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Mayor’s newsletter for the week ending 12 January 2024

Alderman Leon van Wyk Executive Mayor of George

George Municipality has issued numerous media releases over the past week about the recent busy and successful tourism season. We had anticipated an influx of visitors as we commenced our season preparedness meetings in late September. This was our third season of daily meetings to ensure planned law enforcement, safety, care and clean beach facilities, management of traffic and creating a welcoming environment for our visitors over the 6-week peak. This programme is now running smoothly with many of these meetings being completed in less than 30 minutes.

The NSRI were excellent in managing the lifeguard program with our incident command vehicle regularly being stationed at Dolphin’s Point to keep a watchful over the entire Wilderness beach with the aid of its cameras and drone. We need to thank the full municipal and support team for their excellent, friendly service and dedication to ensure a safe and well-functioning season.

The managed and safe environment enabled tourism sector providers to conduct their business. While we are still gathering accurate statistics about the season, it is evident that accommodation establishments, restaurants, activity, and other service providers had a successful season. Our domestic visitors came from across the country and stakeholders noted a marked increase in international visitors.

The economy in the 2023 year was relatively tough for most citizens; nevertheless, we have seen shifts towards online business trading and more markets that popped up. It was noticeable how some tourism operators successfully adapted their offerings, being more agile to produce pleasing results relative to other providers.

In tracking air travel movements, it would appear that passenger movement through George Airport compared well with Cape Town’s (positive) passenger arrivals taking into account the relative size differential. Throughout most of the key peak period, there were 12 flights per day landing from Johannesburg with a daily carrying capacity of 1700-1800 visitors arriving in the Garden Route. One airline had 3 aircraft departing from Johannesburg by 07h30 each morning.

As statistics for the recent holiday period become available, analysts will examine whether holidaymakers have preferred visits to the Western Cape in preference to KwaZulu-Natal where pollution has been impacting the quality of seawater. During 2023, it became evident that many municipalities in other parts of the country were struggling to maintain sustainable standards of service delivery.

Since late November, George has received requests to provide assistance to Knysna Municipality on an ad hoc basis to deal with refuse removal and its transfer to landfill facilities and to provide tankers to deliver water to communities where network failures have occurred. Our advice has been that a comprehensive recovery plan needs to be formulated for Knysna and supported by the administration, council and residents to address and remedy these shortfalls.

Early in December, we were pleased to be informed that we had been placed in 7th position nationally in the Blue Drop Water ratings for excellence in water quality and related systems. Over the last few years, George has been re-building its ratings amidst the combination of pipeline breakages and flood-rated damage, water usage that is often exceeding water treatment capacity and the substantial construction underway to expand treatment capacity by 50%. Since 2021, there has been considerable investment in technology as part of the renewal of ageing infrastructure. These efforts will assist us as we constantly strive to improve.

We extend our best wishes to all residents for 2024.

Alderman Leon van Wyk
Executive Mayor of George