Last week I attended a two day workshop with the National Department of Tourism, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and a number of municipal officials to unpack the maritime and coastal tourism potentials and projects along our province’s coastline.
On analysis of inputs from stakeholders for our South Coast it became apparent that there appears to be more reason for optimism than otherwise.
Towns like Port Shepstone, Scottburgh and Margate are earmarked for urban renewal programmes, beach amenity upgrades are continuing, a marina concept is brewing for Port Shepstone and the proposed Amazon Valley Water Park at Kelso is still very much alive.
Strides have been made for our Margate Airport to receive developmental attention and in our rural areas the first implementation phase of the multi trails programme has been activated. The new Maritime Museum in Port Shepstone is under construction and designs for a new Portuguese Mariners Monument at Port Edward have been completed.
The small craft harbour concept along with the proposed multi billion Rand Music City still have legs and the Umzumbe Municipality is some way down the line to develop a new leisure and retail precinct at Turton Beach.
So collectively and all things being equal, there seems to be far more reason for optimism than one could imagine.
Of all international visitors coming to South Africa about 25% utilise our coastline for their trip- this percentage is even higher if one discounts our SADC visitors who are mainly here for retail and business purposes.
Understandably our domestic market really gravitates to the coast for leisure and holidays and presently the tourism authorities in KZN are targeting a 4% growth in coastal tourism over the next few years.
We have agreed to join hands with other coastal tourism practitioners further north to collectively introduce campaigns to encourage coastal and marine tourism which will by virtue of value adding expectation also filtrate into our inland areas. After all the rest of South Africa’s coastal tourism areas are also chasing the same buck locally and from abroad and we need to win them over to us rather than elsewhere.
Maybe the sardines have this year been a bit bleak in announcing their arrival on our beaches however I believe in the medium to long term, there are tourism initiatives here we can be radiant about.
I read once that a winner says “It may be difficult but it’s possible” and a loser says “It may be possible but it is too difficult”. I believe that there are enough winning people here for us to reach that brighter tourism and leisure horizon.