DURBAN

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OVERVIEW

Durban might be seen as one of the major centres of tourism in South Africa, but it also has the country’s busiest port, along with a number of industries centred in the city. The municipality, which includes neighbouring towns, has a population of almost 3.5 million, making the combined municipality one of the biggest cities on the Indian Ocean coast of the African continent. The four main economic sectors in Durban are manufacturing; financial and business services; community services; and wholesale and retail, but tourism is obviously taken very seriously, too. To go beyond attracting just leisure travellers to the city, Durban’s tourism authorities go to great lengths to promote the city as an attractive investment prospect that is the South African home of Samsung Electronics, Toyota, Unilever and other corporate entities. That being said, it’s the International Conference Centre that seems to have made the most significant impact on the business travel sector and positioned Durban as a competitive meetings and events destination.

The Durban ICC was originally built as a catalyst for economic development for the city. In its 18 years of operation, the centre has achieved this and more to become a profitable and a self-sustaining entity. It has also consistently made a massive contribution to both the local and national economies and significantly complemented the job creation efforts in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The convention centre is also one of the few remaining drawcards to Durban itself. That’s because the city and its surrounding business nodes have evolved and changed significantly in the past 20 years. Much of the corporate activity has moved out of the Durban CBD, predominantly north. A good example of this evolution is Umhlanga, an affluent residential, commercial and resort town north of Durban, and its neighbour, Ballito, with these two nodes now in close proximity to the city’s airport, since it relocated from the south coast in 2010.

In the same way that Sandton has become the financial centre of Johannesburg, Umhlanga is becoming the main economic hub of Durban. The commercial move north has kick-started a number of developments that are expected to substantially increase the population over the next two decades. Just north of Umhlanga, land has been allocated to a luxury aerotropolis called Sibaya Coastal Precinct. At an estimated cost of $1.8 to $3.6 billion (R25-50 billion), the district will include around 9,000 houses as well as numerous social and public facilities. Another new development is Cornubia, which is estimated to cost $1.8 billion (R25 billion) upon completion. Cornubia is the first proposed sustainable and fully integrated human settlement in the region and has been declared a national priority project. It will be spread over 1,200 hectares, with 80 hectares earmarked for industrial development and the remainder for commercial, housing and other social and public facilities that will include schools, clinics, police stations, post offices and multi-purpose halls.

There’s also the Pearls of Umhlanga – a residential resort offering apartments and penthouses close to the beach. The final phase of the development is Pearl Sky which will be the first luxury boutique mall in the area. Adjacent to the Pearls of Umhlanga and set slightly back from the sea front, but with ocean views from its upper levels, is the Oceans Umhlanga development. It will include three large buildings, two of which are to be 28-storey apartment complexes, while the lower levels will house retail space. At a cost of $228 million (R3.1 billion), this project is the largest private sector investment in South African history, narrowly edging out the Pearls of Umhlanga at $220 million (R3 billion).

AIRLINES & AIRPORT

King Shaka International Airport, situated approximately 35 kilometres to the north of the Durban CBD, opened its doors to the general public in May 2010, a month before the start of the FIFA World Cup. It replaced Durban International Airport, which has subsequently been decommissioned. King Shaka International was designed to grow in international services and has an annual capacity of 7.5 million passengers. It remains a key airport for domestic services throughout South Africa and forms the Golden Triangle between Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. King Shaka International Airport is said to be ranked the ninth busiest airport in Africa. The airport offers a host of services on the ground floor before departures, including plenty of dining options, pharmaceutical services, retail and banking facilities. All the major South African airlines operate into King Shaka International, including Airlink, British Airways operated by Comair, Kulula, FlySafair, Mango, SAA and SA Express.

The airport has also slowly grown its international routes in its seven years of operation. Durban is now connected to Istanbul by Turkish Airlines, Lusaka by Proflight Zambia, the Middle East by Qatar Airways and Emirates, Addis Ababa by Ethiopian Airlines, Windhoek by Air Namibia and Mauritius by the island’s national carrier. Further to that, Air Seychelles launched a new direct route to Durban on the 30th of March this year, giving Durban travellers a second international island option. The route is operated twice a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays, on an Airbus A320 aircraft in a two-cabin configuration. King Shaka International has four lounges. The SLOW Lounge and the South African Airways Baobab Premium Lounge are available to qualifying passengers only, whilst the Bidvest Premier and the uMphafa Premium lounges are available for a fee.

