Sarno adds passion of Seychelles to Umhlanga


Jeannie Sarno

from FUTHI MBHELE in Durban
KwaZulu Natal Bureau
DURBAN, (CAJ News) – THE way Seychelles-born Jeannie Sarno is reveling in her role as the chairperson of Umhlanga Tourism, it is inconceivable she initially declined the offer.

“I was approached at the end of 2022 and I declined the title of chairperson,” she told Durban Today in an interview.

She instead offered to assist Umhlanga Tourism without the need of the title.

“However, as from April, an official chairperson had to be assigned as per the Umhlanga Tourism constitution, and I was asked to take the position officially,” she disclosed.

“Ten months ago, I would have neither seen myself nor dreamt of being in this position but everything in life happens for a reason,” Sarno said.

Besides her new position, she owns a thriving bed and breakfast (B&B) establishment.

With her being born in a country that has one of the most vibrant tourism industries, it is easy to understand Sarno’s passion for the sector.

Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off East Africa, is home to what are rated the world’s most beautiful beaches.

This most prosperous nation in Sub-Saharan Africa is famous for coral reefs and nature reserves as well as rare animals such as giant Aldabra tortoises. Seychellois, as people from there are called, are generally peaceful, friendly, helpful and courteous.

“I have always been passionate because tourism plays a large part of the Seychelles economy,” Sarno said.

“After my family immigrated to South Africa, I wanted to visit the world and see what it had to offer so I studied Travel and Tourism,” Sarno said.

She worked on the MSC Symphony back in 1999, then worked for two years as a customer relations officer for a ticketing company.

“Due to my love for South Africa I had to return. South Africa has become a part of me. I came back and worked for MSC for many years before starting my family.”

Umhlanga has been her home for 22 years now.

Sarno is grateful for support from her husband and three sons.

“When my last son was born, my twins were only two. So I decided to leave the corporate world and operate my own B&B in La Lucia,” she said.

She has been at the helm for 15 years at the establishment.

The B&B recently won first place at the Durban Tourism Business Awards.

Umhlanga Tourism is the community tourism organisation (CTO) marketing Umhlanga, the resort town of Durban on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province.

The name comes from the Zulu language and means “place of reeds.” There are plenty of these reeds growing along the Ohlanga River, north of the town.

Sarno told Durban Today the region offers tourists and visitors a variety of experiences.

“We are blessed with amazing weather throughout the year. The beach is one of the only seven Blue Flag beaches in the province,” she said.

There are also numerous malls and centres, the newest being Oceans Mall, which hosts national and international brands.

“I doubt tourists can come to visit Umhlanga and say that they didn’t see anything,” Sarno said.

At this time of the year, the area boasts the migration of the whales and the dolphins while visitors often grace it with their presence and surfing skills.

At the end of the promenade, bird fanatics can flock to the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve.

“Umhlanga is perfectly located and hosts an impressive selection of attractions and experiences making it well worth the visit,” Sarno enthused.

She is relishing her new position at the helm of one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa.

“I am well travelled and I can only put these experiences and expectations into practice. I know what I expected and wanted as a tourist and would like to use this as a point to try and deliver it through how we run the CTO,” Sarno concluded.

– CAJ News


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