MEC SAYS FESTIVE SEASON POSITIVE FOR KZN
Despite rainy weather, negative reports about water quality, the closure of some Durban beaches and the high petrol price, KwaZulu-Natal still welcomed 520 000 domestic tourists and 51 000 international tourists who injected around R2,4 billion into the provincial economy (Provincial Gross Domestic Product).
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Siboniso Duma, said that the healthy stream of visitors demonstrated that the province remained a tourist destination of choice for both domestic and international markets.
“KwaZulu-Natal is by far the most popular domestic leisure tourist destination for South Africans and this past month was no different. We have no doubt that our efforts to revive the tourism sector will yield a positive outcome. The role of the tourism sector in the economic transformation of our country and our province is immeasurable,” he said.
The province’s hospitality industry has remained resilient despite repeated blows over the past three years with the Covid pandemic, looting and public unrest and flooding continuing to scupper efforts to revitalise the sector between 2020 and 2022. Widespread flood damage led to a large number of booking cancellations over Easter last year.
Although the province is not up to pre-Covid visitor levels yet, Duma and some major players are optimistic that it will soon be business as usual.
This is despite the fact that Durban itself has registered a 22% decline in visitors over the festive season. Statistics released by the city during the past week suggested that the number of tourists who visited Durban during this period dropped by 200 000 when compared to 2019. Apparently 702 735 people visited Durban as opposed to approximately 900 000 at the end of 2019.
Duma admitted that KZN’s combined 570 000 visitors did fall short of expectations. In early December, his department projected an estimated 760 000 domestic trips and an estimated 58 000 international visitors over the entire summer season.
However, Duma added: “We are pleased with the festive season figures as they reflect the province’s tourism performance over one month of our summer season and note that the province’s summer season draws to a close at the end of March 2023. Therefore, I have no doubt that we will achieve this target.”
Hotel and other accommodation occupancy rates are a good indicator of how well tourism is doing, he continued.
At the beginning of December, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal research insights estimated that average hotel occupancy rates for KZN would reach 60% at Christmas and New Year. KwaDukuza was expected to peak at 80%, Hibiscus 78%, Umdoni 78%, Okhahlamba 70% and Umgeni 64%.
From 19 – 25 December 2022, KZN’s average hotel occupancy rate was 57% three percent lower than our projections. But from December 26 to January 1, 2023, average occupancy rates exceeded all our expectations reaching 81%.
Attesting to the above figures, the KZN tourism trade on the north coast, Durban and South Coast has indicated that bookings have increased substantially for the Christmas week until New Year. From a slow start at the beginning of December, many upmarket hotels are seeing occupancies rise from around 70% to 90% to fully booked.
“We concede that the reason for the initial low holiday bookings was caused by the closure of the Durban City beaches due to the contamination of water. We are working with eThekwini Municipality to ensure that all the beaches are fully functional as soon as possible,” Duma added.
“We are happy that there were no major incidents that spoilt what was, undoubtedly, once again a memorable experience for our visitors. All entertainment activities which took place in different parts of the province were also a resounding success,” Duma concluded.