Accommodation News for July 2008 in Kwazulu Natal

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 Sanibonani, Durban

From: DNAIndia Vidya Prabhu 24 July 2008

With the largest Caucasian, Indian, and racially mixed communities in Africa, South Africa is as ethnically diverse as it can get. And Durban, one of SA’s busiest cities, is no different. As a coastal city, the climate here is quite humid – even in the winters which go on upto the end of July.

Things to do
While the safari tour is very much a part of every tourist’s itinerary, Durban is also known for its Zulu culture – its malls and entertainment centres – and of course, its flora and fauna. What’s more, the city’s location is a great advantage; it is just 45 minutes away from the village of Zimbali, a premier residential, resort and golfing development in Kwazulu Natal. In fact, the wellness lodge there is known for its traditional head and shoulder massages.

Where entertainment centres are concerned, the first mention has to be that of the uShaka Marine World, Africa’s largest themed marine park with its delightful dolphin shows. This apart, you’ll find a shopping area, snorkel reef and water slides here as well.

Talking of water, Durban’s most famous beach would probably be the Golden Mile, thus named due to the golden hues of its sand. Durban has its share of sea lovers and surfing is popular even in the winters. For that matter, Durban is also into sports as is evident from its three major stadiums – the Absa Rugby stadium which in turn is right opposite the under-construction Moses Mabhida stadium. Interestingly, the latter will also be hosting matches for the FIFA World Cup 2010. Then of course, there’s the Sahara Kingsmead cricket stadium which should be on every cricket fan’s must-see list.

For nature lovers
There’s a lot in store for nature lovers as well. You must visit the Durban Botanical Gardens, which are a visual delight. With varied species of plants and trees and a lake with lovely ducks quacking about, a sense of tranquility is definitely in store for people here.

If you want to get a grip on the art and culture scene in Durban, do stop by the Phansi
Museum. With displays of life-size dolls, beadwork, headrests, meat-platters, carved spoons and a fine collection of Zulu clay pots representing different regions and cultures of Southern Africa, it’s a treasure trove of sorts. There’s also a contemporary collection of modern sculptures to see.

Durban’s not lagging behind on its nightlife and shopping either. People flock to the Gateway mall – one of the largest in Africa – with its share of restaurants, shops and multiplexes. Good accommodation options could be the Suncoast hotel, the Royal Palms and the Elangeni hotel.

So what are you waiting for? Just pack that bag and shout ‘Yebo Durban!’

 Incentives to entice global airlines to Durban airport

From: Business Day  24 July 2008

KWAZULU-NATAL Tourism Authority and Airports Company SA are going all out to attract long-haul international airlines to the new Durban International Airport at La Mercy and are using attractive incentives to entice them.

However, the sky-high fuel price and slow economy are making their task extremely difficult, with many airlines cutting back on capacity or preferring to add flights to more established centres such as Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport and Cape Town International Airport.

Ndabo Khoza, CEO of the KwaZulu-Natal Tourism Authority, said while the current economic conditions had hindered the province’s drive to attract airlines to La Mercy, he believed the situation would improve in the next two years.

“The economic situation is not permanent and we will continue lobbying airlines to add Durban to their networks,” said Khoza.

Earlier this year, Emirates announced it would be adding daily flights to Durban from December, but last month pulled the plug on those plans. “Although demand on our Durban route was strong and well received, the high fuel price has forced us to (re-evaluate) our route operations,” said Fouad Caunhye, Emirates’ regional manager for southern Africa.

Another obstacle facing the initiative was restrictive bilateral air policy agreements that made it virtually impossible for airlines to operate commercially viable flights from Durban.

Khoza said the tourism authority would continue to push for more air access to SA, and KwaZulu-Natal in particular, in a bid to grow the province’s slice of the international tourism market.

“At the end of the day, if the capacity is there we can create the demand and make the Durban route a sustainable one,” said Khoza.

While reluctant to give details of any incentives offered to airlines, he said that any route would be supported by a strong marketing campaign.

Durban has a large presence of domestic and regional carriers but there is no long-haul international airline represented at the city’s airport.

The La Mercy airport is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2010, boasting an ultramodern terminal.

 KZN tourism feels the economic pinch

From: The Mercury  24 July 2008

The KwaZulu-Natal tourism and hospitality industry has taken a hammering owing to recent interest rate and petrol hikes.

