PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - While most agree that it was the right decision to cancel the annual Plett Rage student festival, its absence is set to leave a deep scar on the local economy. The decision was made to curb the spread of Covid-19 following an outbreak at a similar event in Kwazulu-Natal recently.
The festival, which boosts the local economy significantly every year and attracts thousands of school leavers to the area, was scheduled to take place in the coastal town from 29 January to 6 February 2021.
Organisers, after advice from Bitou authorities, public pressure and a request from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), decided to cancel the event for the Class of 2020 last week.
"It is clear to us that regardless of the measures and precautions that we had put in place to ensure the safety of our attendees, the coronavirus is uncontrollable. The risk that this poses to attendees, our staff, our suppliers, artists, as well as the greater community does not warrant pushing forward," festival owner Ronen Klugman said in a statement.
He added, however, that the decision would have a massive impact on not only those involved in organising the event, but also the Plettenberg Bay economy. "Please keep in mind that the postponement affects a significant number of people who would have worked both directly and indirectly in the beautiful town of Plettenberg Bay at the end of January.
"While the cancellation of the festival affects you, the attendee, it also impacts approximately 900 lives - including event staff and locals that are directly linked to hosting the festival."
Plett Tourism acting chief executive Patty Butterworth agreed. "The cancellation of Plett Rage will obviously leave a deep scar in the Plett economy. Businesses that are struggling and were anticipating that cash injection are even more vulnerable now," she said. Previous local tourism product surveys indicated that each of the 4 000 students expected to attend spends between R12 000 and R15 000 during their stay. "They spend money on accommodation, food, drink and activities in the area.
"This is the start of the Plett summer season, which encourages additional employment in both the retail and tourism industry. You are looking at a loss of close to R48-million," Butterworth said.
She added that the festival was the longest-standing and largest festival hosted in Plett and, besides the thousands of students who attend the event annually, an additional 2 000 youngsters participated on its periphery.
"The Plett Rage brand is big business. It brings a welcome stimulus to the local economy and it has become very attractive to big corporate sponsors, including entry level car companies, banks, financial management institutions, clothing brands and the like. The bigger the festival, the greater the return on investment," Butterworth said.
"The cancellation of Plett Rage will have a further negative impact on the economy in Plett. It is very unfortunate but understandable why it has been cancelled for 2020. We believe it is in the best interests of the students and their families and at Plett Tourism we are all about promoting safe travel."
'We bring you the latest Garden Route news'