The SLOW, SAA and Bidvest lounges are situated in domestic departures, with the Bidvest lounge open 05h00 to 21h00 daily. Entry costs of R234 ($17) and that gets you refreshments, wi-fi and the option of a shower while you wait for your f light to board. The uMphafa lounge is found in the international departures terminal and offers refreshments, wi-fi, showers, televisions and flight information monitors. It is open from 07h00 to 21h00 daily. In terms of car rental, all the major South African brands are represented, and these options are conveniently located in close proximity to the domestic arrivals area, to the left as you exit the building.

HOTELS

As with all cities, Durban’s hotels are concentrated in certain areas, with a clear distinction between those focused on the leisure traveller and those that are more attractive to the business traveller. The Durban beachfront, in particular, offers a large selection of hotels, with views of the Indian Ocean and event space for conferences and meetings. In terms of international brands, Hilton and Marriott are the only groups with a presence in the city. The five-star Hilton Durban is located adjacent to the convention centre, which means it retains prime posit ion for all the event business that comes to the centre. The last few years have seen the property undergo extensive renovation. Marriott has just one Protea property in Durban itself – the Protea Hotel Edward – and two in Umhlanga, in the form of the Protea Hotel Umhlanga and the Protea Hotel Umhlanga Ridge. It also operates the African Pride (premium brand) Audacia Manor Boutique Hotel in Durban, just minutes from the ICC. One of the South African groups strong in the greater Durban area is aha Hotels & Lodges, thanks largely to its 2014 acquisition of the Three Cities group.

In Durban itself it has three properties – the Auberge Hollandaise Guest House, Riverside Hotel, and Waterfront Hotel & Spa – whilst in Umhlanga there are three properties – the Gateway Hotel, the Square Boutique Hotel & Spa, and the Urban Park Hotel & Spa. If you fancy some action, Sun International’s Sibaya Casino and Entertainment Kingdom is a top destination, situated just a few minutes’ drive away from King Shaka International Airport. Set in the green hills and overlooking the Indian Ocean, Sibaya has comfortable accommodation, conference facilities, and a host of dining options. Also in Umhlanga is the Oyster Box, which is an iconic luxury property and has earned a reputation as the premier fivestar hotel in the area. It has a multitude of dining options, including its famous curry feast and High Tea, along with an award-winning spa.

Another local group with a presence in the greater Durban area is City Lodge. It has both a City Lodge (three-star) and a Road Lodge (one-star) in Durban and another Road Lodge on Umhlanga Ridge. With so much of the action having moved from Durban to Umhlanga on the north coast, Tsogo Sun has ensured it has good representation across the star range with four properties. They include the luxury Beverly Hills Hotel, which in 2014 celebrated its 50th birthday. There’s also a Garden Court to go with the Cabana Beach Resort and uMhlanga Sands Resort. Tsogo Sun has a further six propert ies in Durban itself, including the Suncoast Towers and the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani, which came together as one property a couple of years ago. Five of these properties are on the beachfront, making Tsogo Sun the dominant player in this area. There is also a fair smattering of smaller, boutique hotels, such as Endless Horizons and the St. James on Venice, which both come with good reputations.

RESTAURANTS

Florida Road has been transformed into a trendy hangout spot with a number of restaurants to choose from. There’s Cocos on Florida, House of Curries, Taco Zulu for a bite of Mexican, Dropkick Murphy’s, Next Chapter, Butcher Boys Morningside and Counter Culture to name just a handful. If you’re hungry but have no idea what you’re in the mood for, a trip to Florida Road will sort you out. The Big Easy Winebar & Grill is golfer Ernie Els’ venture. Located just off the lobby of Hilton Durban, it is also directly accessible from the Durban ICC plaza. The menu is dictated by seasonal supply and offers a combination of freshly grilled dishes and local specialties which are best washed down with an Ernie Els signature wine. Atasca has branches in Durban North and the suburb of Westville and brings a taste of Portugal to Africa. For starters, there’s chorizo, chicken livers and fish cakes, all prepared the traditional Portuguese way. House specialities include sardines, prawns and cod.

On the ground floor of the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani, inside the Maharani Tower on the beachfront promenade, is Vigour & Verve. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with menu items that include a full house buffet breakfast, salads, burgers, pizzas, pasta, and Indian favourites such as Butter Chicken with steamed basmati rice, roti, poppadum and sambals.

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