DURBAN - WHILE the near future of tourism remains uncertain due to the continued Covid-19 lockdowns, Durban’s R200 million multi-user cruise terminal is set to be up and running by the next year-end tourist season.
Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) said the 9 000m² cruise terminal building was 90% complete and was expected to be commissioned in the next three months.
The Port of Durban’s general manager, Moshe Motlohi, said the project was expected to “substantially boost tourism numbers by making Durban an even more desirable destination for cruise ships from all over the world, helping to create local jobs and lead to local supplier development”.
“Once it does come on-stream, the terminal will transform the port experience for cruise passengers. It will also appeal beyond the cruise sector thanks to its contemporary feel, retail offering, improved energy efficiency, as well as flexible space for conferences and events,” said Motlohi.
He said the cruise industry was the fastest growing category in the global leisure travel market, which was the key motivation for TNPA’s decision to build a dedicated cruise terminal.
Erected between Pier A and B, the project, funded by MSC, was initially scheduled to be completed by January. The eight-month delay was attributed to the Covid-19 lockdowns that began in March last year.
The KwaZulu Cruise Terminal consortium, in partnership with the South African chapter of MSC Cruises and empowerment investment entity Africa Armada Consortium, were brought in by TNPA for the design, development, financing, construction, operation and maintenance over a 25-year term.
The new terminal aligns with the city’s Point Waterfront and uShaka Marine World, linking to the South Beach promenade, and will operate on a seasonal basis in line with cruise-liner schedules.
It has been developed as a multipurpose facility that will also be used as a venue for meetings, conference and exhibitions.
It comprises retail and entertainment facilities, including bars and restaurants, a tourism kiosk and a curio/flea market section.
About 5 000 to 6 000 passengers would be handled at any time, allowing them access and connections to the central beachfront with relative ease and safety.
City spokesperson Mandla Nsele said: “The city is elated at this investment as it will ensure the city will not only retain its status as one of the country’s leading cruise ports but also create thousands of jobs through the multiplier effect.”
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if the rate of Covid-19 infections will have eased and economic activity reopened by the next festive season tourism period.
Professor Irrshad Kaseeram, an economist based at the University of Zululand, said tourism and associated industries were currently in limbo as a result of the adjusted level 4 lockdown, which restricted leisure travel, tightened the curfew to 9pm until 4am and banned alcohol sales.
Because tourism was considered a workhorse for the country and province’s economic growth, said Kaseeram, any further extension of the current lockdown would be the final nail in the coffin for the once-thriving sector.
“Since the early 1990s, the services sector, which includes restaurants, hotels, tourism and travel, has made a significant contribution to the GDP.
“If we consider the pre-Covid-19 period in 2019, the tourism and travel industry contributed 8.7% to the GDP. Tourism is considered to be the economic growth workhorse,” he said.
“Moreover, globally it is one of the largest industries that is labour intensive and brings in much-needed foreign exchange. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism in South Africa directly employs more people than the mining and communication services, automotive manufacturing, and chemicals manufacturing sectors,” said Kaseeram.