News Release: Executive Mayor shares Tourism highlights and concerns with National Parliament Committee

News Release

23 September 2020

For immediate release

One of the main sectors of the National Economy is Tourism, this sector was hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, Executive Mayors were tasked to present their COVID-19 Policy Responses relating to the Tourism Sector to National Parliament. This virtual engagement was hosted by the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, Economic Development, Tourism, Employment and Labour, on behalf of Parliament.

Each Executive Mayor’s presentation was approximately 10 minutes long and focused on the following:

  • Financing and concessions district municipalities offer to Tourism SMMEs, including cooperatives;
  • Non-Financial Development Programmes;
  • Partnership initiatives with other spheres of government including other development institutions;
  • Donor funding to support Tourism SMMEs and Cooperatives;
  • Partnership Initiatives established with private sector including civil society and institutions of higher learning;
  • Policy response initiated in response of COVID-19;
  • Action Plans to reset the Tourism Industry post COVID-19; and
  • The Way-forward/Policy Recommendations.

During his presentation on behalf of the Garden Route district, Executive Mayor of Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM), Alderman Memory Booysen, gave a concise overview of the district and its diverse characteristics relating to the Tourism industry which is a coastal, inland and rural region. He further elaborated: “We are home to a port in Mossel Bay which is under-utilised. The port requires official port-of-entry status, as well as expansion. The district also has a regional airport in George, which is currently pursuing international status. If this is approved it will lead to its expansion, especially with the recent oil and gas discovery in Mossel Bay. He furthermore referred to the quality of the beaches within the district, saying that most of the coastal municipalities boast with pristine beaches that have blue flag status. Also, with the region that is very well known for tourism events and taking into consideration all these factors, he said that the Garden Route is the preferred Tourism destination.

Coastal activities – Plettenberg Bay area.

When referring to GRDM earmarked as one of the “district development model” municipalities, Mayor Booysen emphasised that the GRDM looks forward to building partnerships with other spheres of Government, including the sharing of resources and intellectual property for this model to work.

He furthermore mentioned the District’s relationships with stakeholders, referring to the engagement platform with the Premier of the Western Cape and said: “The Premier provides access to all five district mayors to participate in the Extended Cabinet meeting. These meetings are also represented by cluster leaders, such as Safety, Post-Covid-19 Economic Recovery, Tourism etc., to keep all municipalities aligned with the vision of the Western Cape Provincial Government.

Alderman Booysen raised his concerns regarding the district’s support to businesses. With regard to Small, Medium, Macro Enterprises (SMMEs).  He further elaborated that the cost-containment regulations prohibit the municipality from providing the best possible support to SMMEs, as well as processes that are delayed as a result of red tape. “Some processes have to be directed to other spheres of Governments for their approvals or to be concluded,” he emphasised. With reference to support programmes for spaza shops and general dealers, Alderman Booysen said that GRDM have been working with the banks (Nedbank, Standard Bank) and SEDA for the successful roll-out of this programme in the district. Support with regards to items and equipment is also provided to SMME’s to assist them in keeping their businesses open and expanding it.

Alderman Booysen made mention of a Webishop that was held in collaboration with all local municipalities on 12 August 2020. This WebiShop aimed to address several topics relevant to re-imagining the Garden Route in an innovative and creative way post the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown period. It also provided a platform for representatives from various think tanks, based locally and internationally, to share how they do things differently in a streamlined way to enable a “next” normal. Presenters logged in from as far as the United Kingdom and Finland to share their ideas.

The themes and topics discussed provided a perfect baseline from which to begin with a process of re-imagining the Garden Route. He said:  “More sector specific workshops are envisaged to take place between September and October 2020 and by the end of October, a final economic recovery plan would be ready as a result of these engagements,” Mayor Booysen added. Furthermore, a memorandum of understanding with tertiary institutions in the region is in place to allow these institutions to assist the Garden Route with the turnaround of the economy.

GRDM furthermore embarked on many other campaigns, such as the launching of the Business support campaign. To assist businesses to recover, remain open and keep their current employees post-COVID-19.

September is also Tourism month, with a specific focus on boosting tourism and rural development. These role players are critical and play a major role towards the development of rural communities through measures that could alleviate poverty, create jobs and stimulate the economy.  The impact of COVID-19 on the Tourism sector was devastating, causing most businesses not to operate for months. This resulted in many communities to losing their income streams.

Garden Routers were invited to participate in a campaign which aimed to boost the visibility of small businesses on social media. This could be done by posting a positive review of a business you often support to your personal profile on social media using the hashtags (#gardenrouteandme and #myfavouritebusiness), Mayor Booysen explained.

As COVID-19 was the key element of the presentation, Mayor Booysen further spoke about how GRDM is dealing with COVID-19 through various partnerships. He elaborated that safety kits and masks were distributed in collaboration with local municipalities and the Department Economic Development and Tourism to SMME’s in hotspot areas, to ensure client and employee safety and that the district made provision for isolation facilities in the areas of Mossel Bay to accommodate more than 200 beds. GRDM also made two of its resorts available in preparation of any eventuality that might occur in relation to COVID-19.  Due to partnerships with clusters and discussions with the business chambers in the region, Mayor Booysen highlighted and said that these chambers did surveys regarding the impact of the COVID-19 within various sectors such as construction, tourism etc. He said: “These Chambers came back with reports that indicated that the district have to go into overdrive for the economy to be revived”.

The Garden Route is home to many world-class golf courses, Mayor Booysen confirmed that all these golf courses qualify to be part of the world calendar. Adding to this he said:  “Mr Ernie Els who is a world renowned golf champion, engaged with GRDM regarding a plan to attract golfers and the golf community around the world to the district through the hosting of a golf tournament. “However, as District Municipality we are still constrained with the cost containment regulations”.

All inputs made by the Executive Mayors will be compiled into a report in preparation of recommendations that will be presented to the National Council of Provinces for consideration.