USHAKA MARINE WORLD
The world class uShaka Marine World, Africa’s largest marine theme park, has positioned itself as a key attraction on Durban’s Golden Mile, offering unlimited fun. uShaka Marine World opened its turnstiles to the general public on 30 April 2004. The theme park was an investment by eThekwini Municipality in partnership with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
“A major goal was to establish a key catalyst for tourism and economic growth, not only contributing to the GDP of the City but also to KwaZulu-Natal,” says Dr Stella Khumalo, CEO uShaka Marine World.
uShaka prides itself in offering a combination of entertainment and leisure outdoor activities that are suitable for all generations. These are aimed at both the international and domestic tourism markets and include everything from adrenaline pumping water slides at Wet ‘n Wild to fun and games at uShaka Kids World to an ‘up close and personal’ experience with sea creatures at uShaka Sea Animal Encounter Island.
In addition, uShaka is known for its dolphin shows, its Dangerous Creatures exhibit, the Chimp & Zee Rope Adventure Park, a range of restaurants and fast outlets, its Village Walk retail centre and a variety of parties and adventures that augment big events within the city.
Initially, uShaka Marine World was governed by management company but in 2013 it changed hands has been run by the eThekwini municipality ever since. 2016, eThekwini Municipality became the sole owner of theme park. Currently, uShaka Marine World is managed by a board of directors, CEO and management teams who responsible for making sure that the theme park achieves its strategic goals and objectives.
The enhancement of the uShaka Marine World brand very much linked to the management structures which enable inclusive participation of all employees. “There is transparency from the top down to the employees. This link has developed into a culture where employees on the floor have ears that listen, which has a great achievement,” says David Muir, assistant restaurant manager.
“The 500 employees at uShaka Marine World are our most important assets,” says Aubrey Ngubane, human resources executive. “When we do recruitment, we emphasize that we need people who will subscribe to our six values. These are: sky high values, oceans of accountability, honesty and integrity, respect for diversity, and total transparency.”
It is very important for us to not only talk brand uShaka but actually live it,” says Stella. A ll uShaka Marine World employees go through the training programmes of “Good to Great’ and ‘Guest- First’.
“When you get to work there’s a sign that says, ‘Welcome to the fun factory’. It’s an amazing job,” says David.
uShaka Marine World has really positioned itself in Africa and in the world as a key family destination. It is part and parcel of the city of Durban,” says Mpume Mabuza, marketing executive.
“We are a winning destination and we position ourselves as a place where different age groups in the family, young and old, can find something to enjoy at Ushaka Marine World. We have clean, safe areas and you will never be able to do all the activities in one day.”
“We are a family attracting families. Although, leisure income is often restricted, there is always a need for families to enjoy time out in theme parks such as uShaka, added Mpume. The mode of communication that uShaka Marine World has established is focused on guests. All feedback that employees receive from customers, whether they be complaints or compliments is critical to uShaka Marine World and is attended to promptly.
“This talks to ensuring that all employees are aware of any issues that impact on guests to uShaka. Everyone from a parking attendant, to a cleaner, right up to a manager should be able to respond to most guests’ questions,” says Aubrey. “What motivates us is seeing satisfaction on the face of our guests and that is what keeps us going.”
While uShaka Marine World has diverse offerings, the key to its success is the quality of the products that are offered. uShaka Marine World attracts about three million visitors yearly.
“We have benchmarked against other theme parks and we are the only tourism product with marine animals that has a blend of different tourism offerings. We believe that we have achieved the goal of the city to create a catalyst that draws numbers and grows the tourism figures in KwaZulu-Natal, says Stella.
Partnerships have really assisted in growing the uShaka Marine World brand as these allow for a greater impact on communities. These strategic partners include the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Durban Tourism and Tourism KZN.
“Right now we have a partnership with King Shaka Airport, which is a campaign that is going very well to mutual benefit,” added Stella. A key significant signifier of uShaka Marine World’s success is the recognition or accolades that it receives. Recognition open doors for new people to partner with the theme park. One example is winning the KZN Top Brand in 2018. When the public votes, it tells a lot about how the public perceive the brand.
Business sustainability is key as it informs business continuity and business growth strategies. The focus as a business is continuous improvement, differentiation and diversification. “We continuously look at new trends, testing the guest appetite and assessing how our target market behaves and feels,” Stella explains.