Accommodation News for April 2008 in Kwazulu Natal

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North Coast set to become KZN tourist mecca

From: by Suren Naidoo 26 April 2008

Durban - The burgeoning KZN North Coast may have blossomed into a popular tourism hot spot in South Africa, but if the optimism of the local tourism sector and the massive tourism investment earmarked for the area is anything to go by, the area is on it way to becoming a truly globally recognised tourism mecca. "The North Coast is cooking," boasted Mike Newton, head of economic development at the Illembe District Municipality, speaking to Network in Ballito last week after the area scooped a clutch of awards at Tourism KwaZulu-Natal's recent Zulu Kingdom Service Excellence Awards.

The Sangweni Tourism Information Centre - a partnership between Illembe and the local KwaDukuza Municipality - won the Tourist Information Office of the Year; a title that Hibiscus Coast Tourism on the KZN South Coast had won for three consecutive years.

The other big North Coast winners were Dolphin Manor Guest House - owned by tourism entrepreneur Dinesh Maharaj, which won Guest House of the Year (emerging) category; and Nyoni Craft Centre near Mandini - which won the Craft Project of the Year award.

Newton is excited at the North Coast's performance in the awards, but his optimism about an even bigger future tourism boom in the area has surely got to do with the news of a planned R16 billion tourism and property development by an as yet unnamed Dubai-based developer.

The development was announced by Premier S'bu Ndebele in his state of the province speech earlier this year, but Newton's lips are sealed because the details are still being finalised, and are expected to be announced by the developers and the government.

In his Budget speech last week, Ndebele again mentioned the project, saying that several major infrastructure developments in KZN - the new Moses Mabhida Stadium, Dube TradePort and various Corridor developments - had seen the injection of several billions of rands in the province and was unprecedented in KZN.

"As a result, we now have one of the largest foreign direct investment projects that the African continent has and involves a multibillion-rand investment on the northern side of the uThukela River, in the Macambini area. The project is expected to create thousands of permanent jobs," said Ndebele.

"In January this year, the KwaZulu-Natal government signed a memorandum of understanding with an investor based in Dubai. This project will be a fully integrated tourism destination. It will comprise a variety of market segmented residential communities, entertainment attraction, hospitality, education, health care, leisure, retail and commercial offerings. In the first phase, the project will provide 600 hotel rooms. An imposing statue of King Shaka will be erected.

"Following the signing of the MOU, the investor dispatched a technical team to KwaZulu-Natal to conduct a project viability assessment. Last month I travelled to Dubai with an extended government delegation to meet the investor. This delegation included Illembe district mayor as well as Mandeni local municipality mayor," said Ndebele.

He said the project "moved a step closer towards the implementation" last week, when a high-powered provincial delegation met with the investor in Durban to address further technical details.

Newton said there were a number of other big developments on the go on the North Coast, like the development of the new R6.8 billion King Shaka International Airport and Dube TradePort; the multibillion-rand Fairmont Zimbali Resort, the Blythedale estate and resort, and the Seaton Deleval estate, among others.

Last year, The Mercury revealed that luxury French-based resort group Club Med were scouting for land on the KZN North Coast for possibly setting up a resort - which would be their first in southern Africa.

Club Med is said to have looked at the Blythedale development and even the Isimagaliso Wetland Park World Heritage site, but no official announcement has yet been made.

Sangweni Tourism Information Centre officer Cheryl Peters said that winning the TKZN award came at a great time, with all the massive tourism development on the go in the area.

"This bolsters our branding and marketing as the 'Jewel of the Zulu Kingdom,'" she said.

"The area is poised for greater growth in the run-up to 2010 and beyond. Sangweni Tourism Centre is a fine example of a local and district municipality working together with the private sector to promote tourism."

Walking with rhinos

From: The Australian 26 April 2008

JOURNEYS: THE SPIRIT OF DISCOVERY: Tim Kernutt learns some vital lessons on a trek through the South African bush.

IF you see a black rhino charging you, don't run. Try to get behind a tree. This is not the kind of advice one hears everyday. I am in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, sweltering in 40C heat, while listening to a researcher talk about a particularly endangered black rhino subspecies, Diceros bicornis minor.

The 96,000ha reserve, a nearly four-hour drive north of Durban, is the oldest on the continent (it was established in 1895) and one of South Africa's largest. It is considered to be one of the best game parks in Africa to view black and white rhinos in their natural habitat.

