Investment Opportunities on the KZN South Coast as Eco-Tourism Demand Rises
The KZN South Coast enjoyed a bumper festive season in 2022, with Ugu District celebrating a 97% occupancy rate – the highest in the province – for the last week of the year. Throughout the season, the beaches remained safe and open for bathing. At the same time, the region continues to boast the highest number of Blue Flag beaches in the province. Alongside the coastal attractions, the Paradise of the Zulu Kingdom is also home to world-renowned dive sites, extensive trails, nature reserves, golf courses, and adventure sports – offering unlimited investment opportunities when it comes to tourism investment.
“As the official economic development arm of the region, South Coast Tourism and Investment Enterprise [SCTIE] is working with key stakeholders, businesses, and local communities to unlock the investment potential that abounds in our tourism sector,” explained Phelisa Mangcu, CEO of SCTIE. “Through these partnerships, we’re improving the business climate by facilitating interventions and identifying unique investment opportunities. Some prime examples of these are KwaXolo Caves and the Umzumbe River Trail, two high-value tourism products that are identified for development with the intention of bringing in keen investors looking for a sound return on investment.”
Combining cultural and adventure tourism, the 71km Umzumbe River Trail has been developed as a joint venture between SCTIE and the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA). It’s anticipated that Umzumbe River Trail will become a major tourism asset as the demand for eco-tourism increases by drawing on the international interest in such nature trails.
This week-long hiking adventure is led by local tour guides who have received Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA)-accredited qualifications, allowing them to better facilitate these nature walks and overnight homestays. SCTIE is currently identifying a development site for a lodge, with a feasibility study in the works to further identify investment opportunities.
Further, the EDTEA has committed to investing a grant of R6,150 million in the existing KwaXolo Caves, another of the region’s key cultural, adventure and eco-tourism attractions. The site, identified by Ray Nkonyeni Municipality, has the potential to attract upmarket visitors from the iconic tourism node consisting of Margate, Southbroom and Port Edward within a 15km radius. This is an established tourism product that provides visitors with a unique hike – using the Via Ferrata system – into these caves, which are adorned with centuries-old San artwork. This provides an authentic cultural experience that so many tourists’ desire.
The funding will allow for further, phased-in development, including the establishment of a restaurant, kitchen, coffee shop, amphitheatre, ablution facilities, storeroom, picnic area, children’s play area, and fencing for enhanced safety. Opportunities for construction using natural, locally found materials are being explored, as is the implementation of renewable energy supply. For extreme sports enthusiasts, construction has already begun on the three-point zipline, as well as a High Wire Bridge and a decking walkway to connect to the zipline.
“This development presents several investment prospects whether you’re looking to explore the immense small business opportunities,” continued Mangcu. “Those in the hospitality sector can invest in restaurants or food stalls, while outdoor activities in the form of horse riding and bungee jumping are also possible. The site will require security and the hiring of equipment, among many other opportunities.”
SCTIE has partnered with Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal (TIKZN) to establish a One Stop Shop office on the KZN South Coast. This aims to improve the efficiency of doing business, ensuring investors have access to municipal incentives in the district, such as those being offered through the Ray Nkonyeni Local Municipality (RNM).