Durban’s winning sports tourism

Published on : Tuesday, July 8, 2014

downloadIn July 2002, eThekwini municipal leaders sat down, put their heads together and began to plan to grow Durban – often overlooked by Cape Town and Johannesburg – an important economic competitor.

Already, major economic driver, powerful industries, the city is thankful to the automaker Toyota mainly, and had a maximum port of a thriving domestic tourism, in Africa.

Wanting to something new, the officials turned their attention to sport.


Mike Sutcliffe, who served as municipal boss until December 2011 says, “Soon after I arrived as city manager in 2002, I argued that the theme ‘Durban: where the fun never sets’ was not appropriate and that we should rather have ‘Durban: Africa’s sporting capital’. Certainly [former] mayor Obed Mlaba concurred and his interest in sport made it much easier to drive that strategy.”


The strategy accelerated in 2004, when South Africa was branded as host of the 2010 World Cup and Durban as the host city. Up to R3.6bn pumped into the center Moses Mabhida Stadium, millions will be spent on upgrading the Princess Magogo, King Zwelithini and Sugar Ray Xulu stadia, and was assigned to approximately R250m refurbishment of the seafront promenade. It seems that the decision has paid off. Not only have existing events maintained or grown, but the city has gone on to hold a number of international events, including the African Cup of Nations in January last year. This weekend only, the event was expected Vodacom Durban July horse racing Mr Price Pro Ballito surf spray to at least R400m to the city’s economy.


What other sports swollen coffers of the city include the Top Gear Festival in June (R153m), Comrades Marathon on June 1 (R186m), Dusi Canoe Marathon in February (R17m) and Volvo Golf Championships in January (R51m).
Phillip Sithole, head of Durban Tourism said, “If you take the past two years, from 2012 until recently, major sports events have contributed R2bn to the city’s economy. Sports tourism is a sector that we’re trying to drive really hard. The rationale is that we believe sport is a means to give us quick wins in terms of bringing visitors to the city and to promote the city as a whole.”


According to the company Gameplan Media PR, a survey of racegoers last year found that 25% of visitors from outside the province spent three nights in the city during the weekend of July.


But everyone has been fully harness the potential of the strategy is sure. Andrew Layman, Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry president is troubled that municipal officials only aim at “big game”. He said, “Durban should be having more sports events. If you have national school sports events, for example, you will have a lot of people coming into the city because parents, brothers, sisters and even grandparents will come and watch. But the municipality is thin on promoting events that are not large events.”

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