Landowner, Tongaat Hulett Developments, has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Club Med for the development of the first international-branded beach resort in Southern Africa.

The R1bn (€62.4m) resort will be at Tinley Town, 10km from King Shaka International Airport in KwaZulu Natal and is expected to have 350 rooms and 50 villas located on 30 hectares.

Olivier Hannaert, MD of Club Med Southern Africa, confirmed that the MOA had been signed on March 26 and described the site as a beautiful, untouched piece of land with an exclusive beach in a beautiful bay.

“There is still a long way to go before the commencement of work but, nevertheless, all parties are excited and working hard toward shaping the first Club Med resort in South Africa,” said Hannaert.

Club Med has been eyeing South Africa for a beach resort development for more than a decade and a number of areas over the last few years were rumoured to have been the chosen location.

There had been speculation that the French resort operator had not committed to its plans to build a South African resort because travel to KZN was very seasonal, with small inbound travel numbers and a local population that could not sustain a sizeable resort year round. However, Hannaert said Club Med had always been a pioneer in its choice of location, giving Cancun as an example, where it had been the first to open a resort.

“Club Med is not looking at the inbound trends but rather on our internal capacity to fill the resort. South Africa is an attractive destination for the 48 countries that are selling Club Med.” Hannaert added that MICE travellers would be a priority for them, especially in the domestic market.

KZN’s MEC for human settlements and public works, Ravi Pillay, announced at Indaba this year that it was envisaged that the resort would officially open for business in 2022. He told media that the landmark development would attract international visitors, contribute to foreign direct investment and create job opportunities for the local community.

“Global experts have been telling Tourism KwaZulu Natal that such a beach resort, run by a big-name international operator, was the missing piece in the region’s tourism offerings,” TKZN spokesperson Nhlanhla Ngwenya told Tourism Update’s sister publication, TNW.

According to reports, the resort forms part of Tongaat Hulett’s ambitious new mixed-use resort town development. The development is allegedly planned to be built on the secluded southern side of the Umhlali River on prime land, currently home to fields of sugar cane. It has direct beach access and overlooks the Indian Ocean.

During Indaba 2018, economic development and tourism MEC, Sihle Zikalala, listed the Tinley Manor Beach Resort as one of several major catalytic economic tourism projects planned in KZN for the next few years. He also mentioned the north coast Blythedale Coastal Resort, valued at R350m (€21.8m), and said tourism infrastructure projects to the tune of more than R50bn (€3.12bn) had been planned for the city of Durban, including a R40bn (€2.5bn) Point Waterfront revamp.