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Durban’s cultural tourism could be the boost the sector needs

Mel Ntombela, Chairperson of the Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu (INK) Community Tourism Organisation.

Mel Ntombela, Chairperson of the Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu (INK) Community Tourism Organisation.

Published May 5, 2022


Durban’s rich cultural heritage could be the key factor in increasing the number of tourists that visit the city, according to Chairperson of the Inanda, Ntuzuma and Kwa-Mashu (INK) Community Tourism Organisation Mel Ntombela.

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Ntombela was speaking to IOL this week at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) during the African Travel Indaba. Aimed at promoting tourism in South Africa, the Indaba played host to thousands of buyers, trade and media personnel from across the globe.

Around 588 exhibitions have been set up at the Indaba to showcase South Africa’s and the continent's destinations with over 200 foreign and local media outlets present as well.

Ntombela, speaking at the Durban tourism stall draped in the city's famous shade of blue, said the number one strength for the INK area is its people.

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Buyers, traders and the media interacting at the Durban Tourism exhibit located at the Durban Exhibition Centre at the African Travel Indaba on Thursday. Pic: Jehran Naidoo/Independent Media.

He said besides Durban being a warm city in terms of its weather, residents around the city have always been welcoming to visitors.

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“Even though our people have lost so much in terms of the recent flooding, they are still ready to welcome people. I think that is our main strength over and above the experiences you can have.

“We have one of the oldest tourist routes in the city and province, so those are just some of the strengths,” Ntombela said.

“Before Covid-19 broke out here in South Africa, we were doing very well. Our numbers showed us that we got around 2,000 people visiting the area every month. If you multiply by their spending everyday, it will show you the INK area was doing very well. We are hoping to get back to those numbers soon,” he added.

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With food being a major part of the Durban culture, he said the INK area has traces of Indian heritage in it, which has been fused with African culture to create a unique experience for visitors. The INK route also features on the top 50 things to do in Durban.

Besides the township style shisanyama, “mogodu Mondays”, which is a dish prepared with tripe (lining of sheep stomach) has become increasingly popular and Ntombela says this might also be a unique selling point.

Boasting one of the city’s oldest tourist routes, the INK area, particularly the Inanda heritage route, north of the Durban CBD, will allow visitors to retrace the steps of former President Nelson Mandela and activist Mahatma Gandhi.

International delegates present at the event, said they loved the weather in the city but mostly, the beach.

Sasha Grimmbacher, a flight attendant from Emirates airways, said her first time in the city “was amazing”. Being a bit of an adrenaline junky, Grimmbacher did, however, say she wished the big swing at the Moses Mabhida stadium was opened for business.

“I love Durban, It’s so green and so warm in general, even the people,” Grimmbacher said.

Gurjith Singh from India, said the Indanda heritage route was “a very special place” for Indian people because of Mahatma Gandhi's history in the area. In 1994, Nelson Mandela cast his vote in South Africa’s first democratic elections at Inanda’s Ohlange Institute.

Eoghan Corry, editor of air and travel in Ireland, said the Indaba was a really important event for the tourism industry as a whole, not just South Africa.

“The city of Durban is a very attractive place because it has that beach element and a lavish style to it. Europeans like to come for an African holiday not a European one, and Durban manages to throw in a bit of both, with the cosmopolitan feel to it.

“If every city had to have their own unique smell, Durban’s would be its curry,” Corry told IOL.