Durban: The 2021 Vodacom Durban July (VDJ) forges ahead despite global disruptions brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
EThekwini Municipality Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda officially launched the event yesterday at the Eden Champagne Garden in Morningside.
The city had to find innovative ways to present the VIP tourism experience which had become the highlight of the Durban calendar as well as the reputable racing scene.
“While people cannot experience our tourism products physically, they can be able to consume them virtually. This is what we committed to do when we launched our economic recovery plan last year to revive economic sectors that have been adversely affected,” said Kaunda.
The mayor explained that before the pandemic, the Durban July generated more than R300 million towards the city’s growth domestic product from local and international visitors.
“The city has made a huge investment especially in youth mentoring programmes in the fashion industry. We have started reaping the fruits of those investments. We have also invested a lot in co-ordinating and marketing events such as the VDJ.”
Kaunda acknowledged that through partnerships and collaborations with the private sector, the City had maintained its leading host title in the continent.
“We are ready to host and entertain our visitors for the Durban July Grand Experience. We are open and ready for business.”
Councillor Sipho Kaunda, economic development and planning committee chairperson, said the City had partnered with Gold Circle, Vodacom, CNBC Africa, and Durban Fashion Fair to ensure the Durban July Grand Experience lived up to its reputation to “razzle and dazzle” those viewing virtually and onset.
Further, he said the municipality was the sponsor of Race 6 – named Durban’s Golden Horseshoe – which is run before the main race.
“The horseshoe is considered very lucky and in ancient times it used to be hung in homes to protect it and attract good fortune for the family living inside.”
Deputy head of Durban Tourism Winile Mtungwa said: “We have several pillars within the Vodacom Durban July (VDJ) programme. They are inclusive of fashion, entertainment, and public relations. The city has invested about R350 000 in partnerships where the public relations value is worth R30 million of the GDP impact.”
“We are very excited about this year's Durban July but of course it is always a privilege to host Africa’s greatest horse racing event. We have the best horses lined up including Rainbow Bridge, winner of Cape Town’s Met, and Hollywood Bets Gold Challenge,” said Stephen Marshall, senior events and marketing executive at Gold Circle.
Asked about the budget for this year’s VDJ and how locals would benefit, Vodacom’s managing executive Chris Lazarus told the Daily News the telecommunications company had budgeted in excess of R500m.
“We are expanding the network of KwaZulu-Natal specifically in rural areas and in addition, most people would know that today the province has the highest number of the population using 4G connectivity. We are in the process of the 5G connectivity rollout to the rest of the province,” said Lazarus.
According to Durban Fashion Fair judge Fezile Mdletshe, all the designers who were previously given an opportunity to showcase their talent have gone on to become big designers and are known globally.
Afrotainment owner Mthokozisi Khathi, also known as DJ Tira, said the entertainment industry had suffered a great loss of revenue as its activities were halted due to the pandemic.
He cited Mbali Zulu as an example. She was part of the team that designed the Olympics 2020 opening kit. The Olympics were postponed last year due to Covid-19 and were scheduled to begin next month.
“We have been hit hard in the entertainment industry obviously by the pandemic. We are trying to make ends meet by hosting small events and doing television productions. The plan now is to always do something that can be sold on the internet,” said DJ Tira.
“We would like the government to help us with funding for events and also host workshops that will educate us about the processes for acquiring funding.”
The VDJ horse racing finalists would be announced on Tuesday on DSTV channel 249.