The travel, tourism and hospitality industry on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal is reeling from an ongoing water crisis as municipal authorities struggle to provide a reliable water supply. The Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA), the voice of hospitality in the country, is raising the alarm about how this dire situation severely impacts tourism in the region. The consequences are devastating, with a staggering number of days without water and businesses forced to truck in water at astronomical costs.
“The tourism industry, a vital economic driver for the region, is in peril, and the future looks bleak without swift intervention. FEDHASA is standing firm, urging the government to prioritise the restoration of a stable and reliable water supply for the South Coast, safeguarding the livelihoods of residents and ensuring the region’s allure as a thriving tourism destination,” says Rosemary Anderson, National Chairperson FEDHASA.
Local Businesses Struggle to Survive
According to residents’ reports, the South Coast has experienced shocking water shortages over the last 18 months, with only 107 out of 255 days having access to water (between 10 December 2021 and 22 August 2022). The effects on the local hospitality industry have been nothing short of disastrous, with establishments struggling to survive and tourists shying away from visiting the area.
A poignant example comes from a FEDHASA member based in Umzumbe, who disclosed that their single hotel spent a staggering R2,000,000 in the last financial year alone, trucking in water due to the municipality’s inability to provide consistent water supply. Several other B&Bs and holiday cottages face a similar plight, with cancelled bookings becoming the norm and property owners now desperate to offload their assets.
Root Causes and Exploitation
The economic repercussions of this water crisis are felt far and wide. With tourists hesitant to visit the region due to the uncertainty surrounding water availability, businesses are haemorrhaging revenue, leading to mass layoffs and local shops struggling to survive without an influx of visitors. Adding insult to injury, private water tanker operators are capitalising on the situation, charging exorbitant prices and further crippling already beleaguered businesses.
FEDHASA is adamant that the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) must step in when municipalities fail to provide adequate water services. However, despite the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) expressing deep concern over the crisis back in September 2022, the situation remains unresolved, leaving local communities pleading for assistance.
The SAHRC’s public hearings revealed that the water crisis on the South Coast is a result of aging infrastructure, corruption, and a lack of maintenance.
“FEDHASA echoes the call for the DWS to urgently intervene and take decisive action to address the escalating crisis, which has far-reaching consequences for residents and businesses alike,” concludes Anderson.