Durban – The country’s leading marketing and advertising experts have descended on Durban this week to celebrate their finest work, but the city is more concerned about how they portray a city dented by a spate of xenophobic violence.
Durban is certainly a draw card for the Loeries Creative Week, with its “summer in winter” weather, and Durban Tourism is hoping they share this warm sentiment with the rest of the world.
Durban Tourism chief Phillip Sithole told Fin24 that eThekwini (Durban’s municipal name) will contribute R9m over the next three years, which will be used to pay for the venue at the ICC. The provincial government is also pouring millions into the event, taking care of other logistics, he said.
Durban expects the event to attract over 4 500 people that could spend up to R100m, said Sithole. “This excludes the PR value that we will be deriving out of the event,” he said.
The social media as well as the media coverage to the event will be worth millions of rands of marketing, he added. “We are more than excited about the positive stories through social media that is going out to the rest of the world.”
“It’s a coming together of people who promote destinations and who work with big business and government,” he said.
Durban is South Africa’s third largest city with 3.5 million people. While Durban’s unemployment rate dropped from 43% in 2001 to 12.8% in 2011, it has a 39% youth unemployment rate. Xenophobic violence erupted in April against foreign African nationals, who locals believed had stolen their jobs.
“While there haven’t been any more attacks, we are very scared and don’t go into the centre of town after dark,” an Ethiopian shop owner, who asked to remain anonymous, told Fin24 this week.
Sithole said that the image of Durban was negatively affected during the xenophobic attacks early in the year.
He said bringing events like Tourism Indaba and the MTV Music Awards shortly after the violence had subsided was a fortunate boost to show that Durban was still a friendly and welcoming city to foreigners.
“We were surprised by the number of African countries that participated (in both those events),” he said.
Dreaming of the Olympics
Durban likes to host events that do three things: help economic growth, sell Durban to the international community, and bring people of all races together, said Sithole.
“Events like the Common Wealth Games, as well as the Olympics and the Soccer World Cup are major events that cover all those aspects,” he explained.
“As a young democracy, we still need big events to help integrate people in South Africa,” he said. “Big events will help the country achieve its goals of social cohesion.
“Hosting the Olympics Games continues to be our dream,” he said. “One of the reasons why we hosted the World Cup and why we are bidding for the Common Wealth Games is to try and put a case forward that Durban can host any kind of event.
“We are hoping that come next month, we become declared the host of the Common Wealth,” he said. “That will be a step closer towards hosting the Olympics.”