P­lett tou­rism in dan­ger

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Voorblad - Yo­lan­dé S­tan­der

P­let­ten­berg Bay re­si­dents ha­ve laun­ched a cam­paign to sa­ve P­lett Tou­rism o­ver fe­ars that its days could be num­be­red.

Lo­cal re­si­dent Jo­an­ne

Bar­rett, who star­ted the cam­paign, says re­cent de­ci­si­ons by the Bi­tou Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty has led her and ot­her re­si­dents to be­lie­ve that lo­cal aut­ho­ri­ties ha­ve plans to ou­st P­lett Tou­rism and mo­ve the tou­rism functi­on in-hou­se.

“We just can­not let t­his hap­pen. Tou­rism is the li­fe­b­lood of our to­wn. We want P­lett Tou­rism, an in­de­pen­dent bo­dy with skills in tou­rism and mar­ke­ting and a pro­ven track re­cord of re­sults, to con­ti­nue its work. Lo­sing P­lett Tou­rism will af­fect us all very se­ri­ous­ly,” says Bar­rett, who is in the pro­cess of dis­tri­bu­ting a pe­ti­ti­on to gar­ner sup­port. Is tou­rism bo­dy mo­ving ‘in-hou­se’?

Bar­rett says that alt­hough no of­fi­ci­al de­ci­si­on has been ma­de pu­blic a­bout ter­mi­na­ting the tou­rism bo­dy’s ro­le, the­re has been talk of ma­king tou­rism an “in-hou­se” i­ni­ti­a­ti­ve within the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty.

T­he­se fe­ars, she says, are being rein­for­ced by se­ver­al as­pects in­clu­ding the P­lett Tou­rism’s de­cre­a­sing fun­ding from the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty and being si­de­li­ned in ma­jor de­ci­si­ons im­pacting tou­rism in the to­wn. Ce­mAir sa­ga a poin­ter Bar­rett says a p­ri­me ex­am­ple is the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty’s de­ci­si­on re­cent­ly se­ver ties with Ce­mAir, be­fo­re back­tracking a week la­ter af­ter mas­si­ve pu­blic out­cry.

“Ce­mAir has broug­ht with it a mas­si­ve boost for tou­rism, gi­ving tou­ris­ts bet­ter access to the to­wn. T­his has cre­a­ted mo­re jobs in the tou­rism in­du­stry and se­ve­ring ties with Ce­mAir would ha­ve me­ant tho­se jobs could ha­ve been lost. Tou­ris­ts al­so ob­vi­ous­ly spend mo­ney he­re, it is our big­ge­st e­co­no­mic d­ri­ver… In fact, P­lett has a R2.2-bil­li­on di­rect tou­rism e­co­nomy.” Mas­si­ve drop in fun­ding

With re­gard to the de­cre­a­se in fun­ding, P­lett Tou­rism fi­nan­ci­als – which for­med part of its AGM – sho­wed that the­re was a mas­si­ve drop of al­most R1-mil­li­on in fun­ding from the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty in 2018 com­pa­red to 2017.

She says that w­hen rumours star­ted to sur­fa­ce that the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty was li­ke­ly plan­ning to ta­ke tou­rism in-hou­se or to cre­a­te a mu­ni­ci­pal-ap­poin­ted or­ga­ni­sa­ti­on to run it, she felt o­bli­ga­ted to ta­ke a stand. “Ma­ny ot­hers feel the sa­me and ha­ve in­di­ca­ted that they would sup­port such a cam­paign.”

She stres­ses that P­lett Tou­rism has do­ne “a­ma­zing work” despi­te o­pe­ra­ting “un­der in­cre­a­singly dif­fi­cult ci­r­cum­stan­ces”. New tou­rism of­fe­ring In four y­e­ars P­lett Tou­rism has cre­a­ted an en­ti­re­ly new tou­rism of­fe­ring in the form of the P­lett Wi­ne­lands, Bar­rett says. The P­lett Wi­ne & Bub­bly Fe­s­ti­val has pro­vi­ded a win­dow in­to t­his new tou­rism of­fe­ring and has gai­ned sig­ni­fi­cant mo­men­tum o­ver the past few y­e­ars.

W­hen it was first hos­ted in 2014 the fe­s­ti­val at­trac­ted a­bout 500 vi­si­tors, a y­e­ar la­ter the fi­gu­re mo­re than dou­bled and by 2017 a­bout 2 000 vi­si­tors at­ten­ded the fe­s­ti­val. The e­vent has al­so cre­a­ted mas­si­ve me­dia co­vera­ge, a­moun­ting to mo­re than R3.5-mil­li­on worth last y­e­ar.

Alt­hough P­lett Tou­rism c­hai­r­per­son Pe­ter Wal­ling­ton could not be re­a­ched for com­ment be­fo­re going to print, he did dis­cuss the tou­rism bo­dy’s chal­len­ges at its AGM last y­e­ar. Le­gi­ti­ma­cy, te­nu­re mo­re fac­tors One is­sue was that of “le­gi­ti­ma­cy”, he said, as P­lett Tou­rism was being “by­pas­sed by e­le­ments within the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty which un­der­mi­nes work”.

A­not­her is­sue was te­nu­re – one-y­e­ar agreements im­pacted ne­ga­ti­ve­ly on staff, in­du­stry and part­ners­hip re­la­ti­ons­hips.

Wal­ling­ton al­so tou­ched on the de­cli­ning bud­gets and pay­ment un­cer­tain­ty.

Alt­hough the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty did not re­spond be­fo­re going to print, spo­kes­per­son Man­fred van Rooy­en said he would re­quest in­for­ma­ti­on from the exe­cu­ti­ve ma­na­ge­ment te­am, to e­na­ble him to draft a re­spon­se on the re­la­ti­ons­hip be­t­ween P­lett Tou­rism and Bi­tou.

The pe­ti­ti­on is a­vai­la­ble at va­ri­ous points in­clu­ding F­ren­dz, Cross­fit P­lett, Kit­ten, PNA, Ro­gers Je­wel­lers, S­pe­cSa­vers, Rob­berg Fi­ne Foods, Pick n Pay Li­quor, The Bil­tong Bou­ti­que, The In­su­ran­ce and In­ves­t­ment Shop, Me­tal­lic Mer­maid, Wim­py at En­gen, The Gar­den Spa and Vis­ta Lod­ge.

P­ho­to: Sup­p­lied

Ce­mAir has been an in­te­gral part of the tou­rism in­du­stry in P­lett sin­ce it star­ted flying from the lo­cal ai­r­port.

P­ho­to: Yo­lan­dé S­tan­der

P­lett re­si­dent Jo­an­ne Bar­rett with the pe­ti­ti­on she is dis­tri­bu­ting.

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