KZN ‘not selling itself’
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Tourism bodies have been accused of failing to attract foreigners to KwaZulu-Natal – which has a knock-on effect on the job creation sector, especially for unskilled workers.
Poor marketing led to tourists flocking to Cape Town and Gauteng, to the detriment of the local economy, business executives heard in Durban on Wednesday.
Ahmed Bassa, an aeronautical executive at Dube Tradeport, addressing captains of industry at a Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast briefing on Wednesday, presented a study conducted by Dube Tradeport on international passenger demand from the Durban area that showed that King Shaka International Airport (KSIA) could be a profitable base for international airlines wanting to tap into the African and Australasian markets.
However, Bassa said that airline companies were reluctant to fly to Durban as their passengers preferred flying to Cape Town and Johannesburg – regions that they had knowledge about.
He said that Cape Town, which had less to offer tourists than KZN, attracted more people – only because it was marketed better. This was a “major challenge”, he added.
Responding, Durban Tourism said it had come to the same conclusions as Bassa, and a provincial government spokesman said the criticism was unfair, pointing to research released this week which predicted that Durban would become the fastest-growing tourism city in Africa.
This is not the first time the issue of the province’s untapped potential has been raised.
In March, President Jacob Zuma, speaking at the launch of the second phase of the Dube Tradeport, criticised the airport for not marketing itself more aggressively, saying he had not “heard the right noises” about the airport.
Cosatu’ provincial general secretary, Zet Luzipho, said today the issue of jobs and tourism had been raised for many years with Tourism KZN and to date nothing had materialised.
“The marketing strategy of tourism in KZN needs to be urgently reviewed.
“The present strategy is too conventional. We need to look at more unconventional ways of attracting tourists to the province,” Luzipho said.
He said the poor marketing of the province had impacted on job creation.
“It has impacted greatly. It is obvious that the more tourists that come in, the more jobs will be created. We have a beautiful province but not enough creative minds to put it on the map.”
Bassa said that during the SA Tourism Indaba held recently in Durban, he had spoken to a Swedish airline executive whose company flew up to three flights a week to Cape Town during the South African summer.
“That is criminal,” he said. “Why don’t they come here?” I asked him and he said he never knew Durban existed until he was invited to attend the Indaba.
“I asked him who determines where they fly, and he said their passengers. And his passengers know Cape Town because Cape Town is visible. Cape Town is marketed.”
Concerns over the feasibility of the multibillion-rand King Shaka International Airport have been raised as Emirates, with its daily flight to and from Dubai, is the only international airline that has made a long-term commitment to KSIA.
Earlier this year, Air Mauritius announced it would be cancelling its twice-weekly flight from KSIA from October.
Bassa said that tourism bodies needed to aggressively market KZN and give international airlines incentives to fly passengers through Durban, by working with hoteliers to offer free nights.
“The authorities feel that if we put a cable car into the Drakensberg mountains, people will come,” he said. “It is not going to happen. You need to get out there and you need to market.”
Of concern to him, Bassa said, was that KZN was not featured in Emirates’ influential holiday destination magazine for 2012.
“Emirates has 15 million people who use them for holidays. They are Koreans and Japanese.
“They are people who want to spend money to see the world,” he said.
“They don’t come to Durban because Durban is not in Emirates’ (holiday book). Emirates cannot tell the world about Durban, because people in Durban don’t tell the world about Durban. So we have a major challenge.”
KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism spokesman, Bheko Madlala disagreed, saying that Durban had been predicted to be the fastest-growing tourism city in Africa this year, and one of the fastest-growing tourism destinations in the world, according to the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index released on Monday.
Warren Ozard, East Coast operations Manager for the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa) said that Cape Town and the Kruger National Park were all very easy to market, because they had been well-known overseas for years.
“It’s not easy to sell KZN even though we have all these great elements, because historically we are not well known overseas,” he said.
He said that SA Tourism had focused on marketing SA as a country, so KZN sometimes fell by the wayside.
“We are all trying, on the ground, to do our very best,” he said.
Andrew Layman, CEO of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that KZN got the short end of the stick when the country is marketed to the world.
“One of the issues that is frequently raised when the tourism levies are paid to the national body, they do marketing of the country, they seem to focus on other areas of the country to the detriment of Durban...,” Layman said.
“It is quite clear that Durban Tourism and KZN Tourism (are) not doing enough.
“Or, perhaps it may be true to say that they are not always doing it in a way that the private sector thinks they should be doing it.”
Phillip Sithole, CEO of Durban Tourism, said that their own research backed up Bassa’s views.
But, the city had embarked on a R20 million campaign with National Geographic to market Durban to the world, he said.
“We know what he is saying,” Sithole said.
“We have done our research and have come to the same conclusions.
At the time of going to press, Tourism KZN had not responded to questions put by the Daily News.