The Battle of Isandlwana, in which the Zulu nation defeated Britain’s colonial army 145 years ago, makes an invaluable contribution to cultural and heritage tourism, says Acting Chief Executive of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN), Mr. Sibusiso Gumbi.
This landmark battle will be re-enacted this weekend (January 27) at the Sandlwana battle site in Nquthu as part of a much anticipated, colourful annual commemoration, hosted by the KZN Provincial Government and the KwaZulu Royal Household.
“This event is a significant part of KZN’s cultural and heritage tourism calendar and promotes social cohesion and nation building. It also reveals the true value of the overall Battlefields Route which is already an important tourism destination that impacts on economic development in the Umzinyathi District in Northern KZN,” says Gumbi.
Fringed by the majestic Drakensberg mountains and dotted with the remains of stone forts and graveyards the region is now a popular international tourism destination particularly with the European markets which value their historical ties with the region.
Each year, according to a TKZN Domestic survey (S&P Global), 544 000 travellers head to the Battlefields as a region.
Isandlwana, hosted 22 153 tourists in 2019, 19 638 during the Covid-109 pandemic when travel was severely restricted and 18 674 visitors in 2022.
Referring to the Battle of Isandlwana commemoration, Mr Gumbi notes that the tourism potential of the Battlefields Route and cultural and heritage tourism promises significant economic benefits for the region. It makes KZN a unique tourism destination that offers further opportunities for growth, transformation, and job creation.
Globally, UNESCO has prioritised cultural and heritage tourism in the recovery of the tourism sector post Covid-19. It now recognises intangible cultural heritage as being as important as buildings and notes that a market for experiences such as the battle re-enactment is significant.
According to MyTravelResearch.com, culture and heritage tourism plays a critical role in building the visitor economy. A recent survey showed that over 50% of travellers regarded history and culture as strong influences in their choice of holiday destination.
Although the initial growth in this sub sector was greatest just before the pandemic, it continues with an estimated direct global value of well over $1billion dollars (R180 billion). MyTravelResearch.com also reveals that culture and heritage tourism attracts tourists that spend up to 38% more per day and stay 22% longer overall.
Mr Gumbi adds that events such as Isandlwana promote the preservation and protection of important local cultural resources and customs, whilst also building relationships within local communities and boosting national pride. Closely aligned with this is incentivising the development and beautification of national heritage sites and the creation of amenities and tourism services that support these.