Exploring ways to bring relief to the people and businesses of greater Bitou 

Published: May 26th, 2020

From the CEO’s desk

Dear members of the Plett Tourism Industry,

Marius Venter CEO Plett Tourism
Marius Venter, CEO Plett Tourism

I would like to start this letter by extending my very sincere gratitude to each one of you for the role you are playing in contributing towards the defeat of the COVID-19 Coronavirus by implementing all the required protocols to keep your employees and both present and future customers safe. It is vital that each of us diligently follow these protocols at all times if we are to negotiate ourselves through this crisis in the shortest possible period of time.  

I hope you and your family are and remain safe and secure. This has been a very challenging time in that for the first time for most of us, we are living with daily uncertainty regarding our future. As a community if we pull together at this time in support of one another we will get through this together and emerge stronger than ever.

Over the past three weeks, we have had several high-level discussions with the executive of Bitou Municipality, the Economic Development Department of the Municipality, and the Plett Business Chamber to evaluate the potential and explore ways to bring financial relief to the business in greater Bitou area. As Plett Tourism, whilst we are primarily concerned about the financial well-being and future of our hospitality industry we recognise that in order for our hospitality industry to prosper it is essential that all other businesses in Plett which contribute to our economy also prosper and we feel the need to embrace the bigger picture and to play a constructive role in all fields of endeavour contributing toward the stability and prosperity of our town. We hope to have positive feedback on our initiatives by the 25th of May 2020.

Marius Venter Plett Tourism CEO - Food Relief Easter
Marius Venter, Plett Tourism CEO, assists with food relief over Easter

Your efforts and contribution to help fight the devastating consequences of COVID-19 Coronavirus on our communities is greatly appreciated and has contributed towards assisting numerous members of our community. As a result of our collective effort we have fed 10,000 people per day with a total of 450,000 meals having been distributed to date. Our COVID Response team continue to work hard to make sure we have adequate resources to have enough food to produce 10,000 meals a day for the next 90 days.  

As Plett Tourism we are here to actively support and assist with the implementation of these initiatives. There is a continuous need to provide food relief and we are working closely with public health officials in responding to this emergency and providing a coordinated community response. We are also doing our best to regularly update our residents on the constantly changing conditions as they materialise.

I have been asked why, as a tourism organisation, we are playing a role in feeding people. Apart from the humanitarian considerations, from my many years of experience working all around the world I have seen that all disasters have a common challenge and that is when people go hungry they revert to crime and looting to feed their families which would cause a great deal of harm to our reputation as a peaceful low crime tourism destination.

For these reasons we felt it necessary to help ensure that no one in Plett will go without food.  Overall, it has been a very humbling experience to work among the many volunteers who have given of their time and resources to join in to offload trucks, packing food parcels and carrying out deliveries throughout the Bitou area. In short, low crime figures translate into high levels of tourism bookings in the future.

Plettenberg Bay Food Relief
Watch how a town came together to feed their people

In a similar manner to essential business services, restaurants, accommodation establishments and tourism activities will be expected on re-opening to adopt comprehensive new cleaning, health and other Covid – 19 spread-prevention protocols. In order to assist with these initiatives and ensure that we adopt the necessary systems and protocols to ensure industry best practice at all levels, elevating us above other tourism destinations, Plett Tourism is in the process of negotiating an agreement with a Cape Town-based company, Wellness Safe, which offers a total turnkey solution when it comes to the newly proposed legislation pertaining to protocols in the hospitality industry.

What makes their program unique is that they have a software program linked to AI (Artificial Intelligence) which will profile each individual once such individual’s full particulars, destination detail, contact number and temperature have been logged onto the platform. For example – if a tourist has breakfast at the Ski-boat Club and dinner at Emily Moon, he will be profiled when entering the Ski-boat Club, and then when he logs into Emily Moon, the back-end system will pick-up if there is a difference in his or her temperature or in the questions answered when visiting the first establishment prior to entering the second establishment.

The system allows each and every tourist to do a quick 6 question medical screening on his own mobile device prior to a check-in or visiting a restaurant. The system will notify the establishment to which the individual seeks access if the manner in which any of the questions answered by the individual,  any change in the health vitals of the individual or any other item of concern or inconsistency raises any matters of concern resulting in the individual being flagged as an individual of concern. The artificial intelligence will pick up any such concerns and monitor the individual on an ongoing basis as he or she seeks access to any tourism related facilities so as to minimize the risk of Covid–19 transmission. The program also allows the owner of an establishment to order the necessary approved viral PPE equipment to make sure staff and guests are protected at all times. 

These practices are to ensure our guests are confident that our tourism community is looking out for their health and safety. We are also excited to announce that Plett Tourism, the Bitou Municipality and the Plett Business Chamber are investigating options for the local tourism industry to be a South African leader in offering a completely hygienically cleansed town.

Whilst we cannot not guarantee that our town will remain free of the COVID-19 Coronavirus owing to the fact that we are fighting an invisible enemy, we can demonstrate that we are availing ourselves of every reasonable resource to ensure the ongoing safety of our residents and visitors so that we are perceived as one of the safest destinations in the world to visit. 

We are also excited to announce that Plett will be the first town in South Africa to launch a Free Hand Sanitizer Project for its residents. During the next 7 days we will install 8 x 5000l JoJo tanks containing hand sanitizer for our community who will be able to collect between 500ml and 1 litre of hand sanitiser each, free of charge for their household and personal use. We express our very sincere gratitude to all the donors who contributed to this incredibly significant project. 

I assure you the Plett Tourism Association, in conjunction with the Bitou Municipality and Plett Business Chamber and other business leaders, will do all it can to keep the community safe and to respond to the needs of our residents. I encourage each one of you to remain strong and to continue to help each other and support local business during these challenging times. Our faith and working together will help guide and get us through this difficult time. It is a privilege to live in such a great community. I look forward for us all enjoying the things we love to do most in our amazing town in the near future.

For your reference, I have written two letters, one to the President of South Africa and one to the Minister of Tourism to share our grievances and concerns and to advise on areas where we need assistance.

Yours in the love of tourism,

Marius Venter, CEO Plett Tourism

Marius Venter
CEO Plett Tourism