Newcastle, in northern KwaZulu Natal, is heading for a tourism-led economic recovery.
This is due to the various urgent interventions, initiatives and projects that local leaders are planning that are designed to attract new visitors and increase the tourist spend.
“The town has seen an increase in township hospitality businesses, which provide jobs and a variety of experiences for visitors,” said the Amajuba District Mayor, Dr Musa Ngubane.
He said during the earlier stages of the lockdown, the town’s tourism sector lost more than R115m (€6.49) in revenue, which needed to be recovered.
The revised Amajuba Tourism Strategy therefore aims to reset Newcastle’s tourism identity and brand. It is envisaged that it will become a blueprint for collaboration between government and industry, as both share the same vision: to make Newcastle a premier visitor destination.
“We found it was critical to engage the private sector. We have some exciting projects in the pipeline which will help to build the sector as the critical location of the town allows us to explore various options,” said Ngubane.
Samkelisiwe Yende, Speaker of the Newcastle Municipality, said the key to recovery of the sector was to broaden the town’s marketing strategy.
“As a municipality, we are planning a video to promote what Newcastle can offer. While Newcastle is not your traditional tourist destination, it does attract a lot of business tourism,” she said.
Ongoing investment in tourism was integral to building a thriving, diverse and robust economy to future-proof Newcastle to withstand disruptions such as COVID-19, Yende added.
Upgrades and revamps
“We have short- and medium-term interventions, including renovating and diversifying the tourism offerings at Balele Game Park and revamping the Emadlangeni Municipality Tourism Information Centre,” said Ngubane.
The regional airport in Newcastle has been upgraded and will be developed into a Techno Hub, presenting an ideal opportunity for attracting investment while also creating jobs.
There is also talk of a multimillion-rand hotel and other accommodation outlets on the cards, although Ngubane said these negotiations had not been finalised.
New travel patterns and demands
He said Newcastle was adjusting to the new travel patterns now that holidaymakers were looking for outdoor experiences and placing a higher emphasis on their safety.
Outdoor sports, such as golfing, hiking, fly-fishing, motor sports, birdwatching and boating, are being encouraged in the region.
Hiking expert and head of Hikeobics, Tsebiso Maruping, confirmed that with lockdown regulations in place, there had been an increased demand for outdoor activities, especially among visiting businessmen.
“People don’t want to be cooped up in their homes. They want to go outdoors, so hiking gives them that mental stimulation,” said Maruping.