The eThekwini Municipality says efforts to revive its tourism sector following the devastation caused by the July unrest are slowly yielding positive results. The tourism sector in the city suffered a double blow from the coronavirus pandemic and the recent unrest. The city has launched Tourism Month programmes aimed at resuscitating the sector.

Durban, a prominent tourism destination that attracts millions of visitors, is working against time to resuscitate its tourism sector with just less than three months before the start of the festive season.

The city’s tourism sector was just starting to recover from hard lockdown restrictions when the unrest occurred. This wreaked havoc not only on the sector but the economy at large.

But, eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda says the city’s tourism sector is slowly returning to its former glory, with several international events to be hosted soon. Kaunda says the launch of the city’s Tourism Month forms part of the recovery plan to create much-needed jobs, lost as a result of the unrest.

“We are starting to work with the industry to a certain that we rebuild this sector because this is one of the sectors with the potential to create much-needed jobs, we have already started to host major events. Yesterday we had Market Africa. Also, the 12 Blue Flags we have received for our beaches gives testimony that our beaches are clean, and they meet international standards.”

Kaunda also says getting as many people vaccinated as soon as possible could also be the ultimate strategy to help rescue Durban’s suffering economy.

“Firstly, our objective is to ensure that we get as many people as possible to get vaccinated. This will help us deal with the pandemic. We can start unlocking the major gatherings and other activities. Without that, if people are reluctant to vaccinate, we are closing ourselves to entertainment and to many other opportunities of leisure that we should be enjoying.”

Artists, who also attended the city’s launch, say they are in desperate need of any recovery plan that will help boost tourism and the arts and culture sector.

Story-teller and performer from Gcinamasiko Arts and Heritage Trust, Dr Gcina Mhlophe says, “Artists are suffering, many of us not having work not knowing when the month-end comes, how are you going to pay our bills. Other artists have lost their houses, they have lost their cars, it has been painful, it is degrading as well. You lose your sense of dignity when you don’t work, you want to work, you got talent, you got skills and you do not get to work it. It has been extremely painful, people should not degrade artists, give them a little bit of money even if you did not pay before COVID-19. I know COVID-19 has closed venues and the restrictions have been ridiculous but now that we are seeing the easing of the restrictions, we see people saying come we have seen some events happening on Zoom. I had to learn to do big international performances on Zoom, we say one must learn to adapt as well.”

The eThekwini municipality says they had implemented key interventions to ensure a safe and welcoming environment.

It also plans to increase the visibility of law enforcement agencies at key tourism strategic points and zones. These areas include the beachfront, airports, the harbour, local businesses and shopping malls.