OVERVIEW Tourism Events and adventures are drawing more visitors to the Eastern Cape. SECTOR INSIGHT Nelson Mandela Bay has won the bid to host the IRONMAN World Championships in 2018. • Dolphin tourism could be a new trend. • Nelson Mandela Bay metro earned R7.3-billion from tourism in 2016. South Africa has hosted the world’s best in cricket, rugby and football. Now some of world’s fittest athletes will battle it out in and near the sea in Port Elizabeth in the 2018 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. Scheduled for the first two days in September, this is a first for Africa, but not entirely surprising because the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality has been hosting the Standard Bank IRONMAN African Championship since 2015 and held its first IRONMAN event as far back as 2004. Enthusiastic crowds of up to 80 000 have been known to line the route and the event will undoubtedly be a fillip for the local economy. More than 6 000 athletes are expected to participate from more than 100 global qualifying events. Buffalo City has its own IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon. In 2017, the 10th running of the event was held in the last week of January, and East London is home to several other popular cycling and running events. Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism lists a series of events hosted in 2016 to prove the metropole’s credentials as an Event City: the Commonwealth Judo Championships, IRONMAN Africa, the Ocean Racing Series (a world championship), the Herald Cycle Tour, and matches in the international Super Rugby series. The tourism body gave the public relations value of the rugby hosting as R18-million with an “economic spin-off in excess of R150-million”. The tourism industry generated R7.3-billion in 2016 in Nelson Mandela Bay according to Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism. Bed nights rose to 870 596 from just over 644 000 the year before. Eastern Cape Tourism has hit on the brand for the province as “Adventure Province Eastern Cape”. But such is the variety on offer for tourists in the Eastern Cape that any number of sub-brands could be offered to cater to tourists with particular interests. In the last days of June every year, the Eastern Cape hosts thousands of art aficionados because of the National Arts Festival. Held since 1974 in Grahamstown, the festival now attracts huge crowds (more than 240 000 in 2015) to watch more than 1 000 performances in every conceivable venue in the small university town. Nearby Port Elizabeth has several identities: Event City is one, Water Sports Capital of South Africa is another. In 2016 another title was claimed – Bottlenose Capital of the World. There are apparently 30 000 dolphins in Algoa Bay, making it the biggest such concentration in the world. Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism is considering launching a Dolphin Festival to run during Marine Month in October. The province’s regions each have distinctive features and they are aptly branded on the provin- EASTERN CAPE BUSINESS 2017 56
OVERVIEW cial tourism body’s informative website: Kouga has superb golf at St Francis Links and matchless surfing at Jeffrey’s Bay; spectacular routes traverse the wilderness of Baviaanskloof; Frontier Country offers the history of a fractured past and peerless game reserves; the Greater Addo Route encompasses the huge park devoted to elephants; the Friendly N6 takes visitors high into the snowy mountains near Lesotho; and the Wild Coast offers nature at its pristine best. New developments The decision by the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) to go ahead with plans to build bridges over the Mtentu and Msikaba rivers which will open up the quite remote eastern parts of the province (to mining and tourism). SA Express airline announced in 2016 a new direct flight from Cape Town to Mthatha. Port Elizabeth and East London have large airports and regular flights to all of South Africa’s other major destinations. The move by the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) into the renovated Old Tramways building near the mouth of the Baakens River has created a new meeting space in a characterful building and more than 1 000m² of new exhibition space. Within its first year of operation, the Tramways building hosted a visual arts exhibition (Tramways Memory Project) and a fashion show and it hosts a food market on the first Saturday of every month. The building is also close to the section of the Port of Port Elizabeth that is designated to become a waterfront which will include a marina and cruise-liner terminal. These plans depend on Transnet moving its manganese storage to the Port of Ngqura. Another MBDA initiative is boosting the city’s tourist offering: Route 67 consists of 67 public art works symbolising the years spent by Nelson Mandela in the service of his fellow man. It starts at the Campanile (a tribute to the 1820 Settlers) and forms part the greater Nelson Mandela Bay Arts Journey. Hotels and casinos South Africa’s large branded hotel groups have a strong presence in the Eastern Cape but there are also groups whose focus is more concentrated on the province (like the Kat Leisure Group) together with independent hotels and resorts such as East London’s Blue Lagoon Hotel and Conference Centre, located in a prime spot at the mouth of the Nahoon River. Kat Leisure Group’s offering extends from the well-known Kennaway Hotel, which has been a feature on East London’s beachfront for many years, to the Queens Casino and Hotel in Queenstown and accommodation options in the mountainous interior of Katberg and Hogsback. Premier Hotels has two hotels in East London and the Mpanga Private Game Reserve just beyond the city limits. Premier Hotels also manages the East London International Convention Centre which offers 17 conferences room in various configurations, boardrooms and an exhibition hall. Many resorts take advantage of the beautiful bays and inlets of the Eastern Cape, both along the Wild Coast, and nearer to cities, such as the Mpekweni Beach Resort which is located between Port Alfred and East London. The Eastern Cape Gambling and Betting Board issues gaming licences and regulates the industry in the province. Sun International’s three properties extend along the coast from the Wild Coast Sun Resort and Casino in the far east, to Port Alfred’s Fish River Sun and Country Club Resort and the five-star Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World in Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth. Located close to the blue-flag Hobie Beach, the Boardwalk Hotel, Convention Centre and Spa won a 2016 Lilizela Tourism Award for excellence in the five-star meetings, exhibitions and special events category. Tsogo Sun has five Eastern Cape properties. In East London the four-star Southern Sun Hemingways is next to the Hemingways Casino complex and the city has one Garden Court, as does Mthatha. Port Elizabeth has a Garden Court and a SUN1, both near Humewood Beach. City Lodge has one property in East London and five in Port Elizabeth, across four brands. 57 EASTERN CAPE BUSINESS 2017
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