One of the only ways to re-build the Knysna tourism sector after the severe blow of the fire gutting through the town, is to start getting South Africans to travel to Knysna.
This call was made by SA Tourism chief executive Sisa Ntshona, after the surrounds of the towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay were affected by run away fires.
Ntshona, who was speaking to Independent Media Travel said that while the cost of repairing Knysna was still being quantified, it was clear that the damage would affect the nearly 2500 jobs that are in the hospitality industry in the region.
“The key thing that I want to put out there, is that the best way we can support Knysna, is by travelling to Knysna. It is much more sustainable. These jobs that are on the line, we are talking about waiters, bed makers, staff at hotel front desks and the entire support staff in the hospitality industry,” Ntshona said.
He added: “Images of the fire have been spread across the world, and we’ve seen a lot of cancellations from our international market. So we are looking to the domestic space to say ‘how do we support Knysna? We travel to Knysna.”
Recent fires that rocked the Southern Cape town happened between June 6 and 10, with some 28 fires reported in the area on June 8, and seven people losing their lives in the blaze.
Knysna fires. Picture: Working On Fire
The fires, which according to disaster management experts,led to the biggest disaster rescue operation in South African history, also displaced 5000 residents and caused the destruction of about 700 homes and more than 2000 hectares of land.
Ntshona said on a recent visit to Knysna, he saw that most of the actual town was still intact, and that it was mainly the surrounding areas of the town that were affected.
With the 35th annual Oyster Festival, set to take place from 7 to 16 July, he said there was a concerted effort to use the festival to show that Knysna is open for business.
During last year’s festival, it is estimated that the gathering brought in R110 million in revenue-this excludes money generated from ticket sales-and created more than 2000 job opportunities.
“We want to use this as an event to say Knysna is back in business and you can visit Knysna. The city has come together and said ‘this tragedy impacts all of us’ , and created a centralised space where if patrons want to inquire anything about the town, accommodation, excursions they can call in, access the website and the information will be made available to them,” Ntshona said.
The website is called www.visitknysna.co.za and is a joint effort of the city and other partners.He added that there are also hashtags that have been started to get the conversation going on social media about saving Knysna, #KnysnaRises and #VisitKnysna.
Ntshona added that the disaster would provide the ideal platform to also grow the hospitality industries of surrounding towns-they too can now open up their doors to accommodate the traveller that would be heading to the festival.
SA Tourism Chief Executive Officer Sisa Ntshona. Photo: Supplied.
Ntshona said the increasingly volatile weather patterns that were affecting the tourism industry adversely,would also lead to travellers becoming more discerning, and making more eco-friendly decisions in their travels. They are now "travelling with a purpose".
This he said would open the opportunity to educate the tourism fraternity locally to be eco-warriors in their business.
“We have got to inform and educate the industry itself, and make sure that they become eco-friendlier and that becomes sustainable, and this must also be demand driven-the consumer must take a stand and say they want spaces that are eco-friendly.
“The issue around climate change is not unique to South Africa, and we all need to be responsible. Our industry must with time start catching on the eco friendly actions.”Ntshona said.
For more information on Knysna and where to stay, patrons can also call 044 382 5510.