Official Launch of SA Express Durban-Harare Air Route, Which is Rapidly Growing in Popularity According to the MEC for Economic Development and Tourism

28 June 2013

Just eight months after the introduction in November 2012 of a direct Durban-Harare air route, return flights are already achieving an impressive 72% of capacity, according to the MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Mr Michael Mabuyakhulu, a figure destined to grow further as the flight to the warmth of the South African coast gains in popularity.

He was speaking at the official launch of the new SA Express route and the unveiling of an especially branded aircraft to mark the occasion, adding: "African connectivity directly with Durban is a steadily growing reality."

Mr Mabuyakhulu, said: "Our official launch of this highly desirable route between our northern neighbour, Zimbabwe, and Durban is designed to highlight the eclectic culture of KwaZulu-Natal as a top investment, business and tourism destination. Our intention is to foster warm relations amongst key role-players and drivers of, particularly, trade and tourism in the market-places of both South Africa and Zimbabwe. Business and tourism decision-makers at home and in Zimbabwe enjoy an ideal opportunity to begin strategising the even more effective use of the route going forward, unlocking the potential of this African market as we work to create new investment, business and tourism opportunities and partnerships between us."

Dube TradePort Corporation and SA Express signed an agreement in 2012 that would see the airline using King Shaka International Airport as its launch-pad into countries comprising the Southern African Development Community (SADC), unlocking key markets for the benefit of KwaZulu-Natal in targeted countries during the next two to three years, through the vigorous promotion of business and leisure travel and trade and investment activities.

The airline's first route, to Lusaka in Zambia, was introduced in July last year and was quickly followed in November by the Harare link, introducing three flights a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, using a 50-seater Bombardier CRJ 200 jet aircraft. The relatively small capacity of these aircraft, combine well with speed, thus allowing for the high frequency of service.

Mr Mabuyakhulu said: "South Africa and Zimbabwe share rich economic and cultural ties. In 2012, KwaZulu-Natal exported goods to Zimbabwe amounted to R2.685bn from R2.251bn in 2011 (19.3% increase). South Africa continues to be that country’s main trading partner, accounting for more than 60% of Zimbabwe’s international trade volumes."

With regard to air connectivity initiatives, Ms Saxen van Coller, Dube TradePort Corporation's Chief Executive Officer, said: " We are working to significantly increase direct regional and international air services to and from Durban in an effort to transform this region into South Africa’s primary alternative gateway. We have developed a five-year strategy designed to identify and attract a growing number of carriers to utilise Durban’s King Shaka International Airport. An important player in this endeavour is, of course, SA Express with its commitment to linking Durban directly with a host of SADC countries, a move which creates endless new possibilities for our and Zimbabwe's business and tourism communities."

Indications are that significant demand for international travel to and from Greater Durban exists, impacting on a large number of destinations world-wide. Statistics demonstrate that this market has grown by more than 70% in the past five years, although only 20% of passengers are able to fly internationally to and from King Shaka International Airport directly. The vast majority must still utilise domestic flights to or from Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport so as to connect to or from international destinations.

“ The launch of the Harare route increases connectivity to Aerotropolis: KZN, the heart of which is Dube TradePort, assisting in the generation of economic efficiencies for business. Dube TradePort is the core of this airport-based business location, an area we are developing as a sustainable operating environment and one which provides for superior business growth and economic development,” said Ms van Coller.

With the advent of SADC air routes, the tourism sector also stands to benefit significantly and the provincial authority, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, is intensifying its promotional activities in such markets.

Tourism KwaZulu-Natal Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ndabo Khoza, said of the Harare route: "Based on global travel trends, some 80% of inbound travellers emanate from regions within a four-hour flying radius and we have accordingly identified a need to actively address access to and by markets in the important SADC countries around South Africa. We recognise that KwaZulu-Natal has a unique offering for the benefit of such markets… our golden beaches, warm Indian Ocean waters and year-round warmth. We are intent on robustly promoting our province in such markets, selling the beach experience, creating a platform for the benefit of new African tourists to Durban and KwaZulu-Natal."

Mr Phillip Sithole, Chief Executive Officer of Durban Tourism echoed these sentiments, saying “Durban’s key offerings like Ushaka Marine World, Moses Mabhida Stadium, The Beach Experience and the world class shopping malls are unique selling points to capture the Africa Market. We need to just start working with inbound Tour Operators to aggressively market “packaged tours “and increase our destination marketing initiatives.”

Mr Zamo Gwala, Chief Executive Officer of Trade & Investment KwaZulu-Natal, stressed: "Our province has a high export bias and an elevated industrial concentration. We make an effort to create and sustain an investment environment that benefits the local economy, investors and traders.  With the implementation of the Durban-Harare air route, our organisation will work to harness the benefits of  linkages. This will be done through the promotion of strategic partnerships, in line with the business objectives of KwaZulu-Natal's Provincial Growth and Development Strategy.

Mr Andrew Layman, the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Chief Executive Officer, said of the SA Express direct air link to Harare: “We consider a direct route from Durban to Harare to be of tremendous value to those local businesses which are already trading in Zimbabwe, or wish to do so in the future.   We commend SA Express for providing new African links to Durban business people.”?
Mr Mabuyakhulu concluded: "With the collective will of all those involved, we, in KwaZulu-Natal, are literally reaching for the sky in the quest to better connect KwaZulu-Natal by air with South Africa's, Southern Africa's and, indeed, the world's business and leisure communities."