Programme Director, Mr Tim Modise; Honourable Mayor of eThekwini, Cllr James Nxumalo; UBM Director of Routes, Ms Katie Bland; Head of Department, Mr Desmond Golding; CEO of Tourism KZN, Mr Ndabo Khoza; Head of Tourism Durban, Mr Philip Sithole; Dube Trade Port Acting CEO, Mr Hamish Erskine; Members of the Media Present; Ladies and gentlemen. All protocols observed. Good Day.
It is our pleasure as the province of KwaZulu-Natal, and on behalf of the Republic of South Africa, to announce that it is now all systems go for the 2015 World Routes Conference. Working with our partners in the form of Ethekwini Municipality and UBM, we are confident that, once again, the African continent is more than ready to play host to this pre-eminent conference, which is taking place for the first time on the African continent. We see the continent as the theatre and our province as the stage.
Indeed, the reputation of our province and the city of Durban as the leading player in the conferencing sector is, again, being proven true this afternoon.
Ladies and gentlemen, better-qualified people have spoken at length about the technical importance of our province and our city hosting this event. We shall not attempt to repeat what they have said. My main task today is to confirm that the government and the people of the Republic of South Africa, the province of KwaZulu-Natal and city of Durban are ready to host this event.
It is a well-known fact that generally speaking, the economy of the world is not as strong as it used to be. Even the powerhouses of the global economy, including Europe and the West, are going through a difficult time where belt-tightening is the name of the game; where investors are jittery and circumspect about where they plough their money. With tourism heavily-reliant on disposable income, it is indeed a show of strong character of our destination that, even during these difficult times, we are still able to attract an event of this magnitude. This we have done under the most competitive of circumstances and, we believe, it was the tenacity of those who were negotiating for this event, as well as the attractiveness of our offer that finally saw us clinch the rights to host this Conference.
As we all know, this 2015 World Routes Conference will play host to 213 global airlines, 700 airports, 150 tourism organisations and more than 2500 delegates. Irrespective of whatever yardstick one uses, this is a huge conference. The stature of this Conference is heightened by the fact that it will be graced by the crème de la crème of the global aviation industry from airline CEOs; airport executives as well as captains of the tourism and hospitality industry, to mention but a few.
Another feature of the World Routes Conference that we like is that it is a working conference where decision makers are able to make decisions on the spot. So, this is not a talk shop, but a gathering where the future of the aviation industry will be determined.
This character of the Conference resonates with the broader objective of African countries to grow the aviation sector in the continent, thereby ensuring that we accelerate the growth and development of Africa. Therefore, over and above being a platform where airlines and airports clinch deals on new destinations, the Conference is a launchpad for the growth and development of the African aviation industry.
Ladies and gentlemen, in recent years, the Province of KwaZulu-Natal has positioned Durban as a world-class African city, having successfully hosted high profile events like COP17, BRICS Summit, Top Gear, Volvo World Championships, MTV Awards and last week we had another first on the African soil, the 14th World Forestry Congress as proof of the city’s popularity with world class events.
Durban was also a catalyst in successfully hosting the legions of football fans during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and we are also ready to welcome hordes of international sports enthusiasts that will be gracing the Commonwealth Games in 2022, after having been declared as the next host following the success of the uncontested bid following the withdrawal by the Canadian City of Edmonton.
Because of this background, KwaZulu-Natal and the City of Durban decided to bid for the World Routes 2015 as we believed Durban has developed crucial capabilities to host an event of this magnitude – and more importantly it was a collective view that this would also serve as an avenue for us to showcase our diverse market offerings to potential investors, whilst exposing the city and province’s tourism attractions to the world’s leading personalities in the aviation, hospitality, tourism and other economic sectors.
This was essential as we are currently building our air transport capacity that would ensure we become the region’s leading aviation hub that ensures convenient trade with the rest of the world, which is critical for the growth and creation of new business and employment opportunities for our people. Besides this, the advent of the state of the art King Shaka International Airport as the springboard to develop a credible world route, within the multi-sectoral industrial hub the Dube Trade Port, has also inspired us to broaden the scope of our strategy to create an aerotropolis, which is an urban development around airport facilities.
