George holiday overview

The George holiday season was busy, but beaches and tourism were overall quieter than in previous years.

George Municipal Manager Trevor Botha said the season was generally peaceful, with most citizens and holidaymakers giving their cooperation. “We thank the public for their support and ask locals and after-season holidaymakers to do so for the remainder of the summer – their assistance and great attitude is a major help to ensure that everyone has a great time in our wonderful city,” said Mr Botha.

George Tourism Manager Joan Shaw said the past holiday season was not as busy with some of the larger hotels reporting accommodation vacancies throughout the season – but restaurants and activities reported good numbers.  “We ascribe this to several factors, but the main reason is that domestic travellers do not have much expendable cash as cost of living prices are gradually rising throughout the country.  Many domestic travellers opted to stay with friends and family rather than book their own accommodation.  The high-end international market remains strong and we hope to see this extend into the new year,” said Ms Shaw. 

Lifeguards on the six beaches under George municipal control reported a relatively quiet season, mostly because of less than favourable beach weather. There were no drownings, three mass rescues (more than one person rescued at the same time), four single rescues and 31 help-outs. Lifeguards also assisted with general first aid and treatment of bluebottle stings.

Beaches were closed on a few occasions due to wave conditions unsuitable for swimming and the presence of sharks. George Fire and Rescue Station Commander Johann Crouse commended the 70 lifeguards who were well-prepared, vigilant and helpful. “The addition of a rescue jetski this year had made a significant difference to ensure quick response, monitoring floating debris in the water and getting ‘next level response’ lifeguards back to land quickly. While the beaches were packed on New Year’s Day, the crowds were well-behaved, gave their cooperation when required and was in good spirits without any major incidents throughout the day.”  

The George Fire Department responded to 249 calls in the municipal area in December including eight at formal houses, 32 at informal houses, none at non-residential buildings, 63 car accidents and 77 grass fires. Other incidents included removal of snakes and pet rescues.

Law Enforcement reported one of the safest festive periods, mostly due to the combined efforts and interaction between municipal Protection Services departments, Western Cape Provincial Traffic, the SAPS, neighbourhood watch groups, EMS Emergency Services, NSRI, Western Cape Forensic Pathology Services, SANParks, Metro Air Support and Rescue Services, SPCA, etc.

“There was a reduction in alcohol-related incidents compared to previous years and people who came to recreational areas were generally more inclined to enjoy the beach than consuming alcohol. All possible prevention of alcohol use was in place to search, fine, confiscate or deny entry to beaches,” said Manager Law Enforcement Richard von Willingh.

A total of 12 litres of alcoholic beverages were confiscated by the municipal Law Enforcement officers, excluding the unknown amount of alcohol that were confiscated by the SAPS, neighbourhood watch groups and SANParks. Some of the people who attempted to bring alcohol to the beaches chose to leave, or to put it back in their vehicles. A large number of fireworks were confiscated from illegal traders in a combined inspection between the SAPS, SPCA and municipal Law Enforcement ahead of New Year’s celebrations.

The Traffic Department reported a busy season in which five people died in four separate vehicle accidents, as well as 48 other vehicle accidents across the municipal area. 30 392 speeding offences were recorded on fixed and mobile speed cameras since the beginning of December 2019. The department arrested three drunken drivers, impounded five taxis for various offences, discontinued the use of two unroadworthy vehicles and issued 412 traffic fines.

The municipality also made use of beach monitors to assist with law enforcement and beach patrols. “Increased visibility of law enforcement and patrol personnel goes a long way in preventing unruly behaviour and crime, and complements the services our lifeguards and beach staff provide,” said Mr Von Willingh.

Victoria Bay. Photograph Melanie Mare

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