JULY 2011  

 
The tourism industry in the Cape is facing its worst crisis ever, and we are so concerned about the future of our industry, that we wrote an open letter to our Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk. We are concerned about the lack of proactiveness from Cape Town Tourism, Cape Town Routes Unlimited, and SA Tourism in addressing this crisis. At Whale Cottage we have reduced our rates by close to 50 %, as we do every winter, and have not increased our summer rates since 2007.
 
We reached the milestone of posting our 1000th blogpost in June, and did an evaluation of what our blog readers enjoyed reading most in the almost three years since we started blogging. Restaurant specials and reviews were the
most widely read topics on our blog, according to Google Analytics. We have seen a disconcerting increase in disparaging comments to our Blog, and we have tightened up our criteria for allowing Comments, seeking constructive debate from those that we allow.
 
We had to recently start our Whale Cottage Portfolio page on Facebook from scratch, and invite our readers to like our page.
 
We wish all our colleagues in the tourism industry an improvement in business, and encourage our guests to make use of the reduced rates on offer.
 

Chris von Ulmenstein
Owner, Whale Cottage Portfolio  


IN THIS MONTH'S NEWSLETTER

Cape tourism industry in crisis

James Bond has Carte Blanche in Cape Town 

Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards changes recipe
South Africa marries Monaco!
Whale of a tourism Storm lashes Hermanus

Sweet & Sour Service Awards

     

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Article1

CAPE TOURISM INDUSTRY IN CRISIS

 

  

The signs are everywhere - doom and gloom where one goes in the hospitality industry - restaurants are close to empty, accommodation establishments cannot pull in guests, and enquiries and bookings are not rolling in. Accommodation bookings generally are a barometer of the summer season lying ahead. The next few months will see a bloodbath of closures, as hospitality businesses run out of cash, we unfortunately predict. It is sad to see the day-to-day reality of close to empty hotels and guest houses, with a trickle of businesspersons keeping things going, and of seeing top restaurants in Cape Town and in the Winelands standing empty for weekend lunches and dinners, not to mention the poor weekday trade. This scenario is despite fantastic winter specials offered by more than 100 restaurants in the Cape and Winelands, and accommodation rates that drop by close to half between May to August. Disturbing is to read headlines, such as in Business Report, crying “Hotels fill more rooms, but special offers hit profit”. Referring to figures for March, it stated that the occupancy in 3-, 4-, and 5-star hotels rose relative to March a year ago, but that revenues ‘are down steeply and some are making a loss’, especially in 4- and 5-star hotels, due to rates cut to meet those of 3-star hotels in some instances. Many hotels are for sale, or are being converted into retirement homes. Protea Hotels says that it regularly receives requests to take over the management of hotels, or to buy their properties. The hotel group understands the financial pressures on establishments, and their inability to cut fixed expenses, such as taxes and municipal costs. What is of the biggest concern for the summer season lying ahead is that the UK market is extremely quiet, with only a few enquiries trickling in from a handful of regular guests. Agents and tour operators report how cash-strapped British consumers are, and that they are just not travelling, due to the austerity measures and tax increases imposed by their government, and the strong Rand. The forecast is for the hottest UK summer in years, which is not good news for Cape Town. A small consolation is the increase in the number of BA flights, to two per day, between London and Cape Town from October, reports the Cape Argus. The South African hospitality industry will be largely dependent on the South African domestic market, and the promised SA Tourism advertising campaign to encourage locals to travel in their own country has not yet been seen. It is sorely needed.
 
The results from the second measurement of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa’s/FNB’s new Tourism Business Index showed a dramatic fall in confidence amongst business leaders in the tourism and travel sector for the first three months of 2011, reported Business Day. From a
measurement of 89 % for the last quarter of 2010, the Index dropped by a massive 10 percentage points to 79 %. An Index of 100 % reflects normality, and any score above it would reflect a positive tourism scenario. Particularly hard hit within the tourism industry is the Accommodation sector, the Index shows, reflecting not only oversupply but also poor demand. The Index is an indication of the current and likely future performance of businesses in the travel and tourism sector.
 
The Easter weekend and extended holiday period due to a number of public holidays was a welcome boost for the tourism industry, yet accommodation establishments were not as fully booked as one would have expected for the 11-day stretch, demonstrating that times are tough for locals too. In less than a year, about fifty restaurants have opened in Cape Town and the Winelands, and about 25 have closed their doors. One of Cape Town’s oldest hotels, the Alphen Hotel, and Hotel La Vendome closed their doors recently, but both are being taken over by other operators, we have heard. With no special events lying ahead for winter in Cape Town, and the well-supported Franschhoek events in May (
Franschhoek Literary Festival), June (Cook Franschhoek), and July (Bastille), a long dreary winter is certain to lie ahead.
 
It was depressing to read the article ”The Business Case for Tourism and a strong brand for Cape Town” by Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold. The most disturbing prediction it contains is that the R14 billion Cape Town tourism industry, which employs just short of 300000 staff, will only recover in 2014, in getting back to the 2007 level, the last good year for tourism in Cape Town. What is disappointing is that Mrs Helmbold does not provide any guidelines to her Cape Town Tourism members as to how businesses should survive the next three years of poor business, nor does she spell out what she and her organisation are doing to market Cape Town more visibly! Mrs Helmbold writes that international arrivals to Cape Town as well as domestic arrivals have stagnated due to the ‘Global Financial Crisis’, and she estimates a total loss of R 1,5 billion for the Cape Town tourism industry between 2008 - 2014, with zero job creation as a result. Unlike other provinces, Cape Town and the Western Cape has little Africa-business, with more than 80 % of its business coming from Europe (including the UK, one assumes) and the USA. Cape Town is a small fish in a massive global tourism pond, with our city’s market share being 0,2 % of world tourism. Mrs Helmbold blames SA Tourism by implication for doing too much marketing of wildlife, and too little of the cities in our country :”... many national campaigns are of a tactical nature, which do not necessarily build knowledge and esteem values of our cities”. The marketing of Cape Town, which is the responsibility of Cape Town Tourism, does “not allow for Cape Town to be compellingly and relevantly portrayed to potential visitors”. This sounds odd, as Mrs Helmbold is pointing at her own organisation, but she does not explain what constraints there are to marketing the city. She also states that Cape Town’s attributes of being “iconic, complex and multi-faceted” are not evident to tourists. The rest of the five page document is a long and theoretical ramble about how Cape Town should be positioned and at whom it should be aimed: in summary, the marketing of Cape Town no longer should be focused on leisure tourism alone, by highlighting the beauty of Cape Town, but it should incorporate business, investment, academic, and the creative sectors too. All of this appears to have been written to justify to its funders, the City of Cape Town, that unnamed ‘partnerships’ are “waiting in the wings for public sector endorsement of Cape Town Tourism’s new 2011/2012 marketing strategy and for the brand execution plan”.

 

Sydney is used as an example, in how the 2000 Olympic Games caused a five-year tourism slump to that city, mainly because they stopped marketing themselves, thinking that they had world exposure. The key learning points for Cape Town Tourism are that cities do not market themselves, they need to be marketed; investment in infrastructure and hosting events create growth and ‘livability’, but may not be relevant to tourists: “lack of marketing induces invisibility and irrelevance, which in itself reduces demand”.

 
The conclusion of the article seems far too obvious, and one must question why Cape Town Tourism, custodians of brand Cape Town, have not been able to identify the poor tourism and resultant poor industry performance trends, and have not acted proactively to address these problems. Mrs Helmbold concludes: “If we do not act decisively now our industry and the economic well-being of our city and people are at great risk. If we don’t proactively engage in a new marketing and branding strategy we run the risk of being positioned nonetheless by our competitors, our critics and the media, and most likely to our disadvantage”. The last sentence does not make sense in its wording, nor can one understand why Cape Town Tourism has not changed its marketing strategy to date, having been responsible for the city’s marketing for the past three years already. 
 
One must question whether Cape Town Tourism is capable of driving such an important campaign, influencing the revenue of almost all the city’s businesses, all directly or indirectly influenced by tourism, and of its residents, dependent on jobs. Cape Town Tourism’s Marketing Manager until recently was Lianne Burton, a journalist, and not a marketer. Her departure from the organisation at the end of June has been kept low-key, and she has not been replaced to date. Mrs Helmbold, and especially her PR Manager Skye Grove, are very active on Twitter, but this is rarely about tourism, and far more about their social life. We must question why their time during working hours is not focused on their work and the marketing challenges of our city ! There appears to be no visible benefit to tourism in Cape Town in the appointment by Cape Town Tourism of PR agencies in Holland, Germany and the UK. One hopes that Cape Town Tourism can justify its international spend by sending members a detailed report of their international activities to obtain exposure for Cape Town.
 
