The Lubombo Route
JOINT PRESS STATEMENT BY MINISTERS FERNANDO SUMBANA (MOZAMBIQUE), THANDI SHONGWE (SWAZILAND), AND MARTHINUS VAN SCHALKWYK (SOUTH AFRICA) ON 6 MAY 2006
MINISTERS LAUNCH NEW LUBOMBO TOURISM ROUTE AT INDABA 2006
An exciting new tourism route, through some of the most beautiful and scenic landscapes of South East Africa - many of them unexplored as tourism destinations - was launched at a high profile event attended by Ministers from Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland at the annual Tourism Indaba in Durban today.
The unveiling of the route - which traverses Southern Mozambique, Eastern Swaziland, Mpumalanga and Northern KwaZulu Natal - highlights a joint commitment by each of the three countries to ensure that tourism helps to further stimulate the economic strength of the region. Said Mozambican Minister of Tourism Dr Fernando Sumbana Junior at the launch: "The jewels of Maputo and Mozambique are now being combined in a route with South Africa and Swaziland. After experiencing the freedom of the bush in South Africa, and mountains of Swaziland, tourists can now travel through Southern Mozambique to some of the most pristine beaches in the world."
The new route, which includes a number of circuits within it, gives domestic and international tourists a chance to explore and experience the diverse cultures, landscapes, wildlife and coastal assets of the Lubombo region. It is one of the few places in the world where tourists will be able to dive on coral reefs and observe whales and dolphins at sea within just a few hours of experiencing a Big Five game safari.
In addition to beautiful beaches and some of Southern Africa's best game parks, the Lubombo region includes magnificent mountain ranges, a number of coastal lakes and lagoons and also contains five distinct Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs).
The region also has a number of important heritage sites - such as the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park (South Africa's first World Heritage Site) and Border Cave which has the longest record of uninterrupted human settlement in Africa. Travellers along the route will also be able to explore the cultures of Southern Africa's Zulu, Thonga and Swazi people through innovative and entertaining cultural centres that have been established.
The Lubombo Route is located in a fast-growing tourism region where there has been a major increase in traffic from the Kruger National Park, through Swaziland and Mozambique, to the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park and Hluwhluwe Imfolozi game parks of Northern KwaZulu Natal. In essence it is a greatly significant tourism route that has, until now, not been formalised or extensively marketed.
The member states of SADC have committed to developing tourism, and especially tourism in Transfrontier Conservation Areas, as a priority in the build-up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup. The new tourism route provides a great head-start in this direction.
Said Swaziland's Minister for Tourism, Environment and Communications, Mrs Thandi Shongwe: "This route is the latest in a number of projects to jointly strengthen the economies of the Lubombo area through unprecedented regional cooperation. For many years tourists have been travelling through Swaziland on their way to KwaZulu-Natal. Our aim is to ensure greater tourist numbers and that they spend more time in all three countries. The route provides a strong platform for this initiative."
The launch of the route has been made possible by the years of work between the three countries through the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative (SDI) to foster greater levels of co-operation around tourism and economic development. This co-operation was formalised by the signing of the Lubombo SDI Protocol in July 1999 between the Heads of State of Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland.
Since the signing of the protocol, road and border infrastructure has been greatly improved, significant strides have been taken in eradicating malaria, and establishing the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Areas. New facilities have also been built and redeveloped.
Work has begun to extend the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park World Heritage Site along the Southern Mozambique coastline. Work is also underway to prepare for the dropping of fences in 2009 between South Africa and Swaziland's Songimvelo-Malolotja, and between Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa's Usuthu-Tembe and Futhi, allowing elephants to once more follow their ancient migratory routes. More recently, agreement on the dropping of visa requirements between Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland has created the ideal opportunity to launch the Lubombo Route - thus consolidating an intensive effort by the three countries to create conditions for economic growth and development through tourism.
Information material about the different options available to tourists was released at the launch, outlining the core routes between the countries of Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland - indicating a commitment by the three countries to begin marketing the region more aggressively through a three-phase approach to unlock tourism potential.
Said South Africa's Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk: "We are delighted with the progress made with the route so far, but understand that there is still a long way to go. We have provided support with infrastructure and marketing through our tourism marketing agencies. It is now critical that the private sector also begins to play a more direct role in the marketing of the region and the identified routes will provide a strong platform for this."
Phase one entails the launch itself and will be followed by input from the Southern African and international tourism industry on how best the route can be used and enhanced to promote tourism growth. This consultation will be undertaken during Indaba 2006 and will be used to inform activities in phase two.
The second phase will see a steering committee of key tourism authorities from Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland finalising a framework for ongoing management of the route, encouraging involvement by private companies as well as government agencies and community groups.
As the route matures, in phase three, it is expected that the marketing and development of the route will become self-sufficient relying on private and public sector contributions to assist it in growing and developing.
For more information specifically about the new route please contact:
Roland Vorwerk (082 466 1251) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For Media Interviews please contact:
JP Louw (South African Ministry for Tourism & Environment) - 082 569 3340
Dr B Soto (Mozambique Ministry) - (09258) 82 561 3461
Mr S Simelane (Swaziland Ministry) - (09268) 602 4435