Elephant Coast celebrates tourism

12 September 2008

A massive R77-million has been spent on the redevelopment of the world-famous iSimangaliso Wetland Park - and thousands of jobs have been created.

About R34-million has gone to 43 local "small, medium-micro enterprise" contractors, and in the process 164 000 days of work have been created.

"In 2000, when the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority was put in place to establish and manage the park, there was a negative tourism growth rate in the region," said Wezi Thusi, the MEC for arts, culture and tourism, at the launch of the provincial Tourism Month celebrations in iSimangaliso, part of the Elephant Coast tourism region.

"Six years later, an inventory of tourism accommodation in and around iSimangaliso shows a 59 percent increase in the number of establishments, and a 20 percent growth in beds.

"At the same time, the average occupancy rate of tourism accommodation grew from below to above the national average," she told guests at the launch.

The R77-million expenditure on infrastructure went on a new network of game-viewing roads, view sites, hides and picnic sites on the eastern and western shores - as well as jetties, water supplies and elephant bomas - that aims to enhance both overnight and day visitors' experience of iSimangaliso.

The park has about 6 000 tourism beds, some of which are being upgraded through private-public partnerships or direct investment by government.

About 3 500 temporary jobs a year have been created.

Daily News - 8 September 2008Barbara Cole

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