Durban — Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN) has a new boss and he sees a central role for taxis in promoting the province as a destination of choice.
Sibusiso Gumbi, who has a long history in the transport sector, was recently appointed Acting CEO of TKZN. He said although the taxi industry was “feared”, TKZN would be working with them to boost tourism.
“Tourists who come to KZN want to experience a ride in a taxi. It’s important that the taxi industry becomes an ambassador of this beautiful province.”
He has a unique perspective on the industry as he was the person tasked with restructuring it when he joined the Department of Transport in 1996.
“In every aspect of tourism, you will find an element of transport. To attract travellers to a province, you need effective and good road infrastructure. Points of attraction need to be accessible. To achieve that, you have to work hand in hand with the Department of Transport so that, in their development plans, they prioritise roads leading to attractions.”
Over the past three weeks, he has spent time listening to stakeholders and acquainting himself with his new role. He has some definite plans to bring about change and to ensure that tourism is a catalyst for job creation.
He said KZN had suffered many problems and while he was concerned about the negativity, it was time to change the narrative and show the world the province’s tourism potential.
He said they would embark on a “robust” marketing approach of selling the province globally and locally.
As he rolls up his sleeves, good governance and infrastructure development are also top of his agenda.
The Nelson Mandela Capture Site outside Howick where Madiba was arrested in 1962, will be the first tourism site to benefit.
The site is popular with tourists and will undergo cosmetic changes like fixing the pathways, improving vegetation and constructing shelters so that it will “beautify” the place.
“We want it to be the place where people don’t only go to take photos but we also have economic activity there,” Gumbi said.
The KwaXolo Project on the South Coast also stood to benefit from rural tourism, said Gumbi, adding that they had the funding to go ahead with this.
Another way to boost tourism was to revitalise the tourism structures within communities.
Gumbi, who steps into the new role as the summer holiday and festive season begins, was pleased with the safety measures in place to ensure that the festive season runs smoothly.
KZN’s unique selling point was that it had everything a tourist could dream of. It is the seat of the Zulu monarchy, had both beaches and the mountains and was home to the big five, he said.
So, where does the new tourism boss go on holiday?
He prefers the Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in uMkhanyakude.
“That is where I go to visit and refresh. It helps me connect. So once a year I must go there,” he said.
Gumbi said it was still a privately run game reserve with community trust participation. It is located on land that once belonged to the Gumbi tribe who were dispossessed in the 1800s. In 2008 it was returned to them.