Tourism luminary Peter Myles dies

MR TOURISM: Tributes are pouring in for tourism expert Peter Myles, who has died after a long battle with cancer
MR TOURISM: Tributes are pouring in for tourism expert Peter Myles, who has died after a long battle with cancer

Bay tourism icon Peter Myles, whose work in the coastal and marine sector was a template for the industry internationally, has died.

Myles, 79, was the founder of SA’s multi-stakeholder maritime cluster movement, which underpinned the government’s Operation Phakisa ocean economy programme.

He also spearheaded the drive to transform Port Elizabeth from an industrial city to a tourism destination, spurring the upgrading of hotels and creating a new suite of business and employment opportunities.

Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism chair Shaun Fitzhenry said no-one in the South African tourism industry knew as much as Myles did.

“No matter what aspect of the industry you asked about, he could offer insight. To us, he was just Mr Tourism.”

Before establishing his own consultancy in 1995, Myles served as director of Tourism Port Elizabeth and then as regional director of the SA Tourism Board in the Eastern Cape,  Fitzhenry said.

“He wrote articles for tourism journals, prepared strategic plans, designed appropriate organisational structures, facilitated enterprise development, conducted research in SA, Zambia, the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the Caribbean, compiled visitor statistics, presented capacity-building training courses, facilitated workshops and prepared project proposals.”

A board member on multiple tourism bodies, Myles received a number of awards.

In 2003 he was honoured by the then premier of the Eastern Cape and the Eastern Cape Tourism Board for his contribution to the development of the first Eastern Cape Tourism Master Plan.

Myles was  also an associate of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and a member of the Global Tourism Council, Fitzhenry said.

“Peter was a true gentleman with impeccable credentials. He set a fine example of selfless activism in our industry.

“His powerful presence in the tourism industry will be sorely missed.”

Tourism industry veteran Shaun van Eck said much of Myles’s work had broken new ground.

“He was the person who transformed Tourism PE from an information office into a marketing body with its much-loved penguin mascot,” Van Eck said.

“He got the first decent budget from council to allow the city to be profiled for the first time as a tourism destination.

 “He was passionate about his subject and always happy to pass on his knowledge.

“He was an icon, the ultimate example of what a citizen should be.”

SA International Maritime Institute chair Odwa Mtata said he was saddened to hear of Myles’s passing.

“He understood the need to develop a support model for the maritime industry to collaborate for innovation and growth.

“We honour Mr Myles for the pioneering work he has done in this regard.”

Prof Vlad Kaczynski of the University of Washington School of Marine and Environmental Affairs said Myles had played an important role in establishing a tourism research partnership between his institution and Nelson Mandela University.

Myles’s 2017 book Maritime Clusters and the Ocean Economy: An Integrated Approach to Managing Coastal and Marine Space was a key guide internationally for people working in the complex maritime cluster field on which sustainable development of the ocean was based, he said.

 “Today the book is a manual for marine policy, students and industry professionals.

 “From our transatlantic perspective, Peter is a father and founder of SA’s maritime cluster movement.”

In his book, Myles describes his fascination with water growing up in landlocked Northern Rhodesia, swimming in the Ndola municipal pool and sharing the Zambezi River with crocodiles and hippos.

His wife, Bronwen, said her husband’s first career move had been to go cattle farming in Botswana.

“It was the cowboy thing.”

After a lifetime of near-perfect health, in 2011 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and he eventually succumbed to the disease and complications with his heart on Friday night.

Tributes had been pouring in, Bronwen said.

 “He was a very gentle man. He worked for everybody all over the world in tourism but never blew his own horn.”

Myles leaves his wife, three children and five grandchildren.

His funeral is scheduled to take place at the Walmer Methodist Church in Main Road, Port Elizabeth, at noon on Tuesday December 10.

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