Durban opens (jabbed) arms to visitors
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Have the jab and let’s get back to our normal lives.
That was the message from eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda at yesterday’s launch of the “My City My Heritage” campaign at uShaka Marine World as the city gears up for the tourism season amid urgent efforts to revitalise the local economy.
Expectation grew this week that President Cyril Ramaphosa would soon address the nation and ease lockdown restrictions to level 2. The president met provincial leaders this week as the third Covid wave of infections continued to subside across the country, along with hope that the long, dark winter of 2021 was over.
“Since 2020, we have had a major task to keep Durban in the minds of visitors, both national and international, and like many other tourist sites, we were impacted. We will be able to ride the storm and survive,” said Kaunda.
“We need to hit the ground together and to work together to promote Durban and its heritage. Today’s launch comes at a critical time and we have to come up with new ways to promote tourism. Let’s get the jab (Covid vaccination) and get back to our normal lives,” said Kaunda.
He added that with September being Heritage Month, it was time for residents to embrace all the diverse cultures and create “unity in diversity”. He also highlighted the creativity of people in Durban, such as the young team who designed the South African Olympic outfits.
“Despite the impact of Covid, today we are celebrating revitalising the tourism sector. We are ready to host visitors and events in a safe and secure environment,” said Kaunda.
In December 2020, Statistics South Africa reported that foreign tourists had dropped by 71% from 15.8 million in 2019 to less than 5 million in 2020 because of the Covid pandemic.
To make matters worse, the unrest in Durban during July had a dramatic impact on Durban as a tourism brand, with occupancy levels dropping by 31%. The actual economic impact on Durban was estimated to be a loss of 50 000 visitors, R110 million in direct spend and R280 million in tourism GDP, and 600 jobs. The city has since been introducing interventions to ensure a welcome and safe environment for visitors, particularly with increased visibility of law enforcement agencies at key tourism strategic points such as the beachfront, the airport and at shopping malls.
With many international borders still closed by the pandemic, local tourism and “getting to know your own country” has dominated tourism trends this year.
eThekwini Deputy Head of Tourism Winile Mtungwa said at yesterday’s launch that the My City, My Heritage campaign was set to resuscitate the economy with the introduction of new local tours, incorporating the rich diverse heritage of the city. These tours are not only for visitors, but also for locals to discover what Durban has to offer and become ambassadors for the city.
Mtungwa said: “Durban is ready, is open for business and is a safe travel destination. We have a fresh take on tourism in approaching the new normal and we have to stay relevant to keep tourism alive. We want the public to rediscover Durban through our rich heritage.”
She added that tourism was a key driver for Durban’s economy, but that focus remained on the domestic market. The planned new tours would include destinations in areas north, south, east and west of Durban, with residents from one area being encouraged to go out and explore parts of the city they had never been to before. The tours will include areas of cultural interest and will bring some hidden gems for locals to enjoy on the weekend, such as new trails with some spectacular scenery, according to Mtungwa.
“From there, we want our people to become ambassadors for Durban. There will also be the benefit for those connected to the tourism industry, such as artists, crafters, dancers and singers in the different areas,” she said.
Apart from community collaborations, the mayor had previously confirmed in August that tourism partnerships with global entities were being strengthened and that the International Convention Centre had some major international events lined up for November and December, subject to regulations around travelling and gatherings.
The Independent on Saturday