Tourism real estate can drive Bay growth – Voges

Cindy Preller

THE tourism real estate industry in Nelson Mandela Bay offered more stable economic growth for the city than the motor industry.

This was said by Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) chief executive Pierre Voges when addressing delegates on the last day of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry’s annual congress.

Voges said Port Elizabeth was finally shedding nicknames such as “the ghost at the coast” and the “armpit of South Africa”.

“After eight years PE is still one of the oddest places I have ever lived [in]. The city has so much potential and yet residents do not believe in it enough and have a bit of an inferiority complex.

“Despite the challenging global economic times and unemployment rate, the tourism industry is one of the jewels that needs to be unlocked in our city.”

He said the Bay had a strong base for tourism real estate development and had the potential to grow both in South Africa and internationally.

Voges said he noticed that, especially in the past two years, the Bay was finally transforming from the “derelict” city he found in 2004.

“The 2005 upgrade of Govan Mbeki Avenue is finally paying off, with buildings getting fuller by the day and rental per square metre increasing.

“These are significant signs of post-revitalisation and urban renewal in the city. A total of 70% of private sector upgrades in the city centre were the result of MBDA developments.

“When you put public money into certain areas, private sector money will follow. It takes time and almost works like yeast.”

Voges said despite the difficult political environment in the country, the political will was there to improve Nelson Mandela Bay, on whose behalf the MBDA implements projects.

He said the harbour development would finally break ground in 2016 and the Helenvale Thusong Centre’s handover would be in August this year.

The King’s Beach upgrade had also been completed and the Tramways building would be upgraded at a cost of R40-million by the end of next year and become the MBDA’s head office.

“Development is not just about bricks and mortar but also about changing society. If we continue at this rate the city will have a very different look in eight years’ time, which will be beneficial for the tourism industry,” Voges said.

SANParks sales and marketing general manager Bheki Zwane, who was also a speaker at the congress, stressed the importance of adopting new tourism models for parks across the country.

Zwane said new models would prevent stagnation and help curb rising costs of running the parks sustainably.

He said 75.8% of visitors to the parks were South African and that 4.7 million people had visited the parks in 2011-12.

Since 2010 the occupancy of the accommodation establishments at the parks had stayed below 70% and the accommodation revenue for the 2011-12 financial year was R350-million.

The public-private partnerships in shops and restaurants in the parks worked well, Zwane said, but SANParks was looking into getting a South African franchise of restaurants at the parks since the dining facilities were still one of the areas visitors were not completely satisfied with, according to feedback.

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