George and the surrounding areas once again experienced a rich holiday season, showing a clear increase in accommodation bookings, visits to restaurants and activities, shopping, traffic and more. One local business reported up to 6,200 visitors in one day, while one local restaurant hosted 1,000 dishes in one day.
Executive Mayor George Leon Van Wyk noted that informal discussions held with local restaurants and businesses indicate a boom period with at least a 30 percent increase in turnover. “George appears to have had a very busy festive period, with some businesses setting new records for business volumes and services and improvements returning to and surpassing pre-Covid levels. These achievements will help stabilize employment levels as we continue to focus on growing our tourism sector and adding events to extend our offerings well beyond the traditional summer season."
Events including the George Tens held over four days from 15 December, theater productions, markets and concerts until the New Year were well attended. Our Tourist Offices recorded 398 requests received at George and Wilderness Tourist Offices during the month of December 2022. Although this is less than last year, taking into account the increase in accommodation occupancy, this shows that accommodation and activity planning has been done very in advance for 2022, not at the last minute like last season. This leads us back to more normal tendencies. The tourism department distributed QR codes at facilities to enable faster digital access to information for visitors to the area. This was also announced on all social media platforms and local print media.
69% of queries were about things to do and general tourist information, 20% about accommodation and 11% were general questions, not particularly tourism related but looking for real estate agents etc. Occupancies in Q4 2022 (October, November) increased by 24% compared to Q4 2021 (October, November). Preliminary feedback is that the private sector has had a busy holiday season, with many shops still too busy to share their statistics with our office. Accommodations are still quite busy and it is likely that the season will extend significantly with the return of foreign visitors to our area in the coming months.
In an effort to boost the local economy, the City has repeated last year's "pavement permit" initiative to support restaurants with limited capacity by implementing social distancing measures due to COVID-19. The "paving permit" would provide restaurants with additional space to place their tables. The initiative was very well received by local businesses, although no applications were received.
The multi-party Holiday Season Monitoring Committee has been meeting daily since December 1 and held its final meeting on January 9, 2023. A briefing will be held to review and begin planning for the 2023 holidays.
The day-long committee meeting was attended by municipal and external agencies such as NSRI, SAPS, SANParks and others. The purpose of the daily meeting is to assess available resources, identify potential risks and implement action plans to address these risks so that our tourists are not affected. The council's aim is to ensure consistent service delivery during this busy period and to keep George running as efficiently as possible.
A new safety initiative launched was the use of QR codes (wide spread) which allowed the public to quickly and easily access websites with information on tourism activities and events, important municipality contacts, water and other safety tips for our visitors.
Links to related websites:
Positive feedback was received from residents, businesses and visitors about the management of the season:
“I am extremely grateful to George Township, the police, transit officers, monitors, NSRI security companies and SANParks for the huge difference they made to our village last season. He felt safe, cared for and protected on so many levels during what can only be described as an abundant season. Our village was flooded with visitors and I believe we showed how things can be done."
”Our children visited Cape Town and were very impressed with the beach monitors, helpful traffic police and general cleanliness.”
“Please convey our congratulations to the George Town Council for the excellent strategies they have put in place to manage the influx of tourists. Good job!!!"
The Festive Monitoring Committee and operations over the festive period were carried out in partnership with SANParks and NSRI Wilderness. Jonathan Britton, acting director of Wilderness National Park, expressed his gratitude to all the employees, city and others, who worked long hours during the season.
“The Wilderness National Park and its surrounding ecological and environmental assets are intertwined with the Wilderness' urban infrastructure, and this combination of natural, social and economic systems is a complex interaction and requires a collaborative and integrated approach across multiple agencies to make it all work together. .
The influx of visitors to the Garden Route during the summer holidays is a significant boost to the local economy, but requires planning and resource development in an integrated and coordinated manner across multiple factors to ensure local systems can handle the added pressure. Building on the success of the previous year, George Township continued to lead a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach to ensuring high standards of service delivery in and around the Wilderness.