In reply to our question: ”What is Cape Town Tourism doing to prevent a bloodbath of restaurant, hotel and other accommodation closures due to poor forward bookings?”, Mrs Helmbold was generalist and vague, and she does not appear to understand that a solution must be found NOW, and not in months to come! We call for a heavyweight Marketing professional to be appointed, to drive Cape Town Tourism’s marketing of Cape Town. Ms Helmbold’s article in summary sounds like a city marketing organisation that is overwhelmed by the problems its tourism industry is facing, and that does not know the way forward - a very scary situation indeed!
 
Cape Town Routes Unlimited CEO Calvyn Gilfellan was reported on Eye Witness News to have urged ‘hotels and industry suppliers to reduce their rates to make travel more affordable for locals’. He said “I think the industry must really wake up and make themselves more affordable if they want to remain competitive in a very cut-throat industry”, showing that he is also not in touch with the industry, given that most accommodation establishments reduce their winter rates by up to 50 %! The Bureau of Economic Research results received in June for the confidence in the Services industry showed that the Accommodation sector has by far the lowest Business Confidence Index at only 25% (the next lowest is Real Estate at 41%). Accommodation bookings are expected to decrease by 56% in the second quarter of 2011, relative to 2010, which was out of the ordinary for bookings due to the World Cup. For the third quarter of this year, bookings are expected to be down by 23%. Trend information supplied showed that the last period of growth for the Accommodation industry was the fourth quarter of 2007.
 
One company that is benefiting from the tourism slump is the Protea Hospitality Group, which is leasing and buying hotels that have ‘over-extended themselves and are now struggling to survive due to the current slump in the local hotel industry’, reports Southern African Tourism Update. Protea’s CEO Arthur Gillis predicts that ‘many of South Africa’s 80 hotel brands will disappear’. Gillis said that he doubted whether there will be a tourism boom ‘unless it gets more bums on airline seats’. He suggests that SAA should fly routes in the interest of tourism, whether profitable or not. Gillian Saunders of tourism consultancy Grant Thornton said about the tourism industry recently: “It’s really tough out there”. She blamed this on the recession, the strong Rand, increased costs such as electricity and labour, and an oversupply of accommodation, reported the Cape Times. City Lodge Hotels CEO Clifford Ross said: “It’s probably the worst I have known for 32 years”. He added that no one “expected the drop-off after the World Cup to be so severe. There will be casualties in the market. Quite a few (hotels) are teetering on the brink”. Southern African Tourism Update reported that the Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, is to have said at the FEDHASA Cape AGM that local tourism authorities should not market internationally, as SA Tourism is doing so already, and that they should focus on local marketing instead. He quoted the example of KZN Tourism, which has a marketing office in Gauteng.
 
The Cape Times screamed in a headline two weeks ago: “City’s tourism sector in crisis”, having picked up Cape Town Tourism’s 2014 recovery release, and linking it to the Bureau of Economic Research findings of the worst ever accommodation confidence level of 25%. The article also stated that the City of Cape Town was meeting to decide whether a grant of an astounding R40 million will go to Cape Town Tourism to market the city, which it did receive subsequently, but still without a Marketing Manager! Cape Town Tourism will use the monies to stage off-peak season events as well as a ‘technological campaign to target potential tourists’. The sad reality is that the Marketing Plan was written before Cape Town Tourism realised that the tourism industry is in crisis - one hopes that they have the flexibility to adapt their plan to cater for the poor summer season lying ahead! “Cape Town Tourism is committed to playing a leadership role in ensuring that our tourism industry embraces technology. We will continue to invest significantly in this area, building upon the solid foundation laid in the run-up to the World Cup, and keeping up with global trends, with the focus on mobile and smart phone travel applications for Cape Town”, Cape Town Tourism’s CEO is quoted as saying. This is hardly the solution to the crisis in the tourism industry in Cape Town!
 
Cape Town Tourism reacted to the Cape Times article with a media release , downplaying the severity of the situation and denying the ‘crisis’ in the tourism industry, and incorrectly deducing that it is seasonality that is to blame. It refers to the good publicity that Cape Town has received recently (which has not brought any enquiries at all), and that the FIFA World Cup was never meant to be a quick fix for the marketing of the city. It blames ‘out-of-date’ marketing of the city, for which it can only blame itself! The media release demonstrates how out of touch the organisation is with the tourism crisis. We would urge Cape Town Tourism, Cape Town Routes Unlimited, Alan Winde, the provincial Minister of Tourism, and Grant Pascoe, the City of Cape Town’s new Councillor responsible for Tourism, to meet, to find a solution out of the tourism crisis, and to sing off the same song-sheet!
 
Cape Town Tourism has been conducting a series of ‘Brand Cape Town’ workshops since late last year, to share with its members and other stakeholders what the outcome has been of a brainstorming session to find a positioning for Cape Town and what it can/should be, and to focus its marketing activities, not only from a Tourism perspective, but also from a general Business approach. Scanning the external environment, it identified threats such as the economic crisis, global urbanisation, and a greater consciousness about the impact of flying on the environment and climate change. It also faced the reality that the seasonality in Cape Town’s tourism industry, unique to our city compared to others in the country, reflects that Cape Town does not have enough business tourism, being the result perhaps of too large a focus on Leisure Tourism in the past, and too little on attracting businesspersons to have their meetings, events and conferences in Cape Town. Comparing the positioning of major world cities, e.g. Paris is Romance, New York is Energy, London is Tradition, it has historically been Beauty for Cape Town.

 

Through its analysis, it was identified that Inspiration is an overarching positioning that can take Cape Town beyond its more narrow tourism focus, to a broader one, reflecting the strengths of the City in respect of beauty, freedom, innovation, hope, creativity, diversity, dreams, ideas, and solutions to problems. We have been critical about what we have seen in print about the Brand Cape Town workshops, but a different picture emerged in the presentation. To justify the positioning of Inspiration, Mrs Helmbold took the attendees through the various ways in which Cape Town inspires its citizens, its local visitors, and its international tourists.

 

The following were some of the Inspiration highlights identified for Cape Town in the presentation: Nelson Mandela took his first steps of freedom in Cape Town, and Cape Town should own this historic moment; quality education facilities, with four top class universities in Cape Town and Stellenbosch. Stanford has set up a satellite campus in the city, and Harvard is said to follow suit; safe CBD; excellent and modern infrastructure, including the airport, the IRT bus system, the station, highways, and the Cape Town Stadium; ‘cosmopolitan entry point into South Africa and Africa’; Focus on Biodiversity, with the smallest but most bountiful floral kingdom; Excellent healthcare facilities, with pioneering medical leadership, including Dr Christiaan Barnard’s heart transplant world first; One of best value guest house and B&B cities, offering not only 5-star accommodation; An historic port city; The V&A is South Africa’s leading tourist destination, and has further development plans; The Green Point Urban Park; A living heritage in the Castle, the oldest building in South Africa; A historic showcase of creativity at the Iziko museums and galleries; Living contemporary culture with African and European roots, which is not gumboot dancing!; Rich music tradition, in goema and Cape Minstrel music, but also current, with Goldfish, Jack Parow, Freshly Ground, Kyle Shepherd, Locnville, Die Antwoord, and Abdullah Ibrahim. The Cape Town International Jazz Festival has become a world event; Sporting tradition, in hosting the world’s largest timed Argus Cycle race, and the Volvo Ocean Race includes Cape Town, and sportspersons such as Para-Olympic star Natalie du Toit, and the development of the paddleyak; A theatre tradition, with Athol Fugard receiving a Lifetime Achievement award at the Tony’s for his plays; Africa’s first billionaire and space traveller Mark Shuttleworth, and his Shuttleworth Foundation, supporting IT development, and the development of Silicon Cape; Sustainability Institute of the University of Stellenbosch; The Cape Town International Convention Centre is the leading convention centre in Africa; The favourite film and photography location, because of the beauty of and good light in the city, and the potential of a James Bond movie being shot in the city; Nobel Peace Prize winners such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Past President FW de Klerk live here; Table Mountain, which is a finalist for the New7Wonders of the World; Visits by magnificent Southern Right whales, and home to penguins; Environmentally-friendly Green Cabs, and the opening up of cycle and pedestrian routes in the city; Leading environmental and sustainable city, with all new low-cost housing built with solar geyser panels, and wind-farming in Darling; ‘Three wine routes within Cape Town and 16 on the city’s doorstep, with many boutique wine farms; Beer tourism is a new segment, with 40 micro breweries within a 2-hour drive of Cape Town. Inspiring new BOS ice-tea; Fresh produce markets, with organic foods, outstanding restaurants; Cape Town is one of three finalists for World Design Capital 2014. The Design Indaba is a design highlight for the country, with its annual conference and exhibition; Cape Town has a vibrant fashion scene; Cape Town is at the centre of the magazine publishing industry; The city has excellent furniture designers; The Joule electric car is being built in Cape Town, the first in Africa; and Cape Town has more Social Media users than any other part of the country.
 
