Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Sihle Zikalala says the tourism sector will benefit significantly from the recent return to Durban’s King Shaka International Airport of both SAA and QATAR Airways, a development that will lift KwaZulu-Natal’s economic recovery.
This follows SAA’s announcement that its first scheduled flight will take off from OR Tambo International to King Shaka International on 04 March 2022. This will be the first time in almost two years since the airline exited the route. SAA said it will fly the route 7 days per week at least 3 times a day on a return service between the two cities.
SAA’s return to King Shaka Airport follows close on the heels of the resumption by Qatar Airways, of flights out of Durban. Qatar, the Gulf airline headquartered in Doha, resumed flying from KwaZulu-Natal on 14January with an initial frequency of four flights a week.
“The resumption of SAA and QATAR Air flights between Durban and Johannesburg, Durban and DOHA respectively will benefit the tourism sector which remains one of the greatest creators of employment in the economy of KwaZulu-Natal. Through our Economic Recovery, Reconstruction and Transformation Plan we have stated our commitment to increasing trade, tourism and beneficial collaboration with the rest of the world. Efficient and regular aviation services are necessary if we are to increase visits to our province, to grow tourism numbers and to create jobs up and down the value-chain,” said Premier Zikalala.
“We wish to welcome the return of Qatar Airways to Durban following its withdrawal ahead of the festive season over Covid-19 related health and safety concerns. Direct links to mid-hemisphere hubs such as Doha in the Gulf region bring the world closer by providing easy access to the global capitals of the world. The uptick in tourism numbers which is directly related to aviation links can only mean that KZN is truly on the rise, and that better things will come in 2022” added Premier Zikalala.
“SAA is a major global brand in the aviation, travel and tourism industry, and it remains recognizable to tourists and visitors wanting to visit our country from all corners of the globe. By returning to KwaZulu-Natal SAA will increase air links to the province by adding the number of airlines choosing to connect to destinations in KwaZulu-Natal”.
MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Ravi Pillay says air transport is key to advancing economic growth of KwaZulu-Natal.
“We welcome the reintroduction of SAA flights between Durban and Johannesburg. This is crucial in growing our economy and domestic capacity on the essential Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal route. This announcement comes straight after positive tourism numbers during the festive season which were anchored on high occupancy rate of around 80% during the Christmas week”.
MEC Pillay added that provincial government had worked hard to address the negative impact on the KwaZulu-Natal economy caused by disruption in connectivity resulting from the grounding of many airlines including SAA.
“The past 20 months since SAA terminated the Durban route have been particularly difficult. However, as government we never stopped engaging SAA even as the airline was repackaging its business model. This is a fresh start, and a timely boost to our economic recovery efforts. It strengthens our argument that the Durban route is a significant cog in the revival of the aviation industry in South Africa,” said MEC Pillay.
MEC Pillay also said that Qatar Airways provides KwaZulu-Natal with connectivity to over 150 markets around the world: “With our vaccination programme well underway, the reintroduction of Qatar Airways allows us to revive our connectivity to strategic global markets, while rebuilding our relationships with both business and leisure travelers as well as service the demands of our airfreight market directly from Durban,” concluded MEC Pillay.
Mayor of eThekwini Municipality, Cllr. Mxolisi Kaunda added his voice saying the municipality will provide support to all international and regional airlines flying into the city ensuring these flights deliver value to the people and the economy of Durban,” said Cllr Kaunda.
Welcoming the reintroduction of Qatar Airways flights into the city, Cllr. Kaunda said: “International air connectivity continues to be an important lifeblood for Durban, opening our city to significant tourism markets, while cementing our position as a trade gateway into the rest of the Sub-Saharan African region. We welcome back both Qatar and South African Airways which through their vast network will be instrumental in providing Durban with international connectivity,” concluded Mayor Kaunda.