REBUILDING KZN AS PART OF AFRICAN TOURISM
KZN MEC Siboniso Duma opens the Africa a travel Indaba with news of nine new toruism projects for the province
The Durban Eye – a giant observation ferris-wheel which will offer a spectacular 360- degree panoramic view and serve as an iconic tourist attraction, the Umkomazi River Resorts and Spa in the southern Drakensberg, the Shakaland Hotel and Cultural Village project in Umlalazi, Eshowe, refurbishment of tourism amenities in the Balele Game Park in Newcastle and the upgrade of the Shongweni Game Reserve and Dam on the outskirts of Durban are just some of the nine investment projects highlighted by KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Siboniso Duma at the Africa Travel Indaba breakfast hosted by Tourism KZN (TKZN) this morning (May9, 2023).
In an address that he titled Rebuilding KwaZulu-Natal for Africa and the Globe, Duma said that, through the collective efforts of government, TKZN, investors and local communities, these nine projects had been spread across the province to areas where the socio-economic impact of tourism is most needed and where they will have the biggest developmental impact.
Also included in the MEC’s list are the Inyanda Amatata Tourism and Cultural Hub which will create an affordable, accessible platform for culture to be commercialised for rural communities, the Umgababa Coastal Resort which is under construction on the South Coast, Dube Safaris Entertainment in the Umlazi, Durban and the Woodstock dam resort project in the Drakensberg.
He said that tourists visiting these communities would benefit from authentic cultural experiences.
“It is here, at this Africa’s Travel Indaba, that we are part of shaping Africa’s tomorrow through the connections we make over the next three days… Tourism is a cornerstone in supporting economic growth and job creation and (the Indaba) is an iconic event that plays a vital role in growing tourism across the Continent. It is particularly important for us, as it plays a big role in putting South Africa and our province KwaZulu-Natal on the map of Africa and the world,” he said.
Despite the challenges faced by the province during and post the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism sector had not just survived, but reignited and bounced back with vigor.
Domestic tourism figures recently released by SA Tourism show that KwaZulu-Natal is the country’s favourite holiday destination attracting 7,6 million tourists.
“To put this in perspective, we had 6,2 million tourists in 2019, and the last time we reached the 7 million mark was 2017. The economic benefit for KZN was over R19 billion. On the international front we are still in the recovery phase. KwaZulu-Natal attracted 9,4% of the international visitors coming to SA in 2022 which provided an economic spend of R4,2 billion,” Duma said.
He added that he believed that the key to the province’s success was the “coming together” of government and the tourism sector in keeping the province’s name and brand top of mind, instilling confidence in visitors about safety and ensuring that tourism products were affordable.
“We are also aware that a lot of the tourist activity is revenge buying from the two-year travel restrictions and that this will come to an end. So, we are redoubling our efforts in marketing KwaZulu-Natal. We continue to work closely with our trade and strengthen our relationships with travel buyers and operators, as we build on our achievements to establish KwaZulu-Natal on the international travel stage,” Duma continued.
He noted that air traffic activity at King Shaka International Airport continued to increase with South African Airways, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and Emirates flying long-haul routes directly to Durban.
Regionally, Proflight Zambia reinstated its Lusaka – Durban route and Airlink is flying a Durban – Harare Zimbabwe Route. Last Friday, the maiden flight to Durban by ESwatini Air was also added.
“This opening of air access between SADC countries will significantly boost traveller volumes between countries. As we continue to open air routes, improving our connection to the African Continent, we open doors for business across all sectors. It also creates the opportunity for greater cohesion between countries, fostering better relationships and a greater appreciation of what each country has to offer.”
Duma said that, in KwaZulu-Natal, there were plans to upgrade and develop nine airports which would improve connectivity between key cities and tourism areas making access for travellers far easier. This is in addition to last year’s opening of the Mkuze Airport in northern KwaZulu-Natal, which is one of the country’s most densely populated game reserve areas.
Duma added that the development of the new purpose made cruise terminal at the Durban harbour – which is already due for further investment of R30-million by operator MSC – would play a key role in attracting more international cruise liners.
This year’s cruise season brought some 26 000 passengers to the province between October 2022 and April 2023, he pointed out.
“We know that international travelers are increasingly seeking genuine cultural exchanges and there are many new and emerging opportunities for our buyers to explore. As the provincial government and our tourism entity Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, we continue to seek new tourism trade partnerships and we look forward to three days of robust engagements with you our trade partners,” he concluded.