Race, show boom lifts the gloom

2009-05-23 00:00

THE positive economic impact of this year’s Comrades Marathon and the 2009 Royal Show will help heal the battered and bruised provincial economy, with an estimated R200-R250 million being pumped into Pietermaritzburg and Durban over the next nine days.

The Comrades invasion has brought 650 international and 12 200 local runners to the province.

In addition, Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) general manager Terry Strachan believes that R150 million will be spent at this year’s Royal Show, which runs until May 31.

“It’s a full fortnight of economic activity. The Royal [Show] is the largest audited event in the province,” Strachan said.

He said more than half of the 180 000 to 210 000 (expected) visitors hail from the Durban area, adding that thousands flood into Pietermaritzburg from the midlands and other areas of KwaZulu-Natal.

“This is not just a Pietermaritzburg show. It’s a provincial show. It’s the spend inside the show itself that is significant. You simply cannot get accommodation in the city at this time of the year.”

The show is home to about 400 stalls and a significant proportion of these businesses sell products and services directly to the public.

With tens of thousands of runners and their supporters — over 70% of whom come from outside KZN — the province is bulging.

“It’s been a great season so far, particularly with the Mountain Bike World Cup over Easter and Cars in the Park last weekend and now we are gearing up for the influx of Comrades and the Royal Show,” said Melanie Veness the city’s director of tourism. “There’s virtually no accommodation left for the weekend,“ she added.

Craig Fry, spokesman for the Comrades Marathon Association, said various road-shows around the country and intense marketing efforts in recent months helped lift participant numbers by a whopping 17% this year.

In addition, the Comrades Marathon casts the national spotlight on Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

Fry believes that up to 70% of South Africans will watch the Comrades on television.

Another significant event on the city calendar, the 47th Nashua Art in the Park from May 27 to 31, is expected to draw more than 10 000 visitors from across the country.

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