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Durban is in the grip of a multibillion-rand fever as racing and rugby fans flock to the city ahead of what pro-mises to be a bumper weekend for business and holiday-|makers despite a less-than-perfect weather forecast.
Racing group Gold Circle KZN chief executive officer Graham Hawkins said excitement ahead of the Durban July was steamier than usual.
“This year’s race seems to have captured the imagination of the public more than previous years. We are filled to capacity.
“Our market area, which includes the tents and marquees, has seen growth. The horses are ready, the track is ready, and we’re ready.
“All we need now is good weather,” he said.
The South African Weather Service has forecast light rain on Saturday evening with |temperatures peaking at 26 |degrees in the day.
As truckloads of booze, catering equipment, food and furniture including mobile |toilets lifted on to the Greyville racecourse site by cranes, poured into the venue yesterday, Hawkins said the internationally famous race had spawned thousands of opportunities for local business this year.
“We expect at least R100 million to change hands at the onsite totes, and you can double that number with all the |off-site totes. The economic value of this event, just on the day, runs into the hundreds-of-million of rand while the benefit to the province, I am told, runs into billions of rand. The spin-off for Durban companies cannot be underestimated,” he said.
And, interest is up on the yearling sales at Duban’s Suncoast Casino too, said Hawkins. “We expect at least 80 percent of them to be sold.”
Chief executive officer of the Sharks, Brian van Zyl, however, is a little more concerned about the weather for Friday night’s clash between the Bulls and the Sharks despite a clear forecast.
“At this stage we are expecting about 25 000 people at the game, but we are expecting a surge in ticket sales today.”
Airports Company of SA’s Colin Naidoo said the Blue Bull flags were flying at King Shaka International Airport and race-goers were flocking through the entrance hall.
Kulula.com chief executive officer Erik Venter said his company’s aircraft were flying a record number of “fashionistas, sports lovers and fun people to Durban”.
Durban’s major hotels are almost full to capacity and occupancy numbers are up on last year.
“There are still some beds available, but Durban’s major hotels and B&Bs are all fully booked,” says Fedhasa’s Gerhard Patzer. “Last year, over this same weekend, our occupancy was over 80 percent and it looks as though we are nearer to 90 percent, this year.”
While Europa and Butcher Boys restaurants on Durban’s popular Florida Road, were yet to see a flood of bookings, history has proven that a bumper weekend is in store.
“We don’t take bookings at Europa,” said Ernest van Biljon, the manager, “but last year we were packed on and off the whole weekend, so let’s hope it’s the same this year.”
Butcher Boys’ Natalie Hendricks said bookings looked reasonable for Friday night, but little for Saturday night.
“Our experience though is that we get inundated with walk-ins,” she said.
And, the long arm of the law is on high alert ahead of the crowd-pulling events.
“It’s no different from the 2010 World Cup or the climate change conference last year. Our plans are adapted for each situation. This is nothing new,” said metro police vice-head, Steve Middleton.
“People who park illegally at any of these events will have their cars towed. And they mustn’t say they are here to support Durban and we treat them so badly – they must know – we will act if they break the law,” he warned.
Middleton also urged punters to use the park-and-ride shuttles from the Durban drive-in site to get to the Greyville racecourse.