Durban - Sihle Zikalala, Premier of KwaZulu-Natal said that the tourism sector is expected to benefit significantly from the recent return to Durban’s King Shaka International Airport of both South African Airways (SAA) and Qatar Airways, a development that will boost the province’s economic recovery.
This comes after the announcement made by SAA that its first scheduled flight will take off from OR Tambo International to King Shaka International on March 4.
SAA said it will fly the route seven days a week at least three times a day on a return service between the two cities.
The return of SAA to King Shaka Airport comes shortly after the the resumption of Qatar Airways flights out of Durban.
Qatar Airways resumed flying from KZN on January 14 with an initial frequency of four flights a week.
Reacting to the development, Zikalala said the resumption of flights by both carriers would benefit the province’s tourism sector, which remained one of the greatest creators of employment in the economy of KZN.
“Through our Economic Recovery, Reconstruction and Transformation Plan we have stated our commitment to increasing trade, tourism and beneficial collaboration with the rest of the world. Efficient and regular aviation services are necessary if we are to increase visits to our province, to grow tourism numbers and to create jobs up and down the value-chain.
“We wish to welcome the return of Qatar Airways to Durban following it’s withdrawal ahead of the festive season over Covid-19 related health and safety concerns. Direct links to mid-hemisphere hubs such as Doha in the Gulf region bring the world closer by providing easy access to the global capitals of the world. This uptick in tourism numbers, which is directly related to aviation links, can only mean that KZN is truly on the rise, and that better things will come in 2022,” he said.
Zikalala added that SAA was a major global brand in the aviation, travel and tourism industry, and it remained recognisable to tourists and visitors wanting to visit the country from many parts of the world. By returning to KZN, SAA will increase air links to the province by adding the number of airlines choosing to connect to destinations in KZN.
Ravi Pillay, MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs said that air transport was key to advancing economic growth of the province.
“We welcome the reintroduction of SAA flights between Durban and Johannesburg. This is crucial in growing our economy and domestic capacity on the essential Gauteng and KZN route. This announcement comes straight after positive tourism numbers during the festive season which were anchored on high occupancy rates of around 80% during the Christmas week,” said Pillay.
He added that provincial government had worked hard to address the negative impact on the KZN economy caused by disruption in connectivity resulting from the grounding of many airlines, including SAA.
Pillay further stated that Qatar Airways provides KZN with connectivity to over 150 markets around the world.