Cape Town Tourism is to assist business-related bodies in the city to market the city with a ‘brand box’. It has worked with Accelerate, Cape Town Routes Unlimited, Wesgro, Cape Town Partnership, and the City of Cape Town in developing the new positioning for Cape Town, to establish it as ‘one of the top world cities to live, work, invest, learn and visit, in order to drive inclusive economic growth and social transformation in Cape Town’. In question time, FEDHASA Cape chairman Dirk Elzinga stated that great things are happening in Cape Town, but ‘we are not telling the world’, he said. Mel Miller, former ad agency owner and creative director, and ex-Cape Town Tourism Board member, is very critical of Cape Town’s new ‘Inspirational’ positioning, saying that it has been used by Edinburgh (’Inspiring Capital’) and Korea already. A video presentation by Silver Bullet to represent Cape Town was not inspirational, not showing beautiful Cape Town, but a very cloudy looking city, with a lot of focus on clouds billowing over Table Mountain, and what appeared as a fast-speed race through Cape Town.
 

The R 9,7 billion V&A Waterfront purchase, the largest property transaction in South Africa, by its new local owners Growthpoint and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), has been signed and sealed, and work has already commenced on a R500 million construction project at the Clock Tower, reports the Cape Times. The Clocktower area does not attract as many visitors as other sections, as it is further away from the shopping malls, and is not immediately visible to tourists. In a four-year project, the new owners are converting some of the retail space into office space, to create a ‘professional business district’, paying attention to the heritage value of the Clocktower.

 
A new head office for Allan Gray is also being developed in the Clocktower precinct. Further developments include the silo building adjacent to the Clocktower precinct, and the collier jetty alongside the Clock Tower retail centre, reports the Cape Argus. A further R4 billion is to be spent in the next ten years to develop a further 220000 square meters of Waterfront land. The V&A Waterfront has become a benchmark waterfront development for many similar projects around the world. However, one hopes that the new owners will spare a few Rand for the improvement of visible security, and fixing its parking pay machines, which are constantly out of order! The V&A Waterfront will also focus on how it can better be integrated with the city of Cape Town. “One of the concerns of many Capetonians is that the Waterfront has disjointed itself from the rest of Cape Town. Many locals see it as an island, where only the foreign tourists go” said Wayne van der Vent, PIC’s property MD. The company has not revealed its plans in this regard, but it does want to make the link between the Waterfront and the city more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, reports The Times. Southern African Tourism Update reports that yet another hotel is to be built in the Waterfront, in the Shosholoza Basin, which links the Cape Grace Hotel and the Clock Tower precinct. Construction for the whole Clock Tower precinct is estimated to be completed by 2013.
 
Many would say that Cape Town already is regarded as a world class city. However, the Western Cape province and the City of Cape Town, in association with the Cape Town Partnership, believe that there is more work to be done to turn Cape Town into one of the top cities in the world, and to rezone the city into “mixed-use-zones that are lively, inviting, open and operate 24 hours a day” by 2014/2015, reports the Weekend Argus. Driven by the MEC for Public Works and Transport, Robin Carlisle, Cape Town is to be divided into six ‘precincts’: The Artscape precinct will connect Artscape with the new to-be-extended
Cape Town International Convention Centre, to be doubled in size, and to be completed by 2014, via the Artscape Gardens, to be developed as part of the extension. The Gardens are to be raised to the height of the freeway, and parking developed beneath it. Two buildings, one an hotel and another an office block with 30000 square meters of retail space, will be designed to act as ‘wind buffers’ against the south-easter. The Artscape Gardens is planned to contain an amphitheatre seating 25000 visitors. The Convention Centre expansion will include the proposed move of the Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital to the precinct too; The Somerset precinct plans have not been finalised, but include the Somerset Hospital, a part of the building having historical value. A new casino is planned for this area, an attractive location for it, being adjacent to the V&A Waterfront. One of the options is that the Gold Reef’s Mykonos Langebaan casino may move to this precinct. This area is also planned for mixed-use zoning; The Prestwich precinct will see high-rise buildings and another pedestrian bridge and Fan Mile, to ‘allow the city and the Waterfront to better complement each other’, and connecting these two popular areas; The provincial government precinct around Dorp, Wale and Keerom Streets will see glass walls erected to block the wind from blowing through the arches of the provincial building. A new high-rise building is to be built on the corner of Loop and Leeuwen Streets, to accommodate the office requirements of government departments; The Government Garage precinct in the Roeland/Hope/Mill Streets area is to get a facelift, with retail, residential and urban spaces to be developed. Entry-level housing is to be developed, to allow residents to work and live in the city without having to use cars to get to work. “This precinct will focus on turning Roeland Street into a ‘boulevard’ leading down to the gates of Parliament, with shops and cafés at street level, and accommodation on the first floor, built around squares. The Government Garage and ambulance depot are to be moved to the ex-abattoir in Maitland; The Two Rivers Urban Park, including Oude Molen, Alexandra, Valkenberg and other government property, will focus on medical facilities, including the expansion of psychiatric hospital Valkenberg, an office park for ‘bio-medical engineering companies’, ‘compact hospitals at Alexandra’, and will expand the residential arm of Oude Molen. A ‘water taxi’ is to connect Oude Molen and Athlone via the Black River.
 
Cape Town received the fantastic news earlier this month that it has been selected as one of three finalists for the World Design Capital 2014, with Bilbao and Dublin. The city competed against 56 cities for this prestigious accolade, which was won by Seoul last year, and has been awarded to Helsinki for 2012. A World Design Capital city is selected every two years by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, and awarded to a city that uses ‘design for social, cultural and economic development’, according to a Cape Town Tourism media release. The Council will be visiting Cape Town in two weeks’ time, and the winning World Design Capital for 2014 will be announced on 26 October. The Cape Town Partnership
managed the bid for the award
, supported by Cape Town Tourism and the City of Cape Town. Odd was the information contained in a ‘Newsflash’ sent to Cape Town Tourism members, which stated that “... Cape Town’s bid theme is about the City’s use of design to overturn the negative legacies of its colonial and apartheid past that saw design dividing people, disconnecting the city, and relegating both people of colour and the urban poor to the fringes”. This mouthful of a statement, which does not make sense in blaming design for apartheid, gets worse in the rest of the ‘Newsflash’, and one hopes that the bid book contains a more uplifting and positive motivation for Cape Town to be selected as the World Design Capital 2014! Andrew Boraine, Chairman of the Cape Town Partnership, wrote on his blog that the Finalist status is good for Cape Town for five reasons: organisationally it demonstrated a good partnership and teamwork between the private and public sector; the deadline in getting the 465-page bid book completed and submitted was a challenge well handled; it gives brand Cape Town international visibility; it gives the citizens of Cape Town pride in their city’s success; and it will help to develop a greater design focus on anything that impacts on design in Cape Town.
 
Cape Town made it to the top of the TripAdvisor 2011 Travelers’ Choice Destinations Awards in April, beating world cities and destinations Sydney, Machu Picchu, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, New York City, Rome, London, Barcelona and Hong Kong. It is a fantastic accolade for our city, and could lead to millions of visitors to Cape Town, if the TripAdvisor numbers are to be believed! “With beautiful scenery, great wine and gorgeous weather, it’s easy to see why Cape Town, which also played host to last year’s World Cup, has topped this year’s list” said Emma Boyle, TripAdvisor spokesperson. We are sceptical of TripAdvisor, a love-hate site for hospitality establishments, which allows users to rate hotels and restaurants around the world. While we are delighted about the visibility for Cape Town as a result of the top ranking, the TripAdvisor announcement does not answer two key questions: who participated and voted for the top destinations? and what methodology was used, including sample size, vote methodology, time period of vote, etc, or was it purely based on the number of Google-type searches recorded on the TripAdvisor site? Weird was the list of Cape Town Top 10 restaurants on TripAdvisor, including unknown Café Hausbrandt in third place, as well as restaurants that have not made the Eat Out Top Restaurant list (e.g. Carne, Brio, Opal Lounge, Miller’s Thumb, and Fork)! To date the TripAdvisor Award for Cape Town has not made itself felt in terms of the ‘millions’ of potential TripAdvisor reviewers visiting our country and our city. South Africa made it to the top of the Telegraph Ultratravel 100, and its announcement fortunately contained a photograph of Cape Town. Dubai made it into second place, followed by the Maldives, Australia, and Italy.
 

