Sbu Mfeka Economic Development and Environmental Affairs MEC, Sihle Zikalala says tourism is critical intervention to boost economy
KZN celebrates World Tourism Day
October 10, 2018
Durban, South Africa: As countries around the globe celebrate World Tourism Day on September 27, the KwaZulu-Natal’s tourism industry has good reason to reflect on the importance-and success-of the sector, which is boosting the economy.
World Tourism Day is an initiative of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) that has been adopted by South Africa and focuses on the importance of tourism to the local economy.
The special awareness day is celebrated under this year’s theme of “Tourism and Digital Transformation.”
Against a background of aggressive domestic marketing campaigns by both Tourism KZN and South African Tourism, tourism is earmarked to continue growing,, boosting the local economies and creating more sustainable jobs.
And the numbers are set to soar even more with the launch of the long-awaited direct British Airways flights between King Shaka International Airport, Durban, and London’s Heathrow at the end of next month.
British Airways will be using its latest airline for the three weekly flights, the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.
The United Kingdom is KZN’s biggest source market and the direct flights have been re-introduced after an absence of more than a decade.
Tourism KZN , in the past week has participated at World Routes, the global meeting place for every airline, airport and aviation stakeholder where discussions on developing more direct airline routes to King Shaka International Airport are held.
Sihle Zikalala, MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, revealed in his budget speech earlier this year that the focus now is to attract new flight routes to other markets: Germany and India.
The latest statistics revealed that KZN had received 7.3% of the 2.8 million international trips to the country in the first three months of the year, which amounted to 205 592 trips, which was a 5.5% increase on the previous year. These visitors boosted the local economy by some R1.3-billion rand.
According to statistics releases by South African Tourism , almost half a million domestic visitors chose to KZN for their holidays, compared to the same period last year.
Aggressive campaigns by TKZN, including bringing international travel agents to see the sights and the value-for-money offerings for themselves-has also laid the groundwork for boosting tourist arrivals for the province, which the MEC described as “the jewel of South African tourism.”
The National Development Plan had identified tourism as a critical industry for inclusive growth and job creation, the MEC said.
“We must never lose sight of the fact that tourism is a vitally important and growing sector that can create sustainable jobs for fellow South Africans”
“We are determined as a provincial government to bring in more people from previously disadvantaged groups –black women and the youth in particular-to get an equitable stake in this important industry,” he said.
At the Lilizela Tourism Awards held recently in Underberg, he called on the industry to work harder to diversity the tourism products on offer and make them more affordable for the domestic market.
One local attraction that is proving increasingly popular with both domestic and international visitors is the Nelson Mandela Capture Site at Howick, is currently undergoing a major revamp which is to be completed by the end of the year.
In the year that the country commemorates the birth of President Mandela, the MEC has called on the industry to take their tourists to celebrate Mandela’s footsteps in KZN, which starts at the Luthuli Museum in Groutville (where they will learn about the legacy of Chief Albert Luthuli and the liberation struggle), visit the Ohlange Institute (where Nelson Mandela cast his vote in the first democratic elections of 1994) and concluding their visit to the Mandela Capture site.
From 24th to the 30th, South Africans can enjoy the biggest sale on flights, accommodation and tourism products as part of the first ever Sho’t Left Travel Week.
Phindile Makwakwa, the Acting chief executive of Tourism KZN, said it was a ground-breaking initiative that will see a host of trade partners, airlines, hotel groups and tour operators offering discounts during the week.
“We have discounts on flights, accommodation, experiences and loads more. Participating tourism businesses will be offering travel packages with discounts of up to 50% off.”
More than 234 local tourism businesses from across the country, including Tsogo Sun, Sun International and City Lodge, Kulula & Thompsons, have registered to participate by offering travel packages for all South Africans to enjoy.
“With the school holidays coming, there never been a better time than now to explore your own country, and creating new memories,” Makwakwa said.
About digital transformation, she urged travel operators, vendors and agents that it was imperative they embraced it. “Any business which failed to embrace it and did not have one of the many platforms that were available, or Wi-Fi or a website, would be left behind.
“Technology has revolutionised the tourism industry and the sector can grow even faster in the digital age when potential visitors are able to find out what the KZN industry has to offer-our accommodation, attractions, experiences and culture- simply with the click of a button.
“We have got to be prepared,” she said, advising those who might still be left behind to up their game and get connected.
TKZN has also made great strides in technology and recently released a free KZN Travel Guide App, that is proving very useful and popular, enabling visitors to navigate their way around the province with ease.
Tourists are able to find locations, attractions, events, directions and contact details on their mobile devices, while qualifying tourism businesses are able to be included in the App’s directory for free, giving them a unique opportunity to reach potential tourists.