A new direct British Airways flight route from Heathrow to Durban is expected to bolster KwaZulu-Natal’s (KZN) ambitious bid to position itself as the leading tourism destination on the African continent.
The new route was announced by the province’s tourism MEC Sihle Zikalala, at an event held at the Hilton Durban prior to the start of Africa’s Travel Indaba on Tuesday morning.
Zikalala enthused that the direct route from Heathrow to Durban, which will start later this year, would bolster the province’s strategy to increase business and leisure tourism. He added that the province would put billions into pipeline tourism investment projects over the next four years.
“By 2022 we want to achieve at least a R65-billion investment into different tourism projects. Among those, we want to ensure that we create jobs. Ours remains a task of ensuring economic growth, distribution and creation of jobs,” said Zikalala.
“It gives me immense pleasure to announce that as we are here this morning, British Airways has announced its decision to fly directly from London Heathrow Airport to King Shaka International Airport. In tourism we believe this will be the announcement of the year,” said Zikalala to applause. “It is one of the major announcements this year. I thank the British Airways team lead by Ms Sue Patery.”
According to Patery, the first direct flight will take off from Heathrow and land in Durban on October 29 2018.
“British Airways has been increasing its footprint in Africa over the last 18 months. We’ve increased our capacity into Cape Town and recently we have started to fly from the Seychelles. We are constantly assessing new routes and Durban came up, and our team has been liaising with Dube Trade Port. We’re so excited to announce three flights a week from Durban to Heathrow,” said Patery.
One pipeline project Zikalala highlighted was boosting the Dube Trade Port precinct, which includes King Shaka International Airport. Other tourism projects include developing and upgrading resorts and hotels. In total they will create about 17 000 jobs; 11 000 will be construction phase jobs, while 6 700 will be permanent.
A mixed-used industrial, commercial and residential development worth R25-billion north of Durban is also in the pipeline.
“The Dube Trade Port will combine an international airport, a dedicated cargo terminal, houses, offices, retail, hotel and agricultural facilities. The development earmarked for the trade port stands at R13-billion,” said Zikalala.
Other developments include the R1.2-billion upgrade of the Warwick Precinct. “The Citrum Government Precinct development, which is going to be located here (in Durban) will be around R9.3-billion and will include an extension of the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre. Durban is already Africa’s leading cruise destination, with our plan to develop the cruise terminal, and this project is commencing with a value of R250-million,” he said.
Zikalala said the province wanted to increase foreign arrivals to KwaZulu-Natal as part of its strategy to lead tourism in Africa. He said there was also a need to empower smaller operators in the industry.
“We want to ensure that KwaZulu-Natal domestic tourism is shared and ensure that those in small enterprises benefit. But we also want to ensure that people who live here know the province. If you look at other countries, especially China, 90% of the people who visit the Great Wall of China are from China herself and that is what we want to achieve with our tourism. Lastly, we want to increase the tourism spread,” said Zikalala.
Zikalala said tourism was one of the growing industries in KwaZulu-Natal and contributed 9% to the GDP of the country.
“It is one of the sectors the South African government is growing, to respond to the challenge of poverty and the sluggish economic growth. Despite the economic challenges that have characterised the past decade, tourism has not been affected; it has always been growing, it has not shed jobs,” he said.
Chief executive of South African Tourism Sisa Ntshona said there was large scope for tourism growth in South Africa.
“World tourism grew by 7% last year and South Africa has less than 1% of (global) market share. We want to grow that space quite significantly. ‘5 on 5’ is a plan we have for ourselves so that in the next five years we have another five million people arriving in South Africa. Now that we have that plan, we need to be very deliberate in terms of where do we make investments, so things like direct airline connectivity are helpful. We want to shine a light on areas like KwaZulu-Natal,” said Ntshona.