Port St Johns gets R100m boost

Port Elizabeth - The small town of Port St Johns on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape is set for a facelift with plans for a state-of-the-art R100m holiday resort.

The Mangrove Place, spearheaded by local developer EuroblitzPolela Consortium, will initially have space for 80 guests with single-, double- and triple-sleeper self-catering units and a conference facility.

Luthando Bara, chairperson of EuroblitzPolela and the lead developer partner, said they would soon begin training workers in skills development. Construction will start later in the year.

He said the workers who come from Port St Johns and surrounding areas would be trained in bricklaying, electrification, plumbing and carpentry.

Bara said they were in talks with a UK-based investor to try to raise money to complete the project.

They were also in talks with the Industrial Development Corporation, the state-owned finance institution.

With plans already afoot within the provincial government to develop a small harbour in Port St Johns, Bara said they were looking beyond just developing a resort with a conferencing facility – they wanted an establishment that would change the face of Port St Johns, economically, culturally and socially.

They also wanted to bring tourists back to Port St Johns and the Wild Coast.

The resort will be constructed at Second Beach, which, although popular, is also regarded as one of the most dangerous beaches in the world because of the number of shark attacks that have occurred there over the years.

Bara, who was born in Port St Johns, said they wanted to build a shark museum to teach people about the types of sharks found in the area.

“Given the number of international and local people who have died there because of shark attacks, we felt that, to enhance tourism, we needed to have a shark museum.

“We will partner with local universities to conduct research and have tour guides within the museum to train locals and to educate tourists about sharks,” Bara said.

He said the museum would include a hall of remembrance for those who had been killed by sharks.

Bara said the hall would help those who had lost loved ones to shark attacks in the area and elsewhere.

“For us, it is more than just a resort. It is a resort that must be centred on attracting and educating tourists.

“We hope that, once we have done that, there might be interest from other investors looking into the possibility of a shark diving programme in the area.

“Remember that Port St Johns is regarded now as a dangerous beach for swimming, yet it is the most popular beach in the area,” he said.

Bara, who runs a number of establishments in the Eastern Cape, said businesspeople had already shown interest in building a harbour in Port St Johns.

“We want to position the town as a popular tourist destination. We do not want to attract only locals, we want international guests to visit too,” Bara said.

He said there were plans in place to rebuild the landing strip in the town.

“All of this will add to the broader scheme of repositioning Port St Johns.

“Those of us who were born in the town are acutely aware of the high levels of poverty.

"The area has so much natural wealth that can be optimised and bring in money to the poor town. It is not called the Wild Coast for no reason,” Bara said.

He said he hoped they could develop a truly buzzing tourist attraction.

“And this will create much-needed jobs at the same time,” said Bara.

“During construction, we are looking at more than 1 000 jobs. After construction, there will be about 100 permanent jobs for the people of Port St Johns,” he said.

Bara is also involved in the province’s Berlin November Traditional Horse Racing Festival and the Legends Marathon.

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