Sedgefield resident, Jurgens van der Walt, who came to the rescue of tourism in the town by keeping the Tourism Office open, when it had been closed, is begging for assistance.
After the Service Level Agreement (SLA) between the Knysna Municipality and Knysna Tourism expired on 31 June 2018, the Knysna Municipality opted to keep the doors of the Sedgefield Tourism Information Centre closed, and to mandate its Knysna tourism office to market Sedgefield.
This decision was qualified by the then Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Economic Development and Tourism, Alan Winde during a public meeting held at the Sedgefield Community Hall. During this meeting the Minister explained that the world was moving away from physical tourism offices, but rather embracing the world of technology.
Realising that Sedgefield’s economy, that relies heavily on tourism will be greatly affected should its tourism office close, local resident, Jurgens van der Walt reopened the office with the hope that local government would offer much needed financial assistance.
Van der Walt explains further: “Shortly after we reopened the office in September, two representatives from Wesgro visited us and asked in what way they could assist us. I told them that as this was a community project run by the community, the office was in dire need of financial assistance. I explained to them that the purpose of opening this office was not for financial gain, but rather to assist an already struggling Sedgefield tourism.”
“While I was waiting for feedback from Wesgro, I also approached the Knysna Municipality for assistance. During a public meeting, Mayor Mark [Willemse] said several times that he would definitely help me keep the doors open.”
According to van der Walt both Wesgro and the Knysna Municipality reneged on their promise of help, forcing him to close the office doors once again.
“Not only did they renege on their promises, but they did a 360 on the need for an office in the town. Wesgro has now invited bids for a RFP (REQUEST FOR Proposals) for the running of the local tourism promotion office for Sedgefield, in essence reinventing the wheel,” he said.
Van der Walt considered closing the doors to the Tourism Information Centre permanently on Friday, 1 March. “I had originally opened this shop to help the tourism industry of our town. I always knew that I would need financial assistance and after doing everything in my power to get the promised assistance, I thought that I have no other choice but to shut the doors. In fact I did close for a week while I tried to find the means to keep the information centre open. Thankfully residents have since come forward with offers of assi8stance, enabling us to reopen the office, and we will continue to offer this service to our important tourists”.
In closing he added: “Martin Luther King said: ‘We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope,’ so today I am hoping that the local government and Wesgro does the right thing to keep these offices open.”
CAPTION: Due to financial constraints, the Sedgefield Tourism Offices faced permanent closure. Picture here are the team, from left: Karen van der Walt, Nicole Moore, Jurgens Junior and Jurgens Senior van der Walt. Photo: Supplied