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Although tourism numbers to Durban have dropped recently, new tourism developments and lower airfares are expected to put the coastal city back on the map internationally.
Durban saw a drastic drop in visitor numbers over the past festive season. According to overall figures released by the Democratic Alliance, the 2017/ 2018 period showed 886 867 people coming to the city, down from 1 355 267 over 2015/ 2016 and 1 146 762 in 2016/ 2017. This is a decline of almost half a million people over just two years.
Angus Macmillan, Spokesperson for the City Lodge Hotel Group, says the hotel group’s experience is that travel to Durban has been steady over the past couple of years. He explains that the main focus for City Lodge has been Monday-to-Thursday business travellers. However, he reports leisure travel over holiday periods and weekends has been affected by the weak economy.
FlySafair’s Vice President of Sales and Distribution, Kirby Gordon, says the Acsa arrival stats show a very positive picture for Durban’s tourism numbers.
Gordon admits his view on growth out of and into Durban could be skewed because FlySafair has been on a dramatic growth trajectory in its own fleet and footprint. “We actually established Durban as a base of operations in October last year, which means that we have an aircraft that actually sleeps in Durban, and we now employ crew who live in Durban. What this means is that we’ve not only picked up on capacity from Johannesburg and Cape Town to Durban but in November last year we also started to operate between Durban and East London as well as Durban and Port Elizabeth. So, we’ve certainly seen value in the Durban market.”
Gordon adds that statistics show there has been a drop in the yearly price of flights into Durban, which should be stimulating demand for local travel.
Late last year, eThekwini Municipality launched a new marketing campaign called Discover Durban. It encapsulates the city’s unique attributes, identifying new routes and addressing the demands of the new traveller to Durban.
The city also has 25 catalytic projects in the pipeline, including the Point Waterfront Promenade Extension. Expected to be completed by September 2019, the promenade extension will include a mall, a hotel as well as restaurant facilities.
Transnet National Ports Authority has further concluded an agreement that will see KwaZulu Cruise Terminal (KCT) finance, construct and operate a new cruise terminal facility in the Port of Durban by October 2020.
A spokesperson for the Transnet National Ports Authority told Tourism Update the terminal would help attract the world’s top cruise liners. “It will bring in bigger vessels and extend the cruise season year-round. We envisage a substantial increase in vessel calls to Durban and passenger numbers in the medium term.” He said cruise calls were expected to increase from 60 to 150-plus by 2040, and passenger numbers to grow from 200 000 to over 700 000 in the same period.
The trade has welcomed the development. “The terminal will certainly be a welcome addition for South African cruise clients and will no doubt attract more international cruise lines to Durban,” says John. Angus comments: “There is no doubt that a cruise terminal would increase the number of visitors coming to Durban and KZN. We currently have four hotels in the greater Durban area and one in Richards Bay, so we would welcome this.”
Lastly, KZN will see the development of several beach resorts over the next couple of years. Abie Wentzel, Tourism KZN’s Acting General Manager for Tourism Development, told Tourism Update that although the resorts were expected to put Durban on the international map, domestic travellers would benefit too. Wentzel explained that internationally branded mixed-use resorts were very appealing to the domestic market, as they offered an all-inclusive experience.