Port Elizabeth - The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is expected to establish an Economic Advisory Council where tourism development will be a forefront priority.
This was announced at the launch of Tourism Month on Thursday, by new head of the Economic Development, Tourism and Agriculture portfolio, Andrew Whitfield.
But while the new administration gears up to harness and market what the metro has to offer, a once top tourist magnet, an anti-apartheid museum remains dormant.
The Red Location Museum, which honours anti-apartheid heroes and the Red Location Library in New Brighton, remain run down and shut closed with broken windows and the grass in front of the library structure looks like tall reeds.
The building has deteriorated and maintenance appears non-existent since its closure over two years ago when residents forced authorities to close the attraction down.
The building valued at millions of rands, stands in sheer contrast to the plastic and corrugated iron structures which serve as houses for New Brighton Community residents.
Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor Athol Trollip said that it was disgraceful and a shame that the area had disintegrated. Speaking to the African News Agency (ANA), Trollip said the purpose of the whole precinct served as a reminder that people needed and should live in humane conditions.
“You know I got so tired from hearing from the old administration that it would be opened and then it was re-opened then it wasn't...There is actually a new Red Location being developed opposite from that site with people living in terrible conditions.
So on the one side we have an anti-apartheid museum and on the other side we have people living in tin structures under government,” he said.
“You can't have a foreign funding [facility] to that extent standing empty and bringing in no money. The local people are furious and I don't think the issue was dealt with integrity and honesty.”
Trollip committed to engaging with residents in the future saying that that their houses would be fixed but added that the metro needed the opportunity and space to re-vamp the museum and get it re-opened. “The situation has reached a deadlock and we will do everything in our power to address it. In the past the residents have not been addressed with integrity, I intend to address them honestly in a proper way,” said Trollip.
Deputy Executive Mayor, Mongameli Bobani, echoed similar sentiments and said that it was of utmost importance to get the Red Location Museum re-opened.
Bobani said crime needed to be eradicated so that tourists would stop “running away” and instead come see how people live in the metro.
Speaking at the launch, Whitfield said that the new administration had inherited a number of challenges but would approach these as opportunities.
Whitfield said the development of a township economy would be a priority and the first steps towards realising that goal would be through the establishment of basic services.
“Nelson Mandela Bay has all the makings of a world class tourism destination, our beaches, game reserves are rich in diversity and of course the people combined make Nelson Mandela Bay the place to be,” said Whitfield.
Whitfield said the municipality needed to work harder to harness the Bay's potential in order to grow tourism economy and create jobs. “Eco-tourism presents an enormous opportunity to Nelson Mandela Bay. We have dolphins, sharks, whales, we have the Baakens Valley, Addo Elephant Park and the mountains around Uitenhage, we are an eco-rich destination and we must harness this natural potential.” Whitefield said that the metro needed more “productive” routes which would link up with existing routes, other provinces and other municipalities.
“We should be the starting point for a Nelson Mandela route through the Eastern Cape via Nelson Mandela Bay, travelling to Qunu and flying out of Mthatha,” said Whitfield. World Tourism Day will be celebrated later this month on September 27 which is being held under the theme “Tourism For All”.
The theme aims to promote universal accessibility and highlights disability issues in travel and tourism. Nelson Mandela Bay Economic Development Executive Director, Anele Qaba, said that tourism month served as a launch pad to promote travelling within local boarders.
“This will help us stabilise our economy, it is important that we create awareness of the importance of this sector. The theme from the national perspective 'Tourism for All' is of critical importance as it immediately raises our consciousness and a call for action to assess our status in providing a conducive environment which promotes access to all citizens,” Qaba said.
Qaba said that it was crucial to create an environment which caters for people with special needs. On a township tour later on Thursday the media were taken to historic “beer halls” which were once venues used during the apartheid era.
Red Location Backpackers established in 2002, was once used by residents as a venue for drinking home made beer during the 1970's. The venue is now a sleep in facility which hosts students from around the world.