OPINION: We have recently launched the “My Heritage My City Campaign”, a noble initiative that seeks to encourage all South Africans to rediscover Durban. We are aggressively promoting quite a number of tourist attractions that our tourists have never explored, writes Mxolisi Kaunda.
As we have wrapped up September, the “Tourism Month”, I thought it would be very remiss of me as the mayor of the eThekwini Municipality not to extend my gratitude to South Africans who never miss an opportunity to visit our city.
Whether it is for the winter or summer holidays, to them our city tops the list of tourist destinations. Even during long weekends all roads seem to be leading to eThekwini. Indeed, we are very humbled with this, and you will eternally be indispensable for this city to keep its head above water during these turbulent times.
Like any city in the world, we have not been spared the scourge of Covid-19. We also have a very sad story to tell about the negative impact this virus inflicted in this part of the country. It has been eye-watering to see establishments such as the Hilton Hotel closing shop. As a result, scores of people were left with no source of income, and the entire value chain has been disrupted.
The Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, which held the most conferences in the country, ceased to be a hive of activity. This after innumerable gatherings had to be cancelled as proceeding with them would have been inconsistent with Covid-19 regulations.
We have worked very hard to ensure that townships also have a share of the tourism pie. Max’s Lifestyle, Eyadini, Mashamplane’s Lounge, Blekes and many others are a living testimony to our efforts to grow township tourism. These eateries are livelihoods of many families in the townships where they are situated. It is very humbling that most of our tourists, especially those hailing from the northern provinces of Gauteng, Limpopo, Free State and Mpumalanga, would never go back home without visiting these eateries.
They spend a lot of money, a reason why they are still in existence to this day. During the hard lockdown they all had to close, depriving scores of people of their income. When the hard lockdown regulations were relaxed, we moved with speed and came up with a comprehensive economic recovery plan.
This plan comprised, among other things, rates holidays for these establishments, and funding. It is thrilling to see that such interventions from the city are now paying handsome dividends for the sector.
During the Easter holidays the number of tourists coming to our city soared. This resulted in a direct spend of over R1.5 billion, while more than R400 million was spent during the hard lockdown during the same period. Close to 10 000 job opportunities were created, while only 1 500 employment opportunities were created during a similar period.
This recent long weekend alone we saw our hotels being almost 100% occupied. The direct spend over the long weekend was R107m, contributing R265m to the Gross Domestic Product and creating approximately 570 temporary and long-term job opportunities.
This is a reason why we see the need to celebrate this development, considering the burden borne by the hospitality industry as a result of the coronavirus.
We are excited about adding to our fold another soccer team that is playing in the Premier Soccer League. The Royal AM is going to be based in Durban alongside Golden Arrows and Amazulu FC.
This means our city is now going to be home to many PSL games that will see tourists flocking to the city. Other than enjoying the game of football, they will also spend money in our hotels, restaurants and other tourists attractions.
This will in turn create economic opportunities that will definitely help us break the cycle of poverty in many families. It is against this background that as a sphere of government we see the need to give monetary support to these teams, because there is a huge return on this investment.
We have recently launched the “My Heritage My City Campaign”, a noble initiative that seeks to encourage all South Africans to rediscover Durban. We are aggressively promoting quite a number of tourist attractions that our tourists have never explored. We are saying that eThekwini is not only about the beaches and hotels. We also have areas where our tourists can hike and view game in our numerous small nature reserves.
Adrenalin junkies can also bungy jump at Moses Mabhida Stadium while enjoying our beautiful city sights from atop our famous arch, a striking design. I am not aware of any other city that can give a tourist the opportunity to enjoy a sea breeze while on horseback.
EThekwini is open for business, and we invite all our tourists to continue to be our tourism ambassadors. The people of eThekwini will continue to be hospitable at all times, and make every holiday a memorable one.
* Kaunda is the Mayor of eThekwini Municipality.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.