Rising from the ashes
Local business and the municipality are determined to improve the image of Margate. Lea Jacobs takes a look at what’s happening in this well known holiday town
WHILE every market is affected by a recession, the second-home segment usually bears the brunt of any financial fallout. True to form, some of SA’s coastal areas have been hit hard.
While the North Coast is basking in the developments around the newly built King Shaka International Airport, it cousin to the south is not faring quite as well.
The Hibiscus Coast — from Hibberdene to Port Edward — underwent dramatic changes during the boom. New developments were rife, prices increased and as money poured into local business coffers the small towns that dot the coast appeared set for prosperity. However, as quickly as the boom arrived it did an about-turn when the bottom dropped out of the market.
Caught off guard, the property market came to a virtual standstill, smaller businesses went bust, and tourism, the life blood of the area, slowed to a trickle.
Now the tourists are back, but as the rest of the country dusts off the effects of the recession, Margate, perhaps one of the best known holiday towns in SA, appears to be struggling to fight off a negative image.
In the words of a local businessman, the town is a 100-yearold lady that needs an extreme makeover and it appears that local government is heeding the call to improve not only the town’s facilities but also ways to attract more tourism to the area.
Plans for a Big 5 game farm are on the cards, as well as a revamp of Margate’s beach-front. The planned improvements include a water world and a water emporium that will have a range of children’s pools and a competition pool built to international training standards. The project, estimated to cost about R140m, will incorporate a fresh-water and seawater section. There are also plans to pedestrianize the entire beachfront area and to construct an international conference centre.
Michael Bertrum, CEO of South Coast Tourism, says that the Blue Flag beaches in the area remain a drawcard and have attracted a large number of events to the region.
“We are the only municipal area that boasts six Blue Flag beaches. While not everyone can appreciate the importance of this, when Margate temporarily lost its status in 2006 Alison Kelly, the CEO of the Blue Flag Beach project, estimated that the loss, had it become permanent, would have cost the area R80m to R90m in lost revenue.
Dina Porteous, area principal of Pam Golding Properties Margate, says: “Unfortunately there is a perception in the marketplace that Margate might have lost a little of it shine. However, one has to take into consideration that we have just come out of a very overheated property market where overinflated prices ruled the day. While residents may feel that the bottom has fallen out of the area, this is simply not true. The real picture is not all bad.”
She says that only a small per- centage of units have been sold through forced sales as investors changed their focus by leasing their apartments to the leisure market, cushioning the effects of the economic climate.
“There are bargains to be found. The entire South Coast offers some of the most affordable seaside property in the country.
“The Kagitso development is a prime example, offering two-bedroom apartments in central Margate for R650 000. Three-bedroom units at Colonial Sands on Margate beach front are selling for just over the R2m mark.”
Porteous says that locals tend to forget the area is facing the same problems as other coastal towns in SA. It has two large shopping centres and corporate and national retailers have absorbed the buying power of tourists. Bearing in mind that these retailers offer the option to buy on credit has had a huge impact on smaller businesses that simply cannot compete at this level.
Bertrum says research by the MBA and tourism indicates that 96% to 98% of visitors holidaying in the area are satisfied with their holiday experience.
He says that Margate is a brand that will always be associated with summer holidays.
While it may never compete with its wealthier cousins to the north, the town and surroundings will continue doing what it has always done: offering a relaxed environment with fabulous beaches for those who are looking to get away from it all, he says.
Many Margate beachfront properties offer value for money.