Tourism establishments in Knysna have been recording a huge number of cancellations from international tourists, a situation that could lead to the loss of 2,500 jobs in the town’s crucial tourism sector.

According to SA Tourism, a number of international tourists had cancelled their bookings following the devastating fires earlier in June that destroyed more than 600 structures in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.

Knysna, a well-established adventure and leisure tourism area along the scenic Garden Route, is heavily reliant on the tourism industry.

SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona said at the weekend that the best way to assist the town was to encourage locals to travel there, which would aid the sector’s recovery.

"We’ve seen local corporates and people coming together to offer help and donations, which is great, but for sustainability purposes, the best way to help Knysna is to travel there," said Ntshona.

One of the town’s signature events is the Oyster Festival, which is scheduled to be held  in July.

"The Knysna Oyster Festival is still on and we encourage people to attend. The fires also offer an opportunity for the sector to build a greener and  eco–friendly establishments," said Ntshona.

However, he said the  country’s tourism sector could suffer as a result of the recession and the dire economic climate as locals tightened their belts.

Last week, Western Cape economic opportunities MEC Alan Winde said that the majority of Knysna’s tourism offering remained intact.

In 2016, it is estimated that tourist-spend in Knysna totalled in excess of R2bn.

"We have seen a tremendous amount of support for this region’s tourism sector. We have 4,000 beds available and we are drawing closer to what is traditionally a very busy time for Knysna," said Winde.

"The Oyster Festival is set to go ahead as planned. It traditionally attracts over 70,000  visitors, generating in excess  of R100m for the regional economy. Most importantly, it creates 2,000 jobs for residents. This is the economic impact of tourism in this town, and, at this point, it is needed more than ever."

Wesgro CEO Tim Harris  said: "Wesgro has allocated R100,000 to sponsor and promote the Knysna Oyster Festival and Knysna as an ideal place to visit in winter.

"We are on a mission to remind tourists and investors that the Garden Route and Klein Karoo region remain open for business."

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