Knys­na Tou­rism out the win­dow?

Knysna-Plett Herald - - News | Nuus - S­te­fan Goo­sen

“Tou­rism be­ne­fits, wit­hout ex­cep­ti­on, di­rect­ly or in­di­rect­ly, e­very bu­si­ness and per­son in Knys­na and Sed­ge­field, w­het­her they re­a­li­se it or not.”

This was Knys­na Tou­rism chai­r­per­son El­may Bou­wer’s re­spon­se on Tu­es­day 19 Ju­ne af­ter it was an­noun­ced on F­ri­day 15 Ju­ne that the re­tren­chment pro­cess of ni­ne s­taff mem­bers has com­men­ced. Their em­ploy­ment is set to ter­mi­na­te on 31 Ju­ly this y­e­ar.

The news fol­lows short­ly on the heels of a new pro­po­sed by­law in Bi­tou that could re­mo­ve the a­rea’s ex­ter­nal tou­rism functi­on, cur­rent­ly per­for­med by P­lett Tou­rism, com­ple­te­ly and mo­ve it in-hou­se. Re­ad ar­ti­cles on this is­sue at www.knys­na­pletthe­rald.com.

No SLA in pla­ce

S­taff mem­bers in Knys­na are being re­tren­ched due to the­re being no se­cu­red ser­vi­ce le­vel agreement (SLA) be­t­ween the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty and Knys­na Tou­rism and, with it, the com­men­su­ra­te fun­ding to con­ti­nue o­pe­ra­ting as Knys­na’s des­ti­na­ti­on mar­ke­ting bo­dy, said the press re­le­a­se.

Bou­wer sta­ted in the re­le­a­se that she is “dee­ply sad­de­ned” con­si­de­ring the­re has been such a po­si­ti­ve tur­na­round and gro­wing sup­port for the success­ful bu­si­ness and mar­ke­ting stra­te­gies that Knys­na Tou­rism has im­ple­men­ted o­ver the past y­e­ar.

“The­se em­ploy­ees ha­ve con­tri­bu­ted ma­ny y­e­ars of ser­vi­ce to Knys­na Tou­rism, and their ef­forts o­ver the past y­e­ar, in par­ti­cu­lar, ha­ve con­tri­bu­ted to the con­si­de­ra­ble pro­gress and he­ad­way we ha­ve ma­de,” she said.

S­till o­pen for Oys­ter Fest

Bou­wer this week con­fir­med that the cur­rent bo­ard mem­bers, who are not paid to sit on the bo­ard, will re­main, but that af­ter the Oys­ter Fe­s­ti­val the tou­rism of­fi­ces will no lon­ger be o­pen.

“Af­ter the Oys­ter Fe­s­ti­val we will start do­wn­s­ca­ling, and by the end of Ju­ly we will be com­ple­te­ly clo­sed,” she said, ad­ding that they are wor­king with Knys­na Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty, pro­vin­ci­al tou­rism en­ti­ty Wes­gro and pro­vin­ci­al E­co­no­mic De­ve­lop­ment exe­cu­ti­ves to find an ef­fecti­ve long-term so­lu­ti­on.

Bou­wer said that the fun­ding is­sue for Knys­na Tou­rism has been an on­going pro­blem an­nu­al­ly for the last eig­ht y­e­ars. “As a bo­ard, we ha­ve com­mu­ni­ca­ted nu­me­rous ti­mes and re­gu­lar­ly with our mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty to put in pla­ce the ap­pro­pri­a­te do­cu­ment or co­me up with a sus­tai­na­ble so­lu­ti­on for the success­ful functi­o­ning of the tou­rism bo­dy.”

Di­mi­nis­hing fun­ding

Sin­ce 2005, said Bou­wer, the tou­rism bo­dy had been re­cei­ving a grant-in-aid of R4-mil­li­on a y­e­ar. “Du­ring the 2017/2018 fi­nan­ci­al y­e­ar, w­hen the SLA kic­ked in, the funds (now being sub­jected to Vat) we­re re­du­ced to R3.5-mil­li­on. And that is out of a to­tal mu­ni­ci­pal bud­get of al­most R1-bil­li­on,” she said.

“Es­ca­la­te the R4-mil­li­on re­cei­ved in 2005 by 6% com­poun­ded per an­num, and this fun­ding should be c­lo­se to R8.5-mil­li­on. Re­a­lis­ti­cal­ly the­re is no ot­her ma­jor in­du­stry in Knys­na on which this town can grow and pro­vi­de em­ploy­ment to its re­si­dents as well as de­li­ve­ring the ne­ces­sa­ry tax ba­se for de­ve­lop­ment and im­pro­vement of in­fra­struc­tu­re.”

With the­se funds, Bou­wer said, Knys­na Tou­rism needs to run as a bu­si­ness – the des­ti­na­ti­on needs to be mar­ke­ted, sa­la­ries need to be paid, and pre­mi­ses need to be paid for, a­mong ot­her ex­pen­ses.

Fi­nan­ci­al tur­na­round

“Last y­e­ar we on­ly re­cei­ved the­se funds at the end of Au­gust. But in this ti­me we ha­ve seen a fi­nan­ci­al tur­na­round of R500 000, an in­cre­a­se in paid-up mem­bers­hip of 25% from 240 af­ter the Ju­ne fi­res to mo­re than 300 pre­sent­ly. This is be­cau­se the in­te­gri­ty of Knys­na Tou­rism has been re­sto­red with mem­bers now firm­ly ha­ving con­fi­den­ce and trust in the tou­rism bo­dy on­ce a­gain,” she said.

