The West Coast – No longer the best-kept secret

For those of us who used to consider the West Coast “our little secret”, this is no longer the case as hotels, B&Bs, game lodges will testify.  Higher occupancies are being enjoyed, restaurants are teeming with visitors, sandy feet and laughter, the local community is growing, with some areas developing overnight, breathing new life into the area. The “Weskus” continues to grow in popularity not only for holidaymakers and homemakers but for investors and business too.

The opening of ArcellorMittal in 1998, known then as Saldanha Steel, brought many people to the area looking for work, with the result that the area and surrounds started to grow and small businesses began to sprout.  More recently, additional investment in infrastructure at the 330ha Saldanha Bay industrial zone, to the tune of R10 billion, aimed at enhancing the deep-water port’s ability to service the offshore oil and gas industry, is now taking place.  “This is an opportunity to capture a very lucrative market ahead of anyone else; the project will contribute an estimated R4.74 billion to South Africa’s GDP, creating an estimated 6 300 new direct jobs and 25 200 new indirect jobs,” says Gavin Hofmeester, Tourism Manager, West Coast Peninsula Tourism and TNPA committee member.  An important concern, however, is how to keep the balance between development and sustainability, and to hold on to that special West Coast charm.

Though still undiscovered by many, the West Coast is a popular retreat for people in the Western Cape because of all that it offers, and its accessibility makes it a favourable destination for holidays and weekend breaks.  It would seem that its reputation is reaching farther afield too, with GP number plates on the increase during the December holidays.  “The people of Paternoster say that there used to be an off season when they could close their businesses and take a break, but with the area gaining popularity that is no longer the case,” says Lorika Malan, Marketing Manager of West Coast Peninsula Tourism. 

She adds that there is much happening in and around the area to further boost tourism: most significantly, collaborations between the five municipalities on the West Coast – Namaqua West Coast, Cederberg, Bergriver, Peninsula and Swartland – in tandem with regional tourism activities, festivals and educational conferences around the country.  In addition, there are of course flower season and whale spotting which bring visitors, young and old, in their droves.   West Coast Peninsula Tourism is further bridging the gaps by attending various marketing events and shows around the country.   Three busloads per day of visitors from the World Travel Market to be held in Cape Town this April, will travel to the West Coast for daily outings.   Support from WESGRO and their Keeping it Real Outdoors initiative will promote all the exciting outdoor activities that the West Coast Region has to offer, along with the newly formed destination promoter The West Coast Way who are developing and promoting a bio-diversity corridor – all highlighting this vibrant gateway, the Cape to Namib route.

Another gem in this collection would have to be BON Hotel Shelley Point, a resort on the West Coast, set on a private peninsula that is surrounded by beaches.  The hotel was recently taken over by BON Hotels who are making proverbial waves up the West Coast by bringing this beautiful hotel business back to life and renewed popularity.   “The West Coast, along with her diverse landscape and offerings, her uniqueness and accessibility, was a big factor for consideration when we took on ownership and management of the hotel business. With Governments investment and the resultant commercial prospects, we are confident we can add value, create a destination of choice for the corporate traveller, conference delegates as well as holidaymakers, and furthermore uplift the area and community,” says Guy Stehlik, CEO of BON Hotels.

So, if like so many other Capetonians (and Gautengers) you have never ventured further than the nearest sandy beach (or dam), this best-kept secret is one you should be talking about while booking your next holiday too.  The people are warm and friendly and are waiting to give you a true Weskus welcome (you may even get a hug!).

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