Durban - eThekwini Municipality mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, officially launched the 2022 Hollywoodbets Durban July on Tuesday at the newly opened Radisson Blu Hotel in uMhlanga.
Kaunda addressed the media on the municipality's state of readiness for the prestigious horse racing event. He also gave an assurance that the security cluster was ready to ensure the safety of racegoers and visitors to Durban.
"We are pleased to report that organisers are putting final touches to ensure everything runs smoothly on the big day. The gallops have been held. Thousands of punters and fashionistas from around the country and beyond are preparing to descend on Durban in droves.
"We are excited about the economic spin-offs that this event is going to bring to our city. The estimated 35 000 people who will head for the Hollywoodbets Greyville Racecourse on Saturday, are expected to spend R145 million, with the Gross Domestic Product in economic activity projected to be R362 million. An estimated 740 people will get employment because of this event."
Kaunda said that experts in the sector forecast that over 1 million tourists were expected to arrive during the entire winter season and would directly spend about R1.45 billion, with the GDP contribution being R3.6 billion. The season will result in the employment of over 7 000 people.
"The 60 percent occupancy rate forecast before the restrictions were lifted is now likely to increase. This is partly boosted by additional European arrivals who want to spend their July and August holidays in the Durban sunshine.
"We believe these numbers are likely to increase following last week’s welcome announcement of the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions. We strongly believe that the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions is a turning point for the hard-hit tourism industry.
In fact, even before the government’s announcement about the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, we were already seeing growing interest from visitors to come to Durban. We are confident that going forward we will see an increase in tourist numbers following the scrapping of mandatory wearing of masks and allowing full capacity gatherings." said Kaunda.
Events and Marketing Executive for Gold Circle Racing, Steven Marshall, said "The event numbers are increasing, 30 000 to 35 000 people are expected. Historically in the last week of the event, Durban is known to wait for the last minute so numbers should grow in the next four days."
Having made history as the first woman apprentice, Rachel Venniker, pulled out of the race following an injury on Monday. Marshall said this was very unfortunate but hoped she will be back next year, "With regards to Rachel Venniker, she suffered a concussion and the doctor asked she stand down as a precautionary measure."
Hollywoodbets Africa Head of Operations, Sandisiwe Bhengu, said they were ready to host the much anticipated event.