Tag Archives: Gunther Breuninger

The bane of Cape Town’s hospitality industry

“I’m such a nasty person,” she said with glee.  One can laugh it off but in Chris von Ulmenstein’s case, it’s become a fact.  And she went on to say how she waits for knocks on the door bearing lawsuits.

But her latest action shows that she is in fact, in her own small way, a threat to democracy.  She convinced her hosting company, Hetzner, to take down another site which they also host.  Hetzner has not responded to CapeInfo’s email so we find hard to believe that the process is fair and, indeed, constitutional.

One prominent Cape Town hotelier called Hetzner to complain about its actions, but Hetzner’s Gunther Breuninger explained that they were instructed by the Internet Service Providers Association to take down the site.  Now if you look at the ISPA’s take-down process, you will see that it’s not the ISPA that issues any instruction, but Hetzner would have decided for itself.  So did Breuninger tell a blatant lie?  One must wonder if Hetzner is a trustworthy company.

Was Hetzner right or wrong?  Vote in our poll on the right.

The site taken down is Martin Hatchuel’s This Tourism Week – a highly-regarded business-to-business publication and an important part of his livelihood.

One tourism organisation official – who prefered not to be identified – had the following take on all of this: “Martin is an excellent journalist and This Tourism Week is one of the better tourism news sites out there. I find it incomprehensible that his website was shut down because of comments from readers to a vitriolic posting by von Ulmenstein. This action by Hetzner does appear unconstitutional.”

You can read the posting here.

Why the anonymous quotes?  Many people are scared of von Ulmenstein and none want the nastiness of her vitriolic attacks that are sure to follow.

Chris von Ulmenstein has become the Julius Malema of the hospitality industry – a loose cannon who always knows better; she’s happy to criticise but balks at any criticism of herself.

Whale Cottage blog tags

The tags say it all. Von Ulmenstein’s writing is purely a promotion of herself and her Whale Cottage Portfolio. From www.whalecottage.com/blog/

I started von Ulmenstein on her blogging career.  She came to me in 2008 when someone had opened a website with the sole aim of criticising her and her business (Whale Cottage Portfolio) after a bad experience at one of her guest houses.  The problem was, if you googled “Chris von Ulmenstein”, this slagging website was at the top of the first page.

So I advised that she makes as much “noise” as possible – using Facebook, social media and other websites and blogs.  And I even offered her a blog on CapeInfo which she started.  The offending website was pushed off Google’s first page fairly quickly.

This is super – I Google’d “Chris von Ulmenstein” last night, and saw it at no. 8 I think, beating the horrid website, which is now at number 10.  I have to get it off the first Google page.” CvU’s email on 29/8/08

Von Ulmenstein took to blogging like a duck in a downpour.  Unfortunately, this was the time when she’d also just been booted out of Fedhasa – her industry association.    So she used the blog to air her personal grievances (something a professional writer never does) and slag off Fedhasa’s leadership.

Now I now that Google spiders CapeInfo very efficiently and it usually takes between three and six minutes before a blog post is indexed on Google.  But the worst was waking to von Ulmenstein’s emails (often written at about 3am), asking if I’d seen her latest post slagging Nils Heckscher or another victim, and how it’s already at number three on Google’s first page for a search on the person’s name.

I hoped that she’d move on and concentrate on providing the insight that she is so good at.  But no, when I said I was unhappy with her direction she opened a new blog – Fedhasa is a Farce, where she really let rip.

So I was forced to set conditions, which she would not meet, and I felt obliged to close her blog on CapeInfo.  There was no outside influence and I took the decision completely on my own.  I cannot allow CapeInfo to be used as a platform for malicious vendettas where integrity is a foreign word.

I’ve known Chris for a long time.  She and her company, Relationship Marketing, became a tenant at the V&A Waterfront in the early 90s.  Then, she was one of those people one rather avoided.  She always knew better and nothing was good enough.

In subsequent years, I had a good relationship with her while she was on Cape Town Tourism’s board, lastly as deputy-chair when the old CTT was disbanded in 2003.

She was a passionate champion for tourism in the days when tourism wasn’t the glamour industry it is today.  But as the old CTT was being closed, after the City Council withheld funding, I had to wonder if she wasn’t too passionate and if there wasn’t an element of surrogacy in her possessive relationship with CTT?  With imminent closure as funds were running dry, von Ulmenstein reportedly handed over a cheque for over R100,000 to keep the organisation going.  They gave the cheque back to her.

She never made it onto the new CTT board so focused her attention on Fedhasa, where she served on the Western Cape exco until tensions with fellow exco members saw her expelled rather publicly – the first time I’m aware anybody has been expelled in that manner.

Is Chris von Ulmenstein a paragon of virtue in the realms of her chosen hospitality industry?  Well, one thing is clear, she is seriously lacking in the karma stakes.  Her nemesis website in Google, dirtywhale.com, is still there and back up to fourth position; her presence in TripAdvisor (which she calls “the bane of the hospitality industry”) and HelloPeter is hardly salutary.

The latest five Tripadvisor posts about Whale Cottage Franshhoek are:
Whale Cottage Franschhoek – a dirty run down dump.
Whale Cottage – a health risk
An agressive owner, no service, no telephone and a dirty pool..not a 4*
A squalid hovel with horrendous staff and owner
A filthy run down and disgusting dump Do…

On HelloPeter.com there is one compliment and five complaints.

If anything is the bane of Cape Town’s hospitality industry, it is von Ulmenstein’s Whale Cottage Blog.  She’s reportedly been banned at scores of restaurants and was forcibly evicted by police from trendy, upmarket Beluga, when she was refused right of admission and refused to leave.

Yet she riles on and on, sparing no-one she disagrees with.  Her page-by-page criticism of Crush magazine is one of the most embarrassing examples of journalism I’ve ever seen.

Von Ulmenstein seems to have one set of rules for herself, but another set for everyone else.  She wrote the following email to me on October 31, 2008:  “It would be most unprofessional for you to attack me, when we are “colleagues”, so to speak. You sound like a self-righteous policeman, and in judgment of things that do not concern you, as you are not part of my business.”

So, if I started Chris von Ulmenstein on her blogging career which has caused so much distress, I must apologise.

But as one of South Africa’s most esteemed professionals said, “One comfort about being attacked by the Whale is that there is such a large ‘old boys/girls club’ of victims.  Sad little person.”

It was actually very sad writing this because I was friends with Chris at one time.  If it was not for her malicious and vindictive rabble-rousing, she would be a great blogger.  Her blog was recently nominated in the SA blog awards in the ‘most controversial blog’ category.  One hopes that this doesn’t inspire her to new heights, or should that be “stoop to new lows?”

Postscript #2
The ISPA has drawn my attention to the following:

  1. It is the ISP that decides on a take down and not the ISPA.
  2. the ECT Act is fairly clear on redress:  77(2) Any person who lodges a notification of unlawful activity with a service provider knowing that it materially misrepresents the facts is liable for damages for wrongful take-down.

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