KICKING OFF TOURISM MONTH WITH A SPLASH
The launch of the revamped Midmar Dam Resort, one of the forgotten treasures of the Midlands, was a fitting way to kick off Tourism Month with a splash last Thursday.
Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, in partnership with the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, is reigniting the province's tourism programme this month under the theme ‘Rethink tourism’.
The start of Tourism Month, focusing on rebuilding the tourism industry post Covid-19, coincided with the unveiling of the multi-million rand project to revamp the Midmar Dam Resort to its former glory and raise it to international standards.
Speaking at the tourism launch, EDTEA head of department Nhlakanipho Nkontwana said the province is well on the road to recovering tourism, noting that a large portion of tourists currently contributing to the industry's growth are locals.
"South African travellers and domestic tourists have learned of the sector's recovery and continue to be the backbone of our industry, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal.
"We need to produce exciting products to bring to the province. We are well on the road to recovery and we anticipate that we could beat our pre-Covid-19 tourism figures. These estimates give us an indication that what we are doing is right and we should continue in that path," he said. Hotel occupancy in the province is also showing an upward trend, and equal to what it was in 2019.
"In July, on average hotels, were 68% full and that is 4% higher than July 2019 before Covid-19 hit the country. This success didn't happen on its own, it is the outcome of the technical and strategic provincial tourism recovery plan and a concentrated effort by the tourism sector and marketing campaigns spearheaded by Tourism KZN," Nkontwana added.
uMngeni Tourism chairperson JP Prinsloo said they have some exciting things happening in the area.
"What we have done as a local tourism organisation is to look at our environment and see what we can do to add value to you as product holders.
"Our strategy is to create our own tourism nodes within the municipality and offer six different experiences from areas that have a unique offering. These include Hilton, Mpophomeni, Howick, Curry's Post, Karkloof as well as the Dargle and Nottingham Road area. Each of these areas has their unique identity," he said.
uMngeni Municipality Mayor Chris Pappas said tourism relies on maintaining clean and safe communities.
"We cannot have tourism if our communities are not clean, safe, modern and moving with the times, and if our rural areas are not accessible via good roads.
"We cannot have tourism if we don't get in front of modern marketing techniques. We need to remember that people who are impacted the most are our communities. We need to put the money where our mouth is as government," Pappas said.
District mayor Mziwokuthula Zuma said we should all be focusing on the economic recovery programme following the pandemic and the July unrest which ravaged the economy and caused stagnation in the economy.
"As a result the sector and the entire economy shed jobs. It is important that in that particular journey we converge in this particular way and say how do we collaborate to revive the sector and contribute towards getting it to a point where it can contribute meaningfully in the growth of the economy moving forward.
"The journey towards economic recovery will not only need the sector but it needs various sectors," said Zuma adding that they want to to get to a point where they are a manufacturing district.
He said when they get to that point they know that many people will be absorbed into the economy, more jobs will be created and will be able to deal with the many challenges faced by communities.