The City of eThekwini (Durban) and the province of KwaZulu Natal has survived three disasters over past two years: COVID-19, violent protests in July 2021 and devastating floods.
But that is not the story, according to key players in the tourism sector. The real story is one of survival through collaboration. As Acting CEO of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN), Phindile Makwakwa explained: “We saw with COVID-19 how industry fully realised the need for collaboration, how it was the only way we would survive. Then the unrest saw everyone in the province – and indeed South Africa as a whole –
from the tourism industry, logistics sector, communities etc, come together and clean up, assist and rebuild.”
She told Tourism Update this was the same thing with the floods. “The floods came at a really bad time – just ahead of Easter – but again, the private sector, communities and governments rallied to address infrastructural challenges (such as roads and bridges) and to clean the port and the beaches of debris.
Thankfully, Makwakwa added, tourism products themselves (attractions, accommodation etc) were not damaged. “Mainly the roads to the products were damaged and those were fixed quickly.”
She also noted that, despite the flooding, the province still enjoyed an average occupancy of 50% over the Easter period.
City of eThekwini Councillor and Chairperson of the Governance and Human Capital Portfolio Committee, Nkonsenhle Madlala, agreed. “We witnessed major solidarity in the tourism sector where all hands were on deck to ensure that our city emerged victoriously from these disasters.
“Our major tourist attractions in the various tourism precincts are now functional and accessible. Visitors can still enjoy the different activities such as adventure, culinary, culture, history, nature and many other offerings.”
Counting the cost of the floods
Madlala said, before the floods, the City had projected a boom with 140 000 expected visitors, R157 million (€8.4m) direct spend, R387 million (€20.8m) contribution to City’s GDP and 796 jobs.
Following the floods, the visitor numbers were 85 000, with a spend of R105 million (€5.6m), a contribution to City’s GDP of R258 million (€14.8m) and about 530 jobs.
“Despite the magnitude of the challenges caused by floods, we are pleased that we have been able to restore services in a number of areas in the city,” Madlala said.