Business and tourism hoping for better things next year
THE past year has been a bad year for South Africa in terms of economic growth, with mixed political outcomes, and local businessmen spoke about the progress they had made this year, the prospects for next year, and the challenges they are expecting.
Rick Pryce, chairman of Sunshine Coast Tourism, said they had tried extremely hard to promote the town, but it was difficult to deal with the current circumstances.
“Although at this stage, it looks like the season has been good,” he said. Accommodation is full and business is positive in Port Alfred. Let’s hope that it continues for the future.”
Pryce said that they hoped things would improve next year. “We want to improve. People who have invested money in this town want to get a return, for example, the Highlander, MyPond, Halyards, which has made a difference, and we want to see these people getting a return on their money.”
Obstacles may be anticipated in terms of the municipality and other tourism bodies, which they would like to see improve.
Wouter Hensens, executive dean of Stenden SA said: “The weak rand has been good for the school in 2016, but not the students, that is, local students (of which there are 200 compared to 120 from abroad)”.
“At the end of the year when we asked for positive comments about 2016, there was a deadly silence, except one soft comment that things will be better in terms of world politics. We hope so, but we are positive with regard to what we’re looking at as an institution, Port Alfred is fine and we look forward to more paved roads, and more tourists.”
As far as next year is concerned, Hensens said they had high expectations. “We had an excellent student intake, with strong growth in local students and international students.”
Wessel Benson, manager of The Royal St Andrews Hotel, agreed with Pryce that the last year was “very difficult” from a business point of view, “especially the period between April and June”.
“We were affected by the municipal elections at which time there was very little demand for conferences,” he said.
However, “we have been fortunate as the Highlander Pub has grown every month, and we have had a lot of support from our hotel guests and Port Alfred residents”.
He was also sufficiently optimistic to predict the economy would grow next year.
“I expect Port Alfred and The Royal St Andrews Hotel to be busier next year as the economy seems to be on the verge of growth, and there should be no disruption such as we had with the elections,” said Benson.
Since taking over Rosehill SuperSpar and Nemato Spar in September, the new owners might have been expected to have a few difficult first months. Co-owner Lesley Theunissen said that “2016 has been a year of hard work and team effort”. In addition, she said “the impact of the devastating drought forced retailers to think out of the box.”
She added: “This festive season we have embraced holiday makers by adapting our businesses to meet different customer demands while still meeting the needs of our loyal community.”
“The Spar business model is unique in that it allows us the flexibility to adjust to the changing economic environment.”
As for next year, she said: “We will continue to support local farmers and small business to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive within our community.”
Recently appointed Halyards Hotel manager, Freddie du Preez, said it had been a good year.
“[This year was busy, especially in September and October, which was our best since 2013.”
Du Preez continued: “[Next year] will be exciting with renovations being made on our rooms. We will focus on corporate and leisure (mixed) market, and be more competitive in this market.
“We should work together with tourism and hospitality industry to get people to notice this area more. We are not like the Garden Route. People come here for holidays.”
“We need more new business in the area, and brainstorming between all the parties concerned, not just Halyards, will benefit everyone, and give more people a little piece of the cake.”
According to a publication from the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) economic growth in the province has been subdued, due to “external shocks”.
“Unemployment is still high with low productivity growth as well as persistent income inequalities,” it said.
The economy was expected to grow by 1.0%, which is less compared to the growth observed last year, but should increase next year.
“Growth should pick-up further to 1.5 percent in 2017 but this will depend crucially on a rebound in investment,” said Christopher Mashigo, CDC executive manager, business development.
However, three import/export harbours, three airports, some “excellent road and rail infrastructure” and 36 operational investors in the Coega IDZ, with a combined investment value of R6.6-billion increased in the 2015/16 financial year by 17 investors and R27-billion, the report said.