South Africa also featured in the Top Hotel in Africa list, the Cape Grace making it to the top of this list, and La Residence in Franschhoek making third place, the One&Only Cape Town was ranked fourth, and The Twelve Apostles fifth. It is a shame that the results have been announced at this time of the year, when the UK market is least likely to book for the coming summer, it being too far into the future, given their increasing last-minute booking pattern.

   
We have written previously that Table Mountain is in the running to become a
New7Wonders of Nature destination, and that its performance is based on the number of votes that it receives. Tourism consultancy Grant Thornton has released estimates that show that Cape Town could gain R 1,4 billion if it were to become one of the seven New7Wonders of Nature, reports the Weekend Argus. Table Mountain is one of 28 finalists, and if it were to win, it would lead to a surge in foreign tourists, creating 11000 new jobs, Grant Thornton has estimated. The problem with this estimate, whilst excellent news for tourism to Cape Town and the Western Cape, is that this consultancy created huge expectations for all South Africans with its vastly over-exaggerated estimates for foreign arrivals to the World Cup last year! Capetonians and their fellow South Africans are urged to vote for Table Mountain as a New7Wonders of Nature on www.votefortablemountain.com or www.new7wonders.com. Table Mountain is up against the Amazon, the Galapagos, the Dead Sea, Uluru, the Maldives, the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, the Iguaza Falls, Mount Kilimanjaro, Vesuvius, and the Black Forest, amongst others, to be named a New7Wonders of Nature. The list of seven New7Wonders of Nature will be announced in November.
 
A year after the World Cup, many may remember the wonderful 30-day period nostalgically, but the hard reality of this largest world event is attracting criticism in its impact on the hospitality and tourism industry, which has reached its lowest low, something other mega-event cities have experienced before. The event was commemorated with the launch of a new coffee table book ‘CapeAbility: Stories and Successes from the 2010 FIFA World Cup’. The infrastructure benefits of the World Cup cannot be denied : Cape Town has a renewed station building, a world-class airport, and far improved access into and from the city on its N1 and N2 highways. It has a beautiful Cape Town Stadium, which has become a tourist icon for the city. It has a most wonderful
Green Point Park
, which was developed next to the Stadium, as well as a general upliftment of the Green Point and Mouille Point area. It led to the roll-out of the recently completed and far improved public transport MyCiti service. It added more international hotel brands to the city’s five-star hotel portfolio. It created an Ubuntu amongst Capetonians and the city’s visitors, on its festive flag-decorated Fan Walks. It positioned Cape Town, and South Africa with it, as a safer country than had been perceived before. But the downside appears to outweigh the benefits a year down the line: there is no operator for the Cape Town Stadium since SAIL Stade de France reneged on its contract with the City of Cape Town. Cape Town ratepayers will have to carry the cost of operating the Stadium, not making ends meet with the few events that have been hosted in the venue since July last year. The tourism industry suffered poor pre- and post-event bookings last year, and was led to believe that it would benefit from a tourism boom that would last for years to come. The industry was conned by MATCH, the FIFA accommodation booking agency, with massive cancellations just days before the start of the Wold Cup. Not unsurprisingly, tourism consultants Grant Thornton praised the R40 billion national capital expenditure on the World Cup, the consultancy’s Gillian Saunders saying it was money “well spent, with some areas still to be leveraged”, reports the Cape Times. She stated that the infrastructure benefit had ’significant legacy value leading to a better quality of life and provided long-term valuable assets’. She admitted that the slow recovery from the global recession was responsible for the lack of the tourism boom which had been predicted. Yet she said that “a large number of tourism businesses would not have survived the economic slump if it weren’t for the event”. She reminded the industry that R3,6 billion revenue had been generated and that just more than 100000 tourists had visited the Western Cape, and just more than double this number visited Gauteng.
 
The Cape Argus ’shouted’ in a headline:”Post-World Cup tourism boom ‘non-existent’”, stating that the benefits have been the international performers who held concerts in the Stadium, the city’s improved infrastructure, and the survival of a number of tourism businesses. The annual operating cost of the Stadium is quoted as being R57 million. Two concerts have been held, and a further two are in the pipeline, according to the city’s new head of Tourism, Grant Pascoe. Talks with Western Province rugby continue, he said. He added that the city is receiving more event applications than it did prior to the World Cup. Developing the Fan Walk into a 24/7 facility is also being considered. The oversupply of hotel accommodation can be attributed to nine new hotels with 1500 rooms in total, which were built for the World Cup, says Dirk Elzinga, Chairman of FEDHASA Cape. He naively stated that many hotels have already received repeat World Cup business, and that the ‘extremely low occupancies’ of some hotels ‘was normal for the off-season’!
 
A Weekend Argus article critically summarised the book to be published in September and to be entitled “South Africa’s World Cup: A Legacy for Whom?”, written by Eddie Cottle, ‘regional policy and campaign officer for the Building and Wood Workers International, a global trade union federation’. Cottle argues that “…the promises made about the benefits of hosting the soccer World Cup were nothing but ‘bald lies’”! His introduction is complimentary and gentle, praising the benefits of the event, in there being few technical hitches and little crime. The negatives far outweigh the event, he writes, and he says that South Africa fell for the ’sales pitch’ of the positives of a mega-event, despite “…the volumes of academic studies on the negative impact of mega-sporting events such as the World Cup”. He says that the promises made about the financial benefit that was the drawcard for South Africa hosting the event, with its resultant contribution to the GDP, tax revenues and job creation, which was promised by the government, FIFA, the local organising committee and tourism consultancy Grant Thornton, were “…bald lies, wrapped up in the haze of developmental spin. There was no serious study of the opportunity cost of the investment to be made by the government; the impact on the environment; nor the contribution of the event towards the country’s debt position or the social costs of hosting the event.” He adds that the official economic report was kept secret, and not open to public scrutiny, because of the flaws it contains. Grant Thornton made many projection errors, not just in overestimating the number of international visitors to the country for the event, but also in the expected expenditure of tourists while in the country, which was only 16% of the estimated R55 billion. The cost to the government for hosting the event was initially estimated in 2003 to be a ‘mere’ R2,3 billion, but given an estimate of R7,2 billion tax revenue, the event was packaged as generating profit. In reality, the event cost R39 billion. This figure may not reflect the final cost tally. The Reserve Bank estimated the cost to the state on capital formation to have been just under R130 billion, creating a deficit of R 63 billion. What is causing a large income hole is that FIFA took R25 billion profit made by the event out of the country without paying any tax! It was the largest profit that FIFA has ever made out of a World Cup, Cottle states. South Africa was also misled by projections of the employment benefits of the World Cup, 695000 jobs to have been created, of which just less than half were estimated to be retained after the World Cup. This scenario proved to be incorrect, in that employment decreased by 5 % in the second quarter of 2010. The loss of jobs in the construction sector was even higher, at 7 %. Cottle says that as only a handful of construction companies built the infrastructure for the World Cup, their quotes being higher than required, a ‘grand theft’, he writes.
 
South Africans were caught up in the spirit of the World Cup, and went on a spending spree using their credit cards, which they are feeling the after-effects of now, partly as locals were led to believe that things would be better financially as a result of the World Cup. Informal traders were moved out of their normal trading locations, on the basis of FIFA’s rules of a non-trade zone around stadia, impacting on the incomes of such traders. Cottle concludes: “Indeed, a considerable negative impact has been left through higher levels of both public and individual indebtedness, the high opportunity costs associated with the event, the displacement of local spending and the reinforcing of already high social inequalities in income among and within cities.” He states that the government’s decision to not bid for the 2020 Olympic Games ’surely is a wise decision’! But Southern African Tourism Update reported that the Department of Sport and Recreation will request the government to re-consider the Olympic Games bid for Durban for 2020, before the deadline of September.
 
Recently I tried out the new MyCiTi bus system, from the Civic Centre bus terminal. Being a tourist in my own city, I was surprised at how well the new public transport system works, connecting the city centre, the Waterfront, Gardens, Table View, and the airport. Information about the stops is not easy to find at the Civic Centre terminal, with a board outside showing a map, but not indicating the route or providing any information. Staff in a smart uniform explained that one can travel to the Waterfront for a mere R5. There is no hop-on, hop-off facility.
 

