Durban gets its mojo back

2014-03-24 00:00

SET off by the boom of fighter jets, dozens of car alarms and the excited chatter of thousands of spectators announced that Durban “has its mojo back”.

As organisers yesterday revealed that 145 000 people visited the inaugural Durban Air, Land and Sea Show this weekend, a new report shows that an increased schedule of events has seen R5 billion added to Durban’s economy in the past two years.

Meanwhile, suburban spectators told The Witness that — having avoided the beachfront in recent years for fear of crime and decay — they now saw the Marine Parade as a family playground once again.

Pinetown aeroplane fanatic Jimmy Bell, who was at the air festival with his family, said the beachfront felt safer, which “wasn’t always the case”.

Highlights for Bell included an Airbus A-319 fly-past — in formation with Silver Falcons planes — and the howling streak of a Gripen fighter jet.

Commissioned by Durban Tourism, the yet-to-be published report was compiled to analyse all public events — from music concerts to expos and sports festivals — since 2011. Durban Tourism CEO Phillip Sithole said the report had revealed a sharpy improved “rajectory” for the city, while pointing out where changes needed to be made.

“It was the success of the city hosting the Fifa World Cup 2010 that gave us the confidence to take on more and reposition Brand Durban as a premier destination for business, entertainment and holidays,” he said.

“We have relooked at all our events and we have a clear vision — have events that draw people and give the city exposure to a wider audience and that allow for social cohesion.”

Sithole said the report revealed that R1 billion alone was gained through the hosting of conferences and R3 billion from sports and entertainment.

He said the city’s marketing strategy was embedded in the metro’s history and culture and spoke to the diaspora that now calls Durban home.

In the last four years, Durban has hosted the World Cup, Cop17, BRICS and the Olympic organising committee. It has also hosted mega events such as the Metro FM Music Awards, several A-listed music artists and the Top Gear Festival.

Sithole said while foreigners and Gauteng residents accounted for 65% of the tourism spend in the city, they accounted for just 20% of the total tourists.

“We are targeting the Gauteng and foreign markets but particularly the latter as their spending power is much larger. We have the ability to host multiple large events simultaneously,” said Sithole.

But this wasn’t always the case. In the last decade the city saw an exodus of big events leaving the province’s economic capital — most notably the Mr Price Pro, previously known as the Gunston 500, which attracted the world’s top surfers and was televised live. It moved to Ballito.

He said a festival similar to the Gunston 500 was under discussion but that it should have an element of economic empowerment for small businesses.

There was a carnival atmosphere at the air show, with jugglers, clowns, mime artists, rickshaw riders and stilt walkers while police patrolled on four wheelers, horseback and on foot.

Event spokesperson Justin Scott said the event was at least six months in-the-planning with a core 12 people working full-time to ­accommodate all the roleplayers.

Costing R8 million and sponsored by the Provincial Treasury and eThekwini Metro, the show has come off the back of the KZN Air Tour and the aviation Zululand Race of Champions — both sponsored by the provincial government.

Scott said while they had met every criterion on safety to host the event the organisers had taken out public liability insurance of R100 million.

• jonathan.erasmus@witness.co.za

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