Whitfield ready to make tourism hay from area’s natural environment, arts and culture
Tourism, luring big investors, and supporting small, micro and medium enterprises will be the focus of the new Nelson Mandela Bay government to help boost the city’s sluggish economy and create jobs.
New economic development, tourism and agriculture political head Andrew Whitfield says he believes the metro has the right environment to be able to thrive but there was not enough political will in the past to move forward.
In an interview yesterday, Whitfield said tourism was a “quick win” to create opportunities and jobs. “It’s a priority issue for us, and I know especially for the mayor [Athol Trollip] too,” he said.
“We are getting into the summer season and we need to gear ourselves for the tourists who will be coming here and we need to ensure that they come back.
“We have the tourism product, but have failed to properly market Nelson Mandela Bay as a destination of choice,” Whitfield said. “It needs to be marketed as a fun, family-friendly and affordable destination.
“We don’t want to create another Cape Town – in terms of good governance we do – but Nelson Mandela Bay has its own unique traits that make it an attractive place for tourists.”
He said the metro’s natural assets – the coastline and the mountains in the Uitenhage area – could be capitalised on as major tourism products.
Whitfield is heading to Germany in October to learn about the blue economy. He said the course was partly about the maritime industry, but largely centred on learning how to enhance the natural environment to make money from it.
Only three days into his new job, he said he had requested reports about some of the projects in the pipeline from the staff in his office, particularly ones that could be major money-spinners for the city, such as Bayworld.
“Nobody disagrees that we need to diversify the economy. We can’t have our eggs in one automotive basket. So building partnerships is critical,” Whitfield said.
“We are geared for growth in Nelson Mandela Bay, and I believe in the world major investors are geared for growth if given the right incentives.”
Prior to the municipal elections, former mayor Danny Jordaan was passionate about diversifying the economy through the oceans economy, creative economy and township economy.
The former political leadership felt that catalytic projects, such as the waterfront development, the revival of the Baakens Valley precinct, and establishment of an international convention centre (ICC), were critical to move the Bay forward.
Whitfield said the new DA-led coalition government would not throw away a good idea.
They would build on it going forward.
“The creative economy is a good idea,” he said.
“One of the most amazing spaces is in front of the City Hall. Why shouldn’t we get local artists to perhaps perform there during the lunch period? “Arts and culture create job opportunities for people who don’t necessarily have academic qualifications.”
He said while the ICC at The Boardwalk Hotel was a beautiful venue, it was too small to host big business conferences with about 4 000 delegates.
“We are missing out on massive business tourism.” Supporting SMMEs was critical for job creation, Whitfield said.
“There’s no shortage of ideas, innovation and enthusiasm. What we need to do is look at ways to support small business. “With the right social and economic focus in townships, people there could be able to work and play where they live,” he said.
“In the City of Cape Town, we broke up tenders into small chunks to create opportunities for small business, so that everyone could benefit. “Why can’t we do that here?”