Durban - KwaZulu-Natal is a hot spot for athletes and swimmers as the province welcomes thousands of visitors from around the country to participate in the aQuelle Midmar Mile this weekend followed by the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon next week.

Tourism KZN said that more than R150 million was expected to be generated for this year's Midmar Mile alone, compared to R142 million last year. With Valentine’s Day between the two high profile sporting events, the hospitality and tourism industry is anticipating a bumper two weeks.

According to an economic impact assessment, the number of visitors to the Midmar Mile increased significantly in 2018.

Phindile Makwakwa, the tourism organisation's acting chief executive, said: “Forty-five percent of the visitors stayed overnight, opting to stay nearby in Howick, Pietermaritzburg, or in the Midlands. This further creates a sustainable tourism sector for the region and the more job opportunities for the people in the area. 

"This event is good for the region because the spend is in the area. In 2018 we found 55 percent came from KZN, followed by 33 percent from Gauteng. Gauteng remains the most important source of visitors after KZN.’’

Research has found that majority of the visitors spent two nights in the area. While some stayed with friends and family, more than 80% booked into bed & breakfasts and self-catering establishments.

“Events such as these help the province to remain the leading sporting destination in the country,” Makwakwa said.

She is hoping that the visitors take time out to visit some of the local beauty spots and tourism attractions, one of them being the popular Mandela Capture Site near Howick.

When quizzed by TKZN researchers in previous years, 95% of the visitors said that they would attend the event again.

“This confirms that a well-organised event improves the competitiveness of a destination,” Makwakwa said.

The province’s next big crowd-pulling sporting event is the Dusi Canoe Marathon from February 14-16.

The Independent on Saturday