The Province of KwaZulu-Natal derives immense benefits from the tourism industry ranging from employment, foreign currency receipts and a source of livelihood to a number of households. This sector therefore remains an important economic business in the province contributing about 10% (direct and indirect) to the province’s Gross Domestic Product.
KwaZulu-Natal’s major foreign tourism source markets include Swaziland (23%), Lesotho (17%), Botswana (8%), Zimbabwe (9%), United Kingdom (7%), Mozambique (4%), Germany (5%), USA (4%), France (3%) and Netherlands (3%). It is for this reason that the summit in 2009 resolved that domestic and regional tourism markets must be nurtured. It was also acknowledged that the province and the country cannot prosper in isolation hence the province must therefore work together with the rest of the region in its marketing efforts which would contribute to regional integration.
Negative competition is detrimental to the region and the continent as a whole. Most importantly there is need to develop tourism products that cater for the needs of the growing domestic market whilst ensuring that the foreign market is also catered for.
To respond to this clarion call, KwaZulu-Natal successfully embarked on the following pertinent initiatives to develop domestic and regional tourism:
- Launched the East-3-Route which is a tourism route linking South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland. Seychelles is the latest entrant to this initiative
- South African Express has launched a direct route between Durban and various SADC countries which will increase tourism opportunities. The four times weekly route between Durban and Lusaka was launched in July 2012. The three times weekly route between Durban and Harare was launched in October 2012. The performance of both routes has yielded satisfactory load factors well above 60%.
- Launched a Tourism Buddies programme which is aimed at providing care skills to frontline workers in restaurants, garages, and hotels. This was later adopted as a national programme.
- Developed a master plan to guide the marketing, planning and development of the tourism sector in KwaZulu-Natal. This will ensure a coordinated approach in implementing interventions from both private and public sectors.
- The KZN Airport strategy was formulated to attract more airlines into the province and strengthen existing relationships with current airlines amongst other things.
- In order to reinforce promotional initiatives about the province, the provincial government has developed a provincial marketing strategy to penetrate the domestic and regional markets as well as enhancing international markets.
- Revisits and new visits to the province key tourist attraction areas hinges on the constant maintenance and preservation of these sites. Strategies and initiatives to preserve these areas and upgrade infrastructure in key tourism areas are on track.
- The Durban-KwaZulu-Natal Tourism Convention Bureau was developed to give the province a competitive edge when it comes to attracting MICE business. Since its inception, the Durban KwaZulu-Natal Tourism Convention Bureau has attracted more than 30 conferences whose economic impact is more than R1 billion.
- We have hosted and partnered in hosting a number of high profile events such as the KwaZulu-Natal Top Gear Festival, the uGu Jazz Festival, uMgababa Festival, Hilton Arts Festival, Travel Agency Federation of India (TAFI) Annual Convention, Ecco Tours Academy and the Tourism Indaba. These events have resulted in the improvement of Durban such that its ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) ranking moved from 231 in 2009 to 157 in 2011 and 150 in 2012; and KwaZulu-Natal also secured for the second year in a row the Best Business Event Destination in Africa Award from the internationally acclaimed Business Travel Magazine.
- Recently the route for direct flights between Durban and Harare was launched as part of promoting regional integration in this sector.