The False Bay coastal region is set to receive a massive injection of marketing energy and funding to restore some neglected tourism areas to their former glory, and to develop new areas, to make the False Bay coastline attractive to tourists. The development plans may create a tourism conflict with existing tourism areas in the Western Cape.
Announced by Western Province Minister of Finance, Economic Development, and Tourism Minister Alan Winde earlier this week, the proposed False Bay Coastal Route is a masterplan his department has proposed, requiring a partnership agreement between the Department, the City of Cape Town, and the national Department of Tourism.
The Route is to stretch from Cape Point to Gordon’s Bay, and the Masterplan includes upgrading Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, and Fish Hoek, all once tourism meccas, which have become neglected over the past few years. What is interesting, if not odd, is that the plan also includes the development of areas many would say are dangerous, including Mitchell’s Plain, Khayelitsha, Retreat, Strandfontein, Ocean View, Vrygrond, and Macassar, associated with unemployment and poverty, reports the Cape Argus, and therefore the residents of these areas would benefit from the development plans in creating employment. The beach resort Monwabisi is already being upgraded. A feasibility study is underway, to evaluate the potential of the following tourism products:
* South Peninsula wine route (Cape Point Vineyards is the only known wine producer in this region)
* Shark watching
* Whale watching
* Scuba diving
* Pleasure cruises between Gordon’s Bay and Simon’s Town
* Shops, restaurants, nightclubs and taverns
* Guided cultural tours
Concerns have been expressed about the environmental affect of the development plans. Environmental impact assessments are said to be considerate of the sensitive dune system in this region. The employment benefit of the developments should not be ‘oversold‘, said Philip Bam of the Steenberg Retreat Civic Association. From a guest house perspective we would caution guests from travelling east of Muizenberg on Baden Powell Drive, especially at night, and one questions how Minister Winde can see notorious suburbs such as Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha having tourism potential, or perceive tourists to feel safe swimming at Monwabisi. The Route to Gordon’s Bay cannot run along the coastline all the way, connecting to the N2 between the Stellenbosch and Strand turn-offs, making the ‘Coastal Route‘ name a misnomer.
“I am particularly excited about this project as it will bring in communities that were previously not given the opportunity to have a say in what becomes of their surroundings. The False Bay, Gordon’s Bay and Cape Point coastlines are among many other locations that we have earmarked for development. Similar projects are under way in the West Coast, Cape Aghulas, Lamberts Bay Bird Island and False Bay Ecology Park,” said the Minister.
From a provincial perspective it appears that the Minister’s plans for False Bay may impact on the whale watching industry in Hermanus and the shark industry in Gansbaai, and one must question how viable this is in these very tough tourism times. One would hope that the Minister’s feasibility study will include an evaluation of the demand for tourists using the proposed developments east of Muizenberg – they may become another white elephant and a further burden for the Cape Town ratepayers, already lumbered with the unprofitable Cape Town Stadium.
While one understands the Minister’s concern for employment, the proposed False Bay Coastal Route falls within the Cape Town municipal boundaries, and therefore it is a surprise that the Minister is getting involved in what is a city issue, and not of benefit to his whole province. The overall tourism benefit seems questionable. Focusing attention on the stimulation of tourism in the province in general, especially during the dreadful winter months, would be far more beneficial in creating employment for all in the Western Cape!
POSTSCRIPT 24/7: It was a shock to read in the Sunday Argus that Lynne Brown, ANC leader in the Western Cape legislature, and former Minister of Tourism before she became Premier, when the ANC ran the province, has accused Minister Winde of ‘stealing’ her plan of four years ago! She also accuses the Minister of plagiarising ‘almost word-for-word’ from her ‘Tourism 5-year Strategy’ document. She said: ‘This is an ANC plan stolen from the ANC. Of course there is no acknowledgement at all and this is what makes it painful. I would personally like to see the DA carrying forward the ANC’s economic policy plan for the province because I believe that it was a good plan‘. Ms Brown criticised Minister Winde for ‘nothing original‘ having been done for tourism by him, and for closing down Cape Town Routes Unlimited.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage