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

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

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.

GOLD­ING PROP­ER­TIES MAR­GATE Pic­ture: PAM

Many Mar­gate beach­front prop­er­ties of­fer value for money.

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