This Tourism Week: 1 November 2012

This week:

Tip tripping part III. Plus: the Commission Conundrum 

Books: Three companions that’ll appeal to walkers in the Cape (although one of them will appeal to anyone who’s going into the wild anywhere in Southern Africa)

This Tourism Week: are you friends reading it, too? 

Remember – you can read these articles on line via the links above, or just keep scrolling down for the friendly e-mail version.

This Tourism Week: are you friends reading it, too?

This Tourism Week is all about informed opinion, and – as you’ll see from the article below – its articles are often quoted years after they’ve been published.

It’s a distillation of all the important issues facing tourism inSouthern Africatoday: law, marketing, service, and more. And if you’re reading this, you’ll agree: your colleague should be reading it, too.

So please ask them to sign up: it’s a free service, it’s interesting, it’s entertaining, and it’ll make you laugh as often as it makes you cry.

But it’s never dull.

Here: send them this link and tell them to look for the ‘Subscribe’ block on the left hand side of the page – from there, subscribing is an easy two step awaaaayeeeyaaaaaay. (No dubsteps, hiphops, or gangnams required).

Tip tripping part III. Plus: The Commission Conundrum

Tipping and commissions must be two of the most contentious issues in tourism.

I wrote about the trickiness of tipping just a few months ago (actually, I lie: when I looked it up, I found that I wrote ‘Tripping Over The Tipping Minefield‘  and ‘Another Tipping Surprise‘ back in January 2003. But, since so many people still talk to me about them, it SEEMS like a few months ago. Plus: that was whenSouth Africa was, you know, a real tourism destination).

I’m not mad about tipping. I do it, but I don’t if I don’t feel the money was earned.

I get that it’s an incentive for waiters: sell more wine, and the more expensive dishes on the menu, and you’ll rack up bigger bills, and therefore – since tipping’s done on a percentage basis – you’ll earn more money.

And since we pay you bubkis per hour, you need that moolah, Monty.

But, you see, that’s my problem with tipping: if the waiter’s relying only on tips for his or her living, the incentive isn’t coming from a service point of view. (And yes, there is the argument that the better you serve, the better you’ll get paid. But I don’t buy it: 10% remains 10%, even though, yes, the bill total can change.)

And by the way: waiter. Waiter. WAITER. Sorry the PC brigade, I will not use the -tron word, nor the -tress word. Equal pay for equal work, and equal grammar for equal work, that’s what I say.

But let’s not get Martin too wound up about tipping. Let’s rather talk about commissions.

I heard from a friend recently that a tour guide had brought two guests into his restaurant, and that when the meal was over, the guide demanded a 20% commission on the bill.

Two guests. (I WILL NOT use the pax word, either, and neither should you: it dehumanises the people to whom you’re trying to sell a “warm, friendly – read ‘human’ – welcome.”)

Two guests who had been booked in for dinner – not by the guide, but by the tour operator.

So the operator goes to the trouble of designing a package, picking out accommodation, restaurants, activities, and even car hire companies that match the package’s value proposition, goes to the expense of marketing the product – and therefore the products and properties all the way along the itinerary – and maintains an infrastructure for all of this. And then charges, say, a 30% commission? (Makes you wonder how they even make a living, let alone maintain their turnover.)

While the tour guide wants 20% for sitting on his or her fat flat end?

See why it doesn’t add up?

Now look: there are two schools of thought inSouth Africawhen it comes to comms for guides. Some restaurants say we’ll give you a free meal for every ten guests you bring to us, while others feed at the Kick-back Bar like Kenny at a live sushi plate.

And I understand both, although I don’t support the latter. Businesses that raise their prices to make allowances for cash payments to guides? Eish. And double eish.

But I think there should be a third way of thinking, and I practiced what I preached when I ran my bird watching tour business back in the mid 90s. (Sigh. Remember that? And the Democracy Dividend? … gone the way of ill-managed inheritances, of course. Damnit.)

I used to have a policy of entertaining all tour guides for free: even if they were off duty. And if they brought even one guest – they came on the tour, and ate and drank my snack and cool drinks for free.

But they never saw a cent from me.

Two reasons: (1) if the tour guide goes free, the tour operator saves a few SA Ront, and that goes straight to the bottom line, which makes me a nice guy to do business with; and (2), if tour operators can go to the trouble of marketing me, the least I can do is make those small gestures that make a difference in their lives.

So what if the tour guide came and demanded a tour when he or she came on holiday with his or her 3 wives and 16 children? I did it (although when it happened a second and third time, I didn’t: there are limits). I did it, and I chalked it up to marketing.

And here’s the thing: in the 23 months during which I operated that business – which relied on an 18-seater boat and was closed down by the floods of 96 – I carried 5,000 paying guests, and gave out more than 1,400 freebies. But 900 of those went to schools and pensioners groups: the other 500? The 10%? Tour operators on educationals (and some of them on their year-end holidays), and the staff of locals hotels, lodges, and B&Bs.

