City official Philip Sithole (pictured) has defended the Durbans marketing efforts, saying the investment will help provide for the poor.

Durban - It is unfair to compare the funding of crowd-pulling tourism events with the need for housing and water, city official Philip Sithole has said.

Sithole, the head of Durban Tourism, the city’s marketing body, was addressing sports and business journalists from Russia, Zambia, Qatar and Brazil at a Brand South Africa workshop on Thursday. The delegation will also be attending the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

Durban believed in hosting conferences and sports events, Sithole said, because major events boosted the city’s image and put bread on the table.

However, the media often looked at city-backed and funded events – such as Afcon – in a negative way and did not understand the impact and benefits that flowed from them.

“They will analyse the number of houses that it (the funding) could provide for the poor, which is not the way to look at things,” he said.

“If you provide a house and that person is not working, that house is not a home. By hosting events, you put food on the table (as jobs are created because tourists visit). A house alone is not a complete life.”

The city also hosted – and financed – foreign media trips, and the spin-off came when those journalists returned home and wrote positive stories about Durban.

“That is not something tangible like a house, but an investment that might bring positive results two or three years down the line,” Sithole said.

The media often concentrated only on the number of tickets sold. “I hardly ever get asked how many hotel beds have been booked,” he said.

Sithole will know only on Monday the number of beds booked by out-of-towners for the six Afcon matches at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium.

The return from major events far exceeded the investment, Sithole said, pointing out that 22 000 people from elsewhere in South Africa came to Durban for last year’s Top Gear Festival, which attracted a total of 67 000 motoring fans.

Abie Wentzel, project manager of tourism development at Tourism KZN, said tourism in KZN was worth R33 billion a year and 133 000 people earned a living from the industry.

Later, at another meeting in uMhlanga, Sithole told tourism business owners who are members of various community tourism organisations that the total economic impact of the summer season was more than R4bn. While the number of visitors had not increased, they had spent 26 percent more than the previous year, spending an average of R480 a day.

Over 3 million people – a million more than the previous summer – hit city beaches over the holidays, said Christo Swart, chairman of the city’s festive season management committee.

The city has teamed up with Eurosport, which has the exclusive rights for Afcon in Europe and Asia, and Durban will be promoted before the matches, during games and afterwards.

The R4.4m the city had approved for the deal to market the city via two Europsport channels would be worth R12m, Perry Moodley, Durban Tourism’s project manager, told the meeting. The package includes promotional spots in 20 languages broadcast to 130 million homes in 59 countries.

- The ANC, worried that Afcon tickets are “not selling like hot cakes”, has called on people to buy tickets and “fill the stadium to the rafters”. - Daily News