The tourism industry in Durban could arguably be considered as the poster child for resilience, following its comeback despite the numerous setbacks it faced over the years, with the destructive flooding being the most recent.
At the start of the week, the city played host to thousands of delegates from Africa, America, Asia and Europe for the annual Travel Indaba. From across SA, provincial tourism departments came to the city to showcase their very best destinations.
Deputy head of Durban Tourism, Winile Mntungwa, said she was surprised at how quickly the tourism industry regained momentum following the Covid-19 pandemic and civil unrest in July last year.
Mntungwa was speaking to IOL during an interview at the Durban Tourism exhibit, which is one 588 exhibits housed at the ICC and Durban Exhibition centre.
The Indaba featured 257 hosted buyers, 59 of which were local while the other 199 came from different countries. Over 200 different non-hosted media outlets were also present at the event.
She said having the “captains of the industry” in the city meant the tourism sector still had hope, despite facing numerous obstacles. She said it was a sign that Durban was open for business.
According to Chairperson of the Corporate Governance and Human Capital Cluster, Nkosenhle Madlala, the Indaba will have a direct spend of just under R30 million with around R72.5 million contributed towards the city’s economy.
“All over the world people saw Durban in disaster, so with the Indaba coming, it is instilling confidence to say it may have been disastrous in Durban, however, the city is still open for business. It is still able to host such a big event on a scale where captains of the industry from all over the world travel.
“What else can be an obstacle or hindrance to enable any visitor to come to this destination. Right now, the buyers that are coming from all over the word, we are taking them to different attractions and they are seeing. Our beachfront was a complete mess, our roads were blocked with debris but there was a quick turnaround time in terms of clearing that.
“We have really pulled together as a city and I think it has brought us together. People said look, this is our city, whatever happened it's not only the government thing. The private sector came on board, communities came on board, everybody came on board,” Madlala said.
Like a dark cloud cast over the city, the recent flooding made international news as the death toll in KZN rose to over 400, while some are still missing. According to the municipality, 110 SMMEs were affected by the flood.
Images and videos of the scale of destruction warranted various organisations and foreign countries coming to KZN’s aid.
Michelle Williamson, a travel agent from Miami, Florida, in the United States, flew for thousands of kilometres across the globe with a bag of donations for victims affected by the KZN floods.
She brought school stationary, childrens clothes and other non-perishable items. Williamson's heartfelt initiative was welcomed by Mntungwa with teary eyes and open arms.
“Coming here, I heard about the flooding that happened in Durban and it really touched me. I really felt so sad for the people, I could not tell what they were experiencing but I know it was really hard on a lot of families.
Michelle Williamson, a travel agent all the way from Miami, Florida in the US flew into Durban for the Travel Indaba and brought with her a bag of donations for the KZN flood victims.— Jehran Daniel (@JehranD) May 4, 2022
Video by: Winile Mntungwa pic.twitter.com/wBKf0oFN0x
“So coming here, despite how many thousands of miles I flew, I figured any little thing that I do would be something,” Williamson said.