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21 February 2024


Tourism to the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast has increased by 38% since 2020 and contributed in excess of R6 billion to the gross domestic product (GDP) of iLembe District Municipality for the period January - December 2023.

“This is a clear indication of the importance of tourism to the economy of the region, especially during a period when economic growth in the country has been particularly subdued,” says Linda Mncube, CEO of Enterprise iLembe.

The North Coast area stretches from Zimbali - KwaDukuza in the south to Amatikulu - Mandeni in the north, extending inland to Ndwedwe and Maphumulo.

Enterprise iLembe, the economic development agency for the iLembe municipality, commissioned Urban-Econ Development Economists to conduct research into the impact of tourism on the North Coast, as there is limited local tourism data specifically available for the region.

"The study enables us to determine the behaviour of tourists when they visit the district, including accommodation preferences, activity and spending patterns. It is not always possible to get accurate data for local destinations on these subjects from national surveys," says Mncube.

According to the study, the North Coast attracted more than 798 000 visitors between January and December 2023. Of these, domestic tourists accounted for 77% of total visitors, while foreign visitors comprised 23%. In comparison to 2022 only 9% comprised of foreign tourists.

These visitors spent R4.7bil in the district between in 2023.

The region’s top markets for foreign overnight visitors are the Germany, UK, Netherlands and the USA. The number of day visitors to the North Coast is another growing source of tourism revenue for local businesses and the region as a whole.

The many shopping options available in the district is a huge attraction not only day visitors from other regions in KZN but also for overnight visitors from Eswatini, Botswana, Zambia and Lesotho.

The December festive season saw an estimated 9% increase in the number of day and overnight visitors from 108 447 in 2022 to 119 116 in 2023.

"In most of the feedback received from tourists it is evident that the North Coast is still very much treasured as a leisure destination, with majority of the domestic and foreign overnight visitors choosing the area for leisure," says Mncube.

"We are well aware that visitors value our area’s beautiful beaches and see the North Coast primarily as a coastal destination. We have leveraged off this and aim to encourage people who come here for leisure purposes to also visit some of the region’s other, perhaps lesser-known, attractions so that there is geographic spread of tourism across the district. It is especially encouraging that tourism has been able to create or sustain approximately 13 000 employment opportunities in iLembe in 2023. Given South Africa’s high unemployment number, this trend is exciting, as it highlights the real potential that tourism has in an economy," says Mayor of iLembe District, Cllr Thobani Shandu.

The report also cites that most visitors rated iLembe as an excellent or good tourism destination, while over 99% of the visitors described it as a value-for-money destination.

"The rate of 59% occupancy indicates a healthy level of demand, compared to the seasonality that one typically associates with destinations primarily valued for leisure, this is especially positive feedback for us in terms of retaining and attracting visitors. It is however imperative for us to acknowledge the importance of enhancing our infrastructure and amenities to accommodate the demand," said Shandu.

Tourism been identified as a key economic driver in the district, and we have seen the benefits for the sector and economy as a whole. It has served as a welcome buffer to the otherwise weak economy, and we will endeavour to work closely with partners in the private and public sector to continue growing this sector," concludes Shandu.

Issued by Enterprise iLembe
For more information, contact

Cheryl Peters
Executive Manager: Investment Promotion & Marketing
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 055 2010
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