‘Local tourism needs a boost’

2019-02-25 12:15
Msunduzi’s chairperson for  the sustainable development and city entities portfolio committee Eunice Majola-Zondi.

Msunduzi’s chairperson for the sustainable development and city entities portfolio committee Eunice Majola-Zondi. (Nokuthula Ntuli)

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Despite having rich heritage and affordable recreational activities, Msunduzi is struggling to attract both local and international tourists.

The City’s chairperson for the sustainable development and city entities portfolio committee Eunice Majola-Zondi said with the competition for tourists increasing from cities across KwaZulu-Natal, it is getting harder to attract visitors to the province’s capital.

The member of Msunduz’s executive commitee said the people driving from Johannesburg to Durban passed through Pietermaritzburg but most did not even stop for meals at local restaurants nor visited a craft market.

“We are not advertising our tourism offerings as much as we should and that requires both the public and private sectors to work together. Msunduzi Pietermaritzburg Tourism is trying its best but they also need support.”

She identified limited accommodation options and lack of conference facilities as a serious setback for local tourism.

“We must acknowledge that for a long time we were one of those cities that didn’t take tourism seriously and as a result we lost out on a lot of things, including investment by international hotel groups,” said Majola-Zondi.

She said she was often envious of how Ballito had reinvented itself from a small town on the North Coast to one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country, in less than 20 years.

“We boast about being the capital city of the province but we have not developed ourselves to standard of being one.

“We don’t even have a five-star hotel and we also don’t have a single large conference venue that’s of the calibre of the international convention centres that you find in Durban and Cape Town,” she said.

Majola-Zondi said local tourism establishments did not even benefit as much as they could during major events like the annual state of the province address and other sporting events that are unique to the City.

“During the Comrades Marathon most of the athletes arrive in KZN days before the race but they stay in Durban, even when it’s a down run  — which starts in Pietermaritzburg. But I don’t blame them because it is up to us as a city to offer them quality hotel infrastructure that’s of international standards.”

As a member of KwaZulu-Natal’s committee for investment and tourism, Majola-Zondi does not believe that Pietermaritzburg should be disregarded as a competitor in the tourism sector just because it does not have a beach.

She said most of the offerings that it does have were not found anywhere else in the world.

Pietermaritzburg is internationally known for its colonial and liberation heritage. This comes after having hosted some renowned leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Imbali’s Manaye Hall is the place where former president Nelson Mandela gave his last public speech as a free man in 1961.

The hall precinct is currently undergoing a multi-million rand upgrade, which will include an amphitheatre and tourism route.

“The issue of tourism was on the council agenda a lot during the time of the former municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi and we were investigating potential investment that we could attract to boost local tourism but there was no follow-up after he left,” said Majola-Zondi.

She said there was plenty of prime land available for the development of hotels and conference centres around the city.

As an attempt to turn things around, Majola-Zondi said she was going to start taking the municipality’s general manager for sustainable development and the tourism manager to the meetings of the province’s investment and tourism committee.

“I want them to go there and hear what the other regions are doing and see what investment opportunities we are missing out on. Maybe they can motivate for our city to get some of those projects, because really there is nothing stopping us but our lack of trying” said Majola-Zondi.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  tourism
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