As said earlier, the World Routes 2015 edition would be the first of its kind to be held on the African continent and this has been hailed as a reflection of confidence expressed by the global community in the continent, country, province and city’s ability to handle such giant gatherings.
Amongst the benefits to emanate from this giant global event, would be to expose reputable world class airlines to the province’s state of the art King Shaka International Airport, with an expectation to attract more direct flights to the City of Durban, which is essential for the promotion of tourism and investment in the region. Meanwhile several airlines have expressed interest in operating direct flights to King Shaka International airport as they have acknowledged KwaZulu-Natal’s potential growth and influence in the region’s economy. This is in addition to Emirates Airline that has since established a direct route between Dubai and Durban, which has become a convenient travel experience between our province and the fast growing economies in the Middle East and Asia.
The three day occasion will, therefore, serve as a platform to announce certain airlines (see brief details below on interested airlines) that have made firm commitments to fly to King Shaka International Airport. This information will, therefore, be shared with members of the media community as the event progresses or as and when the affected parties agree on the appropriate date, time and location of the World Routes 2015 to make announcements. These developments would not only benefit KwaZulu-Natal, but the rest of the region, as we are working hard towards the integration of the region’s economies.
We are also pleased to report that 4.5 million passengers have passed through King Shaka International Airport over the last 12 months, and numbers are steadily rising with more than 950 aircraft landing and taking-off from this magnificent air transportation facility each week. A large portion of the international passengers that pass through King Shaka International Airport each day, do so via indirect flights, hence we are working hard to change the situation by encouraging more airlines to consider flying directly to Durban.
We urge KwaZulu-Natal and South African companies to take advantage of this expanded network of King Shaka International Airport to grow exports into the Middle East and European markets – and as well as across the continent of Africa. In our endeavors to accelerate regional socio-economic integration, the province has just returned from the island nation of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean where we hosted a strategic Trade & Investment Seminar directed at forging integrated development and trade amongst four nations in the region: South Africa (represented by KwaZulu-Natal), Swaziland, Mozambique and the Seychelles.
This partnership was established three years ago under the auspices of a collective marketing initiative called East3Route and it has started attracting other nations in the region, hence the importance of convenient transportation like airlines could not be emphasized enough (PLEASE CHECK IF THIS WAS WHAT WAS MEANT).
Meanwhile, here in KwaZulu-Natal we have therefore positioned King Shaka International Airport as the nerve centre to broaden our growth trajectory in all sectors of our economy, complemented by development in other logistics platforms such as sea-port, road and rail network to make the province an ideal destination for trade and tourism. We are therefore optimistic that the international delegates to grace this phenomenal event would sample the diverse market offering KwaZulu-Natal could offer and more importantly, trade logistics that are critical in the development of a profitable aviation hub. We would be able to share with them some of our strategic plans that we believe would heighten their interest in investing in the province’s economy whilst drawing the attention of airlines to the growing tourism and first class hospitality sector in the region – with this province and Durban in particular serving as an ideal pedestal to enter the regional market.
Finally, we would like to give our visitors a memorable experience of what the Province of KwaZulu-Natal and the City of Durban could offer to the international community in terms of the quality of hospitality, tourist attractions and safe environment to enjoy one’s stay throughout and beyond the three days occasion. We are a province endowed with diverse African, Asian and European cultures that provides a home away from home experience for many delegates; hence we pride ourselves as a true reflection of many worlds in one.
We are therefore optimistic that the World Routes festivities would further enhance the province’s chance to attract more tourists and business people to the province after experiencing our friendly leisure and hospitality services – a move that will directly influence the frequency of international and regional flights to KwaZulu-Natal.
Members of the media are our strategic partners in our campaign to alert the trading international community and tourists about numerous investment opportunities and tourism attractions in this province and the entire region of Africa. This session therefore serves as a demonstration of our confidence in your capacity to share with the world what would be happening at this year’s World Routes hosted in Durban – for the first time on the African continent.
Your participation in this historical event is highly appreciated.