Surf’s up on coastal play­grounds

Durban bat­tling wave of bad news, Cape Town set for re­bound


● Crime and over­crowded beaches dur­ing peak pe­ri­ods are mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for Durban to project it­self as a secure and re­laxed des­ti­na­tion — mean­ing many ho­tel beds are likely to be empty over the Christ­mas and New Year break.

In Cape Town, how­ever, the tourism in­dus­try is pre­par­ing for a re­bound af­ter the drought kept visitors away in 2017.

Neg­a­tive per­cep­tions about the Durban beach­front meant ho­tels there were likely to strug­gle to fill beds, said Charles Preece, east coast spokesper­son for the Fed­er­ated Hos­pi­tal­ity As­so­ci­a­tion of South­ern Africa (Fed­hasa). “Year by year it is be­com­ing harder to fill the big beach­front ho­tels,” he said, ad­ding that a re­cent TV re­port about some beaches be­ing lit­tered with used nee­dles and shards of bro­ken glass from bot­tles smashed to make crack pipes had not helped.

eThek­wini mu­nic­i­pal spokesper­son Msawakhe Mayisela said a non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that had been dis­tribut­ing nee­dles to drug ad­dicts in an at­tempt to pre­vent them shar­ing had stopped do­ing so af­ter an ul­ti­ma­tum from the city coun­cil.

Mayisela said 340 ad­di­tional guards would be de­ployed at the cen­tral beach­front over the fes­tive sea­son, but Preece said over­crowd­ing on cer­tain days also de­terred tourists from stay­ing in beach­front ho­tels.

“Fam­i­lies pri­mar­ily look for a re­laxed and secure des­ti­na­tion for their va­ca­tion. The Durban beach­front is strug­gling to project it­self as such, even though the ho­tels them­selves give their very best to ensure that their guests are com­fort­able, safe and secure,” he said.

Ho­tels and re­sorts in the Drak­ens­berg and along the south and north coast, how­ever, were do­ing brisk busi­ness.

“The Drak­ens­berg gets stronger oc­cu­pancy lev­els by the year. The south and north coast are very busy. Zu­l­u­land is also go­ing to do well. All of these ar­eas will run around 90% oc­cu­pancy for the hol­i­day pe­riod,” Preece said.

Tourism KwaZulu-Natal act­ing CEO Phindile Mak­wakwa said the au­thor­ity had noted the con­tents of the Carte Blanche pro­gramme about drug use on beaches.

“We are tak­ing all the is­sues raised on the show very se­ri­ously.

“We are en­gag­ing with the prov­ince and the city to take steps to­wards re­solv­ing some of the is­sues raised.”

Mak­wakwa re­mained pos­i­tive about how the prov­ince and Durban would fare over the hol­i­days. “Our pro­jec­tions are show­ing a healthy fes­tive sea­son, with a pro­jected in­crease in in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals.

“Do­mes­tic tourism has over the years taken a knock with the cur­rent eco­nomic sta­tus of the coun­try and high petrol prices.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mak­wakwa, the prov­ince was ex­pect­ing 700,000 do­mes­tic trav­ellers and at least 132,000 in­ter­na­tional visitors over the fes­tive sea­son.

She said Bri­tish Air­ways’ di­rect flights be­tween Durban and the UK would pro­vide a ma­jor boost in in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals.

Rob Collins, Sun In­ter­na­tional Group’s chief strat­egy and op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer, said oc­cu­pancy at Sibaya Lodge, north of Durban, was es­ti­mated at 77% over De­cem­ber, while the Wild Coast Sun was at 90%.

Tsogo Sun’s Elan­geni & Ma­ha­rani are at 63% oc­cu­pancy for the year and the com­pany is pro­ject­ing 80% over De­cem­ber.

Saman­tha Croft, Tsogo Sun’s KwaZu­luNatal op­er­a­tions direc­tor, said, “Tsogo Sun is still re­ceiv­ing book­ings for the fes­tive sea­son and there­fore can­not com­ment on oc­cu­pancy fig­ures.”

News of Cape Town’s am­ple win­ter rain­fall, which has left the city’s dams twice as full as they were a year ago, had reached the tourist mar­ket, said Fed­hasa Cape Town chair­per­son Jeff Rosen­berg.

Cape Town Tourism CEO En­ver Du­miny said in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals were ex­pected to ex­ceed last De­cem­ber’s total of 127,300.

A year ago, do­mes­tic ar­rivals at Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Air­port were down 2% as the drought kept tourists away. Rosen­berg said: “We are gear­ing up for a busy hol­i­day sea­son, es­pe­cially if we com­pare it to last year — a pe­riod marred by drought and political un­cer­tain­ties. The in­dus­try couldn’t be hap­pier.”

The City of Cape Town said it was de­ploy­ing more than 1,300 law en­force­ment of­fi­cers and traf­fic po­lice to mon­i­tor roads, beaches and pop­u­lar tourist sites. Around 300 life­guards would be on duty at beaches.

Gar­den Route towns are also brac­ing for an in­flux, with Mos­sel Bay ready for more than 200,000 visitors, Ge­orge ex­pect­ing traf­fic vol­umes to triple and Plet­ten­berg Bay pre­par­ing for its pop­u­la­tion to more than dou­ble thanks mainly to an in­flux of Gaut­eng hol­i­day­mak­ers.

Ge­orge Tourism man­ager Joan Shaw said she ex­pected tourist num­bers to be slightly lower than a year ago due to the re­cent Gar­den Route fires.

She es­ti­mated vis­i­tor vol­umes for Ge­orge at about 100,000, with beach vil­lages such as Wilder­ness, Vic­to­ria Bay and Herold’s Bay re­main­ing the most pop­u­lar choices. Plet­ten­berg Bay is ex­pect­ing about 50,000 visitors.

Fam­i­lies look for a re­laxed and secure des­ti­na­tion. The Durban beach­front is strug­gling to project it­self as such

Charles Preece

Fed­hasa east coast spokesper­son

Pic­ture: Jackie Clausen

Mer­maid Thalia Sk­lair caused a stir with hol­i­day­mak­ers when she ‘washed up’ on Durban’s Umh­langa beach this week, but a re­cent TV re­port about some beaches be­ing lit­tered with heroin nee­dles and bro­ken glass is dim­ming the al­lure of the city’s beaches.

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