MIDMAR DAM RESORT RELAUNCHES
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is in the final stages of a multi-million-rand refurbishment of its resort at Midmar Dam in the KZN Midlands and this week formally relaunched the facility as a multipurpose destination that offers everything from cycle hire to water sports such as jet skis, kayaking, inflatables and boat cruises and fitness tourism and outdoor movies.
Speaking at the relaunch, which doubled up as Tourism KwaZulu-Natal’s celebration of Tourism Month, Nhlakanipho Nkontwana, head of the Department for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), said that A lack of infrastructure for camping, insufficient water activities such as ski boats and boat cruises for water safaris has resulted in the resort failing to function at full capacity.
However, the refurbishment of the resort had, quite literally, seen Midmar on the comeback trail. Camping and hiking tours introduced to Midmar in May have resulted in the resort being listed as the new ‘Glamping’ destination by Gauteng Tour Operators.
This saw Midmar record more day visitors and overnighting campers in August than in previous months.
“Midmar Dam is a premier attraction. It is a tranquil and peaceful weekend getaway from the bustle of the city and popular water sport venue well known for the Midmar Mile. It is zoned for yachts, powerboats, and personal watercraft. The dam offers excellent fishing, with good catches of bluegill, carp, scalies and large-mouth bass. Today we are launching the Midmar Dam Resort on the shore of the dam within the Midmar Nature Reserve, which is stocked with various species of game and home to many different birds,” he said.
Other plans for the dam are family picnic days, a Maskandi Festival, and a future positioning as an ideal Fitness & Wellness Tourism destination. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is already working with different athletics clubs to host marathons and other outdoor activities like yoga.
Nkontwana said that Ezemvelo was also packaging its accommodation with other outdoor activity providers such as Karkloof Canopy Tours who offer Ziplining through the canopy of the Karkloof indigenous forest.
“Post Covid, adventure Tourism is growing significantly. As part of the recovery strategy, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife re-positioned its brand as Tis the year for adventure together with the new pay offline ‘ Your Ultimate Adventure Destination.” This coincided with the first easing of lockdown restrictions and visitors to our various parks and resorts far exceeded the Covid-19 revised estimates. Within a few months a 29% accommodation occupancy rate with over 460 000 visitors to the various parks was achieved,” he continued.
KWAZULU-NATAL TOURISM BOUNCES BACK
He welcomed the fact that, overall, the province was making a resounding recovery from the tourism downturn that had resulted from Covid-19 restrictions.
Recently released figures by South African Tourism revealed that, in the first six months of 2022, KZN received over 2,2 million domestic trips. This was just shy of the 2,6 million total number of trips for 2021 and indicates that the province is on track to beat last year’s number of visitors by a landslide.
Another indicator of recovery is hotel occupancy. In KZN the trend is upward and equal to that of 2019. In July hotels, on average, were 68% full. That is four percent higher than July 2019 before Covid-19 hit SA.
This success was the outcome of a tactical and strategic provincial tourism recovery plan, concerted efforts by the tourism sector and marketing campaigns spearheaded by Tourism KZN.
This year’s World Tourism Day theme Rethink Tourism was appropriate given the recent hardships that the sector has endured, Nkontwana pointed out.
“The United Nations World Tourism Organization unpacks rethinking tourism as putting people and planet first. Bringing everyone, from governments to businesses and local communities together around a shared vision for a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient sector. This is the type of tourism that we want to see in KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.
He outlined government programmes to assist in the transformation of the KZN tourism sector.
Transformation in the tourism sector is critical for the success of the tourism sector, said Nkontwana, who outlined some of the project to assist emerging tourism entrepreneurs.
Tourism KZN has reintroduced the Enterprise Development Programme through are calling for small tourism enterprises in the tourism sector to apply for capacity building support. This can be done on www.zulu.org.za.
An EDTEA initiative was hospitality business skills training, targeting Community Trusts managing tourism assets on behalf of communities.
“These are tourism assets built on land returned to communities as part of the land restitution programme. It is critical that these community trusts can ran their businesses well to ensure that the tourism products they manage continue to be productive and sustainable.
“We have seen perfectly productive businesses becoming white elephants when communities fail to run them properly after the land restitution process, and we are determined to ensure that tourism business are not listed as such,” he said.
Nkontwana acknowledged and congratulated the tourism trade for their resilience and enthusiasm to go the extra mile to ensure this vital sector survived. Domestic travellers too were thanked for keeping the tourism sector alive during the most trying of times.
He concluded by encouraging everyone to show the world that KZN was back in business, by taking part in a tourism activity be it a day trip with family and friends, a weekend away or taking a loved one for a fun lunch date.