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January 11, 2012

Whale Cottage Portfolio Newsletter


It’s been a busy three weeks for the tourism industry in the Cape, with a better festive season than experienced last year, yet December occupancy overall was not as good as that of a year ago. The world recession continues to make itself felt, and tourists from the United Kingdom have been almost non-existent, contrary to this group making up the largest source of tourism in the past.

Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Tourism and Finance, stated that there would be a slight improvement in visitor numbers, but he warned the tourism industry to ‘…don’t expect fireworks’. He added: “The market is tough and is going to become even more competitive, so we have to up our game. Quality and service will set us apart from the rest”. The December occupancy of Whale Cottage Camps Bay was 70%, slightly up on December 2010, but a huge drop from the 90+% occupancy of December 2007 – 2009. What was different was that the guest house was fully booked for the Christmas days, which was an improvement on the past years. However, the first two weeks of December were much quieter than in the past.

We wish all our guests, readers of our newsletter and blog, as well as our suppliers, and staff stability, happiness and success in this auspicious year 2012.

Chris von Ulmenstein
Owner, Whale Cottage Portfolio


Looking forward: 2012 a year of change!

2011 the worst year ever?

Cape Town hits top of the charts in ‘Paradise’!

Cape Town Tourism goes on holiday, contrary to its slogan!



Looking at 2012, we consulted some numerology sites, and we were reminded of the prediction that the world will end on 21 December this year, an interesting focus to start the year with, and encouraging one to make the most of this year. Adding up the numbers in 2012, giving a total of 5, the emphasis this year will be one of Change, Change and Change, as one site wrote. A political change is forecast for the USA, more natural disasters are predicted, and the world economy looks to remain shaky. We enter the Year of the Dragon later this month, being the 5th and a very powerful sign in the Chinese calendar, signaling change, power, and improvement.

What does that mean for tourism:

* Tourism from Europe and the UK will remain depressed. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her New Year’s Eve address that this year will be even tougher than last year, but she has promised to do everything in her power to stabilise the Euro, introduced ten years ago, and to build a stronger bond in the European Union. The UK market is likely to remain depressed, and no great increase in tourism numbers can be expected, with the exception of February, a popular travel month for Britons who like to get away from a bitterly cold winter, and who like to celebrate ‘Valentine’s Month’ in the Cape. Bookings for February

already look promising for Whale Cottage Camps Bay. August has become a relatively good tourism month, despite it still being winter, with many Europeans coming on holiday. This year this period coincides with the Olympic Games in London, which may reduce tourism numbers in the first half of the month. German tourism remains strong this season, but is more prominent in the towns and villages outside of Cape Town.

* South Africans will remain the foundation of tourism this year, and the summer season will end early, with Easter falling on the first weekend of April. However, there are six public holidays falling on weekdays this year, and these are normally good for tourism business. A 5-day long weekend, from 27 April to 1 May, could be a last summer highlight for the hospitality industry.

Other predictions we would like to see become reality are the following:

* Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited being amalgamated in one private sector driven body, to prevent the current duplication of marketing activity and spend, with sharper strategic and marketing thinking. It has already been announced that Cape Town Routes Unlimited will be incorporated into Wesgro in April. There is no sign of the new Cape Town Tourism “You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town” campaign or its effect, which was launched locally with great fanfare at the AGM in October, and internationally at World Travel Market in London in November. Any work that Cape Town Tourism’s UK trade and media representative may be doing is not bearing fruit. Its Australian consultant Ian Macfarlane seems to have vanished, his contract having ended last month. Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold is on maternity leave, and one can speculate that no marketing of Cape Town will happen until she returns in May, if the past month is anything to go by. We would like to see a greater transparency by Cape Town Tourism in how it is spending its members’ and Cape Town ratepayers monies (R40 million), information which Mrs Helmbold has refused to release to date!

