Big shortage of bed’s is largely due to the closure of the Sun group hotels.We need capacity in order to fulfill the potential of the tourism sector in the Kingdom
Ezulwini-At night the distance from the Gables shopping complex and the Happy Valley Hotel to Emvutshini which was once considered to be Eswatini’s answer to the Las Vegas strip in Nevada can now be likened to a ghost town (tindzala) following the liquidation of the three Sun International hotels.
The three hotels, the SwaziSpa Hotel and Casino, Lugogo Sun and the Ezulwini Sun are now reported to have been sold to Canham Mining International (Pty) Ltd.for E 1 billion who have promised to create jobs.
However, the situation on the ground is proving to be dire for the country’s economy especially as the much-anticipated completion of the nearby Five Star Hotel and International Convention Centre is far from materialising.
When the Sun International Hotel’s Group liquidated their business interests at Ezulwini, a large number of jobs were lost and the economic vibrancy that the area had generated for decades also disappeared.
From as far back as the 1970’s when the neon lights of the Holiday Inn Hotel blazed with financial promise at the casino, to the 1980’s when the Sun International hotels hosted the Internationally renowned English Premier League soccer teams. These were teams such as Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspurs and Liverpool Football Club. The Ezulwini valley has turned into a shadow of what it used to be.
It was anticipated that the construction of the International Convention Centre (ICC) and Five Star Hotel on the premises alongside the Sun International properties at an estimated cost of E4.8 billion would stimulate the much-expected tourist activity. However, this complex has still not been completed. The completion date was initially targeted for the hosting of an African Union Summit in 2020 but this did not materialise.
On the 14th of August 2020, Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini officially launched the Post COVID-19 Kingdom of Eswatini Recovery Plan.
The plan was touted as a E30 billion stimulus package that was meant to accelerate the economy into a much more sustainable path of development. The recovery plan was meant to create momentum to grow the economy at an even faster rate compared to the time before COVID-19 hit Eswatini. It had six pillars of economic recovery, one of which was tourism.
The ultimate outcome of the Recovery Plan was to create the pathway for high value investment to settle in Eswatini so that the country can be Africa’s most preferred host for high net-worth individuals and the head office capital for multi-corporations. Basically, the Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan was to be Eswatini’s economic stimulus that was to protect and resuscitate the economy from the COVID-19 pandemic. It was meant to jolt the economy into a much stronger and winning trajectory post COVID-19 compared to its counterparts in the region and the rest of Africa.
In line with the objectives of this Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan the African Tourism Board (ATB) which has its headquarters in Eswatini has committed itself to promote and support tourism in the country and throughout the continent.
Responding to a questionnaire, the CEO of the African Tourism Board, Sandile Magongo said “we can not ignore the responsibility to enhance the country into achieving its full potential where tourism is concerned. The country has a very big shortage of bed’s which is largely due to the closure of the Sun group hotels.”
Magongo continued to explain that “this has a negative impact on the economy of the country and the revenue streams from this sector which is a pertinent industry are designed to boost every country especially during the festive season. Five-star Hotels like the ICC are a new trend in Africa because they attract big spenders which complements the product offering. It is therefore goes without saying that the completion of the ICC and the reactivation of the Sun Hotels after some rehabilitation of course, is key. The ATB is in talks with other African countries to partner with Eswatini in hosting of some of the continent’s major events. We need capacity in order to fulfill the potential of the tourism sector in the Kingdom.”
According to the website of the daily Southern and East African tourism update, the Eswatini Tourism Authority CEO, Linda Nxumalo concurred that “tourism remains the strategic economic recovery pillar for Eswatini and this move will help create and sustain more jobs and further increase tourism contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”
No comments on the matter were received from the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs who were sent a questionnaire.