DURBAN - The KwaZulu-Natal tourism sector has pulled up its sleeves and overcome the challenges of 2021 dominated by Covid-19, civil unrest in July and the red listing of South Africa over an Omicron variant squabble.
As the fourth wave of infections swept through the province during the festive period, hurting the damaged sector even further, Premier Sihle Zikalala said on Saturday that there were positive signs of buoyancy in the industry.
Zikalala was delivering the festive season’s preliminary economic and tourism indicators along with MEC for Economic Development Ravi Pillay.
World Travel & Tourism Council occupancy rates across KZN indicated that the tourism sector survived yet another difficult year although the country lost an estimated R790 million a month in visitor spend while being listed on the UK’s red list earlier in the year.
Both the north and south coast of KZN contributed significantly to the influx of tourists. Figures showed that the iLembe and Ugu district municipalities were at 77% and 75% occupancy from 16-23 December.
The province’s only metro area, eThekwini, posted an occupancy rate of 74%, while KZN’s overall occupancy rate came in at 64% for the same period. Tollgate statistics from Tourism KZN show that 497,017 vehicles travelled into the province via the N3.
The Premier said that the projected economic impact for the festive season stood at R1.5 billion.
He said vaccinations remained a priority as it would speed up the country’s recovery, post Covid-19.
“The industry by and large is still hurting as we continue to battle the pandemic. However, we are encouraged by positive signs of buoyancy on our tourism economy as we will detail in the short term. We noted that on the Christmas weekend alone some parts of the province recorded hotel occupancies of over 80%, especially in Durban and iLembe District.
“We must commend the South African Tourism sector as a whole, for demonstrating resilience even during these uncertain and fast changing times. The unpredictability of the global coronavirus conditions, and other prevailing trends, have made it difficult for the tourism sector to make firm predictions on how the sector would perform during this season.
“While we welcome the tourism green shoots for the current period, we need to do more around our vaccination programme because this is what will make our recovery complete and save lives. To attract international and local visitors to our province we need to get all our citizens vaccinated for their own safety and to drive our province’s economic recovery,” Zikalala said.
MEC Pillay said the results did not come by accident and that indicators in place show that the sector is in a recovery.
“We are a resilient people, nothing can keep us down. Our December period looks good. It happened because a lot of people put in hard work, especially the tourism sector and we pay tribute to them for their resilience,” Pillay added.