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Durban Tourism is apparently expecting “a record breaking festive season” with more than 1.4 million visitors stopping over in the city during the peak holiday season between December 2015 and January 2016.

The city’s tourism body made this announcement at the Wavehouse at the Gateway Theatre of Shopping (December 4, 2015) during a function marking the relaunch of the water fun park. It has changed hands and been refurbished and will be officially re-opened to the public over the weekend as GO WiLD at the WaveHouse.

According to Phillip Sithole, head of Durban Tourism, the envisaged socio-economic impact over the next six weeks (01 Dec – 16 Jan) will be an estimated at R3.1 billion in direct spend creating a GDP contribution of R5.2 billion into the economy of the City. Hotels are anticipating room occupancy rates of 85 to 90 percent across all accommodation facilities.

Overall, the economic activity over this festive season is expected to sustain about 12 400 jobs and contribute R354 million towards government taxes, he added.

Given that figures supplied by the eThekwini Municipality for the six weeks from mid- December 2014 to mid-January 2015 holiday period were much the same – 1.45 million visitors with a total direct spend of R3.1-billion and 15 492 jobs created – the good news seems to be that Durban could well ride out the economic downturn without any drastic dip in visitor numbers.  At the very least, it will sustain the 20 percent increase in visitor numbers recorded between 2013/14 and 2014/15.

Tourism Durban’s intensive marketing campaign with the message “Sunsational Durban, 100 % Pure Summer” probably played a role.

This year, the South African hospitality industry faces a number significant challenges – including the new Visa regulations for international tourists, the stressed economy and interest rate hikes that have eroded household disposable income and the drought which is hitting hard along the East Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

The flip side is that a poor exchange rate makes holiday makers stay closer to home, entrenching Durban’s position as the country’s top domestic tourism destination.

At the event, Tourism Durban also announced a number of flagship events for the holiday season, including the Durban Jazz Festival at Hazelmere Dam, music event Fact Durban Rocks, Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Night of the Legends (which celebrates the groups’ 55 years in music) and the Durban Beach Festival.

GO WiLD at the Wavehouse was drawn into this excitement.

Co-founder Nick Leitch told the gathering that the relaunch marked a major shift in direction for the venue. Whereas, up until now, it has been seen mainly as an extreme sporting spot, it is now an active play space for different age groups.

The fun zones that care for toddlers, tweens, teenagers and even adults include an undercover toddler play zone, a Splashpad with interactive water features, fountains and waterfalls that drain away leaving a zero depth play space as well as the existing Outdoor Wave and Supertube.

An exciting add on is the Pump Track which uses an up and down ‘pumping’ motion to propel a bicycle, skateboard or scooter  instead of  pedaling or foot power.

“GO WiLD is the ultimate playground where you get to be active, have fun and experience the adventure of living. Families are moving towards a more active healthier lifestyle. Consumers want to do new exciting, entertaining things that bring fun into their lives. They want to feel alive instead of numb behind technology. Exercise and being outdoors has become fun and a novel way to be with friends or spend time with the family,” Leitch points out.

Co-founder, Sge Mdletshe, adds that the rejuvenated attraction will now be on par with newer facilities.

“The various play zone activities at GO WiLD at the WaveHouse were created using the latest global trends in entertainment as well as quality materials and innovative designs. We believe that Go WiLD will become a favourite destination venue for active entertainment in KwaZulu-Natal,” he says.