DURBAN, South Africa, September 2019 – Attending the 2nd annual Africa Tourism Leadership Forum (ATLF) recently was more than energizing. This is an annual Pan-African dialogue that brings together key stakeholders of Africa’s travel, tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors to network, share insights and devise strategies for intra-Africa travel and tourism growth across the continent, whilst enhancing the brand equity of “Destination Africa”.
This was by far the biggest break for me to attend such a bespoke forum featuring travel, hospitality businesses, renowned SADC media and stakeholders alike.
The trip was made possible by South African Tourism (SAT) who from time to time invite and host select few media personalities from across the African continent as well as from around the world. Representing the landlocked country, Botswana, SAT sent a clarion call to the leading online medium, Botswana Unplugged.
To facilitate smoother travels, all logistics we made well in time thus making sure Yours Truly arrives impeccably at the city that is said to experience one season – summer all throughout.
I have always heard so much about this city – first the airport is named after the famous Shaka Zulu – a great tribesman of the early1800s during the Mfecane wars – a series of Zulu and other Nguni wars and forced migrations of the second and third decades of the 19th century that changed the demographic, social, and political configuration of southern and central Africa and parts of eastern Africa.
TUESDAY, August, 27 – Butterflies in my stomach, I arrived at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKA) fully charged and eager to board Air Namibia – my direct flight to South Africa’s Durban city. What fascinated me even further was that the new route was just introduced not so long ago – a direct flight from Gaborone to Durban compared to the usually long voyage of Gaborone via Johannesburg to Durban.
Stepping into any airport for me really is always an exciting feat, I mean, who doesn’t like to travel. I was truly looking forward to stepping into the humongous airbus courtesy of Air Namibia. However, my excitement immediately turned into distress when the Air Namibia check-in counter, after carefully studying my passport cheerfully told me that they had on Saturday sent communication to my booking agent about the cancellation of the flight I was supposed to board. OMG!
This cannot be happening, a voice within my head said. I needed to be in Durban by lunch latest, according to my extensive travel itinerary. Thinking fast, I was already on the phone with my hosts; SAT who made sure I was on the next available flight out of the country. They were utterly as shocked as I was about the developments but they worked their magic and my next flight was at 5pm via Johannesburg and it was all good for me despite the earlier lags.
Priority for me was to reach Durban. We left Gaborone in the usual ATR42s which I’m now accustomed to their feel and being and touched down Johannesburg for a bigger surprise of an airbus 320-200 boarding to Durban. The sitting capacity was 180 people and no turbulence was felt. The take-off was like a hot knife through butter, smooth. We arrived at King Shaka airport before Ntate Vuyo – my chauffeur took me to my home for next three nights, which was at the popular spot, Southern Sun Maharani hotel.
The hotel is a warm welcome to the brightest star on the Golden Mile. Located on the spectacular Durban beachfront, and overlooking some of the best beaches in KwaZulu-Natal, the hotel complex is just metres from the vibrant boardwalk and many other local attractions.
The hotel complex is situated 32 km from the King Shaka International Airport, 1.8 km from the Durban International Convention Centre and just 1.6 km from the Durban central business district.
It’s a great location with easy access and endless views of the Indian Ocean make this hotel, the perfect choice for anyone’s next meeting, conference, incentive trip or event in Durban. So Vuyo quizzed, probably inspired by what had transpired with my coming later than anyone in Durban. “Eh Ntate Madisa, ke utlwa bare (I hear that you missed your flight). Kwezenjane (what happened), I chuckled as I dragged my bag from the airport luggage belt – and in between breaking the ice with a few pleasantries.
Look man, Ntate Vuyo was old enough to be my father and I was raised well enough to understand that older people should not carry luggage for peers of their kids, so I was not about to mislay my manners simply because he was extending that courtesy as my minder.
Mr V, I can’t miss flights – It was cancelled, what I do all day is catch flights, he chuckled as we both burst into laughter. I answered this way to put him at ease and when we reached the mini bus he leaned towards me to signal that he needed to lift my luggage and put it into the trailer, I relented my Ubuntu as he was insisting – now that’s some royal treat right there.
We arrived safe and sound ready to see what Kwa-Zulu Natal province had to offer the next day. Sawubona Durban. I have read somewhere here, something like, ‘meet here, grow elsewhere’.