The daily presence of lifeguards, transit officers, police, cleaning staff and SANParks staff was a common sight in the Wilderness, all working together to ensure a safe and secure environment for all. Effective leadership and a hands-on approach were the order of the day with senior executives and managers meeting daily and overseeing the implementation of business plans. This holiday season has proven once again the value of partnerships, dedication and teamwork.”
Michael Vonk, CEO of George Regional Hospital and Station Commander of National Marine Rescue Institute (NSRI) Station 23, praised the successful management of the past holiday season, which was one of the busiest in recent years. However, he determined that a measured response needed to be adopted for the season to be successful, as we experienced three fatal drownings, two at Wilderness Beach and one at Victoria Bay, and several non-fatal drowning incidents. We extend our sincere condolences to the families of those who have lost their loved ones.
“The close cooperation, teamwork and collaborations between all actors to ensure the necessary preventive measures, together with a coordinated emergency response, have been extremely effective in reducing the number of serious incidents on our beaches. In particular, lifeguards should be recognized for their efforts to prevent further drownings."
Lifeguards have been deployed to Gwaing Beach, Herold's Bay, Victoria Bay, Wilderness Leentjiesklip, Steps, Wilderness Main and Conville Public Swimming Pool full time daily from 7am. until 7 p.m. and will remain in place until 31 January 2023 at Blue Flag beaches (Herold's Bay, Victoria Bay and Wilderness Main). A total of 3 drownings, 35 rescues, 66 first aid, 66 first aid, 336 blister bites and 8 emergency Medical Cares were carried out by the Life Swimmers, INES and lifeguards at the various beaches.
The newly acquired Jet rib, an 1800cc jet ski built on a rubber frame, has proven invaluable this season and a great asset to summer safety measures. The mobile JOC was activated for 10 peak days and the Fire Service drone was used to survey sea conditions, spot sharks, search for missing persons and during rescue operations, once again showing the value of spending on technology to help in security measures.
Emergency Services remained busy and responded to 8 formal fires and 23 informal fires. Unfortunately, two lives were lost in the fires of the informal structure. Firefighters also responded to 59 savannah fires, 2 building fires, 4 motor vehicle fires, 47 motor vehicle incidents, 32 other emergency incidents, 4 drownings and 23 false alarms.
TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT / PARKING / SERVICE POINTS
George Traffic Services actively patrolled all municipal areas in partnership with Western Cape Provincial Traffic, including participating in regular vehicle checkpoints focusing on drink driving, vehicle and driver fitness. Traffic flow was managed as best as possible, especially at congested junctions such as N2/Victoria Bay, Garden Route Mall, Mossel Bay off-ramp on Knysna Road, N2/Station Road (Wilderness), N2/Caltex (Wilderness ), N2/Sanparks and N2/Salinas.
Temporary road markings and traffic cones were placed at dangerous locations to ensure compliance (preventing illegal parking/obstructing/encroachment on roads) causing danger to other road users. To facilitate traffic, each beach had a demarcated area for Drop and Go. The team deployed during this time on the beaches were 8 traffic wardens and 20 EPWP staff assisting with Drop and Go, monitoring and enforcing parking, road closures and directing drivers to suitable parking spots.
In addition to the beaches and high pressure traffic points served throughout the city, transit officers assisted with 12 funeral escorts, as well as traffic control at various events such as the Christmas Festival of Lights, George Tens, 21 miles of Palm Tires etc. .etc . attended with no recorded injuries, 10 with injuries and three with deaths. 322 notices were issued for various traffic and vehicle offences, 32 arrests and fines totaling R70,000.
Vehicle Test Station is offering 3 days in December where a free 10 point check can be done on your vehicle before you travel. It is the second year that the service has been offered and 40 drivers take advantage of it. The same service will be offered from 10 to 13 January 2023, from 08:30 to 15:30 (VTS, Hibernia Street).