* A new Eat Out editor and Top 10 restaurant judge, given that editor Abigail Donnelly lost credibility when she awarded the Boschendal Style Award to her client Makaron Restaurant, and a fairer and transparent judging process.

* Better support of Cape Town and Winelands restaurants by locals, especially in winter, when unbelievable specials are offered

* Better service in restaurants, shops, and in any other businesses dealing with the public. Franschhoek, for example, is fast losing its professional image due to poorly trained staff, often left to their own devices, without any management support. Many restaurants suffered badly with unreliable staff being absent over the festive period.

* Better ability of businesses to accept service and other feedback, in the interest of improving things, rather than to be defensive and vindictive about it.

* A longer life for new restaurants, which means that they need to do better research to understand their market and potential diners before opening, and must build loyalty.

* The new Masterchef SA series should stimulate even greater interest in cooking, when it starts on M-Net in March, and could create new top chefs.

* A reorientation of when the country goes on holiday, and its bosses in particular. It seems crazy that businesses close on 15 December for 2 – 3 weeks, and that hospitality and tourism bureau management goes on leave, at a time when business is at its peak, instead of in winter, when business is at its poorest!

* A total revamp of labour legislation (a big dream, we know!), in discouraging employee departures without giving notice, greater checking of employee references, the development of a register of unreliable staff to the benefit of all employers, and a better balance in the rights of employers. If there is one aspect of business that most owners complain about and are most influenced by in terms of service delivery it is staff. Such changes may lead to higher employment.

* A better rates dispensation by municipalities, to recognise that most accommodation establishments and other tourism businesses operate at 50% occupancy at best in winter, yet must pay rates in full.

* More responsible reporting about the state of tourism in the Cape by the media and tourism bodies, and to not exaggerate its status.

* More responsible behaviour in terms of the effect that our lifestyle has on climate change, the negative effects of which were well demonstrated in 2011.

* More kindness and niceness to others, putting the ‘social’ back into Social Media!



2011: what a year it’s been for the world, South Africa, and Whale Cottage – unpredictable, up and down, and a year in which one had to rethink every way in which one has run one’s business and life. Most would say that it’s been one of the worst years ever! But despite the tough times, there has been a lot to be grateful for as well:

1. The knock which tourism took, especially from May – August, in being one of the worst winters ever experienced, had an effect on all sectors of the economy. Restaurants frantically offered specials to gain cashflow, guest houses went back to dropping rates as they do in winter, and few took rate increases in summer, unlike their hotel colleagues, who suffered poor occupancy too. More hotels and restaurants closed down than ever seen before. The recession in the UK hit South African tourism and wine sales badly, previously our major source market. From 50 % of our business in the summer months in Camps Bay, the UK business will be no more than 5 % this summer. High airfares and the crippling UK airport taxes have not helped. The tourism situation was so bad that we wrote an Open Letter to national Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, as Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited were not aware of how bad things were in the Cape, and therefore did nothing to market the region and to help the tourism industry. Cape Town Tourism spent all its energy on Twitter, not yet the medium of communication of our average tourist, and on wasteful promotions, and therefore we did not renew our 20 year membership. The welcome increase in German tourists has not made up this shortfall, but we have been delighted to welcome many more South African guests. The World Cup has become a swearword, the reality of its lack of a tourism benefit becoming clear.

2. Events are hugely beneficial for business, and the Argus Cycle Tour, J&B Met, and Cape Town International Jazz Festival attracted out of town guests to Cape Town. The U2 and Coldplay concerts helped fill beds and delighted Cape Town audiences. A fantastic outcome of Coldplay’s performance is that the music video for ‘Paradise’ was filmed in Cape Town, the Boland and the Karoo.

