Spring season renews hope

A bird's eye view of Margate, captured by Wessel Strydom in the Airtrack/Wolf helicopter during the October holiday season.

October sprung something of a holiday surprise on the South Coast, with Margate in particular enjoying a buzz not usually associated with this time of year.

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Jo-Anne Wentzel, chairman of the Margate Business Association, said the general feedback from business owners was that they had had a far better season in terms of bookings than over the same period last year.

“And many of the holidaymakers commended Margate for looking better than their own towns,” she said.

“Many also said they would be returning to Margate, as the improvements were visible and encouraging.”

A bird’s eye view of Margate, captured by Wessel Strydom in the Airtrack/Wolf helicopter during the October holiday season.

Mrs Wentzel, who also sits on the Margate Community Policing Forum committee, added that the implementation and stricter enforcement of the bylaws by Saps, law enforcement and security companies had seen a decrease in undesirable behaviour in the town.

“The various WhatsApp groups, which link the authorities, security companies, and most businesses and residents in the Margate CBD, are used very effectively.”

Margate police spokesman, Captain Gerald Mfeka, said a task team formed by Brigadier William Slabbert had been set up in conjunction with Warrant Officer Gavin Palmer, the sector commander.

Surina Smuts, vice-chairman of the Margate Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, said she too had received positive feedback from visitors.

“People noticed how early in the morning our municipal cleaners started getting the town ready for them. They noticed, too, that the lagoon mouth has been opened to run directly into the ocean and said it looks quite stunning. The visibility of protection services was remarked on, and visitors said they felt safer,” she said.

Kevin Krummeck, who owns the Village Tavern and runs a Facebook page called Compliments and Complaints, said he had made a point of talking to visitors, young and old.

“A couple who hadn’t been here for many years said they were pleasantly surprised at how good Margate and surrounds were looking, and noticed the upgrades. They specifically mentioned the beachfront and pier areas, which took me by surprise, because, as we are aware – if we rely on social media reports – these are specific areas of contention, yet these people were impressed.”

Johan Nieuwoudt, director of Sea Accommodation, reported that occupancy was up.

A bird’s eye view of Margate, captured by Wessel Strydom in the Airtrack/Wolf helicopter during the October holiday season.

“There were definitely more people and they stayed longer – not just a few days, but up to a week.”

Zola Joko, the general manager at Margate Sands, echoed these sentiments. “We had occupancy of nearly 90 percent,” she said.

Vicky Wentzel of Wozani Africa and Ugu South Coast Tourism, said there were higher visitor numbers on beaches over this period compared to 2017.

“The financially liquid emerging main market has flocked into Margate, creating a vibrant atmosphere with upcountry visitors spending impressive amounts of tourism rands in local restaurants, clubs and bars, as well as within the accommodation sector.”

Ray Nkonyeni Municipality spokesman Simon April said that the problems facing the town could not be ignored, but that Margate continued to remain upbeat in terms of tourism.

“We hope that, with the cooperation and hard work of different government entities, the private sector, business, and the general public, and despite the challenges, the town will continue to be a major tourist attraction,” he said.

RNM Ward 2 councillor Dave Watson shared a similar view.

“It is agreed that there are challenges facing our town. The aim is to re-invent Margate into a flagship product that accurately meets the needs driven by both the market forces of tourism as well as the investment returns for our residents and businesses. The enthusiasm and dedication to purpose is firmly established and is already yielding direct benefits,” he said.

There’s no doubt that there is a sense of optimism among sections of the business community.

Much of this has to do with what the team effort, spearheaded by Ms Smuts, has already accomplished.

Together with the Margate Business Association, Ugu South Coast Tourism, Ray Nkonyeni Municipality and its protection services, Saps, various security companies and others, there’s been a concerted effort to return the shine to Margate’s crown.

And with December around the corner, optimism is high that the area could be in for a significantly better holiday season.

Stephen Herbst, chairman of the MRRA, probably summed it up best: “We all want a safer, brighter, cleaner and more prosperous Margate.”

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