ILEMBE TOURISM HITS R1 BILLION MARK
Tourists added over a billion rand to iLembe District’s economic coffers in the first six months of 2022 despite devastation from the floods that knocked tourist numbers to under 300 000 compared to the almost one million visitors for the same period in 2021.
Presenting at the Enterprise iLembe Business Breakfast hosted in conjunction with, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN) and Trade and Investment Kwazulu-Natal (TIKZN) Enterprise iLembe chief executive officer, Linda Mncube, indicated that iLembe District was on a positive recovery trajectory.
“By spending R1,1 billion on leisure activities tourists bolstered the iLembe economy by R1,7 billion, sustained almost 4000 jobs and household income of R425 million. This makes tourism a vital sector for the region and, as most visitors were holiday makers it created an opportunity for other tourism businesses to piggy-back on this sector,” said Mncube.
In his opening address, iLembe District Mayor, Thobani Shandu, told guests that the unprecedented events of the past few years had caused significant decline in economic activity, affected the livelihoods of people across all living standards and called for a more innovative way to do business.
Congratulating the business sector for its resilience in the face of the challenges, Shandu also noted that it was encouraging to see the willingness of the public and private sector to work together.
Underscoring this sentiment, Mncube said the tone of leadership in the district, which includes the KwaDukuza, Ndwedwe, Mandini and Maphumulo municipalities, was intent on turning the economy around. It was about creating a conducive environment to retain and grow businesses, incorporate SMME’s in the economy, ensure skills, security, and infrastructure development, to take advantage of opportunities that arose, he said.
Moreover, local and district municipalities had formed a closer working relationship with business and were pulling out all the stops to make doing business in the district easier. For instance, in the KwaDukuza municipality 90% of all building plans were now submitted electronically which is having a positive spin off on development.
This had pushed business sentiment into positive territory for the first time since 2015 and the outlook for the next six months was also positive, Mncube added, pointing to the resilience of local businesses, including tourism.
Highlights for the district were SAA flying between Johannesburg and Durban, Lyft airline launching a flight to Durban and the Richards Bay airport opening. These flights create linkages to other provinces for business and leisure.
Other steps to encourage business development on the north coast included iLembe district municipality finalizing a package of incentives for investors by early 2023, all municipalities adopting comprehensive land use schemes which would make development applications easier to process and major road, water and sanitation plans adopted to ensure that the district is able to cope with the envisaged development, especially along the coast.
Tourism development opportunities included the Sibudu Caves, a national heritage site in Ndwedwe, the KwaShushu Hot Springs in Maphumulo and the natural beauty of the region, said Mncube.
Acting CEO of Tourism KZN, Phindile Makwakwa, said that while KZN domestic tourist numbers – at 2.2 million tourists – were up on 2019 half year figures, international tourist numbers had gotten off to a slow start. But for international tourism to flourish, government needed to create a conducive environment, she added.
“The reality is that, together with the unrest, there are perceptions of crime and grime, which the province needs to deal with. A conducive environment makes it easier for tour operators to package our province for international tourists. We can be sentimental, but the reality is that international tourists are spoilt for choice and we must have a compelling reason for them to come here. The conducive environment is vital.”
She pointed out that every municipality was mandated to resource their own tourism needs and that TKZN did not have the financial resources to support municipal level tourism destination marketing. Councils should have a greater commitment to and appreciation of the value of tourism along with a willingness to invest in tourism infrastructure.
Discussing investment opportunities, Innocent Hlongwane, general manager Investment Promotion at Trade and Investment KZN, said they had received many requests for localization projects. These included food products such as dehydrated herbs and vegetables, spices, MSG, chocolate, buttermilk/whey and ice cream cones.
Localisation opportunities in chemicals were petroleum jelly feedstock, caustic, mined materials such as sodium sulphate, sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, percarbonate, magnesium sulphate, alcohol ethoxylate, colourants and enzymes. Packaging opportunities included flexibles packaging (feedstock), triggers and pumps and wooden sticks for ice cream packaging.
During the panel discussion Cobus Oelofse, chief executive of the iLembe Business Chamber, said there was a need at local and district level to relook the social compact agreements and to work on developing the local economy together but not at the expense of other regions.
This sentiment was supported by Mncube who said there was a great deal of good intention in the district but converting this intention into action and economic development needed to be investigated.