Phindile Makwakwa is the acting chief executive of Tourism KZN. Image: Supplied.
DURBAN - October 30 is a big day for the Province of KwaZulu-Natal when we welcome the arrival of British Airway’s direct flight from London’s Heathrow Airport to Durban’s King Shaka International Airport (KSIA), and with it the opening up of Durban as a globally connected city.

Although the province already has regional and international airlines flying into KSIA and is well served by domestic airlines - there has long been a missing link: a direct flight between Durban and London.

But at 5.35am on Tuesday that gap will be filled when British Airways introduces its non-stop route between Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and KSIA.

When BA’s newest plane, the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, touches down it will be the first of three weekly flights, thereby increasing the region’s global connectivity and reach.

KwaZulu-Natal has been on an aggressive drive to increase its air connectivity, unlocking the province’s economic growth potential, as it enables us to attract business investment, human capital and tourism which is vital to KZN’s economic prosperity.

BA has already indicated that inward-bound bookings are looking extremely good and that has been welcomed by the local tourism and business sectors which are predicting a boom in holiday and business visitors into the province and an increase in bilateral trade and airfreight volumes between Durban and London and beyond.

Some 100 000 people fly indirectly between Durban and London every year, but now they will have the option of flying direct, getting their destination on the same day-and saving at least three hours that they had previously spent waiting for their connecting flights.

Our long-awaited and much-anticipated direct flights will establish real economic connections and enable real flows of people and ideas between cities. The hospitality and business community-and the public-have long hankered for a route that will connect London to Durban.

The province’s airline routes strategy is certainly bearing fruits.

For the past nine years Emirates Airlines has been operating a very popular route from Durban to Dubai-and onwards, arriving in the region even before the move to King Shaka International Airport. 

In addition to Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Air Mauritius, Air Namibia and Proflight Zambia also fly into Durban.  Robust negotiations are underway to woo even more airlines to fly direct to Durban, further opening up the city to the world and allowing ease of destination access to millions of tourists globally. 

Since 2010 the new state-of-the-art, award-winning KSIA has bolstered the province’s strategy to increase business and leisure tourism. 

We are certainly intensifying our campaign to attract more airlines to our coastal city and the latest statistics reveal that some 2 000 more international tourists arrived at KSIA in the first three months of the year compared to the same period last year.

This global air activity is being boosted by major infrastructure development projects that are both underway and in the pipeline which will change the face of Durban and indeed the entire province of KwaZulu-Natal. By 2022 will there will be no fewer than R60 billion worth of tourism investments, greatly boosting job and business opportunities in the sector. 

Our enhanced global connectivity combined with the diversification of our tourism offerings is definitely propelling us towards greater economic growth. The future has never looked brighter.

Phindile Makwakwa is the acting chief executive of Tourism KZN.