The eThekwini municipality and provincial government aims to grow the number of international tourists passing through the King Shaka International airport by at least two million over the next seven years.
eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo told a press conference held prior to the start of the 2015 World Routes Conference that numbers passing through King Shaka International Airport are steadily rising. He said government aimed to increase visitors to the province from 3.8 million to 5 million over the next seven years.
This announcement preceded announcements that both Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines will be flying to Durban before year end.
The Kwa-Zulu Natal province, together with Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) has invested heavily in the establishment of King Shaka International Airport and the surrounding state-of-the-art Dube Trade Port which lies at the heart of Durban’s aerotropolis and facilitates the export, import and transhipment of products.
This development has created a unique opportunity to increase international air arrivals, as it is a gateway unique to the African continent.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Michael Mabuyakhulu, said that in order to increase passenger numbers and international visitors, partnerships between key stakeholders in the value chain were essential.
“We are, of course, alluding to the news that Qatar Airways will be introducing a new flight service between Doha and our state-of-the-art King Shaka International Airport. This move is in line with our ambitious plans of developing an aviation inspired conurbation, the Durban aerotropolis, as a catalyst towards the stimulation of growth to unleash considerable business and employment opportunities for our people,” he said.
The first Qatar Airways flight will touch down on December 17.
Qatar intends introducing four flights per week using a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft via Johannesburg. The new international service will connect Durban to more than 151 destinations across the globe via Qatar Airways’ Doha Hub.
Mabuyakhulu said that, in order to achieve these ambitious tourist numbers, marketers were targeting key markets in Asia, India, China, the Gulf and BRICS countries.
When asked whether new Visa regulations which are believed to be discouraging international visits to South Africa, would stand in the way of tourism growth, he replied that he didn’t see this as major problem.
“Government is aware of this and has appointed an inter-ministerial team chaired by the Deputy President to review visa regulations. We are expecting very soon that the inter-ministerial team will play a part in the determination of the matter. However, if one person doesn’t get onto a flight because of Visa regulations, it’s one person too many,” he said.
The new regulations came into effect in June this year in an attempt to stop child trafficking, impacting the number of visitors to the country with the figures for the first quarter of this year showing a worrying drop.
On Sunday, Mabuyakhulu officially welcomed Qatar Airways’ expansion plans in South Africa. This had, however, been common knowledge for some time. He said this was likely to produce an upsurge in the tourist, business and general passenger numbers.
“As government we have duly recognised that accessibility is a key feature needed to achieve sustainable economic growth and prosperity and it is in that spirit that we continue to provide services and improve the provision of world class transport and logistics infrastructure. Our partnership with Qatar Airways will therefore add value to our campaign of building sustainable air connectivity from King Shaka International Airport to the rest of the trading world, which would ensure that KwaZulu-Natal becomes a key regional aviation hub.”
General Manager of King Shaka International Airport Terence Delomoney said that the airport shouldn’t have much trouble matching capacity to the coming activity.
“Airport management is reviewing the master plan but from an operational perspective, we are ready, and we are looking at capacity for the future because there are various ways to deal with the aircraft. The airport has annual capacity for 7.5 million passengers and we are currently accepting about 4.6 million passengers. From those numbers, we do have additional capacity,” he said.