The prices are exceptional good value, with the trip to Table View from the Waterfront costing only R10, even if one has to change buses at the Civic Centre terminal. The cost to the airport from the Civic Centre is R53. The Civic Centre terminal station is massive, and has beautiful murals produced by local artists. One can buy tickets on the bus, the buses depart every 20 minutes, and it takes 20 minutes to get from the Civic Centre to the Waterfront. Staff do not announce the stops - one must look at the road signs (Loop Street, V&A Waterfront), or the names on the terminal buildings (Granger Bay, Stadium) to know where to get off, a potential problem for tourists.

 
The overall impression was one of cleanliness, efficiency, and friendliness. The buses run smoothly and quietly, and quickly left each station. The My CiTi bus route is to be expanded next year, to include Hout Bay, Camps Bay, the Atlantic Seaboard, Salt River, Woodstock, Walmer Estate, Oranjezicht, Tamboerskloof, Vredehoek and Bo Kaap. At a later stage the route will extend to Atlantis, Du Noon, Jo Slovo Park, Montague Gardens and Melkbosstrand. New bus stations are to be built on Adderley Street, Gardens, and Queens Beach in Sea Point. There is further construction work on what looks like another building at the Civic Centre terminal. The new R4 billion MyCiTi public bus transport system is a welcome ‘legacy’ of the 2010 World Cup, and its efficiency of operation was well worth all the inconvenience during the construction phases. It is a clever way of getting taxis out of the city centre, with two taxi association companies and Golden Arrow Bus Services operating the new bus system.
 
For the 18th year running, Franschhoek will don its red, blue and white flags and bunting to celebrate its French Huguenot past next weekend of 16 and 17 July, its most popular annual event being the Bastille Festival, commemorating the storming of La Bastille. Marrying food prepared by Franschhoek’s top chefs, including salmon trout, sushi, chocolates, and oysters, with wines from the local Vignerons, in a Marquee in the centre of the village next door to the Hospice, the Bastille Festival is an important showcase for the village. Exhibitors include Akkerdal, Allée Bleue, Anthonij Rupert Wines, Backsberg, Bellingham, Boschendal, Boekenhoutskloof, Cape Chamonix, Franschhoek Cellar, French Connection Bistro, The Grill Room, Glenwood, Graham Beck, Grande Provence, Holden Manz, Haute Cabriere, La Bri, La Petite Ferme Restaurant and Winery, L’ermitage, Leopard’s Leap, Lynx, Monneaux, Morena, Pick ‘n Pay Sushi Bar, Plaisir de Merle, Reuben’s, Rickety Bridge, Rupert & Rothschild, Solms Delta Fyndraai and Wines, Topiary Wines, Vrede & Lust, and Wild Peacock Products. For the first time a Le Marche Français will be set up in the Town Hall, as a market of Franschhoek artisanal food and other products. Cheeses, charcuterie, pastries, breads, crèpes, water, chocolates, preserves, vegetables, coffee, and herbs will be for sale, as will be soap and linen, and kitchen accessories. A Farmers’ Market will also be held.

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JAMES BOND HAS CARTE BLANCHE IN CAPE TOWN

 

Cape Town and South Africa have been linked to James Bond, secret agent 007, in a book just launched and called ‘Carte Blanche, written by American author Jeffery Deaver. The book has James Bond arriving in Cape Town, to protect British interests against a potential terror attack, and he is given carte blanche to deal with the threat, with the help of a local policewoman. The ‘Carte Blanche’ title is also the name of a new cocktail created for Bond, made from “Crown Royal whisky, a double, on ice. Half a measure of triple sec, two dashes of Angostura. Twist of orange peel, not a slice”, the book describes. In the book Bond orders Rustenberg Peter Barlow Cabernet, enjoys “Graham Beck Cuvee Clive. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The 2003 vintage. It’s from Robertson, the Western Cape.” He is advised to try bobotie and drink ‘Zulu beer’. He has a sunset helicopter flip over the Cape Peninsula, and drives a Bentley Continental GT. Bond enjoys South Africans’ hospitality; eats biltong; buys jewellery at Gardens’ Centre; “crime is less of a problem than it used to be”, a character in the book says; drinks a glass of ‘South African Constantia, clearly a reference to Vin de Constance, as he describes it as a ‘honey-sweet wine” which was a favourite of Napoleon; drinks a glass of Stellenbosch Pinotage; Signal Hill, Lion’s Head, Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles mountains are mentioned; eats ’sambal sauce’ as well as sosaties, yellow rice and ‘marog spinach’ in the Bo Kaap, but pulls up his nose at Mopane worms!; drinks “Three Cape Ladies from Muldersvlei” (a Warwick wine); visits Franschhoek and says “it’s the most beautiful spot on (sic) the Western Cape. A wine district.”; eats at a restaurant in Franschhoek with one Michelin star, a reference to Le Quartier Français, one can assume; he drives along Victoria Road, alongside the Twelve Apostles, where a lot of the action happens at a fictitious deserted inn; Robben Island is mentioned, having been the prison of three South African Presidents - Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma; Graham Beck’s Cuvee Clive is praised highly - ‘this wine’s as good as anything you’ll get in Reims”; and the author concludes the book with an explanation about the ‘Table Mountain Hotel’ : ”its inspiration is the Cape Grace, which is just as lovely but is not - to my knowledge - populated by any spies”!

 

The author chose Cape Town as the location for his book, as he has been coming to Cape Town for ten years. He says he loves South Africa, and wanted to set the Bond story in the Ian Fleming approach of places that are ‘beautiful and exotic and appealing’. Deaver is not sure whether the book will be made into a film, but of his 30 books he has written, he has sold film rights to almost all, yet only three made it into a movie, he says. Discussions are underway about a film, and Deaver said he would be in Cape Town for the shoot, “because of my affection for the Western Cape”. Given that ‘millions of copies’ of the book will be sent to book stores in 20 countries, Cape Town’s visibility will surge, given the popularity of the secret agent, excellent news for a hospitality industry. Almost a quarter of a million copies of the new Bond book will be sold in the UK alone. Excellent news too is the speculation that a Bond movie is to be shot in South Africa.

 
Details are scant, but a Google search identified that movie director Sam Mendes and producer Barbara Broccoli were reported to have flown to South Africa last month, and were apparently scouting for locations for a Bond movie. It has been announced that Daniel Craig will play Bond again, shooting is to commence later this year, and a new Bond movie is due to be released in November next year. No movie title has been mentioned in these reports, but could well relate to ‘Carte Blanche’, which means that the movie should be filmed in Cape Town. The Times writes: “The book is written in short filmic scenes. So it’s highly likely that we can expect actor Daniel Craig in Cape Town.” Respected South African film-maker Anant Singh said to The Hollywood Reporter: ”We are excited that the new James Bond film is considering locations in South and Southern Africa. Film people love to work in our country.” Jeffrey Deaver has Tweeted that ‘Carte Blanche’ is doing well: “Very honored that Newsweek named #CarteBlanche one of 10 Must Read Summer Books”. This is excellent news for the marketing of Cape Town.

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EAT OUT TOP 10 RESTAURANT AWARDS CHANGES RECIPE

 

  

The Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards will be changed this year, in that all the judges have been let go, and new judging categories will be added . I received confirmation of the judging change directly from one of the judges, Anna Trapido telling me spontaneously that she had been “fired” from her one-year tenure as one of the four Eat Out judges. Long-term judges Pete Goffe-Wood and Arnold Tanzer have been let go too, leaving Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly as the sole judge to choose the elite Top 10 chefs of the country. The problem with this of course is that every restaurant worth its salt knows what she looks like, and will be expecting her visit if they expect to be on the Top 20 shortlist. Ms Donnelly writes: ”It’s a very big responsibility, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. Through the year, I make an effort to visit restaurants more than once, so to get the most balanced view possible. It’s also of the utmost importance for me to get to know the chefs behind the food and find out what their philosophies are”, she wrote. What exactly she means when she writes that “I won’t be judging for my peers. I will be judging with knowledgeable foodies in mind. The people who are actually dining out at Top 10 restaurants on a regular basis” is unclear. This makes one worry - was Ms Donnelly judging to satisfy her fellow judges in the past, and what would have made their taste in and evaluation of restaurants different to that of the ‘foodies’ she writes about? This begs the question as to the comparability of the Awards outcome in November this year, compared to that of all previous years. A further judging change was announced: “…the awards are going to be much more inclusive and will celebrate the best Asian, steakhouse, Italian, bistro and country-style restaurants. The awards are no longer only about the celebration of fine-dining establishments. It’s very important that the fabulous specialist eateries dotted around the country are given the recognition they deserve”. In addition to announcing the Top 10 Restaurant list, as well as the Top Restaurant, Top Chef, and Top Service, the following categories will be added: Best New Restaurant of the Year, and Most Stylish Establishment in the Country. This could cause some compromises, as we saw in the 2009 Awards, when Bizerca won in a newly created Bistro category that year, and fell off the Top 10 list. It also would be easier for Nobu at the One&Only Cape Town, for example, to win Top Asian restaurant, when it should really be a contender in the more competitive Top 10 Restaurant award. One would also have liked to see recognition for the best South African-style restaurant, for the Restaurant that is most environmentally responsible in its sourcing, handling and disposal of food, and for the Restaurant with the best Menu. Ms Donnelly and her Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards will be closely watched, no doubt, as no restaurant likes change if it could disadvantage them. However, it does sound as if the awards will be more inclusive than in the past, and the additional categories give more restaurants a chance of winning recognition. There will be many keen chefs holding thumbs that Ms Donnelly will grace their restaurant tables in the next few months!
 
