(Picture:- Staff and board members of Knysna and Partners celebrate the announcement outside Knysna Municipal Chambers)

There were loud cheers from the gallery at the council meeting held on Friday 26 May, when Knysna Executive Mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies announced council’s resolution to sign a new Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Knysna and Partners (formerly Knysna Tourism), one which ensures the future of the entity and its staff for at least the next three years. The timing of this resolution has been cut exceptionally close as the existing agreement, and indeed contracts with Tourism staff, is set to expire at the end of this month.

Apart from a small revenue generated by membership fees and commissions, Knysna and Partners is reliant on the sizeable grant from Knysna Municipality to carry out its mandate of promoting the area as a tourism destination. But this year the future of local tourism, Knysna and Sedgefield’s biggest income earner, has hung in the balance as Council has explored proposals of either using other service providers or bringing the  marketing of Greater Knysna in-house. As far as Sedgefield is concerned, this could have meant the closing down of the local tourism office, which many locals were adamant should not happen.

Whilst proposing the resolution, Mayor Bouw-Spies did point out that it would certainly not be ‘business as usual’ as far as Tourism is concerned, and that a new SLA with Knysna and Partners would replace the existing agreement which had been in place for some years now. All but one councillor (Independent  Councillor Velile Waxa) voted for the approval of the resolution, with COPE Councillor Ricky van Aswegen suggesting a proviso that money from the proposed 4 million Rand annual budget be earmarked for tourism development in the previously disadvantaged communities.

Details of the new SLA will be finalised over the next few weeks.

More details in next week’s edition of The EDGE.