Despite being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Knysna Oyster Festival, which took place from 27 June to 4 July 2020, proved a massive drawcard for oyster enthusiasts, fitness fanatics and lovers of the good life alike, with a positive impact on the local economy.
An estimated 450 000 people from different parts of the world, including America, Netherlands, Croatia, Australia, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, and many others got to experience this year’s festival from the comfort of their own homes, through various social media platforms.
Not only did they get to experience beautiful Knysna and all that it has to offer but they also experienced six days of adrenalin-rush activities. From road racing on ZWIFT (a popular multiplayer online cycling and running physical training program) with South African professional cyclists, Nic Dlamini and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, as well as wellness activities such as yoga, pilates, and motivational talks. The line-up also featured an informative interview with South African rugby legend, Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira, which had rugby fanatics around the world enthralled.
“The annual Knysna Oyster Festival is a prestigious event and amid the challenges currently faced by the country, we wanted to ensure that our loyal and enthusiastic visitors still got an experience of what Knysna has to offer. The virtual programme enabled us to emulate what would normally be available in real life, ensuring our visitors didn’t lose out on the much loved annual line-up,” said Festival Coordinator, Andrew Finn.
Photographer and Social Media Promoter, Elle Redman commented, “Getting up early to go photograph the Knysna Forest Marathon, to see the “gees” was always an eye-opener for me as a photographer. I grew with the event over the years. Going virtual in 2020 I saw the whole event in a different light, showing beautiful Knysna virtually. I found the people eager to show and share Knysna. The countryside was looking fantastic after the lockdown.”
“I was very excited to be part of the new way of looking at Knysna as most of my work is about virtual storytelling. The Virtual Knysna Oyster Festival brought visual enjoyment to visitors and locals alike that love the area so much. In previous years I have been part of Media to promote the festival as well as sharing experiences during the festival,” added local travel influencer, blogger, and network marketer, Rose Bilbrough.
Technical coordinator for the Virtual Knysna Oyster Festival, Roscoe Vercueil also went on to add: “It is great to be back in Knysna and be able to bring my 10 years of experience in the film industry as Director of Photography and Digital Imaging Technician in various productions and capacities to the table to help to put Knysna and particularly the Virtual Knysna Oyster Festival on the map with this innovative and challenging idea.”
Much of this year’s festival successes can be ascribed to Visit Knysna, who took on the coordinating role which ensured the continuation of this Festival into a virtual format, as well as the locals who took it upon their shoulders to organize and manage the exciting events on this year’s programme.
“Thank you to the community who were involved in the final programme offerings. As per the new format of 2019, this year’s event followed suit by being truly community produced and promoted. As Hubbard said, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” and this is exactly what our champions, the community of the greater Knysna area, always do and did again, as delivered here,” said Colleen Durant, General Manager of Visit Knysna.
“Hosting the event virtually also gave us the ideal opportunity to promote our beautiful destination. We had all the areas and aspects of Knysna getting exposure in some form or other during the course of the week. Together with our locals, we look forward to presenting the 2021 edition of the Knysna Oyster Festival” concluded Colleen Durant, General Manager of Visit Knysna,” Durant added.
Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris concluded: “The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the events and tourism industries worldwide, but it has also presented new opportunities and a sense of urgency for businesses to build up their digital capabilities. I would like to commend Visit Knysna and all involved for having taken the decision to embrace these digital strategies, making it possible for people in different parts of the world to experience and enjoy the Knysna Oyster Festival virtually.”