It is interesting how what started as a small horse racing event in Durban, South Africa, in the latter part of 1800s has since transformed itself into an economic money spinner that attracts multitudes of tourists from far afield, including beyond the borders of South Africa.
Durban July has since imposed itself as a big international event which has connotations going far beyond the horse-racing tracks.
As has been the case over the years, the latest instalment, which was held two weeks ago, proved a boon for the economy, especially the travel and tourism sector.
Business and economic observers have since stated that the one-day event has now indelibly┬á entrenched itself as a key foundation of Durban’s economic growth.
Durban is South Africa’s third largest city after Johannesburg and Cape Town.
True to its culture, the event was very colourful, attracting the super rich and famous from both South Africa, the region and beyond.
While Durban July is primarily a horse racing event, it has over the years transformed itself into a huge drawcard, not just for horse enthusiasts but celebrities and socialites from across the continent and beyond many of whom come simply to spend their money.
In fact, many of the people who descended on Durban last week had nothing to do with the horse racing event.
For them it was all about fashion, tourism, leisure, shopping, mingling and fun.
Records show that Durban July was first started in 1897 and has since evolved to become the oldest and richest event of its kind in the African continent.
Statistics from Tourism KwaZulu Natal put arrivals for the event at 100 000, with over half the figure coming from outside the province, a sizeable number of which are international tourists.
Every year during the event, hotels and guesthouses in Durban are booked to full capacity for the weekend.
A study by Tourism KZN on last year’s event showed that a good number of visitors stayed in the province for much longer than just the horse race.
“The estimated direct impact (during the event) was at least R86.8-million, and as R125.6-million from visitors alone. From residents, there was a direct spend of at least R39.1-million and as much as R56.7- million,” the study estimated. This excludes betting, which alone accounts for an estimated R300-million in additional expenditure.
The head of Durban Tourism, Phillip Sithole, has been quoted saying the flights to and from Durban were full during and after the event.,
“And the same goes for car rentals bookings at the airports.”