I met the dynamic interior curator (not designer!) Neil Stemmet from KONCEPT for the first time at Decorex in April. There he stole the show with his amazing BOS Tea House that he designed for the ice tea brand, and the stand won an award for the best Green stand. It was here that Stemmet started talking to me about his vision of the Restaurant of the Future, which he had embodied in his BOS stand design. Neil’s book “Sout en Peper” will be a collection of stories about the origin of South African food, and it will only be published in Afrikaans, being a ‘kos storieboek’. It will explain how to cook local dishes, and more than one recipe may be provided for a particular item. He will also include recipes from South African cookery icons from many years ago, such as Hildagonda Duckitt and Louis Leipoldt. There should not be a slavish following of design trends, but rather ‘anything goes’, he said, with a focus on sustainability and heirlooms, utilising timeless classics. His mantra is “curate, not decorate”. ‘Curation’ comes from the heart and the soul, and it is not pre-planned or pre-designed to scale. It just happens. The curator trusts his/her mind, and one should not ‘theorise’ the process. There must be an ‘altar’ as the focus point the restaurant, on which the food is displayed - in the BOS Tea House this was a lit high table, and the food was presented on large platters. Food is blessed by those eating at the ‘altar’, but it does not mean prayer necessarily, but rather is a sharing and connecting with those that one is having the meal with. Vitally important is what is served - it must be fresh, real and imperfect (in other words, it is no longer the perfectly round tomato from Woolworths, but an odd-shaped one fresh from the farm). ‘New food’ is roasts, and pies for the left-overs. Woolworths is a no-no to shop at, he says, as its products are too perfect! “Altar Music” is vital too. Restaurants can no longer be run as currently, and he sees neighbourhood restaurants springing up, which are supplied by the residents in that neighbourhood, and supported by them too as customers. This creates a relationship with one’s social community, and waiters must know their patrons, and serve them accordingly.
 
Neil also talks about ‘lardering”, using fruit and vegetables of this season for next season, by preserving them, and making relishes, keeping all of this in the ’spens’. “Real’ bread will be baked at home again instead of supermarket bread being served, simple cuts of meat will be served, and gas will be used as a means of cooking to conserve electricity, and all one’s baking will be done on one day for the week ahead, to save time and energy. Consumers will become more independent in their supply, growing their own vegetables and herbs, and turning them into long-term sustenance. Restaurants will not have menus any more - the chef will decide on the day what he can prepare, given what fresh supplies he has. Clients will learn to be brave in trusting the chef in his food preparation choice, and clients will be in the kitchen inside the restaurant, with the chef, while he prepares their food. Restaurants will have chairs, couches, or even beds in them, with music, books and children - they will no longer be elitist. Good examples of such restaurants are Pierneef à La Motte, Towerbosch (for which Neil did the interior), Babel (seven years ahead of its time, Neil says), and Hemelhuijs. The food served in such restaurants is elementary, honest and sustainable as far as possible (e.g. in New York restaurants grow vegetables on top of city skyscrapers, Dash restaurant is growing vegetables and herbs on top of the V&A Hotel roof, and Dear Me is growing its herbs in special containers hanging from its ceiling). Restaurants are no longer places at which to just eat, but also serve as a replacement of one’s office and home, a ‘connecting space for like-minded people’, our ‘home away from home’!
 
It is sad to see some leading restaurants closing down in Cape Town and in the Winelands, which include Haute Cabriere chef Matthew Gordon packing his chef’s bag from the restaurant after 16 years, chef Christophe Dehosse closing down his Restaurant Christophe and returning to Joostenberg Bistro, Liquorice & Lime on St George’s Mall (now Reserve), Doppio Zero in Green Point, Blonde (owned by Beluga and Sevruga owner Oskar Kotze), The Bistro in Franschhoek, Hermanos and The Kitchen Bar in Hermanus, Wildwoods belonging to ex-Eat Out judge Pete Goffe-Wood, the Green Dolphin Jazz Bar, and Nando’s in Camps Bay.

      


  

          Dash restaurant in the Queen Victoria Hotel


  
          Casparus on Dorp Street in Stellenbosch            

    

Brave are the new restaurants that have opened in the past few months: De Huguenot Estate, with restaurants The Marianne, Fraiche and Harry Q bar, Johan’s at Longridge, Maria’s Greek Restaurant has re-opened, Skinny Legs & All, KOS Coffee and Cuisine, Café Dijon @ Zorgvliet, Le Coq in Franschhoek, Dash at the Queen Victoria Hotel is one of my personal favourites, Act Restaurant at the Baxter Theatre, Dear Me, and Casparus, my other favourite, with Chef Etienne Bonthuys. Other new restaurants include Sunbird Bistro in Camps Bay, where Sandbar was; Roberto’s has opened underneath On Broadway; Saboroso has opened where Marika’s used to be in Bakoven; Mezepoli will open in Camps Bay; and Friend’s Café has opened in Claremont.
 
We have written reviews of re-opened Massimo’s in Hout Bay, Cape Grace Hotel’s Afternoon Tea, Azure Restaurant at the Twelve Apostles Hotel in Camps Bay, DISH restaurant at Le Franschhoek Hotel, the wonderful new Queen Victoria Hotel, Nobu at the One&Only, The Afternoon Tea at the One&Only Cape Town, Café des Arts in Franschhoek, Tokara under the chefmanship of Richard Carstens, Rijk’s Country House in Tulbagh, and Afternoon Tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel.
 
Wonderful is the generosity of the more than 100 restaurants in Cape Town and the Winelands, in offering Winter Specials. A number of restaurants are pairing with wine estates, to host Food & Wine evenings throughout winter. We were impressed with the Big Five charity lunch held at Grande Provence, at which Grand Provence chef Darren Roberts, and his Huka Lodge colleague from New Zealand, Michel Louws, cooked up a storm with other Top chefs from the Mount Nelson Hotel, Grande Roche and Waterkloof, to raise funds in aid of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Sad news for the Cape restaurant industry is that David Higgs, chef at Rust en Vrede and number one Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant, has left, and is now at the Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel in Johannesburg, He will be replaced by Sous Chef John Shuttleworth.
 
At the 2011 S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony, number 2 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, with chef Margot Janse at the helm, was the only South African restaurant to make the prestigious Top 50 list, for the seventh year running, and won Best Restaurant in Africa/Middle East, at 36th position, down from number 31 last year. The top restaurant on the World’s 50 Best is Noma from Copenhagen, its second successive year at the top. France remains the country with the most Best Restaurants, at seven, followed by Italy and the USA, with six each. See the full list of 50 World’s Best Restaurants.
 

Nic Dawes recently wrote in the Mail & Guardian Online about the poor presence of good restaurants in Johannesburg relative to Cape Town ( ‘Dining in the Dumps’), which stirred a North-South culinary debate. Dawes slated the Johannesburg restaurant scene, blaming restaurants and their chefs for not following international trends, for being expensive, for offering poor service, for offering food which is ‘rote’, for there being too many steakhouses, and for chefs being ‘restaurant entrepreneurs competing to extract money from your wallet”. He writes about Johannesburg: “…for all its creativity and cosmopolitanism, for all its monuments to material consumption, this town is a culinary desert or, perhaps more accurately, parking lot — which is what you will find yourself looking on to from most of the very few places I do feel able to recommend. The fine-dining scene is most impoverished. Not a single serious restaurant in Johannesburg sets the national food agenda in any way. They don’t even try very hard to follow the big global trends a few months in arrears, as so many Cape restaurants do, or to give them local relevance as the best South African chefs are able to”. We called three 2010 Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant chefs, one each from Johannesburg (Marthinus Ferreira from DW Eleven-13), the Cape (Bertus Basson from Overture), and KwaZulu-Natal (Jackie Cameron of Hartford House), to hear their views on the North/South culinary debate. The following emerged:
 
1. The Cape is ’sexy’ as a culinary destination, and therefore young chefs are seeking work in the Cape, where they can work alongside the country’s top chefs. Linked to this is that the cost of living is lower in the Cape, compared to Johannesburg, motivating young chefs to start off in the Cape, to retain more of their income. It is this young blood that helps feed the top restaurants. 
 