BLUE FLAG BEACHES AND CLEANING
Wilderness, Main Beach and Herold's Bay Beach remain full Blue Flag beaches until 31 January 2023 and Victoria Bay retains its Pilot Blue Flag status. Compliance with international standards is required, which include high standards for water quality monitoring, public safety, lifeguard services and well-maintained coastal amenities.
Oil slicks made up of droplets of low-sulphur hydrocarbons were spotted on several beaches along the Garden Route in early December, with a multi-agency command center set up to deal with the problem..There were no reports linking the oil spill to humans, birds or marine life and all affected beaches in Georgiou were declared green (i.e. monitored and open for use) by 8ºDecember 2022. George Municipal cleaning crews withWorking for the Coastteams worked non-stop for days to clean Herold's Bay, Victoria Bay, Baylot's Bay, Wilderness Beach from Leentjiesklip Beach to Salina Beach, Gwaiing Beach and Kaaimans Mouth.
Municipal beach cleaning teams started working from 6:00 am. to 9:00 p.m. many nights and started at 4:00 A.M. on New Year's Day to ensure the beaches were clear for the first bathers the next morning. The cleaning crews also did a great job keeping the beach washing facilities in excellent condition despite the heavy use. Our CBD cleaning crews kept the city clean and tidy for visitors.
BEACH SCREENS,implementation of the lawAND ANTI-INVASIVE
George Township has insisted that no alcohol will be allowed on our beaches and has confiscated 317 liters of alcohol with a retail value of approximately R21110 since the start of the festive season. Neighborhood Watch, Community Policing Forums as well as SAPS worked closely with the Council on Community Safety. The confiscated alcohol will be handed over to the SAPS for disposal.
George Forensic Pathology Services, assisted by the Community Policing Forum, SANParks, George Law Enforcement, Neighborhood Watch and Bambanani in the Wilderness Beach and LeentjiesKlip areas distributed 8,000 orange and yellow wristbands to children. Yellow and orange wristbands are written with the name and contact details of parents or carers and are recorded in a register to assist in the event of separation from parents or carers. Two children were reunited with their families using this system at Wilderness Lagoon.
George Township continued to enforce a total ban on the discharge of firecrackers, firecrackers, flares, paper lanterns and other similar paraphernalia in the George Township area. Over 292 visits were made to various retail outlets and R4 500 worth of fireworks (retail value) were seized with fines totaling R14 500. It is encouraging to see that the amount of fines and seizures has reduced over the past year and we are grateful to the retailers that comply with applicable regulations.
MUNICIPAL OFFICES REMAIN OPEN - PROVISION OF SERVICES IN EVOLUTION
Municipal offices are only closed on public holidays and for a few days after the 27th.ºDecember after a burst pipe caused extensive water damage to the third, second and first floors of the main building on York Street.
Our Planning department processed 309 construction plans in the season, with 113 approved, 104 residential and 9 non-residential. 144 applications remain in circulation (124 residential and 20 non-residential). A total of 196 (170 residential and 26 non-residential) were not approved due to non-compliance and/or need for additional information. 46 Housing Certificates were issued (44 residential and 2 non-residential). In addition, a total of 106 Building Control inspections were carried out. These include 13 start-up inspections, 12 drainage inspections and 81 completion inspections.
The Building Control department was also busy with building control offenses and complaints that could be dealt with quickly over the festive period. 35 complaints were received and investigated.
Our human settlements department dealt with the aftermath of several fires that occurred in December with a major incident of 20 atypical cases of house fires in Edameni reported on December 10, 2022. All 20 families lost their structures with possessions during this incident. . Temporary housing was provided to the 20 families in the brick Community Hall. The municipal Social Services department helped the affected with mattresses, blankets, food and other items. Four families who received used building material were helped. Another five families were prioritized and will receive care soon. The remaining families must also provide the remainder of the documentation required for assistance under the terms of the approved Emergency Accommodation and Assistance Policy.
Two BNG (Breaking New Ground) houses affected by fires will be investigated and, following an application under the emergency housing scheme, submitted to the Western Cape Provincial Department of Human Settlements.