AN aerial view of the Suncoast complex.
DURBAN -  KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), represented by the Durban KwaZulu-Natal Convention Bureau(Durban KZN CB) (CB), is preparing to take part in Meetings Africa to continue its work in positioning the region as a top business tourism destination.

Meetings Africa will this year be held in Sandton from tomorrow to Wednesday (February 25-27. 

The Durban KwaZulu-Natal Convention Bureau is a special division of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN). TKZN acting chief executive Phindile Makwakwa said they were hoping to convince these incentive business buyers and top decision-makers to bring their next international conferences and meetings to KZN. 

“Our previous engagements at such important platforms have proved successful, resulting in KZN hosting such major global conferences as the World Aids Conference, which we have hosted twice,” said Makwakwa. 

The Durban KZN CB said it would also be reminding delegates and international visitors that Durban and KZN would be hosting the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Meetings Programme at the Durban International Convention Centre, 
from June 18-20. 

The entity said business tourism was a global multibillion-rand/dollar industry, sustaining more than 60 million jobs. In South Africa, it is said to be contributing more than R115 billion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and creating almost 252 000 direct and indirect jobs. 

And it is worth R3bn a year in KZN, sustaining almost 24 000 jobs

Tourism accommodation data released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) showed a tiny R6.4 million dip in income from accommodation to R24.96 billionbn in 2018 from 2017, even as overseas tourist numbers eased by 1.6 percent year-on-year (y/y) in the first eleven11 months of 2018. The good news for KZN tourism establishments is that the drop in overseas tourists seems to have been more than offset by a rise in domestic tourism, as Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) shows that King Shaka domestic arrivals grew by 6.7 %percent in 2018.

In addition, King Shaka will enjoy more international traffic as British Airways (BA) now has three flights a week between London and Durban so the y/y increase in international arrivals accelerated to 14.6% percent in December from 13.8% percent in November and only 4.6% percent in October, when the new service started.          
BA said that Durban and KwaZulu-Natal areKZN were amongst the most attractive destinations to their overseas customers.

The airline’s commercial manager for Southern Africa, Sue Petrie, said while she could not comment on BA’s load-factors on their operations since they opened their direct flight from Durban to London over three months ago, Durban, KZN and South Africa were very attractive destinations for their customers.

The ACSA December data also shows that the number of international arrivals at South Africa’s airports grew by 2.0 percent y/y, but this number also includes South African residents returning from holiday. The number of South African tourists visiting Mauritius, for instance grew by 12.6% percent y/y in December 2018. Stats SA will release the December 2018 tourism data on February 25.

South Africa is still suffering from the misguided imposition of more stringent visa requirements imposed in October 2014, which means that the number of overseas tourists only increased by 2.0 %percent since 2013, whereas global tourism numbers 
grew by 21.5 percent over the same period. 

If South Africa had maintained its market share at the 2013 level, then more than half a million more overseas tourists would have visited South Africa in 2017.          The announcement in the February 7 State of the Nation Address of a move to an “evisa ” regime to encourage tourism may result in increased international passenger numbers in the future. The government has set the target of reaching 21 million tourists by 2030 from around 10 million currently. The government aims to implement a world-class eVisa regime whereby prospective visitors will be able to apply for eVisa’s online, and print the approved eVisa from the convenience of their homes.          

Tourism bodies have welcomed the news of the new eVisa that would make it easier for tourists to visit South Africa as they aim to regain lost ground. This will be most evident in this year’s Africa Travel Indaba that will be hosted one week earlier than normal due to the May 8 election, as the Durban Convention Centre is the KZN election nerve centre.