Kouga Tourism dealt budget-cut blow

2015-06-04 06:00

THE Kouga Municipality has reduced its Tourism and Local Economic Development (LED) budget with over R1 million for the new financial year, starting July 1.

This decision was taken during a council meeting in Jeffreys Bay on May 29.

The budget for tourism and LED was R19.4 million in the 2013/2014 financial year, and has steadily been cut over the years.

The decision to reduce the budget was opposed by councillor Brenton Williams who said that a bigger budget must be set aside for tourism as Council has the responsibility to create a climate for a sustainable tourism industry in the Kouga.

However, his concerns were brushed aside by ANC councillors who stated that tourists will come to the Kouga region anyway, and there is thus no need to budget more money for tourism.

“Budget is needed to market the region and to materially support existing events like the Winterfest, Citrus Festival and Nautical Festival,” says DA member of Parliament Elza van Lingen.

“We need international exposure to attract new markets, for example the Chinese who visit Cape Town and the Kruger National Park, but do not come our way. Kouga has all the natural assets that make us a world class tourist destination with lots to offer, but without marketing we will not be able to grow this sector of our economy.”

Van Lingen continues that the municipality is not a provider of jobs, but needs to create a conductive climate for job creation and that is why LED, which forms part of the same budget, also requires funding to counter the unemployment crisis experienced in Kouga.

According to municipal spokesperson, Laura-Leigh Randall, the budget has not been cut that drastically compared to the current financial year. “The original budget for the 2014/2015 financial year was R10.027 million. This was reduced to R9.297 million based on actual spending in the adjustment budget in January. The new budget for the 2015/2016 financial year is R8.89 million - 4.3% less than the revised budget in January.”

Randall says the municipality will do all it can to promote tourism and economic growth in the region.

“Tourism and LED are, however, not the primary functions of the municipality. There are other state departments that focus exclusively on these areas. The role of the municipality’s Tourism and LED Department is to form partnerships with these departments and the private sector to promote tourism and economic growth,” says Randall.

“We do not anticipate that the budget cut will unduly affect the municipality’s capacity to achieve this. The municipality’s core mandate is to ensure that basic services are in place; ie water, sanitation, electricity and roads. Our budget is focused around these basic services which, ultimately, do also impact on tourism and economic growth. Good roads, reliable water and electricity supply and proper sanitation all play a role in making the area attractive to visitors and investors. This is where our focus will be in the financial year.”

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