Embattled KZN tourism authorities hinging hopes on Easter

15 February 2021 - 06:00
By suthentira govender AND Suthentira Govender
Children cooling down at Ballito ski park this week, an attraction that is popular with tourists
Image: Tourism KwaZulu-Natal Children cooling down at Ballito ski park this week, an attraction that is popular with tourists

As travel-starved South Africans look for brief breaks, tourism authorities on KwaZulu-Natal's north coast have their fingers crossed for a bumper Easter holiday season — despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cheryl Peters, acting CEO of iLembe Enterprise, said that while the “past year has not been an easy one”, holiday establishments have been receiving enquiries ahead of the Easter holiday in April.

Tourism KwaZulu-Natal is on a drive to push for tourists to return to popular destinations, including the north and south coast.

“We are confident that we will see visitors return to the north coast again this Easter.

“The past year has not been an easy one, with many tourists having to cut short their December holidays due to the second wave of the coronavirus. Many are in desperate need of some time away from it all. We have been receiving a lot of enquiries.”

North coast towns like Ballito and Umdloti have, over the years gained traction as popular holiday destinations.

“We usually receive in the region of just over a million tourists per annum, and around  80,000 over the Easter holiday period. We are hoping for at least 80% occupancy this year,” said Peters.

She said the tourism sector had been battered by the effects of the pandemic.

“The tourism sector here on the north coast has unfortunately also not been immune to the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown with several businesses having to close their doors and many jobs lost.”

But despite the challenges the pandemic poses, Peters said tourism authorities were on a drive to ensure the survival of the industry.

“It was and still is important to ensure that we continue to remain top of mind as a destination so that when it’s time to make that decision to take a holiday, the north coast is first choice.

“We have worked closely with our provincial partner Tourism KZN using various marketing strategies to ensure that this happens, the key one for us being the #seeyousoon campaign. It was through these efforts that we managed to see higher occupancy levels between September and November 2020 in comparison with the same period in 2019.

“Local product owners have also come to the party and have been offering some fantastic lockdown specials. In addition, we also embarked on a #supportlocal campaign, encouraging locals who couldn’t take their usual destination holidays to rather explore their own backyards and support local.”

While events have been banned under current lockdown regulations, Peters said attractions and activities remained open including golfing, wine tasting, ziplining, microlighting and beach activities.