It’s now the longest uninterrupted waterfront promenade in Africa – making the city’s most important tourism asset even more attractive.
The R380-million extension of Durban’s famous beachfront promenade by almost a kilometre – from uShaka Marine World at the Point Waterfront to the entrance of SA’s busiest port – is anticipated to spark further investment in the area.
That’s the word from Phillip Sithole, eThekwini Municipality’s deputy city manager for economic development and planning, speaking exclusively to Moneyweb on Thursday. The metro officially launches the new section of the promenade to the public on Saturday.
“This is a major investment by the municipality into Durban’s most important tourism asset. It is a catalytic project aimed at taking the beachfront to another level and unlocking investment both into the broader beachfront and especially in the Point Waterfront,” he said.
Sithole tells Moneyweb that the extension makes the beachfront promenade now over 8km long – from the Umgeni River mouth at Blue Lagoon to the Durban harbour entrance, adjacent to the multi-billion-rand Point Waterfront urban renewal development.
“This makes it the longest uninterrupted beachfront promenade in Africa. Through this city investment and further private sector investment to come, we believe the promenade will become recognised internationally, together with the likes of Copacabana in Rio and Bondi Beach in Australia,” he adds.
Durban’s beachfront promenade and the Umhlanga Rocks promenade, north of the city, both received extreme makeovers to the tune of some R200 million ahead of the Fifa World Cup in 2010. This gave the beachfront a new lease of life, bringing new visitors to the area – including joggers, cyclists and families – particularly over weekends.
Since then the Durban beachfront has attracted major private sector investment, with JSE-listed hospitality giant Tsogo Sun alone injecting more than R1.8 billion into the area. This includes a R1.5 billion expansion of its popular Suncoast Casino complex and a R220 million revamp of its 734-room Elangeni & Maharani Hotel at North Beach.
Another noteworthy investment in the area was by Morocco-based Onomo Hotels, which is on a major expansion drive in SA and on the continent. It invested some R150 million in a new 160-room hotel, while other local beachfront hoteliers and property owners have also invested in revamps.
Sithole believes the ‘double volume’ extension of the promenade will spur further investment.
He says there is a bigger vision for the Point Waterfront development now, with ambitious new plans by the new co-owners of the land, UEM Sunrise Berhad – a major Malaysian-based property developer.
UEM Sunrise has kept a low profile in SA but the Point Waterfront mega-development features strongly on its international website. Moneyweb could not reach the company for comment.
“Following the completion of the promenade extension by the city, the first phase of the new development plans for the Point Waterfront is anticipated to be launched next year,” says Sithole.
“This will include a hotel tower and residential tower, in addition to a new shopping mall next to uShaka. Various investors are interested, but UEM Sunrise will be driving the process that will also include local partners.”
Sithole revealed to Moneyweb that a plan for a giant Ferris wheel, being proposed by private developers for the city, is also being considered for location next to uShaka.
He says it will be along the lines of the famous London Eye and is being dubbed the ‘Durban Eye’.
“The Point Waterfront development will integrate with uShaka as well as plans by Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) for a new cruise liner terminal in Durban. The terminal is being strategically located inside the harbour adjacent to the Point Waterfront,” he says.
Global cruise company MSC Cruises is a joint-venture partner in the KwaZulu Cruise Terminal Consortium (KTC), which won a 25-year concession from TNPA last year to design, build and operate the R200 million Durban Cruise Terminal. MSC Cruises has significant operations in SA waters, with Durban being its biggest homeport.
‘Good move, but … ‘
Nicole Graham, the DA’s caucus leader in eThekwini, says that while the investment in extending the beachfront promenade and Durban’s Point area is a “good move”, the city needs to get “the basics right” in terms of cleanliness, safety and maintenance of the entire area and city centre.
“The Durban beachfront has the potential to be one of the most appealing coastal promenades in the world. Investments in infrastructure in general are welcome, especially in the city’s most important and well-loved tourism asset. However, this needs to be supported by other departments in the city to make it work,” she notes.
“We can’t just invest in beachfront infrastructure; we have to ensure that the area and surrounds are clean, safe and have amenities that work and are maintained. All city departments need to work together in this effort, otherwise such investments won’t realise its full potential.”