South African Tourism Minister Patricia De Lille
South African Tourism Minister Patricia De Lille

South Africa enhances tourism appeal with new e-visa countries

DURBAN: South African Tourism Minister Patricia De Lille reaffirmed her country’s commitment to facilitating visas for several countries, revealing that a new list of countries eligible for e-visas will soon be released. She spoke to Kuwait Times and international media on the sidelines of the recently concluded travel trade show Africa Indaba. The event promoted Africa as an attractive destination, fostering business partnerships and driving sustainable tourism development.

The event follows a remarkable 15.4 percent increase in international tourist arrivals, reaching 2.4 million from January to March 2024, compared to the same period in 2023. De Lille emphasized the importance of networking, collaboration and building bridges across borders, noting that the event featured over 1,200 exhibitors from 26 African countries and more than 1,100 buyers representing 55 countries.

“We relaunched the R1.2 billion Tourism Equity Fund to support the growth of emerging tourism enterprises,” De Lille said, adding that the global brand campaign for South African Tourism is crucial in enhancing their global reputation and building positive relationships with visitors worldwide.

To promote Durban, she said: “As we celebrate 30 years of our democracy, it is important to reflect on the many people and places which played an integral role in our history and attaining our freedom. In Durban, we have the Mandela Capture Site and the PheZulu Cultural Village Day Tour. This site marked a turning point in our history and saw the start of Mandela’s notable sacrifice for our freedom.”

South African Deputy Minister of Tourism Fish Mahlalela revealed plans for a roadshow to the Middle East, especially targeting the Kuwaiti market. He called for visitors from Middle Eastern countries to explore South Africa, noting that numbers from the region are low despite two major Arab airlines flying daily to several South African cities. “The tourism sector has a central role in changing the scene in South Africa. The more tourists we attract, the more achievements we accomplish, leading to youth development and better life and equality,” Mahlalela added.

Regarding safety, he stated that the tourism ministry is working closely with the police to manage hotspots and create a safe environment for tourists. “We are also working with private security companies to stay ahead of the thieves and ensure our tourists have the best experience in Durban,” he added.

South Africa Tourism invited the media to experience the best the country has to offer. The group explored various options to enjoy Durban, including nature, wildlife, luxury shopping, South African culture, and great weather from July to September, characterized by mild temperatures and clear skies. Additionally, South Africa Tourism introduced the media to a range of halal local and international cuisine, catering to diverse tastes.

The media group visited a game reserve in the heart of Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal, nestled among the breathtaking topography of the upper White Umfolozi River Valley. The reserve’s rich biodiversity and stunning landscapes provide a backdrop for thrilling safaris offering up-close encounters with the Big Five. Seeing animals like cheetahs, giraffes, rhinos, monkeys and kudus in their natural habitat is an awe-inspiring experience that evokes a profound sense of connection to the natural world and instills a deep appreciation for wildlife ecosystems.

The journey was further enriched by the warm hospitality of the friendly local people, who shared their rich cultural heritage and vibrant traditions. From Durban, the group ventured to Oribi Gorge for wild adventure activities. Situated in one of KwaZulu-Natal’s most spectacular natural settings, the Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve lies about 25 kilometers inland from Port Shepstone. This pristine reserve offers a blend of extreme adventure and natural beauty, featuring the world’s highest gorge swing.

Another unique adventure South Africa offers is the shark cage dive at Durban’s Aliwal Shoal. Participants donned wetsuits and masks and climbed into floating stainless-steel cages, watching in awe as up to 20 sharks glided gracefully by the cage walls, offering a unique and exhilarating perspective on marine life.

For those preferring aerial adventures, a microlight flight over the Indian Ocean provides a breathtaking experience, offering a bird’s eye view of dolphins and whales navigating through the warm waters below. For luxury lovers, Durban boasts a plethora of luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants, providing a sophisticated and comfortable base for their travels.

For shoppers, Durban offers several shopping malls with the best deals and luxury brands. The Victoria Street Market is an authentic local shopping experience, offering traditional customs, accessories, handmade goods and a vibrant atmosphere. Visitors can explore stalls selling everything from spices and fresh produce to intricate beadwork and hand-crafted souvenirs. The market also features a small mosque that attracts Muslims and others wishing to pray. Donations were also being collected here for the people of Gaza.

Durban is also home to Mahatma Gandhi’s former residence, an iconic landmark of immense significance in both Indian and South African history, standing as a testament to the shared heritage on the Inanda Heritage Route.

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