Report back from Working Group
Herewith please find the communications between the Working Group and Anton Groenewald
Would your office be open to volunteers keeping the doors open?
In any future configuration of the information service it may be useful to retain this option under the guise of an association of members so that there is some form of accountability. But the notion of volunteers is a good one to keep.
What might the implications be? Public or other liability? Labour relations given the staff have been let go? We wouldn’t want to create legal, governance or other issues for the municipality as an entity.
So this is now past tense and yes all of these issues would have entered into the equation. The municipality is an entity of and governed by statute. It is compelled to enter into service level agreements with organisations/associations that have been formed by some legal mechanism so that it may proceed legally to engage as such. The primary reason for the closing of the information offices is that it does not fulfil the primary task of promoting, marketing and booking of the facilities, venues and business in the Tourism Sector. It has largely underperformed in helping to grow the visitor economy. In my time at the building it seems to fulfil a general information function a subset of which is tourism related. And this is not the responsibility of staff only but also the leadership and previous boards and iterations etc. So simply to keep open an office without some form of guarantee or limitation of liability etc would expose the municipality at a time when it in itself is on recess.
Who currently pays for services, internet, telephone?
The municipality makes a grant of R 1.2 million available annually for salaries and operations.
Who owns the contents of the building?
The STO owns everything but the municipality is the recipient of all assets in the event of any closure or interregnum. Which means it all reverts to us until such time as it may be necessary to reconstitute or reconfirm the information office concept.
Would the Municipality be in a position to allow a group of volunteers to use these in keeping the doors open?
Sadly this moment has passed. All of the office contents have been packed up and placed in storage as we speak.
Has the telephone line already been disconnected?
Yes it has
What will happen to resources such as the hospitality and other databases the STO maintained?
These have been returned to the Municipality as the Tourism function is a constitutional responsibility so we are the final recipients of any and all databases. These will be handed over to any newly constituted tourism body should that be one of the recommendations that are made for the future.
These are important resources for marketing Swellendam and during events like Double Century, those present pointed out.
We understand this and would like to point out that the bulk, say more than 95% of bookings and arrangements are made without the information office’s participation.
If your office is not open to the offer from the volunteers, how would the vacuum be mitigated?
Our office is not open to a loose arrangement as the issues of liability, accountability, loss of equipment, incurring of costs, etc will be a huge stumbling block to resolving at this late stage of the year.
Would information signage be taken down soon to avoid confusion?
The information sign is being left up for the moment with notices and information placed in the notice boards to assist those who need assistance with numbers and details etc.
Has the telephone number been routed elsewhere so it isn’t a “dead end”?
The number will go to a telephonic voice message advising people to go online at this time. I think I will have to expedite my intention of creating hot wifi zones throughout town.
We understand that this has not been a rapidly-implemented decision …
The incumbent was appointed on 1 January 2018 with a very clear instruction that this was a one year deal with no option of renewal. We now believe that he was firmly of the view that he could convince us otherwise. The final decision by Council was taken in May to proceed with the Tourism process which I laid out. This was communicated. Again an effort was made by the incumbent to extend the contract. We advised as we had from the outset that this was a 12 month deal. The first communication by his office went out in September ( I can recall and may need to bring that to everyone’s attention) and a second communication in November (which I expected would result in massive pushback) and then this last communication in December. I withheld communicating directly as I assumed that this is what he should be communicating. When the tourism process was launched nobody asked what would happen to the information office. And so we continued, and we continue notwithstanding the time and date.
…but need to note for the record that the feeling around the table this morning was that there hadn’t been communication. Without wanting to start a “blame game”, perhaps it might help if you could share how you had envisaged communication to work and where you think it may have broken down.
It has been an extremely annoying lesson to learn that what I have consistently been communicating since the start of this year, that the interim arrangement was a 12 month non-renewable deal was not communicated to all and sundry from the outset. With hindsight I should have done that from the outset. However, the Tourism Manager so appointed had this responsibility to communicate what is happening as it unfolded. In addition in the absence of an active board to oversee the functions of the Tourism manager and the tourism information offices meant that an undiluted message was never sent out as decisions were being in council.
I can assure that this will not happen again and that I will communicate directly to the industry through direct mails (I am stunned with how many product owners who have no digital presence, staff were telling me they print out and hand deliver notices to some business) facebook posts and newspaper notices and articles.
Please circulate this far and wide so that everybody has an understanding that the closure of the information offices is not the end of the world and that we already are starting with new products, namely a proper map and information booklet.
Meeting of Working Group:
- To discuss the mandate from interested parties of Swellendam, who attended a public meeting held at Lilly’s Restaurant on 19.12.2019 on future concerns for tourism in Swellendam.
- To discuss response to questions posed to Anton Groenewald Muncipal Manager re closing of Tourism Office/Information Centre as per volunteer Kathy Dumbrell.
- Tasks to be assigned to attendees of this meeting as to taking this forward and looking at other alternatives.
- Brochures, premises for meetings, maps, offices for volunteers to work from, data bases, follow up meetings, how to communicate with the concerned group and what to communicate to them and by when.
Concerns people have:
Untimely closing of the tourist offices in the height of the season and loss of database and lack of people contact with tourists and the seeming lack of filtering down information/closing to affected persons.
Where to best place brochures and information on a stand asap. Ticket office at the museum?
Sourcing of past brochure for Swellendam and updating current stories, things to do.
Premises for next follow up meeting to all the group would be in early January.
Suggested Premises: Drostdy Schuur, Wildebraam,
Amanda will send an email to all persons who attended the meeting on the 19.12.2018 and all that could not attend, with feedback from this meeting and attached will be a link to read Anton’s response letter dated 20.12.2018
This Swellendam Interest Group/hospitality etc will meet again on 4.1.2019 12h00 to discuss a new mandate from the group on the way forward