Fortunately, for Nick Ray the switch from Music and Desk-top publishing to programming for the internet was a simple transition, due the various Macromedia software programs.
Nick Ray and Kate returned to Cape Town in February 2000, this time purchasing a old three bedroom house in Camps Bay. After meeting with builders and a designer plans were jointly created to build a 4-bedroom house with an adjoining two-bedroom cottage, with a rock feature stream, swimming pool and another Jacuzzi. You can see it here www.capevillas.com/villa.php?MainID=575.
In March it was back to the UK, as it would take another eleven months for permits to run a business were granted. Nick Ray feverishly learned the ways of internet programming and registered the web domain www.CapeTownHoliday.com. Then in the summer of 2000, nick Ray registered an additional twenty domains with UK2.net, including www.CapeVillas.com.
During the summer, Nick Ray attended a lecture by Macromedia. At this lecture Macromedia demonstrated their new program called Flash, which looked to display a spinning panoramic photograph of the Alps, playing to the song “I’m spinning around” by Kylie Minogue. This was it, as the light bulb flashed! One of the great things about Cape Town is the location, the scenery, if Nick Ray could photograph all the sights, hotels and villas, then display them in such a fashion, he would have a significant visual advantage over any competitor.
However, during a follow up telephone conversation, with Macromedia he was informed the panoramic photograph of the Alps was displayed using their movie editing software “Director” which would have a large file size and so was unfit for the web. Macromedia suggested that, “whilst it is not something the software does automatically, it might be something he could simulate,” and so the development began.
In February 2001, work permits were agreed; Nick and Kate emigrated to Cape Town and were married on the top of Table Mountain. By the fall of 2001, the technology for the virtual tours to be displayed on the web had been perfected, and the journey of photographing the various sites began, including a full moon climb of Lions Head and many expeditions. In Early 2002 the prototype was complete and the website was launched, similar to this 2003 Cape Villas version, except it started with scenic panoramas, not villas.
Soon after Nick Ray contacted real estate agent Pam Golding, asking if they would want to use the technology, they suggested they could not afford it, but he should should consider creating a Real Estate company of his own. Soon after a database programming team who were impressed with the visuals offered a deal, where they would adapt their technology, a CMS (Content management Suite) database, if the virtual tours were incorporated into the website, the motivation, being that they could use the finished product as a portfolio piece. It was decided the most appropriate of the various domains to use was www.CapeVillas.com as previous attempts to break into hotels has seen the need for network connectivity that was simply not possible at that juncture in Cape Town. In addition Villas were naturally suited to the virtual tours, as was realised when Nick Ray and then “Cape Go” development team had created an example for a private Client. To get stock, beyond the fifteen or so Camps Bay villas in the public domain, a well designed leaflet was distributed through Camps Bay and Clifton to various property owners asking if they would let their property.
The first rental was made a few months before Christmas 2002, this rental that had its own story, as the owners were renting the property to afford IVF treatment, and so it was that a new life was entangled into the beginning of the Cape Villas dynasty.
Everything was running smoothly and in early 2003 as the Cape Go Development team transcended into the Cape Villas team. 2ic (second in charge) Will Mellor moved from web development to villa sales, his gift with the pen a considerable asset. To assist a friend Suzie Wollescroft joined the team in sales. Things ticked over nicely and whist Will and Suzie would deal with sales and meeting their guests, Nick Ray and Mike Enslin spent most of their days photographing villas or mountains or beaches, improving both the Cape Villas website and the virtual tour portfolio, which was then called The Cape Town Guide. Which was endorsed by The lonely Planet, and so became a separate source of villa enquires. Unfortunately Will and Suzie were headhunted and offered a deal they could not refuse, which was a real loss, as they knew the villas, and it would take quite some time to find adequate replacements.
As such, for the following season, after their departure concentration was directed towards the fledgling luxury car hire and limousine business, from which Cape Villas current MD, Mr Oliver van den Heever was recruited. At the same time increased effort was placed into the virtual tour (Cape Town Guide) which was expanding to cover more of South Africa. Time went by and in June 2004, Nick Ray and an associate journeyed to Johannesburg, in part to photograph and in part to seek investment partners to the virtual networking project.
The concept was to join with a Travel GDS to provide on line bookings to the guide, so viewers could book hotels from the website and use the virtual tours as the draw card to capture client’s attentions. First in Africa but soon after globally, working in partnership with the GDS. Visually the product was light years ahead of any other, and it was not long before Nick Ray teamed up with Dumani Mandela and together they met with Multi Choice, South Africa’s only satellite broadcasting company and arranged a channel to show the virtual tour. Soon after, Shaka and Moi Sisulu joined the team and various high-level meeting with Galileo GDS were held as well as an approach to Sabre GDS for the African GDS franchise.
Things were moving in the right direction, but unfortunately after three months Nick Ray needed to return to Cape Town to look after core business, winter was over and in August, out of the blue Cape Villas has recorded a record month, and it was time to prepare for a busy summer season. Soon after Dumani came to Cape Town to stay for a while and talk of this business idea and that would be discussed between a good glass of red, on many an occasion as slowly over many years the travel network then entitled www.LuxGuides.com would piece itself together, as technology accelerated to the point where the computer language required to create Lux Guides “XML” changed from also-ran, to common use.