Travel-starved local tourists are descending on KwaZulu-Natal shores in record numbers since the COVID-19 outbreak, with the gradual easing of restrictions.
Addressing media on Sunday on the eve of the country moving to Alert Level 1, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala described the tourism industry as the province's biggest contributor to job creation.
"We are excited to see that there are already 'nice life problems' that we are hearing about in the hospitality industry. There are areas where people are beginning to struggle to get accommodation due to places getting fully booked," the Premier said.
The occupancy rate at leisure venues is growing at a rapid pace.
According to Zikalala, Midlands Meander is sitting at 95%, while uMgungundlovu has recorded a 75% occupancy rate; eThekwini metro 65%, ILembe 60%, Amajuba 50%, and Ugu and Zululand are at 30%.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife resorts are sitting at 30%.
Zikalala is pleased with the new investments in the sector.
"We have learned about South Africa's first Hilton Garden Inn Hotel establishment, which is scheduled to open at Umhlanga Arch in November 2020," he said.
The Multiply Group and property development company, Devmco, owns the 203-room hotel.
Zikalala said the First Group has also opened a luxury wedding venue, with a seven-suite villa on the Drakensberg, Swallow Cliff Hall.
Hotel Edward on Durban's Golden Mile will reopen its doors in November under the full ownership of Tsogo Sun Hotels.
"These investments are encouraging and are a huge sign of confidence in our hospitality sector," the Premier said.
The provincial government is in talks with the Fairmont Zimbali Resort in Ballito, which announced that it has gone into business rescue due to the COVID-19 enforced lockdown, which brought the tourism industry to its knees.
"Government is in discussions with the owners in pursuit of a solution that will ensure the sustainability of this iconic tourism product on the North Coast, while safeguarding jobs," said Zikalala.
The Premier said the province continues to chart the progression of COVID-19, which has changed lives in ways never imagined.
"We wish, on behalf of the people of our province, to thank the leadership of His Excellency, the President uBaba uCyril Ramaphosa and the National Coronavirus Command Council for their astute leadership in steering the country as we weather one of the most devastating storms of our lifetime."