March 15, 2021
Easter boom expected on Elephant Coast
Tourism businesses in the Northern part of Zululand are looking forward to a bumper Easter season now that COVID-19 restrictions have been eased.
Hotels, accommodation outlets and outdoor luxury adventure companies, are already recording an average hotel capacity of 65 percent.
Tourism KwaZulu-Natal dropped into the Elephant Coast in Zululand this weekend to continue its drive to bring attention to the region.
The Elephant Coast is the home of the world-famous multi-award-winning iSimangaliso Wetland Park, the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and the equally well-known Hluhluwe-Mfolozi Game Reserve, the oldest game park in Africa and home to the Big Five.
On offer in this region is a number of other game reserves, landscapes with its lakes, swamps, coral reefs, mangrove swamps, sand dunes and woodlands, and bird watching and more. It is regarded as the ecotourism mecca of the Zulu Kingdom.
General Manager for Hluhluwe Anew Hotels Sodira Naicker said the Easter season was going to be the turning point for domestic leisure travel.
“We have at least a 65 percent booking rate thus far and we are hoping for a further five to ten percent. With the passing of the Zulu monarch King Goodwill Zwelethini, the hotel is further expecting high volumes of bookings as mourners would pay their respects at various cultural events. We are an hour away from kwaNongoma, which is the homestead of the King,” Naicker said.
Optimistic about the future, she said: “The hotel has also been working with the local community to ensure a healthy mix of business. If the hotel is doing well the overflow of guests are shared with other establishments. Everyone takes care of each other in this town.”
Normally the area attracts foreign tourists but are now changing their focus to lure more domestic visitors. Naicker said to deal with COVID they have introduced an app at their hotel to record and track visitors’ health, and had undertaken very strict cleaning protocols.
Mandy Muir, a tour operator and owner of the Heritage House B&B in St Lucia remains hopeful and determined to build her domestic clientele.
The Mayor of Umkhanyakude Municipality, Councillor Solomon Mkhombo, said “activities are picking up and the enthusiasm that we saw before COVID is increasing. We think we will gradually recover”.
Meanwhile, Bheki Manzini, head of communications for iSimangaliso Wetland Park, said that when level 3 restrictions were imposed on the beaches, the park remained open.
“Our visitor numbers went up because we are a protected beach and we are now anticipating a further boom at Easter.”
He was confident that visitors would flock to the park as the landscape offered people the opportunity to spread out and avoid crowds.
“We are a value-for-money destination. Everything is within driving distance and you can easily arrange a day trip and discover something new just three hours from Durban.”
Contact details of interviews
Sodira Naicker – 0798392951
Bheki Manzini – 0605332081
Mdu Mahlanzi – 0718830516
Captions for pictures
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Open ocean with blue skies: Gagasi FM radio disc jockey Zisto Mhlongo caught up with actress Sihle Ndaba on a boat cruise atthe St Lucia Estuary, in iSimangaliso Wetlands Park- a UNESCO world heritage site. The area is excited to be welcoming visitors as the number domestic tourists is starting to peak as Easter Season approaches. Recently the park opened the estuary mouth to help reinstate its functionality and re-established the link with the ocean. Zisto, on a boat with Ndaba, was looking out for crocodiles but found hippos as they traversed the lake which is 85 kilometers, north to south. “We got a warm welcome as one of the hippos blew some water at us. The hippos were very active as we moved closer to them. It was as if they were putting on a show for us. Ndaba added: “We even got up close and personal with different bird species including fish eagles. My mind was blown away.”
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Come on safari to the Zulu Kingdom: Television actress Sihle Ndaba, who plays roles in Isibaya and Uzalo, and Gagasi FM Radio disc jockey Zisto Mhlongo took some time off their busy schedules to explore the Zulu Kingdom. At the Hluhluwe Game Reserve they came face to face with buffalos, rhinoceros and different species of impalas. The duo are part of group touring the tranquil Elephant Coast, hosted by Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, who are on an aggressive drive to rebuild tourism in the aftermath of the Covid lockdown. Ndaba was thrilled: “I haven’t been to Hluhluwe before. My breadth was taken away at the Isimangaliso Wetland Park which we also visited. People should escape the blues of lockdown, and tour closer to home. I think that’s the best way to support tourism because a lot of people have lost their jobs. We’re not only talking about the hotels, but vendors too.” Mhlongo joined in: “There are affordable things we can do right here in KZN. It’s time to get out there and see our country.” #KZNhasitall#Believeit
Please note we have provided two captions below. One with Sodira Naicker with the housekeeping supervisor, and Naicker with the executive chef.
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Whoop-whoop: Getting ready for the Easter season hotel boom are general manager for Anew Hotel, Sodira Naicker and housekeeping supervisor, Busi Sibiya. The hotel is anticipating a boom this season -currently boasting an average of 30% -40% hotel occupancy since January – they have a 65 percent occupancy already booked for Easter, and expecting more. “The hotel has priced itself within the market, ensuring we are affordable. The hotel is observing strictly heathy protocols, stripping and sanitizing rooms, and leaving it vacant for 24 hours, before it is booked again. There were no retrenchments at the hotel during strict lockdown, but management instead moved shifts around so no staff would lose income.
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All hands on deck: Hluhluwe’s Anew Hotel general manager Sodira Naicker and executive chef, Sean Sewrathan get ready to welcome guests for the Easter season boom. During the lockdown the hotel launched a new high-tech innovative app to track and record the statistics of staff and guests in cases of covid emergencies. The app showcases data of staff and guests, when they check in, dates, rooms, and different staff members that interacted with them. To avoid contamination the hotel went as far ensuring all meals at the hotel are pre-packed and sealed for guests beforehand.
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Sihle Ndaba enjoys horse riding at Bhangazi horse safaris in Hluluwe