During a presentation about two years ago Lisa Sheard, Manager of Kruger Lowveld Tourism, warned that Pilgrim’s Rest was in ICU. As the process of allocating leases to both existing and closed businesses is nearing completion, this living museum is well on the road to recovery. With the momentum provided by renewed hope all the businesses is Pilgrim’s Rest are gearing up to provide visitors with a memorable experience during the Christmas season.
Successful bidders for ten of the businesses met for negotiations with officials of the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport on November 27. The final lease agreements will only be signed once official offers from the government have been made and accepted. Of the ten successful bids, five were by current owners who will continue in their businesses, two were for existing businesses where new owners will be taking over the premises, and three were for businesses that are currently closed. Particularly good news for the whole community is that a tender for the caravan park was also awarded. Visitors who stay over in the caravan park, which had been vandalised and fallen into disuse over the past few years, are a significant source of business for everyone during holiday seasons.
A further meeting took place on November 29 between government officials and those whose bids had not succeeded. It was explained that a number of bids had been unsuccessful due to minor errors in the tender process and that, by special dispensation in order to speed up the process of awarding leases and filling the empty businesses, an opportunity would be given to re-submit bids within one week. The committees tasked with adjudication then have to complete their work by December 23.
The eventual awarding of leases and the security of tenders for the businesses is however only the first small step in the recovery process, especially in the current economic climate. “After all these years it’s about time that decisions are made about Pilgrim’s Rest,” said Sharon Patterson, when asked how she feels about finally being awarded the tender for her two current businesses. “However, I feel that they have to do something about the town before we get excited.”
Following intervention by Radio Jacaranda last year the company Aflead, which specialises in the small-town economic development, undertook to assist in Pilgrim’s Rest. Emil Nothnagel, managing director of Aflead, confirmed that it will now be possible for this project to move forward.
The community agrees that the next major steps should be to establish quality management for this key tourism destination and to attract visitors in large numbers back to Pilgrim’s Rest – a unique and authentic living museum