From British Airways flights to Durban to a growth in travellers to KZN, Tourism KZN is thriving in the sector. Picture: Denver Govender.

As countries around the globe celebrate World Tourism Day on September 27, the KwaZulu-Natal’s tourism industry has good reason to reflect on the importance-and success-of the sector.

World Tourism Day is an initiative of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) that has been adopted by South Africa and focuses on the importance of tourism to the local economy.

The special awareness day is celebrated under this year’s theme of “Tourism and Digital Transformation.”

Against a background of aggressive domestic marketing campaigns by both Tourism KZN and South African Tourism, tourism is earmarked to continue growing, boosting the local economies and creating more sustainable jobs.

Numbers are set to soar even more with the launch of the long-awaited direct British Airways flights between King Shaka International Airport, Durban, and London’s Heathrow at the end of next month.

British Airways will be using its latest airline for the three weekly flights, the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

The United Kingdom is KZN’s biggest source market and the direct flights have been re-introduced after an absence of more than a decade.

Tourism KZN, in the past week, has participated at World Routes, the global meeting place for every airline, airport and aviation stakeholder where discussions on developing more direct airline routes to King Shaka International Airport are held.

Sihle Zikalala, MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, revealed in his budget speech earlier this year that the focus now is to attract new flight routes to other markets: Germany and India.

The latest statistics revealed that KZN had received 7.3% of the 2.8 million international trips to the country in the first three months of the year, which amounted to 205 592 trips, which was a 5.5% increase on the previous year. These visitors boosted the local economy by some R1.3-billion rand.

According to statistics released by South African Tourism, almost half a million domestic visitors chose to KZN for their holidays, compared to the same period last year.

“We must never lose sight of the fact that tourism is a vitally important and growing sector that can create sustainable jobs for fellow South Africans”

“We are determined as a provincial government to bring in more people from previously disadvantaged groups –black women and the youth in particular-to get an equitable stake in this important industry,” he said.

In the year that the country commemorates the birth of President Mandela, the MEC has called on the industry to take their tourists to celebrate Mandela’s footsteps in KZN, which starts at the Luthuli Museum in Groutville, the Ohlange Institute and the Mandela Capture site.

TKZN has also made great strides in technology and recently released a free KZN Travel Guide App, that is proving very useful and popular, enabling visitors to navigate their way around the province with ease.