Hotels, lodges and guest houses in Umhlanga, north of Durban, say the closure of popular beaches is costing them millions of rand in revenue.
Many of the eThekwini Municipality’s popular beaches remain closed due to high levels of e-coli caused by sewage spills. The municipality has blamed the damage to infrastructure during the April and May floods that wreaked havoc throughout KwaZulu-Natal.
With just two months before the festive season, the tourism sector is faced with the closure of one of its biggest tourist attractions, the beaches.
The tourism sector in the province is counting on a bumper December period to recover from COVID-19, two major floods and the July unrest last year.
Umhlanga Tourism Association chairperson Duncan Heafield says some people are cancelling their bookings as they cannot utilise the beach.
“There’s a detriment of flow of accommodation decline of almost 100 bookings a day cancelled overseas, especially coming up to the holiday periods now. The estimate almost a million rand a day that’s in during the non-peak season that’s cancelled in terms of people not coming to Umhlanga. During the busy peak season it estimates up to R10 million a day in lost revenue for the businesses of Umhlanga and the community of this KZN City,” says Heafield.
One of the luxury hotels that’s been affected is the Oysterbox in Umhlanga. Oysterbox general manager of sales, Sally Gray says some people are postponing their bookings since they cannot enjoy the ocean.
“Most people that come to Durban are coming to Durban for the sea, the warm Indian Ocean currents. People are phoning and saying I’d like to come to Durban, I’ve heard that there is a problem in the ocean. Can we swim? And of course we have to say no unfortunately the beaches are closed at the moment and there then what we get as people saying well we would rather postpone our holiday and come when we can swim in the ocean. So we have cancellations, so people will cancel but most people will postpone to when its open. We can’t afford to have another December without being able to swim in the ocean,” says Gray.
Some visitors who were not aware about beach closures have called on the eThekwini Municipality to speed up the process of clearing the e-coli before the start of the festive season.
Two weeks ago, the municipality issued a statement saying the beaches were closed to protect the public. The municipality’s executive committee has also given its approval that the City’s Water and Sanitation unit reprioritise R93 million of its capital budget for the repair and maintenance of sewage infrastructure.
In the meantime, businesses remain in the dark on whether all popular beaches will be reopened before the festive season.