Knysna Tourism has commenced with the process of advising nine staff members that their employment will terminate as of July 31, due to there being no secured Service Level Agreement between Knysna Municipality and Knysna Tourism, and with it, the funding needed to continue operating as Knysna’s destination marketing body.

Knysna Tourism Chairperson, Elmay Bouwer says she is deeply saddened by the process, considering there has been such a positive turnaround and growing support for the business and marketing strategies that the destination marketing body has implemented over the past year.

“These employees have contributed many years of service to Knysna Tourism and Sedgefield Tourism, and their efforts over the past year in particular, have contributed to the considerable progress and headway we have made.”

Bouwer said that the funding issue for Knysna Tourism has been an ongoing problem for the last eight years. “As a Board, we have communicated numerous times and regularly with our municipality with requests to either put a tender document out timeously, or come up with a sustainable solution for the successful functioning of the tourism body.”

Bouwer went on to explain that Knysna Tourism presently has the mandate to perform four tourism functions, namely, destination marketing, public relations and media, management of Visitor Information Centres, and providing marketing support to events and festivals.

“The Board, with the approval of our members, recently appointed Grant Thornton, an independent audit company, to assist with the creation of a creditable business plan for the next three years. Grant Thornton is highly respected and widely regarded as the leading authority on the tourism industry in Southern Africa.”    

According to Bouwer, Knysna Tourism has sufficient funds to sustain the operation, albeit with a significant reduction in all expense categories until the end of July. However, unless additional financing is forthcoming from Knysna Municipality, the offices in Knysna and Sedgefield will be closed, and all sales and marketing activities will cease once this year’s Knysna Oyster Festival concludes.

“The decision as to how tourism in Knysna is to be managed and directed needs to be a decision that all parties with a vested interest in tourism must take, and one that makes the best business sense and is considered to have the most meaningful benefit to the town of Knysna. It is all about what is the best for Knysna and all its residents,” added Bouwer.

Knysna Tourism’s Board has offered to take responsibility for the tourism function in the interim, and has requested bridging finance from the municipality to facilitate this, until such time as an effective long-term solution has been found.

“We cannot simply stop marketing Knysna in these very challenging and competitive economic times. Tourism is the key economic driver in Knysna, and without an effective, properly funded tourism marketing entity, the whole town will suffer. All businesses in Knysna benefit directly or indirectly from tourism, and without a tourism destination marketing entity, every single business will soon begin to feel the adverse effects,” concluded Bouwer.