive bookings from the new kiosk, in competition to the Tourism Bureau’s offices in Mitchell Street!   The Overstrand tourism bureaux receive a small grant from the DMO, out of its annual budget of R 2,5 million, and they are therefore reliant on making up the rest of their funding from the commission they receive for bookings made.  This is a serious threat to their funding, in Hermanus in particular, as the tourism bureau is not close to the whale watching spots.

According to the Constitution of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, all business owners paying rates and taxes are automatically members:  “Member” means a registered owner of an erf on which assessment rates are payable due to business which may, or is being conducted on that erf and such rates have been paid to the Municipality for the previous municipal financial year (or current financial year for 2007/8), and/or a person who is paying rental on that erf”.  This means that all ratepayers are members automatically, and cannot therefore be double-charged!

The DMO Constitution lists 21 objectives that the DMO must meet, and one of them says: “to maintain effective tourism bureaus in the region”.  It does not have an objective to create its own tourism bureaus, or to be booking agent, according to its Constitution.  Its role is a Marketing one predominantly. 

If the Cape Whale Coast DMO is modelled on Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the provincial marketing body, which is also a destination marketing organisation, then it is making a mistake!  Cape Town Routes Unlimited does not have members, and does not take bookings – it leaves this to Cape Town Tourism and all other tourism bureaux in the province.   It is a marketing body and focuses on marketing the Western Cape province.  This is what the Cape Whale Coast DMO should be doing too.

A further gripe is that the Whale Coast DMO spends too much of its budget on publications and advertising, and too little on web-driven marketing.    One of the DMO’s stated objectives is to “develop and maintain a world-class website” – this objective has not been met, as the website can not be called world class.

Of even greater concern is that Clinton Lerm, of the Misty Waves Hotel in Hermanus, is the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, which means that any concerns that members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau have about this or any other arrangement relating to the DMO cannot be fairly dealt with, due to the conflict of interests.  Lerm and his mother Maxie put up a strong fight to be elected to the board of the DMO, which raised many hackles at the time.  Maxie Lerm is in charge of the Public Relations of the DMO, which should not be handled by Board members.  The promise that a full-time CEO would manage the DMO, as per the Constitution, within a year of establishment of the DMO, has not been met.

The Cape Whale Coast website www.whalecoast.info shows another conflict of interest, in that the Lerm’s Misty Waves Hotel is featured in an ad on the Hermanus page, and is listed on the right hand side of the page as well.   Further ads for Misty Waves Hotel appear on the Home page, the Resources page, the News page and the About page.   At no stage since its inception has the DMO offered members of the Tourism Bureaux the opportunity to place ads on the website.  All other accommodation properties are listed by name over 4 pages, with a street address and telephone number, if one clicks onto a general Accommodation page. 

The Cape Whale Coast proudly lists Fernkloof Nature Reserve as the first of its “Resources” – the nature reserve has seen four bad attacks on hikers in the past few months, and the one on a Canadian couple, who are ex-South Africans, earlier this week has been communicated around the world, not being to the PR benefit of Hermanus at all!

A further oddity is that the Hermanus Tourism Bureau does not have one conglomerate website, but has various websites for accommodation, restaurants, activities, and arts, e.g. www.hermanusaccommodation.com, www.hermanusrestaurants.com.   The Bureau says it is working on building one website for all its separate parts, which would give it far greater search engine optimisation.

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