Durban to be ‘new city’ by 2020

By 2020 the eThekwini municipality would have invested more than R10-billion in Durban since 2010 in a bid to make the city as attractive to tourists as New York, London and Sydney.

Phillip Sithole, the chief executive of Durban Tourism, who took part in a panel discussion live on CNBC Africa at the 2016 Tourism Indaba on Monday entitled “Durban’s Growth Acceleration into Tourism”, said by 2020 - just four years from now - Durban would be a “new” city, filled with five-star hotels, upmarket shopping malls and high rise apartment blocks and as desirable as some of the most popular destinations in the world.

Sithole said the 2020 visitor strategy for Durban, first mooted in 2013, was aimed at bringing in more than 1 million international tourists to the city each year.

“At the moment we are at about 680 000 a year. We want to increase the current total of 3.5 million visitors (which includes domestic visitors) to 5 million each year,” he said.

Responding to a question by CNBC Africa anchor Gugulethu Cele on whether or not Durban had seen a drop in tourist numbers due to the attacks on foreigners last year, deputy mayor Nomvuso Shabalala said because the city had dealt with the matter swiftly, fallout was minimal.

She added that the manner in which the city had handled the matter had in fact enhanced the city’s reputation.

While Shabalala did not detail how many tourists had visited the city as a direct result of the R70-million marketing campaign with Eurosport and National Geographic, she said the campaigns were delivering results.

Shabalala gave the stalled Go!Durban public transport plan a wide berth, choosing rather to focus on the efficiency of King Shaka International Airport.

Dumile Cele, the chief executive of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said a better understanding of the needs of investors, particularly foreigners, was beginning to emerge at city hall with the opening of a one-stop-shop to tackle red tape at the Lion Match business complex in Umgeni Road.

She said a successful tourism strategy had important spin-offs for business investment, quoting the 2010 football extravaganza as an example.

“Visitors to the World Cup came back and invested here,” she said.

Cele said there would be no new Durban without investment from the private sector.

The owner of the R4-billion Oceans development in Umhlanga, Vivian Reddy, said the 2 700 dollar millionaires already living in the upmarket town were expected to increase to 4 000 by 2020, which meant the country’s wealthy saw the region as a serious lifestyle destination.

Reddy said buyers in the development included a number of South Africans living in New Zealand and Australia who wanted to return to the city to retire, which he equated to investment tourism.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife chief executive David Mabunda said that in line with a strategy to attract high-end tourists to the province by 2026, private investment totalling about R800-million into game parks for four- and five-star lodges was already on the cards.

The awarding of a tender was already under way for a high-end game lodge at the Royal Natal National Park.