Accommodation News for May 2008 in Kwazulu Natal

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R15bn KZN tourism deal on the cards

From: The Mercury  29 May 2008

Top executives of Dubai-based property and hospitality heavyweight Ruwaad Holdings are in KwaZulu-Natal looking at possible investment in a R15-billion tourism resort and property project for the North Coast.

Sources on Monday confirmed investigations and talks were proceeding between the KZN government and Ruwaad Holdings, but stressed that nothing had been finalised yet - both sides were talking about terms and conditions.

KZN Premier S'bu Ndebele, who announced the development in his state-of-the-province address in February, repeated details about the development at the African Renaissance conference in Durban yesterday. He said the huge development could become the fifth project of its kind in the world, based on the concept of a "city within a city". A statue of King Shaka, mooted by the KZN government but built with private funding, would be erected as part of the project.

Ruwaad Holdings is a subsidiary of leading UAE-based investment and holdings company Dubai 9 Group, which has investments worldwide and is headed by CEO Hayan Merchant. Ruwaad is the property, hospitality and tourism and development subsidiary.

It is involved in ground-breaking property developments in the UAE, including a $2,5-billion (R19,2-billion) Hollywood-themed park, having secured a landmark agreement with film and television giant Paramount Pictures.

The development was launched in June, when the company announced it had head-hunted international destination development expert Darrell Metzger as chief executive of Ruwaad Destinations.

Metzger is a former boss of Disneyworld and has also held leadership positions in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The Dubai 9 Group is also a part owner of the first Versace hotel development in the world - the Palazzo Versace Resort on Australia's Gold Coast - and is jointly developing a second Palazzo Versace Resort in the Dubai Cultural Village.

Leading property professionals said the magnitude and stature of the Dubai 9 Group's and Ruwaad's developments in the Middle East gave an indication of what could be expected in the North Coast project.

Ruwaad's Dubai headquarters said Merchant and Metzger were on business in Durban and sources said they were in meetings with a technical team already based here.

Ndebele confirmed The Mercury's research on Friday, conceding: "Yes, it is Ruwaad. I cannot reveal more information on the project... I have said all that I can. It is the right of the developer, once the master plan has been finalised, to reveal and officially launch this big project with the government."

Ndebele said in February: "The project involves a multibillion-rand investment on the northern side of the uThukela River in the Macambini area. The project will be implemented in phases and will create tens of thousands of jobs.

In his budget speech last month he said: "The project will be a fully integrated tourism destination. It will comprise a variety of market- segmented residential communities, entertainment attractions, hospitality, education, health care, leisure, retail and commercial offerings."

'Pope' tackles Dusi on wheels

From:   19 May 2008

Durban - Over 650 riders will take part in the third edition of the Jonsson Dusi Mfula Off Road Experience to be held on May 31 and June 1 through the Valley of a Thousand Hills in KwaZulu-Natal.

The mountain bike race has more than doubled its entries from the inaugural edition in 2006 and has another 200 people on the waiting list and because of infrastructural constraints, the organisers had to put a cap on entries of 650.

"We provide overnight luxury, tented accommodation for all 650 entrants, hydration and more than 2 500 meals and we bring every single thing into the Valley - hence us having to cap entries. Entries were sold out three months before entries closed. "We are considering increasing the total entries available next year, but need to see how it works out this year," said event director Ray de Vries.

De Vries was said Dusi Canoe Marathon legend, Graeme Pope-Ellis has entered. Pope, who has won the Dusi 15 times in the races' 58-year history, will be riding with his wife, Wendy, for the second year.

"I love mountain biking as it is similar to canoeing and is good cross training in the paddling off season. It must be one of the fastest growing sports in South Africa and I can see why," said Pope Ellis from his home outside Pietermaritzburg.

"My mountain bike gets me to places that other people don't see. We live in the most amazing country in the world and this sport gets us to see all the beautiful spots - and faster than canoeing or running," said Pope Ellis.

"My wife, Wendy, loves the sport and is also very excited to ride."

"I didn't ride a bike from the age of 10-years-old to 40-years-old and when I turned 41, I decided that it was time to try mountain biking and have loved it ever since," she said.

"I know it sounds crazy with Graeme having won the Dusi 15 times, but I never really knew what famous names like Hippo, Gumtree, Nqumeni Hill, Umfula Store and others were. I have paddled so I know how to approach the rapids, but it is only now on a mountain bike that I am able to see them," said Wendy.

The mountain bike experience follows the route, deep in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, of the famous Dusi from the capital, Pietermaritzburg, to the coast.

The first day winds down from the start at Bishopstowe in Pietermaritzburg along the route of the Dusi on district roads and lots of single track via Mission Rapid and Umfula store to Inanda Dam. The second day starts at Inanda Dam and finishes at Blue Lagoon on the coast in Durban.

The event has already attracted international attention and organisers will be marketing the event overseas immediately after this year's race. The event will be broadcast throughout South Africa, Africa as well the USA and Europe.


