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Postponement of the iSimangaliso Ecotourism Business Investment Summit

17 August 2021

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park Management has taken a decision to postpone the iSimangaliso Ecotourism Business Investment Summit, which was scheduled to take place on 26 August 2021 at iSibaya International Casino, near Durban. The summit was going to provide a platform to local, national, and international interest groups to access business opportunities available across the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Amongst reasons for the unfortunate postponement is the recent unforeseen civil unrest, which affected South Africa’s two economic hubs in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces, where iSimangaliso Park is located.

Temporary and uncharacteristic civil disturbance During the month of July 2021, South Africa experienced a temporary and uncharacteristic civil disturbance that created a lot of uncertainties. The civil disturbance and looting attracted global media coverage, which negatively affected South Africa’s image as an attractive investment destination. iSimangaliso consulted extensively on whether it would be feasible to continue with the summit on 26 August 2021, considering the prevailing conditions. It was then resolved that the environment was not conducive for the summit to continue at this point in time.

COVID-19 Pandemic During the month of June 2021, South Africa experienced a massive resurgence of COVID-19 infections. It was announced that the Delta variant was spreading rapidly, and was more transmissible than previously circulating mutations of the virus. Consequently, the President made an announcement that the country was on adjusted Alert Level 4 from 28 June to 11 July 2021, and further extended to 25 July 2021. Certain restrictions were put in place and were going to affect the Investment Summit. This included the prohibition of all gatherings (whether indoors or outdoors), inter-provincial travelling was discouraged, and the curfew time was tightened.

Proposed new date for the summit To regain investor confidence, to allow the country to heal, and to allow the current COVID-19 vaccination programme to continue, iSimangaliso resolved to postpone the summit to 25 March 2022. Preparatory work and planning will continue, and more efforts will be put to ensure that the summit is an even bigger success. The CEO of iSimangaliso, Mr Sibusiso Bukhosini, has expressed his appreciation to the business sector and various players for the huge interest shown, and he is looking forward to interaction with these sectors during the summit on the revised date.

iSimangaliso’s mission is to protect, preserve and present its World Heritage values for current and future generations, whilst benefiting communities living in and adjacent to the Park by facilitating optimal tourism and related development. To ensure the organisation fulfils its mission and strategic objectives, iSimangaliso has been developing and implementing tourism development initiatives aimed at positioning the Park as a destination of choice. Both new and existing tourism development sites and commercial tourism were identified with the intention of soliciting potential investors, both local and international, to invest in them.

The main objectives of the summit were: for iSimangaliso to showcase tourism investment opportunities within the Park; to provide potential domestic and foreign investors, local communities, government departments as well as intermediaries, with information on investment opportunities and the investment and business climate in iSimangaliso; and to establish contact with potential investors and other parties interested in investing in the Park. Extensive preparatory work for the summit had been done which included: consultative meetings with local communities; roadshows; establishment of a steering committee with key Government departments like Tourism KwaZulu Natal and Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal.