DURBAN 30042012 Denzel Siwa (12) from Pretoria, North Beach. Picture: Jacques Naude

Concerns over petrol price hikes appear to have been outweighed by KwaZulu-Natal’s allure as thousands of travellers still came to the coast and ploughed hard-earned cash into the local economy during the April holiday period which ended on Tuesday.

From 9am on Tuesday, about 3 000 cars an hour were heading out of KwaZulu-Natal via the Mariannhill toll plaza. About 2 500 were moving through the Mooi River toll plaza.

Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesman Zinhle Mngomezulu said traffic volumes were high on all roads leading out of the province as holidaymakers went home. But it was not only out-of- town visitors who kept the tills ringing.

Local residents tended to stay within the borders of their own province, loading their vehicles and going to the Drakensberg and the north or south coasts.

One of those enjoying the splendour of the Drakensberg was the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa’s regional manager Warren Ozard.

“It has been stunning up here, and the long weekends have been absolutely great for Durban. For manufacturing, I can imagine it has been very disruptive, but for the tourism industry it has been great.”

Not only had accommodation providers done well, but so too did petrol stations, tolls, and the taxis, he said. Durban’s beaches had also been busy.

“And we’ve had fantastic weather. April, May and June are generally the best three months of the year in KZN, but the weather this weekend has been wonderful… This year is going to be very tough for tourism. We haven’t got a World Cup, or COP17. Yes, we have the rugby and the Top Gear Festival, but apart from that, we are going to have to rely on our regulars like the July and the Comrades Marathon. So we need these boosts every now and then.”

Durban Tourism CEO Philip Sithole was also delighted with the economic impact of the April holidays on the city.

“People come off a busy December into a tough January. There is the pressure of putting kids into school and so the Easter holidays are really the first official holidays of the new year. They are also the last before the mid-year exams.

“So this past weekend on top of that has basically extended the Easter holidays… we do expect growth from last year.”

uShaka Marine World also reported a successful long weekend, with only Friday disappointing – a result of overcast and rainy weather.

CEO Shawn Thompson said although business in April was down about 10 percent from last year, it was better than 2009 and 2010.

Looking at the bigger picture, however, economist Clive Coetzee was more ambivalent, explaining that the situation on a provincial scale was probably less thrilling.

“Yes, a lot of people travel to KZN, but we don’t know how many travel out.

“There is no way to determine these things. We also have production loss (owing to public holidays), so where one industry gains, another loses.

“In effect, the economic impact is probably neutral. Very seldom are there only net winners and net losers.” - The Mercury