I am accompanying PhD student Roan Plotz of Melbourne who is briefing me before our walk to track one of seven black rhinos that have had an electronic chip implanted in their horns. Plotz tells me the process of inserting these electronic chips is an intoxicating mix of helicopters, sedatives and drilling, which seems a far cry from the dusty science most of us are taught at school.

Black rhinos are far less docile than white rhinos. Plotz says it is as if they are aware of the danger posed by humans: after all, the black rhino population has been reduced to about 3100, although experts fear it could be less.

Plotz so passionately drills me on the perils of the African bush that I fear I may not make it out of the park alive. Anything that moves in the wilderness of Africa, seemingly, can harm humans, from the ticks you have to flick off when walking through long grass to deadly snakes such as black mambas. Then there are scorpions, spiders and the obviously dangerous big beasts. There is even a tree, the tambotie, which gives off poisonous fumes when burned.

The aim of the game is survival. A couple of nights of acclimatisation in the African wilderness proves good preparation for my walk through the bush. The basic hut in which I stay is part of a small camp area in the heart of the HiP; it does not have a perimeter fence. The thought of the dangerous animals that could be roaming about at night restricts my nocturnal walking to an absolute minimum. There is certainly not much incentive for stargazing in this neck of the African veldt.

While I am in the communal kitchen area of the camp one night, banging and crashing can be heard in bushes nearby. Flashing a torch, I soon make out the shape of a huge male elephant taking a moonlit stroll through camp. It pauses to feed off a plant directly at the back of my hut. Despite being about 4m tall and probably weighing four tonnes, it could charge at great speed, park workers tell me. The footprints it leaves are five times larger than mine.

When I finally venture into the bush with Plotz on a humid Monday morning, I am as prepared as I am going to be. It is March, the rainy season is just coming to an end, and the grass is at least 1m tall.

"Watch out for the ticks ... they can give you a nasty bite. And make sure you avoid standing on a puff adder, that will send you home a little earlier than you would have hoped," Plotz warns. It strikes me that my travel insurer would have reassessed its premium if it had known I would be heading on foot into the African bush.

A ridiculous aspect of such a walk in the wild is the automatic weighing-up of risks. Suddenly those snakes that could inflict a fatal bite seem less of a threat when compared with the possibility of being skewered by a hippo or charged by a testosterone-fuelled male elephant.

It does make me feel more confident that Plotz has by his side a guard, Bhom, who carries a .458-calibre elephant gun. Bhom lives in one of the local Zulu communities bordering the park and is a self-titled champion of the bhejane (black rhino).

I am assured he has been walking through the South African bush for as long as I have been alive; however, I am slightly perturbed when Plotz casually mentions Bhom doesn't have "A-class hearing". I hope this is more to do with his age than overuse of his rifle.

Within five minutes of setting off across the top of a ridge in the middle of the park, we walk into one of the big five. Staring at us is a lone male buffalo; thankfully it runs off as soon as I stare at it, which gives me a mad sense of empowerment not felt since moving out of my parents' house.

It is somehow amusing to discover how difficult it is to spot black rhinos. Plotz has said he knows where to find one, but after three hours in searing heat, there's no sign of it.

With his tracking device waving in the air above him, Plotz looks as if he has more chance of tracking an unidentified flying object.

Suddenly mayhem breaks out. Plotz shouts for me to jump up and into the nearest tree while he and Bhom creep forward. No more than 40m from where we have been standing is a female black rhino with a baby calf.

I gawk like a child for a good half hour; the mother is highly protective of the calf, which is likely to have weighed a whopping 40kg at birth. Plotz has told me earlier that fully grown black rhinos can charge at 45km/h. They will charge at anything they perceive as a threat.

I am well satisfied by my first black rhino sighting and rather glad I am alive. My previous encounters with animals in HiP have paled, although I almost tread on a rock python, Africa's largest snake, on the walk back to camp. Plotz just laughs and says there's no such thing as an average day in the African bush.

Imfolozi offers a range of self-catering accommodation, from rondavel cottages to tents. The best season is from May to October, when the weather is mild and dry and animals are easier to spot as they appear in open spaces looking for water.

KZN’s emerging tour operators score big

From: The Sowetan  17 April 2008

Emerging black tourism operators were among the top winners of the Tourism KwaZulu-Natal service excellence awards.

The event was held at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre yesterday.

The winners said the recognition would lead them to bigger and better things. They said they were motivated and would be recognised as established tourism businesses by 2010.

Malusi Mbonambi of Siyavaya Travel and Tours won the Emerging Wheel Operator of the Year Award for the second consecutive year.

Mbonambi has increased his fleet of minibuses and has opened branches in Pretoria and Cape Town.

