Parliament, Thursday, 3 August 2017 – The Portfolio Committee on Tourism yesterday continued its oversight visit, meeting with Knysna, Bitou, George, Mossel Bay and Hessqua municipalities, their tourism authorities, private businesses and other stakeholders to assess the state of tourism at a local level.
One of the objectives of oversight is to assess and evaluate integration of tourism priorities amongst the three spheres of government.
In light of this, the Committee visited Knysna Municipality to assess the impact of the fires, which occurred in June when the area was declared a disaster area. The municipality reported that 33 tourism businesses were affected, with 22 businesses being totally gutted and a total of 291 beds no longer available.
In order to grow the industry again, much more than money is needed. The municipality is looking for aid grants to boost these companies and the National Department of Tourism has indicated that it would look at the Expanded Public Works Programme to assist tourism in Knysna. South African Tourism is intensifying its marketing campaigns abroad to ensure that tour operators are aware that Knysna is still open for tourism, despite the disaster.
In the afternoon session with Mossel Bay Municipality, presentations were received from Mossell Bay and Hessqua. A distinct difference was obvious between struggling municipalities and those coastal towns with bigger budgets. The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Ms Beatrice Ngcobo, congratulated Mossel Bay on winning the Best Town Award in 2017 and said she hoped that the locals also benefitted from the award.
One of the challenges is to integrate previously marginalised communities into the tourism industry. There must be partnership and collaboration between the private sector and government. There must also be a skills assessment and training of local communities, especially the youth, to enter the industry. All these interventions are required to incorporate emerging enterprises into the mainstream tourism economy.
The tourism authorities further stated that there is little or no graded accommodation due to the cost involved in getting their premises graded. They appealed to the Committee for assistance on this point. The Committee also encouraged the municipalities to look into a unified brand and to turn their tourism strategy inwards to focus on the Garden Route as the corridor to their towns. Events and business conferencing could be a possible answer, apart from adventure and sports tourism to attract more tourists to the area.
The issue of maximising on the ocean economy also came to the fore. The Chairperson encouraged municipalities to incorporate previously disadvantaged economies into their plans for job creation and local economic development. This will enhance the marine tourism initiatives already being implemented by the National Department of Tourism through Operation Phakisa.
ISSUED BY PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON TOURISM, MS B NGCOBO.