Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN) is exhibiting at the World Travel Market (WTM) London this week from November 5 to 7, promoting the Zulu Kingdom to top operators from across the globe; engaging them on packaging tours to the region; and uncovering what works best for their travellers.

The province is on an aggressive drive to generate sales leads, promote new tourism products, enter new markets, raise destination awareness and conduct market research to grow its international arrivals.

WTM London comes just after the inaugural British Airways (BA) flight from Heathrow to Durban’s King Shaka International Airport, on October 30.

Discussions are taking place on how the operators and agents can package the new route for their future holiday brochures.Iin addition, TKZN is also running a 24-month joint marketing campaign with BA to attract visitors.

“The new BA route has opened direct travel for the European market from London, and given the tourism trade and organisation an added boost and confidence,” said Phindile Makwakwa, acting Chief Executive Officer for TKZN.

According to TKZN, several European tour operators and travel agents recently visited KZN ahead of the BA inaugural flight to see what the province has to offer their customers. More operators are expected in the coming months.

With some 51 000 delegates expected at WTM London, the event, which features 5 000 exhibitors, is the globe’s largest gathering of travel industry players, meeting, networking and conducting business.

TKZN has exhibited at the Excel venue – where WTM London is taking place – for many years; however, this year, the team is there to particularly solidify its relationships with UK and European tour operators.

Makwakwa, who has described the new Heathrow-King Shaka International Airport route as a “game-changer,” said that the UK is KZN’s biggest international tourism source market, and now there was a direct link between the two cities, that also linked Europe to the province. Makwakwa was optimistic that significant deals would be struck throughout the course of WTM London.

“Now that the BA first flight has been launched, the real work begins for us. In order for us to ensure that the route is sustainable, we need to solidify our relationships with top tour operators that bring tourists to KZN,” said Makwakwa, continuing: “We’ve already seen a major rise in the number of tourists coming from the UK for the February 2019 period compared to this year, and we assure our partners that the Zulu Kingdom is definitely ready to welcome them. KZN should be the best destination for the European market to escape the bone-chilling weather and head to the sunny Zulu Kingdom over the next few months. You can find 365 days of sun in KZN.”

The new route, which BA is operating in a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner plane, slareduces the journey to KwaZulu-Natal by at least three hours, making the trip easier and more convenient for passengers who no longer have to break their journey on stop-overs at other airports en-route to Durban’s King Shaka International Airport.

“The timing could not be better. We are at WTM London just days after BA launched this direct route, which is what passengers, travel agents and tour operators have been asking about for years,” added Makwakwa.

According to TKZN, the province has strong historical ties with the UK, and tourism offerings are on display in KZN that have British heritage, such as the Battlefield route of Isandlwana.