2. The Cape chefs are less motivated by money, and more by lifestyle. They love being able to go for a walk on the beach before or after service, or forage on the mountain. They love the beauty of Cape Town and the Winelands. One can imagine chefs being inspired by beautiful Cape days on a wine farm (an increasing number of wine estates are opening restaurants, or in the bustling city close to the sea.
 
3. The Cape chefs have excellent quality suppliers, which helps them make excellent food. This is not unique to the Cape, as Cameron says she too is blessed with superb supply sources close to Hartford House. This supplier quality is not seen to be available to Johannesburg restaurants.
 
4. A very real consideration for the location of chefs is where their families and partners are. Chef Marthinus studied at the Stellenbosch Institute of Culinary Arts, and worked at La Colombe, Le Quartier Français, and Schulphoek in the Cape before working overseas. When he returned to South Africa, there was only one city for him - Johannesburg - as his family lives here. So too Cameron grew up in KwaZulu-Natal, and loves living in this province, where she needs five minutes to get to work.
 
5. The client profile seems to have a huge influence. Overture has seen an upswing in local guests, on average of about 65 %, he said. For Hartford House, it is exactly the opposite, about two-thirds of its clients being international patrons. In winter, however, their clients are predominantly Johannesburgers, easily reaching the Hotel restaurant in a 3 - 4 hour drive, as well as receiving guests from Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Umhlanga, thinking nothing of driving up to 90 minutes to get to Hartford House. Similarly, Capetonians will drive up to an hour to travel to Franschhoek or Stellenbosch for lunch. Cameron was complimentary about her Johannesburg clients, saying that they understand about good food, and are appreciative about what she and her team prepares for them.
 
6. Competition attracts more competition, Ferreira said. This means that good restaurants in an area attract more restaurants. He is starting to see this in Johannesburg, and talked about Cube, Roots, Mosaic, The Saxon, and Linger Longer being good Gauteng restaurants. By contrast too, he said, the lack of good restaurants in Johannesburg had been a good opportunity for him to do something good and different, and it clearly has paid off for him. He is confident that Johannesburg will improve its culinary performance as new restaurants open. The move to Johannesburg by Rust en Vrede Eat Out Top 10 chef David Higgs is a huge vote of confidence for the Johannesburg restaurant industry, Ferreira said.
 
7. There is no doubt that the money is in Johannesburg, and Cameron noted that more recipe books are sold in this city than in any other in South Africa, there is a larger potential market due to its larger population size, and it has better weather throughout the year, allowing more outdoor eating. She does not understand why the top-end Johannesburg restaurants are not better supported, and that chefs are not attracted to these restaurants, given the better Johannesburg salaries.
 
8. The type of restaurants that patrons support differ vastly in the two cities. Johannesburg has better steakhouses, and Asian and African restaurants. Ferreira said that Johannesburg has wonderful restaurants, but these are not necessarily fine dining ones, being ‘curry houses and tratorrias’, more relaxed than fine dining restaurants. In his two years of running his own restaurant in Johannesburg, Ferreira says he has seen an increase in the number of better restaurants. Dawes’ article about Johannesburg’s poor culinary performance is a challenge to the Johannesburg restaurant industry, to prove Dawes and the Cape wrong, Ferreira said. I loved Basson’s analogy of the difference in the restaurants in Cape Town and Johannesburg, likening them to wines from different terroirs, “both tasting delicious for what they are”!
 
Leopards’ Leap is to open a Tasting Room as well as a Cookery School in October, next door to La Motte in Franschhoek. On the 10 hectare farm with its 400 square meter building, the Leopard’s Leap brand will have its first home, having been produced at the La Motte cellars in the past. The brand sells six times as much as La Motte in volume, a total of 600 000 cases of six bottles. The brand was created eleven years ago, as a second label to the Rupert wine brands La Motte, Rupert & Rothschild, and L’Ormarins. Originally the brand was made from the left-over grapes from these three properties, but now wine is bought from Perdeberg, Wamakersvallei, Ashton Winery, Darling Winery, Leeuwenkuil and La Motte to create Leopard’s Leap wines. The three leopards on the Leopard’s Leap label have energy, and depict the personality which Hein and Hannelie Koegelenberg wish to create at their new Tasting Room. They have therefore appointed Mokena Makeka, a ‘hot’ young architect from Cape Town, whose Makeka Design Laboratory recently re-designed the Cape Town Station. The interior decor will be handled by Christo Barnard, who did the decor of Pierneef à La Motte. The design will reflect that the brand’s target market is younger, and enjoy drinking this wine at a lower price point. The building will have a lot of glass, to bring the outside in, and a large outside sitting area too. A tasting room, delicatessen offering picnics, and wine sales facility make up the core of the new building. A cutting-edge demonstration kitchen with 24 state-of-the-art work stations will also be built for the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School branch opening at Leopards’ Leap, with owner Liam Tomlin moving to Franschhoek. He opened the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School in Cape Town a year ago. The Cookery School will offer a wide range of classes, presented by Tomlin, as well as by top local and international chefs. The Chef’s Warehouse will sell a wide range of kitchen products, to offer participants the tools to make at home what they have learnt at the Cookery School. The food to be served at Leopard’s Leap will be picnics. Tomlin and Barnard are currently working on the picnic concept, to develop a unique offering relative to what is currently being served at other wine farms, to create a unique identity for Leopards’ Leap. Hein described the Leopard’s Leap brand as ‘pastel, earthy, funky, trendy, with energy”, and this will guide the interior decor and personality of the new Leopard’s Leap building.
   
Crush! celebrates its first anniversary. We have written about six issues of Crush! and the digital food and wine magazine edited by Michael Olivier appears to have developed a rythym, and regular features can be expected in each magazine, with few new surprises in it. After reading Crush! 7, Crush! 8, and Crush! 9, and looking back at the previous Crush! issues, our evaluation is that Crush! has settled down, that it knows where it is going, and that it has mastered most of its technical and design problems highlighted initially. But its quality remains inconsistent.
 
The Minimum Wage for the Hospitality Sector has been increased by 5,2 % by the Department of Labour from this month, and is now R2084,52 per month for businesses with 10 or fewer employees, and R2323,87 for businesses with more than 10 employees. The increase is on 1 July every year, and reduced this year due to the lower Consumer Price Index.

Article4
 

SOUTH AFRICA MARRIES MONACO!

 

  

Prince Albert and Princess Charlène’s wedding is an exciting marriage for South Africa too, with Princess Charlène proudly bringing her South African pride into interviews and profiles published about the royal couple. The streets of Monaco were lined with South African flags, and those from the Princess’ new home country. Gracing the pages of Vogue for the first time, and Bunte in Germany regularly, as well as the subject of regular TV programmes and leading newspapers around the world, the couple and their dream wedding were widely profiled around the world. The wedding media hype and interest increased dramatically when a French on-line agency reported that Princess Charlène had almost become a ‘run-away bride’. VIP attendees at the religious wedding ceremony represented top politicians and royals. Blushing Brides are a favourite of Princess Charlène, and 500 stems were flown in from Citrusdal for her wedding flower arrangements. South Africa’s cuisine was also in the spotlight, with Chef Dean Uren of Zimbali Lodge and his colleague Peter Mtshali being part of the team which catered for 6000 guests attending the civil ceremony, and also led the preparation of a special South African meal for 200 guests, before the royal couple headed for Durban, to attend the 123rd session of the International Olympic Committee, the first time that it was held in Africa. Chef Dean’s menu include pastries stuffed with ostrich bobotie, and kudu prepared with typical boerewors spices, including kameelhout spice, coriander, pepper and cloves, reported the Sunday Times. The main wedding meal, served in the Opera for 850 guests, was prepared by top chef Alain Ducasse and a team of 350. Perrier-Jouët champagne was served, alongside Haskell Vineyards’ Dombeya Chardonnay and Shiraz, the owner Preston Haskell being a long-standing friend of Prince Albert, and the royal couple have partied at Haskell’s Fresnaye home in the past. Neil Pendock of The Times wrote that Vins D’Orrance claimed that their Chardonnay 2009 Cuvee Andis was the ‘only South African wine chosen for the wedding’, incorrect given the Dombeya wines selection from the Haskell wine estate, and confirmed by a Royal Palace-approved media release earlier this year. A total of 1000 bottles of Dombeya Chardonnay 2010, Boulder Red Shiraz, and Samara 2005 went to Monaco, and 700 bottles of the Chardonnay and Samara were sent to the Oyster Box. Hempies du Toit of Annandale is also reported in Die Volksblad to have made a wine for the wedding, and he called his six year old Merlot Charlbert, with French labels, and supplied 150 Magnums as well as a ‘bunch of 750ml bottles’ as souvenirs of the wedding. Du Toit is a friend of the Wittstock family, and the year of the Merlot bottling co-incides with the year in which Prince Albert and Princess Charlène started dating.

