Plett Tourism needs a lifeline…

Report by: From Plett Tourism Summer magazine Dec 2017

…if it is going to continue with its brand and experience development - and its work to build an inclusive economy. Chairman PETER WALLINGTON suggests why we need your support.

The Old Rectory’s emergence in 2017 as a five star boutique hotel and spa – some 240 years after it was first identified on a map in 1777 – tells us how much Plett has changed  and asks other questions: what should be preserved; and what should be changed?

Given the rapid growth of recent years – Plett’s total population has soared from 18,000 in 1996 to around 60,000 in 2016, and is projected to reach 140,000 by 2030 – what will the town look like in, say, 20 years’ time?

Will it evolve, like the Old Rectory has, into a modern, sympathetic interpretation of its past, staying true to the purpose that serves the town so well? Or will Plett be reinvented as something else? But into what? And will it be for better or worse? (See four possible scenarios.)

Plett Tourism took councillors and municipal officials on a tour of Plett’s hospitality landscape earlier this year, from Kranshoek in the west to the Crags in the east. The purpose: to remind us all where Plett’s money comes from – and suggest a roadmap for the future which would help us create employment and opportunity for all our people. And we want to do this in a way that stays true to Brand Plett: a premium leisure destination with our natural environment – the ocean, the beaches, the fauna and flora – at its core.

We have worked around two key objectives: that we market Brand Plett and “Plett / It’s a feeling”, and that we do all we can to develop tourism products and experiences which are brand aligned and offer a common future for all our people – what we have called the “One Plett Economy”.

POSITIVE VIBES, RIGHT INVESTMENT

There have been development ideas – the mischievously labelled “Small Boat Harbour” lingers in the memory – that appeal to “job creation” but not to enhancing the Plett that tens of thousands of holidaymakers know and love and sustain financially.

But Plett has built up good momentum in recent years, and there has been investment running into hundreds of millions of the right kind too – the wine estates have been among the most visible.

The polo industry continues to attract investment, and but there are other “horse industry” investments, from the Equine-Librium College | Stables | Animal Therapy Clinic to Hog Hollow Horse Trails and numerous smaller riding schools.

The iconic Beacon Island Resort is constantly being refurbished and adding services, The Old Rectory and Sky Villa have recently opened their doors and the work-in-progress Junction Hotel will offer a welcome addition to Main Street. And then there is AfriCamps at Ingwe in the Crags, an increasingly popular “glamping” experience. They complement the ongoing investment that takes place lodges and B&Bs in offering greater accommodation choice.

There is activity in the entertainment and eating space too – the Bungalow, The Golden Palm and Melissa’s are just three of the new experiences on offer. Even the airways have got busier: CEMAIR’s flights into and out of Plett continue to gain in popularity year on year, and Plett Air Safaris is offering flights to nearby leisure destinations.

The must-see Mungo Designs’ new working museum mill has opened at Old Nick, and a number of retirement-lifestyle projects have come on stream, with investments valued at more than R1b in the pipeline. There is also work in progress on a Plett Arts Centre and the Robberg Cultural Bridge, both game changing projects which would shift the seasonal dynamic in Plett. There are also plans to revitalise Central Beach and link it to Poortjies, taking in the Plettenburg Hotel, Lookout Deck and Milkwood Manor along the way. And there are more …

On a different level, the Plett Wine & Bubbly Festival and the Plett Arts Festival are doing their bit to broaden the out of season appeal, as are our media and outreach programmes.

ONE PLETT

More importantly, there has been a reawakening of festivals and events in KwaNokuthula, driven by Plett Tourism and young entrepreneurs from the township.

Plett Tourism has also engaged in a number of other projects in the PDI areas, and our story telling about Plett exposes all we have to offer, not just one part. This different approach is designed to grow business opportunities, of course, but also to build support for tourism as an industry – and Brand Plett – within historically marginalised communities.

Looking ahead, Plett Tourism has tabled conceptual proposals for Kranshoek and KwaNokuthula. In both cases the objective is to create a tourism route – in Kranshoek it could incorporate a revitalised Griqua Museum and other components, while in KwaNokuthula it could incorporate a craft and food centre and a vineyard, along with established attractions such as Skhuluz Lounge and Dinangwe Lounge.

There are also private initiatives to develop premium market leisure experiences, building on the momentum generated by the rebirth of festival and events.

A DIM FUTURE

So, whereto from here? The future, unfortunately, is clouded in uncertainty.

Plett is growing and the town is changing, and tourism, as the economy’s catalyst (and one of the world’s last great job creators in the age of the fourth industrial revolution) needs its voice to be heard at the tables where decisions are made.

Plett Tourism is working increasingly closely with the Bitou Municipality, through the Local Economic Development & Tourism department, and this, we think, could bode well for the future. A work-in-progress ordinance may give Plett Tourism the legitimacy it needs to continue its work. The year-by-year arrangement, with budget reductions, is slowly strangling the energy out of the organisation. (Please go to www.pletttourism.com/reports to access our annual reports).

Plett Tourism’s budget in the current year was reduced by 20% - effectively 26% with an adjustment for inflation – from the previous year and at the time of writing it is unclear whether any additional funds will be forthcoming.

Obviously, our work is being reduced, year on year, and the developmental work is stalled – which we think is hugely negative for Plett and its future. (The Plett Trail is one such victim). Tourism offers a way for people to join the Plett economic mainstream, and it’s not correct to rely on the Municipality to fulfil this function.

So, we’ve reached a tipping point: we’ll be setting up a fund-raising initiative in 2018 and seeking your support to keep our initiatives alive – to stay true to Brand Plett, and to build an inclusive economy that offers opportunity and hope to all our people.