Plett Tourism: Does it matter which way we go?
Plett Tourism needs a lifeline if it is going to continue with its brand and experience development – and its work to build an inclusive economy. Chairman Peter Wallington is asking for your support.
The Old Rectory’s emergence in 2017 as a five star boutique hotel and spa – some 240 years after it was first identified on a map in 1777 – tells us how much Plett has changed.
Given the rapid growth of recent years – Plett’s total population has soared from 18,000 in 1996 to around 60,000 in 2016, and is projected to reach 140,000 by 2030 – so, what will the town look like then?
Will it evolve, like the Old Rectory has, into a modern, sympathetic interpretation of its past, staying true to the purpose that serves the town so well? Or will Plett be reinvented as something else? But into what? See four possible scenarios below:
Plett Tourism hosted councillors and municipal officials on a tour of Plett’s hospitality landscape earlier this year, from Kranshoek in the west to the Crags in the east.
The purpose: to remind us all where Plett’s money comes from – and suggest a roadmap for the future which would help us create employment and opportunity for all our people in a way that stays true to Brand Plett: a premium leisure destination with our natural environment – the ocean, the beaches, the fauna and flora – at its core.
For this reason, Plett Tourism works with many organisations in the environmental space – Cape Nature, Sanparks, Natures Valley Trust, the Garden Route Biosphere, the Plett Environmental Forum to name just a few – which are crucial to Plett retaining its unique positioning.
We have worked around two key objectives: that we market Brand Plett and “Plett / It’s a feeling”, and that we do all we can to conceptualise and develop tourism products, infrastructure and experiences which are brand aligned and offer a common future for all our people – what we have called the “One Plett Economy”.
POSITIVE VIBES, RIGHT INVESTMENT
There have been development ideas – the mischievously labelled “Small Boat Harbour” lingers in the memory – that appeal to “job creation” but not to enhancing the Plett that tens of thousands of holidaymakers know and love and sustain financially.
Plett has, however, built up momentum in recent years, and there has been investment of the right kind running into hundreds of millions – the wine estates have been among the most visible. The polo industry continues to attract investment, and there are other “horse industry” investments, from the Equine-Librium College | Stables | Animal Therapy Clinic to Hog Hollow Horse Trails and numerous smaller riding schools.
The iconic Beacon Island Resort is constantly being refurbished and adding facilities, The Old Rectory and Sky Villa Boutique Hotel have recently opened their doors and the work-in-progress Junction Boutique Hotel will offer a welcome addition to Main Street. Niche accommodation investments – such as AfriCamps at Ingwe, a “glamping” experience – complement ongoing investment in the traditional lodges and B&Bs.
There is activity in the entertainment and eating space too – The Bungalow Plett, The Golden Palm and Melissa’s are just three of the new experiences on offer. Even the airways are busier: CemAir’s flights into and out of Plett continue to gain in popularity year on year, and Plett Air Safaris is offering flights to nearby leisure destinations.
The must-see Mungo Designs’ new working museum mill has opened at Old Nick, and a number of retirement-lifestyle projects have come on stream, with more in the pipeline. There are also game changing projects in concept phase, such as the Plett Arts Centre and the Robberg Cultural Bridge; we want to revitalise Central Beach and link it to Poortjies, taking in the Plettenberg Hotel, Lookout Deck and Milkwood Manor along the way.
On a different level, the Plett Wine & Bubbly Festival and the Plett Arts Festival are doing their bit to broaden the out of season appeal, as are our media and outreach programmes.
Importantly, there has been a reawakening of festivals and events in KwaNokuthula, driven by Plett Tourism and young entrepreneurs from the township.
Plett Tourism has also engaged in a number of other projects in the PDI areas, and our story telling about Plett exposes all we have to offer, not just one part. This approach is designed to grow business opportunities, of course, but also to build support for tourism as an industry – and Brand Plett – within historically marginalised communities.
Looking ahead, Plett Tourism has tabled conceptual proposals for Kranshoek and KwaNokuthula. In both cases the objective is to create a tourism route – in Kranshoek it could incorporate a revitalised Griqua Museum and other components, while in KwaNokuthula it could incorporate a craft and food centre and a vineyard, along with established attractions such as Skhulu’z Lounge and Dinangwe Lounge. There are also private initiatives to develop premium market leisure experiences, building on the momentum generated by the rebirth of festivals and events.
AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
So, where to from here? The future, unfortunately, is clouded in uncertainty.
Plett is growing and the town is changing, and tourism, as the economy’s catalyst (and one of the world’s last great job creators in the age of the fourth industrial revolution) needs its voice to be heard at the tables where decisions are made.
Plett Tourism is working increasingly closely with the Bitou Municipality, through the Local Economic Development & Tourism department, and this could bode well for the future. A work-in-progress ordinance may give Plett Tourism the legitimacy it needs to continue its work. The current year-by-year arrangement, with budget reductions, is slowly strangling the organisation. The reduced legal and financial status has meant a reduction in our marketing and communication work, and most problematically, a halt in our development work. New product plans and tourism development is not happening, and a product already launched – The Plett Trail– has stalled.
So, we’ve reached a tipping point. Along with a strong appeal for membership (only 20% of tourism businesses are members) and a redoubling of our effort to generate additional income from our media channels and sponsorship drives, we’ll be setting up a fundraising initiative in 2018 to keep our work alive.
Please support us if you want Plett to grow in a responsible, sustainable, inclusive and brand aligned way.
Please go to www.pletttourism.com/reports to access our annual reports for an overview of the work we do.