Sardine runs, cruises, fresh fish and trampoline parks are some of the attractions that prompt visitors and tourists to spend their holiday cash in East London and along the Wild Coast.
Southern Cross Cruises owner John Barry, who takes visitors out to sea on a catamaran from the East London port, said he had enjoyed a bumper season as visitors from all over South Africa and the world flocked to see the marine thrills of the sardine run.
“We are seeing more overseas tourists, and have had visitors from The Netherlands, Belgium, the US and, for the first time, Thailand,” enthused Barry.
“We also had a whole boatload of people from Singapore and their tour operator has already booked for next year.
“The sardine run was great this year.”
Barry said his cruises had also been supported by East Londoners who took their children for a holiday treat.
Gravity Indoor Trampoline Park owner Paramesh Reshalin said there had been a marked “uptick” in business over the holidays, with evening glow-in-the-dark discos for children proving to be especially popular at the Beacon Bay Crossing fun venue.
“It’s been almost as busy as December,” said Reshalin.
“We had visitors from Bloemfontein, Komani, Richard’s Bay and Johannesburg.
“People come to visit family in East London and bring their children here because it’s fun and good exercise and parents can sit here and monitor them.”
Tidewaters Shuttle Service owner Deon Kukard, who also owns Tidewater River Lodge in Gonubie, was another one who said this winter season has been busier than last year’s.
“We pick up clients from the airport and shuttle them to places along the Wild Coast like Trennery’s, Kob Inn and Mazeppa Bay, as well as Port Alfred.
“We have had visitors from Germany and the US, but mostly from Cape Town and Joburg. Our guesthouse has also been very busy. East London is seen as more affordable and less cold.”
The sardine run also benefited resorts along the Wild Coast, which have sardine run operators such as Wavecrest, Mbotyi River Lodge and B&Bs in Port St Johns.
“The sardine run business has been really good. It’s been a great drawcard,” said Wild Coast Reservations co-owner Helen Ross. “However, some of the resorts that are accessed by gravel roads got flak from guests because there has been no road maintenance.”
East London’s Sea Spirit Fish Market manager Niki Esterhuizen said the harbour seafood restaurant had been choc-a-block at weekends and “really busy” in the midyear break.