3. Cape Town has had an exceptional year, the darling of the world, winning the World Design Capital 2014 bid, Table Mountain being named one of New7Wonders of Nature (amid some controversy and as yet subject to verification), named top destination in TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Destination (for what it was worth!), was referred to in a number of celebrity blogposts in The Guardian, was the location for the Ingrid Jonker movie ‘Black Butterflies’, was the location for the reality programme featuring Charly’s Bakery in ‘Charly’s Cake Angels’, and features strongly in the new James Bond book ‘Carte Blanche’. Our city hotels, especially the Cape Grace and Steenberg Hotel, featured on international top hotel lists. Good news was the sale of the V&A Waterfront to a local company, which is investing in the upgrade of and addition to the country’s most popular tourist destination.

The Pot Luck Club

Babel Tea House

4. Despite the doom and gloom, there were more restaurant openings, and chef and restaurant staff changes, this year than in many years: The Pot Luck Club, Hemelhuijs, Dash, Casparus, Dear Me Foodworld, The Franschhoek Kitchen, Il Cappero, Café Benedict, The Kitchen at Maison, Sotano by Caveau, Knife, De Oude Bank Bakkerij, Ryan’s Kitchen, Caffe Milano, Mozzarella Bar, Cassis Salon de Thé, Power & the Glory, Haas Coffee, Johan’s @ Longridge, Skinny Legs & All, KOS Coffee & Cuisine, Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet, Le Coq, Act and Play Bar at the Baxter, Sunbird Bistro, Societi Brasserie, Jason’s, Bird Café with new owners, Maria’s after a long renovation closure, Toro Wine & Aperitif Bar, Valora, Café Le Chocolatier, Haute Cabriere Cellar Restaurant after a renovation and chef change, Art’s Café, Spice Route, Mitico, Knead on Kloof, Chez Chez, La Bella, 5 Rooms, Terbodore Coffee Bar, Wale Rose Lifestyle, The Black Pearl, Harvest at Laborie wine estate, Bistro on Rose, Slainte, Babel Tea House, Rhapsody’s, Café Extrablatt, McDonalds in the V&A, The Mussel Bar, The Franschhoek Food Emporium, Makaron, F.east, Bean There Fair Trade, Sabrina’s, Harbour House in the V&A, MCC Franschhoek, Clarke Bar & Dining Room, Roberto’s, French Toast, Saboroso, Mezepoli, Rocca in the Cape Quarter, and Roca in Franschhoek opening their doors, and new suppliers Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants and The Creamery opening too. We wrote reviews of number one Eat Out Top 10 restaurant The Greenhouse, Top 20 finalist in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards Babel Restaurant at Babylonstoren, of Heaven at Newton Johnson wine estate on the Hermanus Wine Route, and of Waterkloof Restaurant. We were impressed with the ethical approach of meat production by Spier Biodynamic Farms, and how many top Cape restaurants use their produce.

5. Sadly, the recession was noticeable as it hit restaurants, and it was some of the newer restaurants that were badly hit, leading to the closure of What’s On Eatery, The Olive Shack, Bella Lucia, Blonde, Jardine, Caveau at the Mill, Nando’s in Camps Bay, The Sandbar, The Bistro, Restaurant Christophe, Doppio Zero in Green Point and Claremont, shu, Oiishi Delicious Caffe, Hermanos, The Kitchen Bar, Wildwoods, The Green Dolphin, De Huguenot restaurant, Wildflour, Depasco, Kuzina, and 221 Waterfront.

6. The eating highlight of the year was the tribute dinner to the closing of El Bulli, one of the world’s best restaurants, by Tokara, Chef Richard Carstens excelling in serving a 13-course meal to a packed restaurant on 30 July, earning him and his team a standing ovation. This meal alone should have made Chef Richard South Africa’s top chef in the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards, but sole judge Abigail Donnelly proved that she was incapable of handling this new role and responsibility, not only in excluding Chef Richard from her Top 10 list, but also in awarding the new Boschendal Style Award to her client Makaron. The 2012 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list was announced as follows:

