An accommodation survey conducted by George, Wilderness & Uniondale Tourism, found that a significant number of holidaymakers have cancelled their bookings following the announcement of beach closures in the Garden Route last Monday night.
Tourism Manager Joan Shaw says they have averaged the results of the sample of 36 establishments and the effects have been devastating.
“An average occupancy of 70% was measured pre-announcement and this dropped on average by 15-20% after the announcement by the president.”
Shaw says the sample is only 10% of the municipal area’s accommodation establishments, but even so, the revenue loss is estimated at R3 351 000.
“So, the total cancellations applied throughout will have a devastating effect on the tourism industry in our area, not to mention the livelihoods of the employees and contractors affected.”
On Monday, Plettenberg Bay residents and visitors staged a peaceful protest in the coastal town on Sunday to highlight their plight to see the town’s beaches reopened following the ban that was introduced last week.
They also highlighted the “devastating” economic effects of the closure for a town reliant on tourism, especially over the festive season.
Residents and visitors lined the street from Odlands towards the Beacon Isle Spar dressed in the beach attire along with cooler boxes, umbrellas, surfboards and other beach gear between 10:00 and 11:00.
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has requested President Cyril Ramaphosa to amend the disaster management regulations regarding the closure of beaches in the Garden Route district.
Ramaphosa announced last week that all beaches in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and those along the Garden Route would be closed during the festive season on certain busy days.
“The decision to close these beaches for the entire festive season will deal a devastating blow to the region’s economy, which is highly reliant on tourism for survival. This will result in major job losses and this is of great concern to us. It is also not based on rational, scientific evidence.
“Businesses in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries have already been hard hit this year as a result of the hard lockdown and restrictions on travel, and it has been brought to our attention that some establishments, many of which are small businesses, suffered a 100% cancellation within the first 24 hours of the amended regulations being promulgated.
“One travel agent has already experienced over 400 cancellations and estimates that 50% of all bookings in the Garden Route will be cancelled, which demonstrates the extreme impact of the beach closures for businesses in the Garden Route,” said Winde.
Winde further requested Ramaphosa to reconsider the hours of access to the beaches that are currently open.
“In Cape Town, where the sun rises early and sets later in the day in Summer, limiting beach hours to 9am to 6pm will only serve to increase congestion at beaches as they will be open for fewer hours. During Alert level 4, beaches were considered to be safe between 6am and 9pm and the change under Alert level 1 does not make practical sense,” he said.