By NANGAMSO MYOLI
For 11 days each year in June and July over 200 000 visitors flock to Makhanda (Grahamstown) for the National Arts Festival (NAF). This influx of tourists each year is a major boost for the businesses that provide accommodation across town.
According to a study on the impact of the NAF conducted by the Rhodes University Economics Department in 2016, the Festival is a significant driver of the city’s economy, contributing an estimated R377.15 million to the province’s economy as a whole.
Karen Lewis, owner of the High Corner Guesthouse in High Street said business since Festival started was good. “For the past 2-3 years we have been working with the National Arts Festival, and we get all our bookings from them.”
Umzi Guest House owner, Malibongwe Tokwe, said the number of bookings have increased from last year’s festival. “I am fully booked for the last weekend of the festival, overall the guesthouse has been eighty percent full the whole time”.
Buyiswa Gora, Chairperson at Kwam e Makana said her accommodation was overflowing with guests. “We accommodate singers, jazz musicians and praise singers so we are fully booked. As a result I had to send some of the guests to guesthouses in Extension 5 and Joza location.” In Extension 5, Nontyolo Bungani who runs the Esihle Bed and Breakfast said she had less guests than she had in previous years. “We only have two guests this year whereas previously I used to accommodate guests on both my properties”.
Despite water and electricity issues throughout the year, Festival accommodation was hardly affected, making sure guests could enjoy their time as much as possible. Mariza Jones, Manager at the Hill Street Manor Guesthouse said they had been very busy with guests coming in from Knysna and other places as far as the United Kingdom. “The guests told me people were warning them not to come to [Makhanda] because of the water and electricity issues only to find that this was not the case when they arrived here”, said Jones.
Sally Price-Smith, manager at 11 Worcester on Durban, said they were mostly full this year but had experienced some cancellations in May due to water and electricity concerns.
Jolandi Botha, owner of White House Guesthouse said that Festival had been wonderful for business. She added that the visitors were impressed by the friendliness of the people in Makhanda and that Makana Revive and the Makana Municipality had been very helpful during the festival. “Anytime we have a problem they respond and arrive quickly to fix the issue”, said Botha.