Tourism KZN spokesperson James Seymour said there was a notable decline in passengers coming into Durban International Airport and a decline in people staying at hotels.

Seymour said Durban had the advantage of being close to Johannesburg, making it still accessible to the leisure market.

"Another huge advantage is that we have a big internal population, meaning that locals can visit tourism destinations closer to home," he said.

However, Gerhard Patzer, provincial chairperson of the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa, said there had been an 8 percent drop in occupancy rates at all three-, four- and five-star hotels in the past five months.

"Companies are cutting down on business trips and staying fewer nights in hotels. Holidaymakers are also cutting back and we have seen an 8 percent decline from last year, meaning that people are using about 40 000 room nights less than last year."

However, Patzer said that this month was looking better than last year's July

He said the reduced hotel occupancy was also because there were fewer international conferences at Durban's International Convention Centre than last year.

Dolphin Coast (Northern KZN) Tourism officer Nombuso Maphanga said the hospitality industry in her area was also showing reduced bookings.

"Accommodation establishments have indicated that they were not more than 50 percent booked up. Bookings were low compared to last year. The tourism office was also quiet," she said.

A Hibiscus Coast Tourism official said that the South Coast, with 80 000 beds, was expecting a 20 percent decline in business. This was taking into account the effects of recent floods in the area.

"We are quite happy with what we are seeing at the moment. We had a good Easter and May had bumper events. The sardine run was also very successful," said the official.

What a hoot!

From: The Star  05 July 2008

You're driving from Gauteng to Durbs. You've got some time, maybe an extra night or two should you find something worthwhile. Or perhaps you're looking for a week away that isn't too far but is something different from your norm. You might even be ready to leave the rat race and move somewhere. Raise your glass to the Champagne Valley!

The Champagne Valley, named for the Champagne Castle peak, is just west of Estcourt, off the N3. Quality tar roads take you there from Durban.

It's tucked into the Central Drakensberg, and is packed with accommodation and activities.

Champagne Sports Resort anchors the Valley. This premier destination has an 18-hole Hugh Baiocchi golf course, bowls, four swimming pools, a business centre with wireless internet, and a fantastic restaurant. Blesbok roam the well-maintained grounds, with views of the Champagne Castle and Cathkin peaks.

There is lots to do at Champagne Sports Resort, if you don't care for lounging at the pool or in your room. Grab a fishing rod and head out to one of the five dams for some bass or trout, or put on some takkies for basketball, badminton, or tennis. Reception has mountain bikes available, and there's a squash court, too!

Children will enjoy the playground with trampolines and the sports putt course next to it. You can also hit the table tennis or sand volleyball court.

Cost is R805/night for a couple and R145/night for each child. See or call 036-468- 8000 for more information.

For some culture and a slightly more casual holiday, head farther up the Champagne Valley to the large green gate, shared by the Drakensberg Boys' Choir School and Dragon Peaks Holiday Resort.

The Choir School holds concerts much of the year on Wednesdays at 1pm (more info at 036-468-1012). And Dragon Peaks (036-468-1031) is great fun, too. There's a large swimming pool, a kiddie pool, and two water slides, volleyball court, tennis court, game room, hiking, helicopter rides, and paintball.

They also maintain a beautiful array of birds in a large enclosure. The accommodation ranges from camping to luxury thatched chalets. Dragon's Rest is an on-site fine eating establishment with a pub next-door. For the heartier adventurers, follow the R600 all the way up the Champagne Valley to its end at Monk's Cowl, an Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife park.

Camp on the grounds with the peaks right above you, but stow away your food or the monkeys might snitch a snack. Or pop over to the cafe for ultimate ease in the outback. You can hit the hiking trail and camp out along the trail, too.

Businesses in KZN run at a loss after floods

From:  15 July 2008

Hibberdene on the South Coast is at risk of becoming a ghost town as businesses keeping the area alive teeter on the brink of collapse after the closure of a bridge connecting locals and tourists travelling between the town and Port Shepstone.

The bridge, which runs over the Umzimayi River on the R102, suffered structural damage during the recent floods that left many areas, including Amanzimtoti, devastated.

