EAST LONDON

1589

OVERVIEW

East London sits at the northern end of a 300-kilometre stretch of coastline referred to as the Sunshine Coast, which is anchored by St Francis Bay in the south. The city has around 400,000 residents and its warm waters and sub-tropical climate attract a fair number of tourists and holidaymakers throughout the year. East London’s manufacturing sector is well established and nearly 50% of the 120 large-scale manufacturing companies in the Eastern Cape are part of international corporations. Over half of the enterprises export more than 25% of their output. Motor manufacturing is the backbone of the economy – Daimler Chrysler’s plant, which manufactures Mercedes-Benz, produces for the local market and exports to England, Japan and Australia. Other industries in East London include clothing, textiles, pharmaceuticals and food processing. The port on the Buffalo River is an important economic player, servicing hundreds of ships a year. It has a deepwater port with capacity to spare for future growth. East London is well-positioned for trade with the rest of Africa. Its attraction lies in its low input costs and excellent infrastructure, including an airport and a port. It is also well connected to the rest of the country by rail and road.

To encourage investment in East London, the East London Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) was established on the West Bank in 2004, close to both the port and airport. Around 1,500 hectares of land was made available, and the site is one of only four duty-free development areas in South Africa.

AIRLINES/GETTING THERE

There is a small but busy airport that services between 20 and 30 f lights a day with most of the major local carriers and brings in 350, 000 people a year to the city. SAA and Airlink both fly into the city, with the latter providing f lights between East London and Port Elizabeth. The low-cost options are provided by Kulula and FlySafair. In terms of lounges, there are just two in domestic departures, offered by SAA and Bidvest. The Bidvest lounge is open to any passenger, no matter the airline or ticket class, but payment is required. Pre-booking can be done at www.bidvestlounge.co.za. You can either hire a car from Avis, Bidvest, Europcar, First, Hertz or Tempest, or book a shuttle into town. The only dining option at the airport is provided by coffee shop brand Mugg & Bean. Johannesburg is 10 hours away by car, but only a 90-minute plane journey. And driving the 1,000-odd kilometres from Cape Town wi l l take a good 12 hours. Flight time is also 90 minutes.

HOTELS

Only a handful of hotel chains are present in East London, with City Lodge, Tsogo Sun and Premier Hotels offering one, two and three properties respectively. City Lodge’s only property is the onestar Road Lodge, whilst Tsogo Sun has the Southern Sun (the group’s premium brand) Hemingways and the Garden Court East London. That leaves Premier Hotels with the largest presence, with its Premier Hotel Regent, Splendid Inn King David (the original Premier Hotels property and first in the group’s portfolio), and the Premier Hotel East London ICC. The East London International Convention Centre opened in 2004 and provides Premier Hotels with a compelling proposition with two adjacent hotels. It’s the only ICC in South Africa positioned on a beachfront and facilities include a 600-seater auditorium, an exhibition floor large enough to display a large vehicle, a hall that can accommodate up to 2,100 people, and two restaurants. The Marine Park Complex in which the ICC is located incorporates the 260- room Premier Hotel EL ICC, as well as the adjacent 175 rooms of the Premier Hotel Regent, making this the ‘go-to’ option for any conference delegate. East London also has a number of independent hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs. Among them, the Kennaway Hotel and Hotel Osner on the beachfront, the Rose Petals guesthouse, and 36 on Bonza, which is a boutique guesthouse with 10 rooms.

RESTAURANTS

For a small city, East London has a surprising number of eateries, with many international cuisines on offer. Portugal is represented by Marasol in Stirling and Casa Verde in Bonnie Doon, whilst the Royal Delhi, Bluez Rock Café and Smokey Swallows satisfy cravings for curries and other Indian dishes. Le Petit Restaurant in Nahoon serves Swiss and French-influenced meals in an authentic old country dining setting and Chinese dishes are served at Zhong Hua with a set menu offering well-established favourites such as spring rolls, sweet and sour pork, chicken chop suey, and chicken with cashew nuts. Classic Chinese dishes, Thai curries, seafood and sushi can be found at Pier 99 opposite the Vincent Shopping Mall. For an Italian feast, try Grazie Fine Food and Wine in Quigney, whilst Guido’s

Vincent offers hand-crafted pizzas baked in wood-fired ovens. If you’re after something lighter, there are a number of cafes and coffee shops. Try Roxy, Toast or Cafe Neo for coffee, muffins, burgers, wraps and sandwiches.

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