Chef Richard Carstens

1. The Greenhouse, with Peter Tempelhoff, Cape Town
2. The Test Kitchen, with Luke Dale-Roberts, Cape Town
3. The Tasting Room, with Chef Margot Janse, Franschhoek
4. The Roundhouse, with Chefs PJ Vadas and Eric Bulpitt, Cape Town
5. Overture, with Chef Bertus Basson, Stellenbosch
6. Terroir, with Chef Michael Broughton, Stellenbosch
7. DW Eleven-13, with Chef Marthinus Ferreira, Johannesburg
8. Jordan Restaurant, with Chef George Jardine, Stellenbosch
9. Nobu, with Chef Hideki Maeda, One&Only Cape Town
10. La Colombe, with Chef Scot Kirton, Cape Town

7. Franschhoek evolved as THE wine region, Boekenhoutskloof being recognised as South Africa’s top winery by the Platter Guide, and La Motte the top wine estate in South Africa by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network. In the latter competition, Tokara was selected as top wine estate restaurant in the country. The sale of the Franschhoek Graham Beck farm was announced, and the operation closes mid-year in 2012. The winemaking will take place at Steenberg and at Graham Beck in Robertson, while a Graham Beck tasting bar Gorgeous will open at Steenberg in February. Liam Tomlin Food opened in the new Leopard’s Leap tasting venue alongside La Motte outside Franschhoek.

8. Hermanus was in the tourism marketing spotlight, when miraculously both the committee of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau resigned, and the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation was disbanded by the Overstrand Mayor. We had written about the self-interest which had been served by the previous leaders of these two bodies in ‘Lermanus’! A welcome product for Hermanus is the recently created Hermanus Wine Route, marketing of which will be in the capable hands of Carolyn Martin of Creation.

9. The Consumer Protection Act was introduced in April, and has shown benefits in product deficiencies and returns. Little effect has been seen for the tourism industry. The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa tried to change its accommodation assessment standards, which caused a huge outcry. Despite changing back to what they had before, many accommodation establishments lost faith in the organisation, and have not renewed their accreditation.

10. The wedding of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlène in July put South Africa in the world spotlight, not only due to the televised broadcast of the wedding, but also as they celebrated their wedding with a second reception, at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga, now the country’s best known hotel.

11. This year proved that the ‘social’ in Social Media is a misnomer in many respects, but it is the marketing platform which cannot be excluded. We celebrated the 10th anniversary of our WhaleTales newsletter, the 3rd year of blogging, and our 1000th blogpost this year. We are grateful to our Facebook friends and likers, Twitter followers, and blog and newsletter readers for their support. The most read posts on our blog in 2011 were the restaurant winter specials, the Festive Season packages, the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Charléne, the review of Casparus, the restaurant summer specials, the review of Gaaitjie in Paternoster, the death in Cape Town of the President of Ferrero Rocher, the listing of restaurant openings and closures, the Consumer Protection Act, and Table Mountain making the New7Wonders of Nature.



One must salute SA Tourism in capitalising on Coldplay’s filming of its ‘Paradise’ music video in Cape Town, the Boland and the Karoo in marketing our country to tourists, something Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited had not thought of doing! Coldplay performed in Cape Town and Johannesburg in October, and at short notice decided to film the music video for ‘Paradise’ in Cape Town, outside Paarl, on a game farm in the Karoo, and at its concert in Johannesburg.

The title of the song could not have been better chosen to reflect our beautiful country and city, and its popularity as a song, and as a fun and funky beautifully shot music video, has a tremendous tourism benefit for South Africa generally, and the Cape specifically, not costing the tourism authorities a cent. The music video has had more than 45 million views to date, and the song has just started 2012 as the number one single on the UK hit charts, to the band’s own surprise, according to their Tweets.

SA Tourism is running a competition on a special Facebook promotion page, inviting those seeing the ‘Paradise’ music video on YouTube, to share with SA Tourism which part of the country ‘gives them inspiration in the same way it did for Coldplay’, reports the Australian eTravel Blackboard site. The ten most imaginative, heartfelt, fun and spontaneous submissions from all over the world will be shortlisted, and put out to vote, to select the best. The winner will receive a 5-day holiday in South Africa. The SA Tourism promotion proves that international tourism marketing does not need to cost the earth! We would like to see lots more creative promotions and marketing of our country and the Cape from the tourism authorities this year, especially to the UK market, which has seen a massive drop-off, and has been our region’s tourism bread-and-butter.



