KwaZulu-Natal’s dream of having its own state of the art cable way will move an inch closer to being realised when the province hosts an international conference and exhibition on the Drakensberg Cable Car project in April.
The conference, which will be attended by cable car and tourism authorities from across the world, will be held at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) from 3-5 April 2016.
The plan to build the cable car, which is set to radically alter the province’s tourism landscape, is part of the province’s 20 year tourism master plan aimed at sharpening KwaZulu-Natal’s competition edge.
High on the conference agenda will be some of the challenges and solutions pursued by leading international cable car operators at similar sites across the world.
“Through the conference, we hope to gain a better understanding of all the issues that can influence the development of the cable car and the best model to be utilised in development, management and operation of this project, in the context of our own environment,” said the KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Michael Mabuyakhulu.
The conference gives further impetus to the construction of the province’s mooted 7km cable car, which will go up 3300 metres to the summit of the UKhahlamba-Drakensberg mountain range.
A study by consultants Graham Muller Associates which was made public in July 2014 found the project would be feasible based on the latest economic and market scoping.
The study investigated the possibility of the construction of the cable car at no less than 16 sites but found the most suitable to be the Busingatha site at Mount Amery, just south of Royal Natal National Park in the Drakensberg.
The proposed site lies entirely within the province of KwaZulu-Natal, on land owned by the Ingonyama Trust and is outside of the boundaries of the UKhahlamba-Drakensberg World Heritage Site. The proposed base station would be located in the rural Mnweni area while the intended summit site is Mount Amery between the Ifidi Pass and the Amphitheatre.
“The benefits of the project will not only be derived from the fact that it would offer another iconic tourism facility in the province, but in that it will catalyse the economy of the Drakensberg and beyond, and create an economic domino effect throughout the province. In pursuing this project, we are already working with the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho to explore what we can do to ensure that this project becomes a game changer,” Mabuyakhulu said.
The province has initiated a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and UNESCO has been notified of the project so that the global organisation’s criteria on EIAs could be taken into consideration.
“To compete in the global tourism market we must be able to take calculated decisions to advance tourism and economic growth, whilst ensuring that only minimal and sustainable impacts on the ecology and environment will occur. Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world and for us to be able to position our tourism destination and be globally competitive we need to use our comparative and competitive advantages such as the Drakensberg,” the MEC concluded, adding that Ithala Development Finance Corporation is to be the appointed developer of the project.
For more information on the Drakensberg Cable Car Investment Conference and Exhibition, visit www.drakensbergcablecar.org.za
The conference is by invitation only and any requests to attend will be vetted accordingly.