Durban hotels forced to close because of crime

Beach Hotel, in a prime spot on the beachfront, has had to be converted into a students’ residence because of low booking demands. | Willem Phungula

Beach Hotel, in a prime spot on the beachfront, has had to be converted into a students’ residence because of low booking demands. | Willem Phungula

Published Apr 19, 2024


Durban — The closure of the iconic Durban Funworld, a beachfront amusement park, and the scourge of crime have driven tourists away from Durban, collapsing the hospitality industry, business owners say.

Tourism is regarded as the main driver of Durban’s economy which boosts the City’s revenue collection.

Speaking to the Daily News during a visit by the DA’s election team on Thursday, businesses alongside the City’s central beach who were benefiting from the closed facility, said their businesses were negatively impacted by the closure and the rising criminal activities.

The facility which was a tourism drawcard closed operations on May 1, last year. The owner Nic Steyn said after unsuccessfully trying to sell it for 12 years, he felt he should shut it down.

A hotel manager adjacent to the park who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being victimised said many hotels were planning to close down because it was no longer making business sense to continue operating while making a huge loss.

He said he was forced to slash his accommodation prices by almost half from R1 300 a night to just R700 because of lower demands for the accommodation.

“We are on the verge of closing down. If things don’t change the beachfront will be a ghost place. The hospitality industry in eThekwini is facing serious challenges. The closure of the facility and crime are the main contributors to the collapse of our industry,” said the manager.

The DA in KZN said its visit intended to witness first-hand the vast impact of the economic and jobs bloodbath caused by the governing ANC in eThekwini.

DA premier candidate Chris Pappas said he was sad to see the once beautiful and colourful facility was now a shadow of its former self, adding that the recreational facility, at the peak of its 75-year existence injected millions of Rand into the local economy and contributed immensely to local hospitality establishments.

He said that personal accounts from operators of local business establishments, traders, and hotels, paint a “heartbreaking, horrid reality” of the true state of eThekwini and KZN at large when it comes to jobs and the economy.

“Today (Thursday), revealed the sad story of this once proud city which now sees tourism declining, hotels being forced to lower their rates as occupancy rates dwindle, crime on the increase, families suffering and unable to put food on their tables due to low visitor numbers to the once thriving beachfront.

“The DA has a plan to create 300 000 real jobs, as outlined in our blueprint Provincial Manifesto. We also have a plan to ease the burden of finding work by connecting people with job opportunities through the establishment of a work-seekers transport allowance and an apprenticeship programme to facilitate skills transfer. We also have a plan to boost the local provincial economy by cutting red tape and encouraging investment,” said Pappas.

He promised to revive the Funworld if the DA was elected to government, blaming the City which he said turned down the offer from the owner to purchase the machine for R25 million.

Pappas said the City instead said it would revive the facility which will cost more than R200 million because it would have to start rebuilding it from scratch.

DA premier candidate Chris Pappas inspecting the toilet which businesses said has been turned into drug den by vagrants. | Willem Phungula

Besides the closure of the facility, businesses said crime was the major contributor to the collapse of their businesses. They lambasted eThekwini Metro police for failing to stop crime taking place at a toilet that is a few metres away from their satellite police station.

According to concerned business owners, a wooden structure surrounding a toilet that was built for informal traders has allegedly been turned into a drug den by vagrants.

The toilet was vandalised and had an unbearable stench of urine. Inside and outside the toilet there were pieces of syringes that traders said were used by drug addicts.

“We have a problem here. Crime is taking place while the police are watching. We are failing to understand how this is happening. We have reported this to them, but they did nothing to stop it,” said a concerned stall owner.

Businesses said because of crime, tourists had stopped visiting the area, which led to a collapse of their businesses.

Pieces of injections which drug addicts use to consume drugs are scattered around the toilet. | Willem Phungula

Another hawker who spoke on condition of anonymity said she used to make R6 000 in a good week, but was now taking home less than R100 because tourists were now avoiding the area and going to Suncoast Casino and uShaka Marine World because of safety issues.

A hotel manager adjacent to the metro police satellite station said besides losing businesses because of the closure of the popular Funworld entertainment facility, the main reason driving tourists away was crime.

He showed the DA delegation a hotel next to his that had been converted into student residences because it no longer made business sense for it to stay as a hotel since there were no more bookings.

Metro police spokesperson Colonel Boysie Zungu said he would investigate and comment after the probe has been completed.

The Durban Metro police satellite station on the Durban beachfront. | Willem Phungula.

However, eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said crime-fighting plans were being implemented by the SAPS.

On the closure of the Funworld facility, she said it was the decision of the operator who wrote to the municipality, informing it that the month-to-month lease with the municipality would be cancelled.

“The property is owned by the municipality and was leased to Funworld. The lease expired in 2017 and has been month-to-month since then. We are currently in the evaluation phase and anticipate to finalise the procurement process by June 2024.

“Information pertaining to crime-related matters must be referred to the SAPS for specific details on the various crime categories, ie: rape, robbery, theft, hijackings, etc. and related crime-combating interventions,” said Sisilana.

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