KwaZulu-Natal tourism players have adopted an optimistic “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” stance and are doing great things to breathe life back into the industry.

KZN hotels, holiday resorts, casinos and restaurants have embraced a can-do attitude in the face of the adversity wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than anything else, the recovery of tourism in KZN is helping to dispel the air of gloominess and is putting back smiles on the dials of travel and entertainment fans.

Tourism KZN’s 360-degree Tourism Recovery Marketing Strategy to claw back some of the lost prospects in time for the approaching summer season, kicked off with an inspirational visual message of hope on social media to remind prospective travellers that while “it’s been tough to distance yourself from the warmth of KZN’s shores, exploring the mountain tops of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg, and dancing to the beat of Zulu warriors, KZN will see you
soon”.

The inspiring video compilation reassures travellers that their favourite places are still there and ready to welcome them back soon.

Adding further stimuli to the recuperation of tourism has been the virtual community of KZN flag-wavers created by Tourism KZN – sightseers, hikers, foodies, nature lovers, bikers, runners, beach bums, travel agents and tour guides are sharing their plans on Tourism KZN’s MY KZN Facebook page on how they are reconnecting and rebuilding tourism in the
province.

Tourism KZN started the MY KZN page as part of the greater destination awareness marketing strategy to ensure that KZN remains top of mind and again quickly becomes the “must visit” destination it was before the coronavirus catastrophe.

Tsogo Sun, the hotels, gaming and entertainment group, is swimming against the current – rather than shutting hotel doors because of the lull in the industry, it has taken over Durban’s historic Edward Hotel with big plans to restore it to its former glory.

Another iconic Durban hotel, the Oyster Box, hit the No. 1 spot in the ‘Top Resort Hotels in Africa’ category in the 25th anniversary Travel & Leisure World’s Best Awards.

Part of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection and with all the charm of a bygone era, the 86- room Oyster Box is the epitome of modern elegance and comfort, standing majestically on Umhlanga’s beachfront, overlooking the Indian Ocean and the iconic Umhlanga lighthouse.

The Oyster Box has reopened its doors for limited business with The Ocean Terrace Restaurant and The Spa rolling out the red carpet to welcome its loyal patrons back.

There will be financial relief in the form of cheques from the Department of Health for operators of several Durban hotels who have displayed a spirit of humanity in allowing their establishments to be used as official quarantine sites. Among these are Umhlanga Sands, Umhlanga; Cabana Beach, Umhlanga; The Palace All-Suite, Durban Central part; The Royal Hotel, Central Durban; Coastlands West Street, South Beach; Mackaya Bella Guesthouse, Durban Central/South; ONOMO Hotel, Durban; and Wentworth Hotel, Durban.

Those with itchy palms in KZN can once again taunt Lady Luck at the two largest casinos, Suncoast and Sibaya.

But those who will be having a fling at the roulette wheel, Blackjack table or will play the slot machines must adhere to strict Covid-19 protocols.

At both casinos only loyalty cardholders will be allowed onto the gaming floors. Every second slot machine has been disabled to ensure appropriate physical distancing between guests on the casino floor.

Cloth or disposable masks must be worn at all times and a medical screening questionnaire must be filled upon entry.

Tsogo Sun has made it clear that the announcement by the Mariott International hotel group that it was closing the Edward Hotel because of the impact of Covid-19 is not true. Marcel von Aulock, CEO of Tsogo Sun Hotels, said the hotel industry globally and in South Africa is undoubtably experiencing one of the most disruptive and difficult periods in history.

He said with the relaxation of lockdown regulations, several of the group’s hotels have opened but are operating on limited capacity and will remain so until demand patterns and flight activities in both the domestic and ultimately the international markets begin to normalise.

He said Tsogo Sun Hotels, via its subsidiary Hospitality Property Fund, owns a controlling stake in Edward Hotel. With Marriott terminating its relationship, Tsogo Sun will assume management of the Edward Hotel.

“The Edward is a landmark on the Durban beachfront where we already have a strong presence. The hotel has a 111-year history, beautiful facilities and will add something different to our portfolio in that node,” Aulock said.

Meanwhile, holiday resorts are bracing for a rush of tourists with the further easing of restrictions, and many said early bookings were beginning to come through.

KZN resort owners said they expect to see a rise in summer staycations this year, as cautious holidaymakers turn their backs on foreign trips and look closer to home for post-lockdown retreats.

Contrary to the belief that tourist establishments will be increasing their rates to compensate for the months when there was no business, travel operators said it will be suicidal to do so.

“In fact, if anything, prices will be substantially reduced by accommodation establishments and holiday resorts to woo tourists back.

“There is also the understanding that the public has also been economically affected by the lockdown. Hence, there will be post-lockdown bargains galore,” the manager of a Durban block of holiday apartments said.

So, start packing the sun hat, suntan lotion, beach toys, binoculars and braai kits – and start counting the number of sleeps to the one holiday you have been desperate for.

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