“We ha­ve al­so re­a­ched 900 new bu­si­ness sup­pliers and ha­ve seen mo­re than 130 new a­gents and me­dia re­pre­sen­ta­ti­ves co­me through the town. The­se are all as­pects that tou­rism and the town will be­ne­fit from in y­e­ars to co­me, but if we are not he­re all of our hard work will ha­ve been for no­thing.”

Tou­rism’s ‘up­ward cur­ve’

Bou­wer ex­plai­ned that Knys­na Tou­rism pre­sent­ly has the man­da­te to per­form four tou­rism functi­ons: des­ti­na­ti­on mar­ke­ting; pu­blic re­la­ti­ons and me­dia; ma­na­ge­ment of vi­si­tor in­for­ma­ti­on cen­tres; and pro­vi­ding mar­ke­ting sup­port for e­vents and fes­ti­vals. “And so far we ha­ve do­ne it all. We ha­ve re­spon­ded to w­hat our mem­bers wan­ted and ha­ve ful­fil­led the re­qui­re­ments of the SLA. We are on an up­ward cur­ve,” said Bou­wer.

“Tou­ris­ts vi­sit che­mis­ts, re­tail bu­si­nes­ses, pur­cha­se food sup­plies, buy clo­thing, view and pur­cha­se pro­per­ty, pur­cha­se fu­el, vi­sit doc­tors, banks etc. E­very bu­si­ness in Knys­na is po­si­ti­ve­ly af­fected by tou­rism. We can­not con­ti­nue to re­ly on go­vern­ment sup­port or al­low po­li­ti­cs to in­ter­fe­re. Tou­rism should be re­mo­ved from that com­ple­te­ly, and should be run li­ke a bu­si­ness,” she said.

Ma­yor eng­a­ging with ro­le play­ers

Bou­wer said in the press re­le­a­se that an e­mail was sent to ne­w­ly e­lected Knys­na ma­yor Mark Wil­lem­se on Mon­day 11 Ju­ne, and two Knys­na Tou­rism bo­ard mem­bers met with Wil­lem­se on T­hurs­day 14 Ju­ne con­cer­ning the con­tract with Knys­na Tou­rism, which ter­mi­na­tes on 30 Ju­ne 2018.

Wil­lem­se, she said, who has pu­bli­cly con­fir­med his sup­port for Knys­na Tou­rism and re­cog­ni­sed the cri­ti­cal im­por­tan­ce of tou­rism to Knys­na, at­ten­ded a furt­her

meet­ing on 14 Ju­ne with Wes­gro and pro­vin­ci­al E­co­no­mic De­ve­lop­ment exe­cu­ti­ves to find an al­ter­na­ti­ve so­lu­ti­on to the fun­ding nee­ded to keep Knys­na Tou­rism o­pen and a­void the con­se­quen­ces of Knys­na not ha­ving a des­ti­na­ti­on mar­ke­ting and tou­rism en­ti­ty af­ter 31 Ju­ly.

Re­gar­ding Wes­gro, Bou­wer said that fa­cets of ad­mi­nis­tra­ti­on ha­ve to be wor­ked through first, but that it cle­ar­ly is an op­ti­on at this ti­me. “With Wes­gro we can in­tro­du­ce Knys­na in­to new mar­kets a­round the wor­ld. I think wor­king with them should be a pre­ce­dent for all tou­rism bo­dies,” she ad­ded.

‘The w­ho­le town will suf­fer’

“We can­not sim­ply stop mar­ke­ting Knys­na in the­se very chal­len­ging and com­pe­ti­ti­ve e­co­no­mic ti­mes … the w­ho­le town will suf­fer … e­very sin­gle bu­si­ness will soon be­gin to feel the ad­ver­se ef­fects,” she said.

Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty spo­kes­per­son Chris­to­pher Be­zui­den­hout said the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty is eng­a­ging with va­ri­ous en­ti­ties, such as the pro­vin­ci­al de­part­ment of e­co­no­mic op­por­tu­ni­ties, T­re­a­su­ry and the Au­di­tor Ge­ne­ral, and that “we trust that the mat­ter will be re­sol­ved soon”.

“Tou­rism is a key dri­ver of Knys­na’s e­co­nomy and we wish to as­su­re re­si­dents that e­very ef­fort will be ma­de to streng­then our brand.”

The Knys­na Tou­rism of­fi­ces in Main Ro­ad, Knys­na could soon be for­ced to c­lo­se its doors to the pu­blic and vi­si­tors, al­ong with the Sed­ge­field of­fi­ce.

P­ho­tos: S­te­fan Goo­sen

This te­am at Knys­na Tou­rism will soon be out of a job if no­thing is do­ne, al­ong with their col­le­a­gues at the Sed­ge­field of­fi­ce. From left: Do­ra Ma­ne­wil; E­bra­him Wind­waai; Ja­ni­ne A­rend­se; Ran­di-Lue Pluim; Glo­ria Ro­za­ni; Da­vid Pay­le; and Ke­a­gon Bor­chards. Ab­sent are Ja­mes Jan­tjies and Sed­ge­field em­ploy­ee Ni­co­le Moo­re.

Knys­na Tou­rism chai­r­per­son El­may Bou­wer at the re­cent launch of the #S­pi­ri­tofKnys­na cam­paign.

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