Giving increased tourism investments in KZN the thumbs up are Sithembiso Madlala (TKZN Chairperson) and Phindile Makwakwa (TKZN Acting CEO).

Durban - Africa’s Travel Indaba – the biggest tourism trade show on the continent – got off to a spectacular, flying start on Tuesday when Sihle Zikalala, the KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs revealed that British Airways was starting direct flights from London into Durban from the end of October.

The exciting announcement was made at the high-powered Tourism KZN-Durban Tourism breakfast briefing at the Hilton Hotel, which signalled the start of the three-day Indaba at the neighbouring Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC.

The route is a huge leap forward for the tourism sector, propelling foreign direct investment, improving business connectivity and ensuring the economic empowerment of South Africans.

Zikalala said BA’s decision will allow KZN to showcase itself as a tourism and business destination to a global audience. “The sheer diversity in travel and business opportunities that visitors can access through this gateway into the province of KwaZulu- Natal will unlock enormous potential.

“The investment and trade opportunities presented by this direct flight between Durban and London will undoubtedly add value to our economy.”

Zikalala added that KZN was eager to showcase the province’s various tourism products and myriad of tourist experiences, including some of the world’s most pristine natural habitats.

Phindile Makwakwa, Acting Chief Executive Officer of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN), said the UK was already KZN’s top international market and the direct flights would be a boost to arrivals in the province, both for leisure tourists and business travellers.

“Moving people fosters the movement of capital which means that the economy is active and thriving. When people make travel decisions, ease of connectivity is high up on their list of considerations. This direct link between the two cities will most certainly make our destination easier to package and sell.”

While business will flourish, direct flights also offer locals more choice and the opportunity to connect to cities and countries around the world, Makwakwa added.

Pictured after the TKZN-hosted business breakfast are (from left) Dr Bridgette Gasa (Chairperson of Dube TradePort), Sue Petrie (BA Regional Commercial Manager for Southern Africa), Sihle Zikalala (MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs) and Hamish Erskine (CEO of Dube TradePort).

The buzz and energy created by the announcement then swept into the ICC as Zikalala accompanied Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom on a walkabout of the exhibition space before the Ringing of the Bell to signal the opening of the Indaba trading floor.

The two then proceeded to the official opening of the TKZN stand, where they were joined at the ribbon cutting by Tourism Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe, Durban Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer and Makwakwa, among others.

At the stand, TKZN is showcasing various tourism routes that tourists can explore in the Zulu Kingdom - including Southern Explorer, Midlands Meander, Battlefields, Birding Routes, Drakensberg Experience, Route 66 and N3 Gateway.

The stand also includes a separate business hub for 10 emerging tourism business entrepreneurs. These include Street Scene Tours, Romatlo Travel, Theo Tours, La Teranga Guest House, The View Boutique Hotel and Spa, Dukuduku B&B, Nongoma Syavaya Tours, Lala Khona B&B, Leisure Holidays and Ekhaya Boutique Hotel.

By exhibiting as part of the TKZN stand at Indaba, these entrepreneurs are given the invaluable opportunity to showcase the businesses and offerings to international tourism buyers.

The busy first day of Indaba was concluded with a special welcoming address to thousands of Africa Tourism delegates by Minister Hanekom, in which he outlined the South African Tourism Mandela 100 campaign. 

It will form part of the country’s Nelson Mandela centenary celebrations and highlights 100 experiences, attractions and destinations around South Africa that have strong historical and social ties to Madiba’s life.