'Air arrivals and total passenger movements at King Shaka International Airport have decreased again.' Picture: Puri Devjee

Durban - Durban’s “crime and grime” is putting visitors off touring the city, and possibly worsening the decline of tourists to the province, say tour operators.

The number of visitors to KwaZulu-Natal has declined for the third consecutive year and, other than blaming the tough economic climate, tourism authorities are unsure why.

But operators in and out of the province say Durban’s lack of original attractions, as well as the crime rate and lack of cleanliness, are the reasons people do not want to visit.

Durban Tourism head Philip Sithole disagrees, saying more people visited Durban each year – proof that it was not dirty and unsafe.

He was unsure why the city’s statistics contradicted the province’s, but presumed calculation methods used or definitions of visitors differed. Even someone from Pieter-maritzburg who visited Durban was considered a visitor.

Karen Kohler, a researcher at Tourism KZN, said the province’s declining numbers did not follow the trend for the country and the rest of the world.

“Foreign tourist arrivals and market share appears to have decreased slightly, as has length of stay The rate of decrease slowed in 2012 to just 1.8 percent.”

“Air arrivals and total passenger movements at King Shaka International Airport have decreased again… Road traffic arrivals have also decreased, further confirming a decreased domestic market,” Kohler said.

However, the average monetary spend of tourists in the province had increased.

Gisela Wimberger, owner of Wimberger SA Tours, which hosts German tourists, said her guests did not usually want to go to Durban.

“Other tour operators I have spoken to say they have stopped going to Durban because of the crime. When you book people into a hotel on the Marine Parade, they can’t walk around outside.”

Although she loved Durban, Wimberger said guests visiting uShaka often remarked that they had seen aquariums in other countries and could have left Durban out.

Jason Gresak, a freelance tour guide, said many tourists wanted to bypass the city.

He said the coastline was beautiful, but so was the rest of the country’s.

“Durban has a reputation of being a bit grubby and having pick-pocketers on the beachfront, but it is no different from Cape Town and East London. Unfortunately, that is the stigma that has stuck, and it is a pity, as it is a great city.”

A KZN-based, “well-travelled” travel agency owner said “crime and overseas travel were like oil and water”.

“They do not mix well. Tourism in Durban could be 20 times bigger than it is… but I’d be too scared to walk on the Durban beachfront or in the city after hours.”

But Durban City Tour Guides owner Pascal Agarason spoke positively of Durban, saying it was very clean.

However, if visitors walked along the backstreets or “snapped away” with their cameras, they could be mugged, she said.

“But there is a police presence everywhere, and sometimes tour operators blow things out of proportion. If they have a tour guide, they should go everywhere.”

Although Kohler did not have surveys on Durban’s crime and cleanliness, she said the situation depended on where you were.



“The new revamped beachfront is pretty great… it is well used, clean and fun. I can’t say the same for the centre of town.”

However, Sithole defended the city’s offerings.

“We would not be seeing so many more visitors each year if it was so full of crime. We have about 650 000 international visitors a year, and an average of 3 million local tourists.”

Durban’s key tourist precincts – such as the Moses Mabhida Stadium, the beachfront, Florida Road and Gateway shopping mall – were also clean.

“People can jog on the beachfront from 5am to 9pm and there is no crime. We may have one or two petty crime incidents, but it is like that even in London or Milan.

“Durban people need to start promoting their city. If they can’t even do that, then why would visitors want to come here?” - The Mercury