“The two minibuses I bought qualified my business as a Wheel Tour Operator. Now we have transport that can handle a huge number of tourists,” said Mbonambi, who was born in Umlazi.

He said the idea to establish his own company came after years of unsuccessful job hunting.

“I wanted something different, though I was worried that it would not be a success because there were very few black-owned businesses at the time,” Mbonambi said.

Another winner, fashion designer Lindiwe Khuzwayo, took the Emerging Bed and Breakfast Establishment Award.

Khuzwayo, a mother of five who also runs a fashion designing school in Durban, converted part of her Umhlanga mansion into a guest- house less than two years ago.

“The house was too big because four of my children have moved to other provinces where they now work,” Khuzwayo said. “I hated coming home to an empty house."

“This award means a lot to me and is a challenge to other women to go out there and take advantage of the opportunities that are now available.”

Arts, culture and tourism MEC Weziwe Thusi called on local entrepreneurs to triple their efforts to improve tourism service excellence in the province.

She said the province was poised for major international events because it had already had a taste of 2010 World Cup fever.

Recent events in the province included the preliminary 2010 Fifa draw at the International Conference Centre and music shows featuring top stars.

“When the world meets for the 2010 World Cup all eyes will be focused on our province, Thusi said.

“We must not leave room for any mistakes.”

Record-breaking year expected for tourism expo

From: 09 April 2008

This year's Tourism Indaba, perhaps more than any other, is especially crucial for the industry and destination South Africa. This is because it's the Indaba at which many of the buying decisions for the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be made. And with two months to go, South African Tourism's annual premier travel show has already attracted roughly 14% more visitors to the show than last year.

The global travel and tourism trade has an approximate 18-month buying cycle. The buyers will be at Indaba 2008, – taking place in KwaZulu-Natal, 10 – 13 May 2008 – to do business; to invest in the best and most accessible of South African destination products; to find places to stay and things to do for the hundreds of thousands of football fans who will flock to South Africa in the 2010 to be a part of the first FIFA World Cup on this continent.

Overall number

The overall number of registered visitors is 3777, compared to 2007's 922. Both local and international media registrations have collectively gone up by 17% from 316 to 385.

Sindile Xulu, country manager, domestic at SA Tourism, says, "While registration to the show is still open, we already have an indication of the level of interest in the show with an increase of participants."

This is officially the biggest Indaba ever. Xulu says that these numbers further emphasise confidence by the world's travelers and travel trade in SA as a world-class value-for-money destination.

Especially encouraging is the notable increase of new international delegates to the show, which has grown by 19% from 1713 in 2007 to 2108.

Increased international buyers

Registrations received indicate that international buyers have increased by 38%, while local tourism trade is sitting at 392, a 26% increase from the 287 in 2007.

“Indaba gives local trade opportunities to market its products as well as participate in workshops and other activities on offer. We look forward to welcoming you in Durban on 10 May,” concludes Xulu.

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Direct Durban to Dubai flights planned

From: Daily News 23 April 2008

It was the "worst kept secret" in local tourism circles, so on Tuesday, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Zweli Mkhize, finally said what everyone had been whispering.

And that is, Emirates, the Dubai-based global airline, will be flying direct to Durban - and it will happen this year.

Discussions with the airline "are in their final stages and they have been granted a licence to fly to Durban this year, thereby allowing for a build-up of passengers ahead of 2010", Mkhize said in his budget policy speech in the provincial legislature on Tuesday.

A statement was expected from the airline soon.

The minister said an "aggressive" marketing strategy was under way to attract the appropriate airline services to the Dube Trade Port (and King Shaka International Airport) to link the countries being targeted by the Trade and Investment KZN body.

"Negotiations have been initiated with the likes of Emirates and Jet Airways, ensuring we sign up major global carriers well before the airport is commissioned in 2010," he said.

More than R1,6-billion has been spent on the design, earthworks and other aspects of the R6,8-billion Dube Trade Port and King Shaka International Airport.

The minister said 2010 had provided the platform for growth and development which called for attention in the areas of accommodation and catering, tourism, services, transportation and logistics, security and facilities.

Government investment in the Dube Trade Port and the soccer stadium had signalled an improvement in investors' confidence in the province.

"The challenge is now to sustain such confidence in the light of power shortages, rising fuel costs, interest rate hikes, turbulent financial markets and skills shortages," Mkhize said.

Economic conditions were difficult enough for large organisations and the small business sector was the first to suffer, he said.

Mkhize's department's budget for the 2008/2009 year is R2,6-billion, a 79 percent increase on the previous year.

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