For the second year in a row, South Africa’s tourism industry as a whole has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The effects are felt especially during the festive season, which in 2021 and 2022 escaped harsh lockdown restrictions, contributing to a positive increase in tourism spending and visitor numbers.
During a media briefing on Saturday, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala relayed some much-needed positive information on preliminary tourism and economic impact indicators, and committed to the province looking at overcoming setbacks imposed by Covid-19.
Hotel, visitor occupancy rates improving
Zikalala said despite the tourism industry still hurting, positive signs have been seen over the past few weeks in the province.
On Christmas weekend alone, some parts of the province recorded hotel occupancy rates at over 80%, notably in the Durban and iLembe regions.
Zikalala commended the South African tourism sector for its resilience, especially while it remained on the UK’s travel red list.
The World Travel and Tourism Council estimated that the South African economy lost around R790 million every month in visitor spend while southern Africa was on the red list.
The Tourism Business Council of South Africa said it estimated the country lost about R26 million a day during the previous red listing, with the most recent travel ban threatening to be more devastating.
Zikalala said estimates indicate occupancy rates averaged around 65% across KZN during the festive season, with final festive figures yet to be tallied.
It is projected the province will reach an occupancy rate of 70%.
Based on this, it is also projected that the 2021/22 festive season’s economic impact comes to the value of R1.5 billion.
Toll gate and airport stats
From 14 to 28 December, a total of 497,017 vehicles travelled into KZN from the N3.
This data was based on passenger vehicles passing through the Marianhill Toll Plaza on the N3 Toll Concession route.
Close to 100,000 vehicles travelled to Durban between the 20th and 25th of December alone, and between 14 and 28 December, 253,936 vehicles travelled in the direction of Durban and the KZN coast.
243,081 vehicles travelled in the direction of Pietermaritzburg.
In terms of air passenger arrivals into King Shaka International Airport (KSIA) between 13 and 26 December, coming from domestic airports, 90,243 passengers arrived at KSIA.
71% of these passengers were from Johannesburg, which Zikalala said was expected, owing to Gauteng “being KZN’s number one inter-provincial source market for domestic tourism”.
Keep being responsible
Zikalala pleaded with citizens to remain responsible and vaccinate as they usher in the new year.
As things stand, he said there has not been any indication of many crises at trauma units or mass fatal accidents in the province, indicating “people did their best to be responsible”.
“We commend all citizens and plead that we continue with the good and positive behaviour.”
He warned that people not let their guard down, however, when it came to Covid-19.
On 31 December 2021, 2,935 new cases were registered, the second highest in the country.
He also said rumours are beginning to swirl about “the new Fluerona variant in Israel”, which is being closely monitored.
“We wish all our fellow citizens a Happy and a prosperous 2022.”
Compiled by Nica Richards