George and surrounds is arguably the heart of the Garden Route, and as such is a major tourism destination. For years now the local Tourism office has worked tirelessly to benefit the locals, market the area and attract tourists to the region. They have won numerous awards, including best Tourism Bureau, best Tourism stand, International Star Award for Quality, etc. This is all about to change…..
The George Municipality whom funds the local Tourism office has decided to pull the plug on the award winning organization, without as much as giving them clear reasons or affording them with an interview to explain the details or transition plans. The only information the Municipality is has released is that the organization is allegedly in breach of their service agreement, yet no specifics. All requests for clarification or interviews have simply been ignored.
The Municipality has decided to stop the funding of the tourism office with immediate effect, which will result in the office closing by the end of the month and all the staff losing their jobs.
It has since become known that the Municipality is intending on taking the tourism function in-house. If we look at how the DEAT grant of 2.6 million was hampered to the point of failure by Municipal non-commitment then Tourism will clearly not benefit from going this route.
The real crisis is not only the local Tourism office and their staff; it is the entire community of George that will suffer from the Municipality’s intent to take over the tourism function. Every B&B, petrol station, restaurant, cafe, supermarket and all their staff depend on tourism. In fact, every business in the area depends on tourists in a direct or indirect way. This in turn means that many families would be affected should tourism become an administrative function within the bowls of the Municipality.
On hearing of this development the George Business Chamber has pledged their full support behind the Tourism office, as no-one wants to see a decline in tourism and the subsequent economic effect this will have for the entire region.
Can the Municipality please step forward and explain why they are dropping the ball only weeks away from our busiest season and a mere 600 days away from the 2010 world cup?
If the Municipality is so intent on running things itself, where is there succession plan and where are the experienced and qualified officials and councilors that will champion tourism?
The George Tourism organisation would like the George Municipality to finally step forward. Let’s plan a way forward together that works for Tourism, the people of George and the region. Oh, and let’s try and do this before the Tourist office has to let all their staff go and close the doors on a promising season ……