Two months ago Cape Town Tourism launched its new Ogilvy-developed advertising campaign, with the slogan ‘You don’t need a holiday, you need Cape Town’. It would appear that this slogan has not been supported by the Cape Town Tourism staff, most of whom have been on holiday over the festive period! Seeing Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold Tweet from her Pringle Bay ‘holiday shack’, as she calls it, a year ago I was astounded that our city’s tourism bureau could close down its management over the period during which Cape Town is at its busiest.

Sadly, this is true too of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, marketing the Western Cape. The Cape Town Tourism Communications Manager Skye Grove took a trip to the Cederberg region between Christmas and New Year, she communicated on Twitter, and the new Marketing Manager Velma Corcoran went on leave, despite only having started with the organisation in September, surprising then that she has leave to take already! We visited the Cape Town Tourism website, and noted the following:

* Grammar-deficient media releases

* An outdated list of accommodation ‘Winters are Cool’ specials!

* Typing errors in the blogposts on the Cape Town Tourism Blog, if there is any writing at all, as most blogposts are a Flickr pic of the day!

* The biggest surprise was the poor content of the ‘Beyond Cape Town’ pages, in that:
1. there is no mention of the attractions in Stellenbosch, the largest, oldest and most visible wine region in our country, in the Cape Winelands sub-section! Wine estate names are misspelled, and the wine estates mentioned are in Stellenbosch, but are not identified as being in this town, looking as if they could be in Franschhoek from the text!

2. in the Cape Overberg section, there is no mention of the Hermanus Wine Route (and not to be found in the Cape Winelands section either), focusing only on the whales for Hermanus. Hermanus suffers badly outside of the whale watching period, and its excellent wines could be an important means of bringing tourists and locals to the town from December – May in particular.

* In her ‘From the CEO’ statement on the website, Mrs Helmbold announces her five month maternity leave, with Enver Duminy heading up the operation in her absence. Interesting is that Mrs Helmbold finally acknowledges that 2011 was ‘one of the toughest years for tourism’, having tried to counter our blogposts about this crisis months ago. Badly written, her statement suggests that ‘there is some optimism in the air’! Mrs Helmbold does not reveal her organisation’s goals and marketing plans for 2012, but writes that ‘we have been soul-searching, and have worn our hearts on our sleeves’, an interesting and innovative marketing planning approach!

Cape Town Tourism receives R40 million from the City of Cape Town, money which is generated from the ratepayers of Cape Town. Grant Pascoe is the (DA) City Councillor responsible for the Tourism, Events and Marketing portfolios on the mayoral committee, and one wonders how the City can justify the wasted expenditure of some of the projects which Cape Town Tourism sponsored in 2011, and in not delivering on marketing Cape Town, as little marketing is likely in the next four months of Mrs Helmbold’s absence! Finding this state of affairs unacceptable, especially during this peak tourism period, I called City Councillor Grant Pascoe’s office, and his secretary kindly gave me his cellphone number when I told her that the Councillor has not once returned calls nor responded to Tweets and e-mails addressed to him in the past few months. The Councillor answered his cellphone immediately, and was in a noisy space sounding like a children’s playground, and said that he could not speak to me because he was in a meeting with a colleague, and was in recess anyway, and was only back in the office this week. I asked him to confirm that he would indeed call back, given his poor record of non-response in the past year, which unleashed a torrent of abuse from him, saying that he didn’t know why he should call back because of what I have written about him on our blog, and demanded an apology first. Over and above highlighting the Councillor’s non-communication rudeness, we wrote about his Design Indaba PR gaffe!

Category: Blog

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