Rorke's Drift hotel planned

From:   Myrtle Ryan  11 May 2008

With about 48 000 tourists visiting Rorke's Drift every year, Charles Aikenhead plans a hotel at the famous battlefield site.

Although Fugitive's Drift and Isandlwana Lodge are in the area, Aikenhead says these establishments cater for the well-heeled market and are outside the price range of most South African travellers.

He said the new hotel would "be affordable for the South African market" and would be able to take up to 60 guests.

Six round buildings would surround a central courtyard allowing access to the en-suite rooms furnished in Victorian fashion and named after distinguished warriors.

Aikenhead is one of the driving forces behind the annual Swartkop Challenge gun run, in which international teams compete against local ones to see who can pull the heavy artillery piece up the hill in record time.

Aikenhead said most of the battlefields visitors come from the United Kingdom and although they gained from a favourable exchange rate, many watched their budgets closely.

"South Africa is a long-haul destination with airfare pricey," he said.

"If luxury accommodation costs swallow much of their allocated daily allowance, many people will think twice about coming here. Other countries could prove more attractive."

Given the popularity of the battlefields, especially to descendants of those who fought in wars in this country, he feels KwaZulu-Natal should not lose this lucrative market.

He said Amafa Heritage KZN had given its blessing to the new hotel and he believed the environmental impact assessment would soon be approved.

2010 World Cup: Register or lose out

From: The Sowetan  Xolile Bhengu 7 May 2008

HURRY: The tourists are coming.

Fifa LogoOwners of guest houses and lodges that are still not registered to host visitors during the 2010 Soccer World Cup might be left in the cold.

The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa says it still needs 4,669 more rooms in the non-hotel establishment industry to sign up.

Registrations must be done with Match, which is Fifaís accommodation, ticket sales, and hospitality arm.

Venues must sign up in advance so that they can be included in the Fifa brochure due for release next year.

The council, which began its sign-up campaign six months ago, said so far the bulk of positive responses for registration with Match have come from establishments in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

The 2010 soccer showpiece is expected to draw between 350,000 and 500,000 tourists to South Africa.

It is expected to create about 80,000 jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

Tourism Grading Council head of marketing and communication Lunice Johnston said they would be using the Tourism Indaba, which will be held at Durbanís Chief Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre from May 10-14, to persuade more accommodation owners to register.

Johnston said the latest figures of registrations for grading showed it was halfway to meeting its target of having 10,000 rooms in the non-hotel sector.

She said the body would grade registered establishments from 1 to 5 stars, which was a guide for tourists on what they would expect to pay for their stay.

Emirates to launch daily flights to Durban

From:  7 May 2008

EMIRATES has announced that it will launch daily flights to Durban from December 1.

An A330-200 aircraft with 27 business-class and 251 economy-class seats will be used for the new service. There will be multilingual cabin crew and passengers will be able to enjoy multi-course meals, personal entertainment systems and wider seats.

Flight time is eight hours and 40 minutes. EK774 will depart Dubai daily at 04h45 and arrive in Durban at 11h25. EK775 will depart Durban at 13h15 and will arrive in Dubai at 23h45.

Tim Clark, Emirates president, says the flights will strengthen inbound tourist arrivals, giving travellers from key cities in Europe, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East direct access to Durban. The flights will provide a link to over 90 global destinations for Durbanís outbound travellers, who can now avoid travelling via Johannesburg.

Jeanette Phillips

Sugarbelt 400 going 'home' for '08 race

From:  5 May 2008


The Nissan Sugarbelt 400, round three of the Absa Off-Road championship, will return to the Eston area over May 16/17.

Last year saw the event, organised by the Natal Off-Road Motor Club, run in the Hluhluwe area of northern kwaZulu-Natal. This year it will be back to where the Eston, Mid-Illovo and Tala Valley Farmer's Association put a huge amount of time and effort into what in the past has been one of the most popular - and toughest - events on the off-road calendar.

"We're delighted to be back in the Eston area," said clerk of the course Rex Boreham. "The local community puts a great deal of work into the race and has again been a big help in finding and marking the route"

Boreham said the 2008 event would be just as tough as previous years with the usual mix of cane fields, forest plantations and open grassland. And it's likely to be a wet race.

"If we don't get a dry spell the race is going to be wet," said Boreham. "There's been a lot of rain the area recently and the long-range forecast is for more."

The prologue on May 16 to determine start positions will be run over 65km. The race on May 17 will have a west loop and an east loop, each about 90km. Each loop will be driven twice and the designated service area/start and finish will be at the Beaumont Eston Farmer's Club.

"The east loop will be the faster," Boreham said. "By and large we have not departed too much from terrain used in previous races and I don't have any tricks up my sleeve. It's just going to be a tough event with changing road surfaces".

There will be a dozen spectator points within easy distance of the start/finish.

"Most will be easily accessible from tar roads," Boreham said. "They'll offer spectacular action with some high-speed sections running next to the main road.

"The spectator points will all be clearly marked and spectator guides will be available at the start/finish."

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