By: Bongiwe Zwane-Maseko
After a long dry spell, the tourism industry heaved a sigh of relief when it welcomed over 8 000 visitors into the kingdom over the Easter weekend. This much-needed reprieve was made possible by the easing of travel conditions following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between April 12 and 16 this year, approximately 8 107 international tourists entered the kingdom’s borders, bringing revenue in different ways. Eswatini Tourism Authority’s Phiwokuhle Dhlamini noted that during the same period last year, 3 202 visitors were recorded. “Arrivals from the region constituted a larger proportion of inbound arrivals with RSA and Mozambique accounting for over 88 per cent and 5.9 per cent respectively,” she said. She further highlighted that the highest occupancy rate was for hotels at 38.4 per cent while guesthouses and nature reserves recorded occupancy rates of 25.3 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
In March, the Ministry of Home Affairs eased travel restrictions, announcing that travelers entering and exiting the kingdom needed to produce either a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate and must be fully vaccinated or a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test result that is not older than 72 hours for the unvaccinated. This announcement closely followed a similar one made by the South African government. The tourism industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic as many establishments were forced to lay off staff and halt operations. The easing of restrictions has made a huge difference in the lives of many people and their dependents.
Last week, Eswatini, Mozambique and South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province officiated their partnership agreement with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding of the Triland Agreement at Africa’s Travel Indaba. Triland is an initiative entered into between the Eswatini Tourism Authority (ETA), Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency (MTPA) and the Mozambique Tourism Board (Inatur) to promote the region as a tourist, trade and investment destination. Following a re-engagement meeting attended by the three countries at the Royal Villas on 22 April, the MoU signing took place during a reactivation meeting held at the Durban ICC where the countries were exhibiting their tourism offerings in first Africa’s Travel Indaba to take place in the last two years. Present at the meeting were Eswatini’s Minister of Tourism & Environmental Affairs, MP Moses Vilakati; CEO of the Eswatini Tourism Authority, Linda Nxumalo and the CEO of Mozambique Tourism Authority (Inatur), Marco Vaz Dos Anjos.
The Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, MP Moses Vilakati stressed the importance of implementation in bringing the objectives of the life agreement. He cited the historical and cultural synergies among the three countries that make for an even richer experience as an affirmation of Triland’s relevance to tourism.
“From a historical perspective, Eswatini, Mpumalanga and Mozambique are united. During our Incwala ceremony, we have maintained the tradition of travelling to Mozambique to fetch water. As a country, we give our blessings to the CEOs in signing this MoU. We are excited that they will look into the feasibility of this exercise, especially where issues of connectivity are concerned. I’m excited that we can reignite this very important MoU which will give tourists a diverse set of experiences ranging from a culture in Eswatini and sceneries in Mpumalanga, to the ocean in Mozambique,” stated Vilakati.