Phindile Makwakwa is the acting chief executive of Tourism KZN. Image: Supplied.
DURBAN - Big events-including sporting races, business conferences, food festivals, fixtures and matches as well as music festivals are key catalysts in boosting tourism to regions – whether centrally or in remote areas.

South Africa has a long history of hosting events-including mega-events like the Soccer World Cup in 2010-thereby boosting the economy by millions of rand a year. Last weekend’s Global Citizens Festival is a case in point, which pulled a crowd of well over 70 000.

Our accommodation establishments get to enjoy high occupancies during big events, even during low peak season which helps to keep the tourism sector afloat, thereby fostering a robust and sustainable tourism sector which continues to create more jobs

And it is not only the urban areas who are benefiting from events. Small, medium and micro businesses (SMMEs ) in the rural communities are able to provide diversified tourism offerings to tourists.

The beauty of staging big sporting events, such as the Comrades Marathon, is that not only does it bring in local and international runners, but they often return opt to travel with their friends and families and spend additional days enjoying some of the tourism offerings of the destination, eating out and exploring the myriad of activities on offer.
International business delegates often travel with their spouses, who go on pre and post-conference tours and indulging in some shopping and immersing themselves in the culture of the destination.

Major events often create countless business opportunities for SMMEs which are able to sell their products and services to the visitors.

KwaZulu-Natal has dozens of high-powered events on our calendar and the social event of the year-the Vodacom Durban July-is just one of the big ones. Some 55 000 racegoers converge on Greyville Racecourse for Africa’s premier race of the year, coming from all over South Africa and the world.

We, at Tourism KZN, have recognised the importance of this mega event and regularly host travel agents, tour operators and international media to expose them to the event, the fashions and the region’s tourism hotspots. 

It’s a great event to attract tourists and while here, they are able to make the most of their visit and check out our uShaka Marine World, the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium, visit a local game reserve and of course wine, dine, socialise in our restaurants, while boosting the coffers of the local hospitality industry.

High-profile personalities flock to the big race and when they share their experiences on various media platforms including ocial media, they do wonders in promoting our destination.

Soccer games are also big crowd-pullers, and we have just hosted the biggest fixture in the country, Kaizer Chiefs versus Orlando Pirates in the Telkom Knock-Out semi-final at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Other flagship sporting events include the Tsogo Sun Amashova cycle race, the famous Dusi race, the biggest canoe marathon on the African continent, which has been staged in our province for years.

On the business tourism front, we look forward to the prestigious World Football Summit that will be held in Durban in 2020. It is the biggest soccer event to be staged in the country since the 2010 World Cup which expects to bring in R800-million to the region, attracting delegates from 80 countries who represent 160 clubs.

South Africa boasts the facilities, infrastructure and expertise to pull off world-class events, coupled with a variety of unforgettable leisure activities. It is important that the hosting of these events is always matched by a welcoming community of South Africans, always willing to go out of our way to make our visitors feel welcome, safe and  ready to come back with more friends and  families .

Phindile Makwakwa is the acting chief executive of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal.