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Plans afoot for Graskop resort

A neglected tourist resort will be turned around and used to help promote tourism in the Mpumalanga town of Graskop and surrounding areas, and in this way drive local economic development.

12 December 2012

The Graskop Holiday Resort is set for an upgradeThe Graskop Holiday Resort is set for an upgrade

The Graskop Holiday Resort, situated in the middle of the town, which falls under the Thaba Chweu Local Municipality, is one of the projects with potential to create jobs for local people that has been identified by the Thaba Chweu Local Economic Development Agency (Thaleda).

Thaleda is one of the agencies in Mpumalanga established by the Industrial Development Corporation to drive economic expansion and job creation at a local level. The agency is wholly owned by the Thaba Chweu Local Municipality and has been "mandated to establish a way forward" regarding plans for the Graskop Holiday Resort and several local economic development projects within the area, according to Sindiswa Mathebula, Thaleda's programme manager.

Located about 28 kilometres from Sabie, Graskop is one of three towns – the other is Lydenburg – that serve as the main administrative units in the Thaba Chweu Local Municipality. The little town was set up in the 1880s as a gold mining camp, but now it is a tourist destination, and has a host of restaurants, craft shops and neat little guest houses.

The holiday resort falls under the municipality's sub-directorate of parks, cemeteries and resorts, itself in the directorate of safety and community services. It has 50 chalets, 180 beds and 100 caravan sites, of which 56 have access to electricity. It has a dam, swimming pool and a recreational facility with mini-golf.
All the chalets, which comprise rondavels and one- and two-bedroom cabins, are fully furnished. There are also executive suites for those who are willing to pay extra for comfort. A restaurant that once served guests is closed, and now there is only a general supply shop open for customers.

Mathebula says the holiday resort was established in the 1950s as a recreational area for locals and visitors. Since managing resorts is not considered a key competency of the municipality, it has fallen into neglect. "There are 19 employees who stay at the resort, including a manager. Occupancy of the resort remains very low and urgent refurbishment is required," she says.

It used to host an annual sporting event, and some years ago bikers would often stay here during their biking expeditions. "Because of [its] state, we don't host these kinds of events anymore," laments Mathebula.

As a result, it has turned into a residential facility, and some of the chalets have become homes to workers and their families. Mathebula says developing the resort will involve refurbishing access roads, chalet roofs and communal facilities like the swimming pool and mini-golf. An existing hall will be turned into a conference venue.

"Most of the structures are in excellent condition, and will need touch-ups here and there."

Based on costs and revenue received by the resort in 2009, Mathebula says the council was subsidising it with about R2,2-million a year. "The losses are increasing on an annual basis, thereby putting financial pressure on the municipality."

A feasibility study carried out earlier this year found that a private-public partnership was the best way forward, according to Mathebula. "The municipality will have value for money in financial and non-financial terms if a private operator is hooked in to develop, operate and manage the resort for a fixed term."

A tender process is under way and she is hopeful that in less than a year from now, the holiday resort will again be buzzing with life. "Hopefully, the resort will absorb a substantial number of unemployed people around Graskop and step up tourism."



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