AN ambitious plan by Durban tourism bosses to boost the city coffers during the festive season has paid off, with holiday-makers injecting a healthy R2,5 billion into the local economy. The city’s head of tourism, Philip Sithole, said the majority of visitors came from Gauteng, making it easy for them to realise the huge potential in stepping up marketing in that province to attract even more visitors to the coast. He said the tourists who flocked to Durban during the festive season — most of whom were South Africans — spent more money compared to any previous year. “We had set ourselves a target of attracting more than 1,2 million visitors and we achieved that. “We are very grateful for having met our target both in monetary terms and number of visitors.” He said Durban remains the number one tourism destination in South Africa and they are now pushing this idea to the world. “I have no doubt that we will manage to attract five million visitors over the next seven years.” During this holiday season, Sithole said most visitors to the city came from Gauteng, Eastern Cape, and Free State. “But we also have visitors coming from within KwaZulu-Natal, from towns like Richards Bay, Newcastle, Port Shepstone and Pietermarizburg.” He pointed out that it was important for the city to attract both local and international tourists to keep the industry sustainable. He said they have already started marketing Durban for the 2014 festive season. “We are just consolidating locally. And our next target is to take Durban to the world. We will be starting our campaigns to international markets, especially in the UK, France, India and the Netherlands.” Sithole said taking Durban to the world means they have to participate in exhibitions showcasing the city’s food, lifestyle, and Zulu heritage. “The Zulu nation is known in the world and we have to tell people that Durban is the city in KwaZulu-Natal to be, and also the capital of culture.” The Witness reported earlier that the city’s festive safety plan was highly successful, with few incidents when considering the thousands of people who flocked to the beaches daily. The area was regarded as a premier South African holiday destination this festive season with two almost problem-free weeks characterised by high security visibility and rapid cleaning services. Within 12 hours of nearly 500 000 people having flocked to Durban’s Golden Mile for the annual New Year’s Day pilgrimage, the beach promenade was near spotless and open for business. eThekwini Metro mayor James Nxumalo at the time said this was the result of the city’s festive management plan being implemented successfully. He said then police visibility, volunteers, security, and surveillance cameras saw more than 460 000 people enjoying New Year’s Day at the various local beaches while about 35 000 people attended the New Year’s picnic at Umgababa beach. The city’s Festive Season Management Committee (Fesmac) said the organic plan had been developed over several years, with deficiencies plugged and concepts altered to deal with the uniqueness of the city’s festive make-up. Christo Swart, chairperson of Fesmac, was reported saying each unit within the municipality — including traffic, parks and waste removal, and external services such as the SAPS and paramedic services — had managed to secure this accomplishment.