Park will be a tourist mecca

Posted On Friday, 02 July 2004 02:00 Published by
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The uShaka Marine Park project is a mammoth undertaking that required extensive commitment from many stakeholders

The uShaka Marine Park project is a mammoth undertaking that required extensive commitment from many stakeholders, including the city, private sector and academics, Ethekwini Metropolitan Authority economic development deputy head Dr Aman Maharaj tells Engineering News.

He says that the direct influence of the project will be felt in the tourism sector, due to a likely increase in tourism traffic to the province. The project also has other multiplier economic effects, as there are implications for job creation, not just within uShaka island itself, but also for the areas surrounding the marine park. The park is an achievement in that it shows the commitment of the city to creating growth and prosperity in the region. Once the uShaka Marine Park is teamed with other attractions, the country should see a considerable rise in national tourism, explains Maharaj.

The Point area of Durban is currently being revamped through a public–private partnership (PPP). "We are extending the International Convention Centre (ICC) significantly, which will cater for a broader service appeal, including sporting events. "Moreover, the Durban harbour is being widened through the National Ports Authority, and the Dube Trade Port is going ahead," Maharaj indicates.

He says that, in the short term, the park is expected to generate money for Kwazulu-Natal, and once this has been integrated nationally with other attractions, the effects will multiply nationally.

The city of Durban expects an additional 1,4-million visitors annually, most of whom will include international tourists, due to the opening of the theme park.

"According to our studies, international tourism is increasing by 13% a year, and we are confident that the park will assist in obtaining a larger slice of the international market," Maharaj points out.

The park is a unique offering that is a first for the African continent. Maharaj adds that it is a flagship development for Durban and for South Africa.

Over the last two decades, Durban’s market share of national tourism arrivals has declined from more than 34% to below 26% at present. In addition, the metropolitan region’s market share of new investment into tourism infrastructure and other economic activities has declined. Research undertaken by the Best Practice City Commission reveals a number of reasons for this decline in Durban’s tourism appeal and in investor confidence in the city. In terms of tourism, factors such as the downgrading of beach-front hotels in the 1980s, changes in the socioeconomic profile of the local tourist market and, importantly, the opening up to South Africans of more competitively-priced international travel since 1994, have resulted in a real decline in tourist arrivals, average duration of stay and value of spend for Durban.

This decline in the economic value of tourism resulted in a downward spiral wherein tourism operators chose to either downgrade or neglect the quality of their operations, and external investors chose to seek alternative destinations; mainly Cape Town. The inability of the city to bring to realisation key infrastructure projects such as the Point Waterfront and the international airport at La Mercy, and the prolonged delays in the issuing of casino-resort licences, also contributed to a substantial decline in investor confidence in the region. Between the beginning of 1990 and the end of 2000 there was a limited total value of new investment into hotel accommodation and other tourism product in Durban. Highlights during this period were the ICC Durban, which opened 1997, and the Hilton Hotel, which created some critical mass within the northern end of the central business district, resulting in the upgrading of adjacent buildings. In the northern precinct, some R1-billion was invested into a new commercial, retail and residential node at Umhlanga Rocks and Mount Edgecombe. The development of the R100-million Zimbali Lodge and Country Club north of Durban, and the exclusive Zimbali Coastal Estate were indicative of the relocation of investment to the north of the city.

What became clear from these examples of investment during the previous decade was that the introduction of new public-sector investment and private-sector investment into isolated development nodes had ripple effects on adjacent properties, thereby leveraging the overall end value to the city of the original investment.

Publisher: Engineering News
Source: Engineering News

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