Blue Flag awards for Knysna and Plett
At a prestigious event at Dolphin Beach, Jeffreys Bay, the beaches, marinas and sustainable tourism boats which had applied for and complied with the required international standards, were awarded Blue Flag status for the season that commences on 1 November.
In total, 62 Blue Flags were awarded for South Africa: 44 for beaches, seven for marinas and 11 for sustainable tourism boats.
The Western Cape received the highest number of awards, with 28 of the 44 beaches within its borders. Knysna shone when it received this status for two beaches, Brentonon-Sea and Buffalo Bay, the two marinas on Thesen Islands, and three sustainable tourism boats, being the Ocean Odyssey boats Oyster Catcher, Dolphin II, and Sousa.
The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa), which manages the Blue Flag programme in South Africa, confirmed that all applications were subject to a “rigorous multistage approval process involving both national and international assessments by a South African and international jury panel”.
Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa thanked Wessa for the work it was doing and emphasised the importance of the programme in acting as a selling tool to attract visitors to our shores. Wessa’s ecotourism manager Vincent Shacks stated that the Blue Flag programme “is an excellent example of what is achievable when government, both local and national, partner with civil society”. He also highlighted the job creation project arising out of the partnership between Wessa and the national Department of Tourism, whereby stewards are employed on Blue Flag beaches.
Knysna Tourism chair Elmay Bouwer says, “We are thrilled that Knysna is waving the Blue Flag from its harbours, boats and beaches! This is great news for us as a destination. Congratulations to Ocean Odyssey who have three Blue Flag boats, and to Thesen Harbour Town and Thesen Islands, and to the municipality for its beaches Brenton and Buffalo Bay. We are very proud of them for achieving international recognition and for meeting the standards of excellence required by this prestigious award.”
Knysna-Plett Herald caught up with Ocean Odyssey’s Evelyn Pepler on her return from Jeffreys Bay. She explained that this is the fourth year that the company has received this award, as the status is only valid for a season and a new application must be made annually to ensure that compliance with standards is maintained.
As Pepler explained, unlike many other tourism awards where no checks and balances are in place and it simply comes down to a numbers game (those who canvass the most votes win), in the case of the Blue Flag awards, rigorous standards are set and must be met and complied with.
“It is certainly not a cheap exercise,” she said. “The company has to carry the registration costs and the attendance costs of all national and international events that are attended.” Pepler will be representing her business and ultimately Knysna as a destination at the upcoming World Travel Market London and the SA Tourism Netherlands roadshow, where she hopes to inspire many more tourists to visit “our amazing town”.
‘We are thrilled that Knysna is waving the Blue Flag from its harbours, boats and beaches!’
Wilderness beach met all the criteria for receiving Blue Flag status – but Eden District municipality (EDM) did not hand in the necessary application despite being prompted to do so. This was confirmed by Blue Flag national coastal coordinator Robert Slater confirmed last week. As a result, the beach failed to get the much sought-after award.
Wessa CEO Dr Thommie Burger (left) and Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa flank Gina Oosthuysen and Elfrieda Loubser from Thesen Islands, who received the certificates awarding Blue Flag status to the two marinas on Thesen.
A thrilled Evelyn Pepler (middle) from Ocean Odyssey, which received Blue Flag status for three of its boats, with Wessa CEO Dr Thommie Burger and Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa.
John Prins from Bitou municipality