Such a build-up, such hype, such preparation, and in a trice, it seems, it’s over. What a great weekend for Durban and the aficionados of everything motor car.
The Top Gear Festival was a spectacle par excellence, despite the frustrations of locals who struggled to exercise patience in the traffic congestion towards the end of last week.
At least the fans will know that it was worth it. Like the thousands of people who packed that part of Moses Mabhida stadium in sight of the arena, I was enthralled by the show. It was exciting and full of surprise, and the droll wit of Messrs Clarkson, Hammond and May was very funny. We all wished it had been longer: attention span certainly would have exceeded the hour-and-a-quarter devoted to the show.
The appeal of this event stretched way beyond the arena and thousands of fans thronged the Action Zone and the site of the exhibition where, inter alia, exotic motor cars, new and old, could excite both memories and aspirations.
When the dust settles, we will have more figures – those things that media people like so much. Now, let’s satisfy our curiosity with the knowledge that thousands of local people, together with thousands of visitors, indulged themselves in their passion.
Hotels hosted visitors in large numbers, a great deal of money changed hands, much of it to remain in local circulation, the corporate sector showcased itself to its clients and the public and many, many Durbanites were thrilled that their municipality and province had decided to make this city the host of Top Gear for three years. Jeremy Clarkson said South African audiences, especially those in Durban, were “the best in the world” and the Top Gear organisers were very pleased with the reception the show had received in our city.
Last week, and despite the very encouraging MasterCard Destination Cities Index report about the prospects for Durban, there were reports about the failure of our city and KZN to feature in various tourism publications. For a long time, the local industry has rued the fact that Cape Town, in particular, has enjoyed more exposure than Durban in the national branding efforts.
There are those here who believe that we do not have what it takes to be an A-grade international destination and we should be content to service the domestic market. This is not the view of the Chamber’s Tourism Committee, which believes that our city has a great deal to offer international tourists, but also shares the vision of Durban Tourism, and the provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism, that, in the absence of that mountain, our reputation must be built on events.
That is one of the reasons Top Gear in Durban is so important. It is an event of such significance that when it is aired on television, it is likely to be watched by 350 million viewers. They will see our stadium – the most impressive Clarkson said he had ever seen – and a good deal of the city that accommodates it.
A great many of these viewers will hear of Durban for the first time and realise it is a city which has life and is worth considering as a holiday or business destination.
We must not forget the value of great events for the people of the city.
Enthusiasm and performance are often rooted in pride and we all need to feel proud of the city in which we live. Daily media reports are not inclined to stimulate pride, for there are many negative circumstances on which to report.
This is reality, of course; life is not a bed of roses. And in order to bring about positive feelings of enthusiastic commitment, we need catalysts to bring about social cohesion and feelings of well-being.
The Soccer World Cup did this in large measure, but was not able to sustain the national euphoria.
Isolated events, therefore, do not sustain momentum, and Durban must continue to string together those that have sufficient profile and appeal to excite our residents, as well as those who live outside the city and will come here for enjoyment.
As we continue with this objective, the quest must continue for that one great iconic event that will be unique to Durban.