Mossel Bay’s having a brilliant summer season.
“It’s been a tough year for many, but business has been cooking since about the 10th of December, and this year could see many businesses posting record summer season figures,” said Mossel Bay Tourism’s chairman, René Bongers.
Dr. Michele Gratz, the town’s municipal manager, said that Mossel Bay’s municipal caravan parks have been full since the 13th of December, and that they remained heavily booked after the traditional change-over, which takes place on about the 3rd of January.
“People came earlier this year, and they appear to be staying longer,” she said.
Significantly in a town that’s been struggling with its worst drought in a century, she said that the municipal parks had so far used about 50% less paraffin than they had by this time last year.
“The paraffin is used for heating the water in our ablution blocks, and what this tells us is that our campaign to get people to save water is working.
“People are taking shorter showers,” she said.
This trend has been reported in privately owned parks, too. Martie Pretorius of Dibiki Resort said that her caravan sites, chalets and safari tents have been fully booked since the 10th of December, and that they remain so until the 10th of January.
“People have been very good about using as little water as possible,” she said.
Mornay Beukes of the ATKV Hartenbos Resort said that his company’s accommodation was fully booked - and that a total of about 8,000 people are currently in residence.
“We haven’t got figures yet for water consumption, but we’ve been running a campaign that aims to sensitise people to the fact that we’re in a drought situation - and we’ve had fantastic cooperation from our guests.
“People are looking out for one another, reporting wastage, and encouraging one another to save where they can,” he said.
The ATKV traditionally presents a programme of summer entertainment, and Mr. Beukes said that the resort’s amphitheatre is drawing about 6,000 people to each of its concerts.
Hotel accommodation is performing well, too, and Mr. Bongers said that his property, Eight Bells Mountain Inn, was running at about 95% capacity.
“It’s a long season - from about the 15th of December to the 10th of January - although people are staying for shorter periods of three or four nights,” he said.
“Our activities have also been in demand - people are phoning for horse riding every day, and they’re coming out from town to enjoy teas and meals in the mountains.”
The Point Hotel’s Louis Harris said that his property’s figures have improved on last year - as have his forward bookings for January.
“It’s definitely a longer season, although it appears that individual parties are staying for shorter periods - which means that more people are visiting than before,” he said.
“Our restaurant is also serving more lunches and dinners than previously.”
He said that the bulk of visitors are South Africans, with only a few enquiries from foreign travellers. “It’s not only pre-bookings, either: we’re getting many walk-ins, although we can’t always accommodate them.”
The town’s attractions have reported similarly good returns.
“We’ve had unprecedented demand for dives, aand there’s definitely more interest than there was last year,” said Electrodive Scuba’s Ken Walmsley, who reported that his company was launching between three and four times a day on days when the visibility was good.
Jurg Olsen of Jukani Predator Park said that his property had had “A number of record days.
“Jukani’s an important attraction for when you’ve had enough of the beach, or the weather’s overcast or drizzling,” he said.
Lindi Edwards, one of the new owners of the town’s popular 7-Seas, a pleasure boat that offers regular trips to Seal Island, said that they’d been running to capacity since they started operations on the 20th - while Charmaine Klapwijk of the sailing yacht Romonza, which also offers Seal Island trips, said that their season has been “chock-a-block.”
Mr. Harris summed up the feeling of many of the businesses polled when he said, “I’m 100% confident that Mossel Bay Tourism’s marketing has paid off this year.
“There’s a reason why people choose destinations for their holidays, and I believe that the emphasis that has been put on the attractions and activities has informed peoples’ decisions to come to Mossel Bay,” he said.