King Shaka International Airport.

Durban - King Shaka International Airport has seen an increase in international passenger volumes, mainly triggered by the government’s long-term strategy to attract major airlines flying directly to KwaZulu-Natal.

The upward trend has been hailed by the government and the private sector, which described it as a catalyst for economic and tourism growth.

The airport had year-on-year growth of 46 percent in international passenger volumes in July 2016 compared with July 2015.

On the domestic front, FlySafair started flights from the airport last year and had increased domestic seat capacity.

This contributed to a growth of nine percent in domestic air traffic for the period April to July this year.

The acting chief executive of the Dube TradePort Corporation, Hamish Erskine, attributed the positive response by the KwaZulu-Natal traveller market to international carriers serving Durban.

“The increased direct air connectivity into Durban has done a lot to stimulate demand from passengers flying internationally and has given consumers the freedom to fly directly from more destinations around the world.”

He said the new long-haul flights had helped drive leisure and business travel, with delegates of major events, such as the recent World Aids Conference, having the option to fly directly to Durban from anywhere in the world.

The general manager of King Shaka International, Terence Delomoney, said: “The airport is viewed as a major economic catalyst for investment and growth in the region. International traffic has grown from five percent of the total traffic to seven percent over the last year.

“This occurred during the last quarter of 2015, which corresponded with the successful hosting of the World Routes conference, and the launch of four new International operators.”

The KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Sihle Zikalala said: “The current upward trends are good signals for the province’s prospects, as it has worked to advance KwaZulu-Natal’s position as a world-class travel and investment destination.”

The Mercury