 
The wedding cake linked to South Africa’s national flower, the protea. Although Princess Charlène is now married to the 9th richest person in the world, her tastes are simple, and she longs for Mrs Balls chutney and rooibos tea. South African music talent was represented in the wedding celebrations, with Idols co-winner Jason Hartman chosen by Princess Charlène to be the supporting act to an open air concert by The Eagles on Thursday evening. Local boy band Romanz performed ‘With all my Heart’. Princess Charlène is turning into a style icon, and a recent Bunte had a feature of her in beautiful dresses photographed by Karl Lagerfeld. Increasingly Princess Charlène is wearing bold Africa-inspired jewellery with her outfits, reinforcing her heritage. She looked beautiful in the blue pants suit she wore for the civil ceremony, which she had designed herself and had made by Chanel, reports Associated Press.
 
Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk attended the wedding on behalf of President Zuma and the South African government, reports the Weekend Argus: “And as tourism minister he’s really happy there is such a big South African influence in the wedding. The name of South Africa will be all over the world again as it was a year ago at the World Cup. That will be very good for tourism and for the country”, said the Minister’s spokesman Riaan Aucamp.
 

Prince Albert and Princess Charlène hosted a second wedding reception for not only South African friends and family, but also for some of the dignitaries attending the 123rd International Olympic Committee session, at the Oyster Box in Umhlanga last week. Most details of the wedding menu and the attendance at the reception were shrouded in secrecy. The guest list included Olympic officials and royals, as well as South African politicians.
 
The couple was invited to lunch with President Zuma. Executive Chef Kevin Joseph of the Oyster Box Hotel said it is not the largest event that he has catered for, but certainly the most high profile. With nine years at the hotel, and previous experience at Raffles in Singapore, the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta and the Milestone in London, he was confident that he and his team would do a great job. Chef Kevin was given carte blanche for the menu, but with the specification that it should contain both South African and French cuisine.

    
Local produce was organic, and fish, meat and cheeses came from KwaZulu-Natal. All breads, pastries and ice creams were made in-house. An oyster bar offered oysters prepared in different ways, a butler service keeping guests topped up with ‘beautifully plated’ food. A special Oysters Charlène dish was created for the function, reports AFP, being oysters baked with creamed spinach, curried lentils and asparagus. Boerewors and mealie pap were on the menu too, as were sardines. Dombeya Chardonnay and Samara was served. “Of course I hope the bridal couple enjoy it, but I really want the guests, international and local, to leave with the conviction that South African hospitality is amongst the best in the world. I want our guests to go home and say, ‘You’ve got to go and experience South Africa - and particularly Durban!”, Chef Kevin said.
  
Princess Charlène flew to Cape Town last Friday, to attend a function of the Giving Organisation Trust with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Noordhoek, and visited the Cotlands HIV/AIDS hospice and the Fynbos Project at Lourensford, both in Somerset West.

Article5

 

WHALE OF A TOURISM STORM LASHES HERMANUS

 

  

A storm has been brewing in Hermanus tourism circles about the unfair dismissal of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau Manager Storm Kreusch a few months ago, and was the topic for a report in Noseweek this month too. I was interested in the story in that the Lerm family (which owns the Misty Waves Hotel) appears to be in the midst of this controversy. It is no surprise that Hermanus will soon be renamed Lermanus, it is said as a joke in Hermanus, the way that the family gets itself voted into positions of power. The latest achievement is Maxie Lerm winning the election on behalf of the Democratic Alliance in Ward 3 in the Overstrand municipality. Her son Clinton already is Chairman of the Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) and Vice Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and both mother and son serve on the Executive Committees of both these bodies, mother Maxie Lerm handling the Public Relations portfolio for the DMO. Father Henri Lerm and his son Clinton have created a new Hermanus Sakekamer/Chamber of Commerce. The Hermanus Tourism Bureau recently became a member of the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut Employers’ Organisation, making some Hermanus tourism players suspect that the Lerms want to amalgamate the business and tourism interests in the town, as they have attempted before, so that the amalgamated body will fall under their power and control.

 

The outcome of a conciliatory meeting at the CCMA was settlement in favour of Kreusch, whereby the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, under the chairmanship of Charl de Kock and mandated by his committee, admitted to a faulty procedure and unfair action in the dismissal process, and agreed to pay Kreusch a settlement of R10000. Clinton Lerm allegedly stated in a meeting held at the Tourism Bureau that he, as Vice Chairman, would resign should they have been found to not have followed the correct procedure with her dismissal, and he believed that the rest of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau committee should follow suit, but this resignation has not yet been forthcoming. Further anger stems from a proposed Memorandum of Agreement, which the DMO is requesting the tourism bureaus in the Overstrand municipal area to sign.

 
Disputed is the inclusion of a proposed clause accepting that the DMO will hire and fire staff of all the Tourism Bureaus under the Overstrand municipal control. Also, a promise in September last year, that members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and those of the Cape Whale Coast would automatically become members of the DMO without paying extra membership fees, has not yet been honoured.

 

In the past ten months the DMO has not yet called a General Meeting to obtain member approval for this constitutional change regarding membership. Concentration of power, by a family having a strong private and commercial interest in tourism, is dangerous for any town, and should be stopped in Hermanus at all costs. More and more Hermanus tourism players are now seeing, and appear to have reached the end of their tolerance, of the blatant abuse of power, which included sharing an Indaba stand with Directors of the DMO, reneging on the payment to Kreusch, the preferential listing of DMO directors’ establishments in the June issue of Getaway (with damaging content errors not checked by the DMO), and a recent function with a SA Tourism/SATSA delegation only included DMO directors and a handful of establishments, including clients of DMO director Joan-Anne Harris of Southern Stroll Marketing! For more information about the Hermanus tourism storm, click here, and about the Getaway article, click here. 

Article9
 

SWEET & SOUR SERVICE AWARDS

 
  

The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog. Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to info@whalecottage.com. Winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of the WhaleTales blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.

 

The latest Sweet Service Awards winners are the following:

 

The Post Office in the V&A Waterfront, for its extended opening hours ... read more

Gum Tree, for quickly removing fraudulently ads posted ... read more
Café Benedict, for excellent service from Chef/Manager Llewellyn Lambert ... read more
Mercedes Benz at Century City, for fixing an engine oil leak quickly ... read more

De Kaap restaurant in Macgregor, for organising a dessert wine ... read more

Queen Victoria Hotel, for help after a rain shower ... read more
Balthazar, for a Mother’s Day spoiling ... read more
Franschhoek Literary Festival, for the excellent organisation ... read more
Ciro Beverage Solutions, for excellent delivery service ... read more
Mercedes Benz Century City, for its Service Department MD coming to the rescue ... read more
Salt Deli, for serving a cappuccino with extra foam ... read more
Dermalogica, for an invitation to try out a facial ... read more
Woolworths, for excellent service in the Food department at the V&A ... read more
Charlotte Rhys, for excellent delivery service ... read more
Hilton Weiner, for good service for a matric dance suit ... read more

 

The Sour Service Awards recently went to the following:
 

The V&A Waterfront, for its parking payment machines being out of order ... read more

SafariNow.com, for its MD’s rude communication ... read more
Grand Café on the Beach, for sending what looked like an invitation ... read more
Media Nova, for its failure to supply a copy of the Cape Town Tourism Visitors’ Guide ... read more
Vida e Caffe, for not displaying its prices, in contravention of the CPA ... read more
Ria’s Pools, for poor service and overcharging ... read more

SA Tourism, for sending a newsletter 2 weeks out of date ... read more

ADT Paarl for rude service ... read more
Beaumont House, for using copy from a blog without permission ... read more
Mercedes Benz Century City, for not understanding the lifetime value of a customer ... read more
Robben Island, for its ferries being out of order so often ... read more
Standard Bank Stellenbosch, for its poor service in opening an account ... read more
Department of Home Affairs, for its excessive increases in ID and passport fees ... read more
BP President service station, for rude service from its owner ... read more
ABSA Credit Card division, for excessive security control on a transaction ... read more
 
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