Plett tourism in danger
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.
CemAir has been an integral part of the tourism industry in Plett since it started flying from the local airport.
Plett resident Joanne Barrett with the petition she is distributing.