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KZN wants more airlines back in the province

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala delivers the welcoming address at the official opening ceremony of Africa’s Travel Indaba at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre. Picture: KZN Provincial Government via Facebook

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala delivers the welcoming address at the official opening ceremony of Africa’s Travel Indaba at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre. Picture: KZN Provincial Government via Facebook

Published May 3, 2022

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Durban - KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala says the province is reopening the doors for more airlines to take to the province’s skies, as part of reviving the economy through tourism.

He was delivering the welcoming address at the official opening ceremony of Africa’s Travel Indaba at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre on Tuesday morning.

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The indaba has seen over 4 000 delegates and exhibitors from close to 40 countries descend on Durban this week.

Zikalala said the Travel Indaba was a welcome boost for the province that was still recovering from the recent devastation by the floods which caused damage amounting to billions of rand.

“This Travel Indaba is an appropriate opportunity for our country and province to re-enter the world stage, and through tourism, to rekindle and enhance the prospects of our economic growth and employment creation,” Zikalala told the audience that included Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

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He cited the report by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), which indicated that the tourism sector had lost 470 000 jobs due to Covid-19, with only 37% of employees receiving 100% of their salaries in February 2022.

“In KZN, tourism is a key pillar in our Provincial Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan. Prior to Covid-19 it contributed at least 9.5% to the GDP of the province. Efforts to re-ignite the sector include intensive marketing of KwaZulu-Natal, support for rural and township tourism organisations and working with municipalities to improve roads and connectivity,” Zikalala continued.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala and Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu arrive at Africa’s Travel Indaba on Tuesday morning. Picture: KZN Provincial Government via Facebook

Part of the recovery, the premier continued, included promoting some of the province’s main attractions such as the Comrades Marathon and the Durban July horse racing event.

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While the marathon was not held for two years due to Covid-19, the Durban July was held behind closed doors for the past two years.

In addition to this, KZN has also partnered with the Airports Company of South Africa to ensure that the province is marketed as a gateway to the continent and the preferred tourism destination in South Africa.

Part of the plan, the premier explained, included implementing the Durban Aerotropolis Strategy to position the City of eThekwini to become a premier business and trade hub in sub-Saharan Africa, while also investing massively to build and revamp regional airports like Mkhuze on the north coast and Margate on the south coast.

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“We have called on the national government to facilitate the return of airlines to South Africa and to King Shaka International Airport. Air Mauritius, a key player in the KwaZulu Natal tourism, returned to South Africa in January 2021 and we also look forward to the reinstatement of direct links between Durban and Zanzibar which used to be operated by Mango,” Zikalala said.

He pointed out that the province was encouraged by the recent statistics which revealed that passenger numbers at King Shaka International Airport have steadily increased in 2021 and in total 2.8 million passengers passed through our main airport in 2021 which was 550 582 more passengers than in 2020.

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