The KZN Winter Tour
“As a province we want to increase tourism,” said KZN MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Mike Mabuyakhulu. “We have approximately 49 airports of various sizes and therefore have developed a comprehensive provincial strategy linking them to tourism. We are a province who keeps our promises. Ten years ago we announced the building of a new airport to handle the influx of visitors and two years ago it was delivered... now we are planning to involve the smaller air fields.”
The KZN Winter Tour is but one of a series of events envisaged for the province to enhance its tourism appeal to both domestic and international visitors, who despite the increase in fuel costs are still keen to travel.
“In the next 2-3 years we will have established a free trade zone and want to ensure the use of smaller airports,” he said.
This view was substantiated by KZN MEC for Finance Ina Cronje who stated: “Regional airports can be valuable assets in tourism development, especially when combined with neighbouring businesses.
“Global aviation analysts predict a shift in point-to-point travel," she stated, “and it is estimated that regional and commuter aviation will have increased by 25% in 2016. The transition and development of multi-airport systems will be a key mechanism by which air transportation systems around the world will be able to meet future demand.”
AND now to the KZN Winter Tour as a catalyst for the influx of visitors to the province.
Brain-child of Dr Clive Coetzee – KZN Infrastructure Management and Economic Services and brought to fruition by a team of professionals headed by Brian Emmenis, the KZN Winter Air Tour is a first in conception and placed KZN as a leading province with respect to innovation.
The project which has been in the making for 5 months sees airshows taking place in Newcastle, Ulundi, Richards Bay, Pietermaritzburg, Margate and Durban.
“This is a big milestone for South African aviation,” said Brian. “Overseas, next to football, airshows attract the largest audiences (spectators)... and this tour is the natural evolution of the annual Wings Airshow which had its inception in 1985 and was based here (Virginia Airport).
“Safety is paramount for this tour and [to this end] we have the involvement of South Africa’s foremost specialists... and what are we going to see?”
The main mandate from the KZN government has been the involvement of locals, giving the smaller guys the opportunity and to this end spectators can watch the best-of-the-best with respect to South African aerobatic pilots – both solo and as part of a team. Helicopters, the South African Air Force, Yak 52s, Silver Falcons, Grippons, sky-dive legend Ian Douglas, microlites, Equestra – Flying Lions, Good Year Eagles and more.
Each airshow is going to be different according to Brian. The opening at Newcastle (the first show of the tour) is going to see the SA Air Force in all its glory; and Richards Bay, which hasn’t hosted an airshow for a number of years will have an eclectic programme.
Ulundi in northern KZN has never hosted an airshow before and there are hundreds of youngsters who have never had the experience of seeing an aerobatic aircraft or even the knowledge that the aviation industry has a number of career options... and this is something about which KZN MEC for Finance Ina Cronje is passionate, so much so that she has asked for career guidance booths to be included in the static displays at each of the airports.
Pietermaritzburg, Margate and Durban – all on the agenda will each have something to boast about, especially the latter which will have the involvement of the larger passenger aircraft. “Durban always comes up trumps,” added Brian, “it will be a thank you to the province, aviators etc.”
Each of the airshows will also showcase those involved with the emergency services in the form of a Grand Parade which will open the proceedings featuring fire fighters, marching bands, air traffic controllers, SAPS and more.
2 June – Newcastle
9 June – Richards Bay
16 June – YOUTH DAY – Ulundi
23 June – Pietermaritzburg
7 July – Margate
14 July – Durban (Virginia)
Programmes and special events will be announced for each of the respective airshows over the coming weeks.