The small town's economy largely relies on passing trade that has taken a huge knock after the closure of the bridge. Businesses have reported 30 percent reductions in revenue, with a local Spar supermarket predicting losses of up to R1-million in July.

The closure of the bridge has divided Hibberdene into two, forcing locals and public transport vehicles to travel via the N2, where they are forced to pay R13 in toll fees.

The lack of work on the bridge has also frustrated many businesspeople, who are threatening mass action by blocking traffic on the toll road unless the work commences.

Hibberdene Buildit owner Kean Webster, who fears the worst for his business, said he had lost 40 percent in profits after the floods. He said he might be forced to shut down his business should the problem persist.

He spends R65 on toll fees daily while making deliveries.

"As the owner of a building supply store, I should be a booming business swamped with purchases and orders from people who've had their houses damaged, but I'm losing instead. In July alone, I'll lose about R400 000 in turnover.

"I started my business in September. This should be my honeymoon stage but instead I'm dealing with this massive blow. I have four people that I had planned to employ before the floods who are now on standby because I can't afford to employ them at the moment," Webster said.

He added that he was feeling the pinch of the high fuel costs as there were certain areas his delivery trucks were unable to reach where he was forced to use his 4x4.

Businessperson and farmers have together revived a dirt road that does the work of the damaged bridge.

However, there are fears that it will deteriorate unless it is maintained because the entire community uses it, including heavy duty vehicles.

Engen garage owner Wynand Bezuidenhout said: "Tenders have not been awarded yet. We understand the pressure on the local government, but work on the bridge must commence because we are losing out while the toll company is making a lot of money. If the situation persists, I might retrench eight to 14 people because the only way I can cut costs is through people. It's bad considering that for every person I retrench, about five more people, who depend on them, are affected."

Wimpy owner Nils Potgieter said his business was "dying".

He said he had recorded poor profits over the holiday period, which should have been a peak trading period for his business.

"It's been terrible. We rely on passing trade which we are missing out on because of the damaged bridge.

"I employ 20 people who are at risk. We are approaching the council to get permission to organise mass action in two weeks," he said.

Transport department spokesperson Nonkululeko Mbatha said it would be premature to comment on the matter because flood damage reports needed to be submitted to the cabinet, which would decide on allocating funding.

Durban's Warner Beach area to be upgraded

From:  08 July 2008

Plans are afoot to upgrade the run-down and neglected Warner Beach area, to make the most of its magnificent ocean views and its untapped eco-tourism potential.

"The area is a gem; a hidden treasure, but it needs upgrading. It has no clear character. There is a real potential for the hospitality industry, but it is not particularly well developed at the moment," said Derek White, the urban development manager with the eThekwini Municipality, which is behind the project.

The plan is part of the city's coastal regeneration programme and the vision is to "create a marine sporting and leisure lover's paradise".

The urban design framework plan that has been drawn up will involve the area from the popular swimming beach at Doonside, along Kingsway, through Warner Beach, neighbouring Winklespruit and both sides of the Ilova Estuary and inland to the N2 freeway.

It is a 6km stretch of real estate involving diverse attributes: beaches, built-up areas and commercial strips.

"We know the potential of Umhlanga, but we don't yet know the full potential of Warner Beach, and that is what we want to find out," said Nardus van Heerden, the project leader and strategic development manager with the city architects department.


The city's economic development unit, which has established a fund to upgrade key tourism nodes and corridors, has appointed the architects department as development managers to package the project.

A multi-disciplinary consortium of Albonica Sacks Nzumara, involving urban designers, project leaders, architects, engineers, environmentalists and town planners, has been appointed to tackle the various aspects of the programme, and the council also has its own team. Public meetings have been held in Warner Beach about the scheme.

It is envisaged that the various aspects of the project - still to be identified - will be rolled out over the next three to five years, with some programmes taking longer if they need environmental approval.

Although still in the concept phase, White and Van Heerden said that the programme would include landscaping, improving the signage and access to the area and the beaches, dune rehabilitation as well as new paving and lighting, traffic-calming turning circles and much-needed additional parking areas.

Van Heerden and White said they were investigating how they could take advantage of the railway line, and positive negotiations were going on with the necessary authorities.

Next they will be taking the project on a "roadshow" to the various council departments that will have to help make it all happen, to get their support, enthusiasm and funding.

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