And tour guides, too, of course.

And did the guides ignore me?

They couldn’t: my product was too good and too popular in the littlevillageofWilderness.

So here’s the pay-off bit: I spoke last week about the National Tourism Service Excellence Strategy. ( SA Tourism/ TGCSA / TEP Power of One Sessions deliver the goods) and a lot of people have told me it’s an idea whose time has come. (Bit late, actually, when you consider it’s a response to a problem that was first identified in the Tourism White Paper of – get this – 1996.)

So tell me – if you’re paying these commissions and such, how are you contributing to the development of better customer service?

Because – and I really believe this – it’s only the bottom-feeding guides who’d pursue the cash before all else.

Trouble is, there’re a moer of a lot of them.

Books: The Outdoor Survival Bible

This dip-into kind of book should be required reading for everyone. It’s written in a tight, matter-of-fact style (I don’t really like to use the cliché, but it works), and covers everything: getting ready, to getting stuck, getting lost, getting hurt, getting shelter, getting warm, getting food, getting wet, and getting help.

It’s illustrated with easy to read line drawings, and each issue – like for example, ‘Collecting water’ in the ‘Getting food’ section – is dealt with in two facing pages at most. So while this isn’t a deeply detailed book, it does provide the basics and, you’ll agree, after the basics, the rest will come with practice.

Certainly it belongs in the guest library of any country lodge, game reserve, or adventure operator.

And at this time of year, it’d probably make a great corporate gift for a dedicated client whom you just know is aching to get into hiking gear and disappear over the bult as soon as the summer holidays begin.

It’s by Rob Beattie, and it’s published in wire-bound hard cover by Struik Lifestyle.

Buy it at the BarefootBookshop

Books: Mike Lundy’s Best Walks in theCapePeninsula

Can you believe it? It’s 21 years since this best seller first appeared, and if, like me, you ever owned a copy, it was probably swiped by your best friend and now you’ll want to get your own back by investing in the latest edition and having a good time and hopefully he’ll get lost next time he’s out hiking and finds himself in some kind of glitzy shopping mall fourth dimension hell and I’LL NEVER SPEAK TO HIM EVER AGAIN.

OK, so maybe it’s not that bad, but this is definitely the kind of book that brings out the best in me.

It describes 30 of the best walks in thePeninsula- and although the Kaapenaars will say that means the best walks in the world, even we inferior beings have to admit that they’re each one of them quite spectacular.

This eighth edition has been completely revised, and the book’s been brought into the digital age with GPS coordinates for all the tracks downloadable for free from (it’s a tiny 147 kb zip folder).

If you’ve got a guest library and your property’s in theCapePeninsula, you need this book. It’ll probably keep your guests in town for at least an extra week.

It’s published in soft cover by Struik Travel and Heritage and you can

Buy it at the BarefootBookshop

Books: Paths to Pubs – A guide to hikes and pints in theCapePeninsula

72 hikes and trails and 33 watering holes in the Fairest Cape Of Them All? This is heaven. (Well, close to – even for teatotalling me.)

Author Tony Burton is one of us: he’s completed more than 750 hikes and 80 trails but – this is why he’s one of us – he’s also lead some 250 excursions. So we can trust that he knows his stuff – and when he describes some of the hairier bits on, say,TableMountain, that he’s researched them at first hand, and won’t lead you astray. (Please read pages 12 – 18: ‘Safety on the mountain,’ and ‘What to pack.’)

Clever design, this book: each pub is numbered, and if it, um, crosses paths with the hike you’ve chosen today, you’ll find they’re cross-referenced. So, for example, you can take ten different hikes, and visit The Brass Bell on each one.

And all the time she’ll think you’re out enjoying a healthy hike with your makes…

Maps, little snippets of information (page 92: “Palynology is the study of fossilised pollens…”), and 24 colour photos (some lovely, some to put the fear of van Hunks into you) – so all-in-all a useful book. Except for one thing: the type font’s too small. And, since your market’s probably an older one, is that really a good idea?

Still, those pubs probably mitigate this mistake. Beer goggles anyone?

Like Mike Lundy’s Best Walks in the Cape Peninsula, everyone who loves the region and loves walking should own a copy. And it’s a complete must for every guest library.

It’s published by Struik Travel & Heritage, and you can

Buy it – in soft cover or as an e-book – at the BarefootBookshop.  

Now go away on holiday. It’s in the economy’s best interest

With best Barefoot Wishes – M

MARTIN HATCHUEL, Barefoot Writer

Specialist writer for the tourism industry
Social media & advertising
Media management
Responsible tourism
Cell +27(0)84 951 0574
Fax +27(0)86 614 8853
Skype: reefgod
PO Box 2690 Knysna 6570

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