Plett Rage a bust for Garden Route, businesses to suffer
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An economic fallout in the Garden Route is feared following the cancellation of the Plett Rage music festival.
An annual calendar event for school-leaving matrics and party lovers, Plett Rage was scheduled to take place from January 29 to February 6, 2021.
But following the Rage event in Ballito in November, later classified as a super-spreader event which resulted in a surge in Covid-19 infections, the writing was on the wall for the event in the Garden Route, a region already declared as a Covid-19 hotspot.
Plett Rage 2020 was officially cancelled on Wednesday after the organisers received a request from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) to do so.
Professor Burtram Fielding, Head of Research and Development at the University of Western Cape, said the cancellation of the event was appropriate.
“There is an exponential increase in infections again,” Fielding said. “Any mass gathering at the moment could very likely result in a super-spreader event. With our population not adhering to the control measures in place, the risk is extremely high. Even though I’m not a fan of lockdowns and cancelling events, in this instance, this may be the right call.”
Ballito Rage and Plett Rage are organised by separate entities.
Ronen Klugman, founder of Plett Rage, said in addition to the festival’s core organising team, over 900 people working as service providers would be impacted by the cancellation.
“(This includes) security staff, cleaners, bar staff, technical and stage crews,” he said. “Every year, we spend about R1 million on transport solutions for the rages. It’s the artists and bands and the DJs. It’s the promotional staff and content creators. The list goes on.”
Klugman added: “The concern we have now is that we have a lot of suppliers, who we’ve worked with for many years, who have been holding out to make some money during the period, and what will happen is multiple businesses (will be) closing down that are in and support the live entertainment industry.”
The cancellation marks a major loss for Plettenberg Bay and the surrounding Garden Route.
“The Plett Rage brand is big business,” said acting chief executive of Plett Tourism Patty Butterworth. “It brings a fortuitous income to the local economy and it has become very attractive to sponsors; entry-level car companies, banks, financial management institutions, clothing brands and the like. The bigger the festival, the greater the return on investment.”
According to a product survey conducted by the tourism body, the average 5 000 students, and additional 2 000 young adults who attend Rage on the periphery, individually spend between R12 000 to R15 000 in the region during the trip. This includes purchasing of accommodation, food and beverages, and activities in the area.
The event also traditionally marks the start of the summer season which encourages additional employment in the local tourism and retail industries.
“The cancellation of Plett Rage will have a negative impact on the economy in Plett. It’s very unfortunate but understandable why it has been cancelled for 2020,” Butterworth said.
Clint Cawood, founder of events company CCPP, one of Plett Rage’s suppliers of technical infrastructure, said the majority of the work into the festival had been completed prior to the cancellation.
“It was really just the final stages of on-site deployment, gearing up to just start prepping to roll out the last part of the project,” Cawood said. “We had already altered the plan four times because of Covid-19 to make it a safe project to roll out.”
Individual project cancellations in the region throughout the period are running into millions worth of business being lost. “The media hype around the Rage cancellations has exposed a lot more risk,” Cawood explained. “Plett Rage was gearing up to be as safe as possible, along with all the other projects we had set up for smaller groups of people.
“The impact is actually far wider spread to even projects that were taking further extensive plans or adjustments to factor in Covid-19. Them also not being granted to trade has had a further knock on our business.”
Cawood added there would be further consequences. “At the beginning of Covid-19, we had to make cutbacks, and now, in essence, we are now at risk of having to shake the tree further and see where we can make more cutbacks to see what survival will look like,” he said.
For those expected to be on the stage, Plett Rage 2020 was a sure fire chance to work after a year devoid of opportunities. Cape Town band GoodLuck was one of the acts announced to appear at this year’s festival.
“Everything we’ve had planned, all of our tours, everything has come to a grinding halt, and we were all just really hoping for a December and January season to be able to actually make up for the tough year we had,” said band lead singer Jules Harding. “There are many artists and people connected to the live entertainment industry that are being impacted by this. It’s a very difficult situation.”
Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC David Maynier said the Western Cape government continued to support businesses in the face of the second wave of Covid-19 cases.
“We know times are tough, but if possible, we ask that people continue to safely support our businesses in the Western Cape, particularly those in the tourism and hospitality sector,” he said.