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2020 was a rollercoaster of a year, no doubt, but Durban Tourism worked closely together with the City and tourism role players from Lockdown Level 5 and beyond to ensure that Durban remained South Africa’s playground over the summer holiday.

Initial projections were that the 2020 summer season would see a 25% dip from 2019, with 540 000 visitors expected over the festive season from 1 December 2020 to 31 January 2021, representing a R 3 billion injection into the city’s gross domestic product.

However, while final numbers are still being tallied, the tightening of lockdown restrictions and closure of the beaches in December did have an impact on tourism numbers.

Kudos must go to the accommodation sector, which offered excellent value-for-money packages for visitors, with close to 50% reduction in normal overnight stay packages.

Prepping for Recovery

The 2020 summer season was the culmination of several months of round-the-clock collaboration and marketing by Durban Tourism to ensure a successful festive holiday period.

Early in 2020, the Durban Tourism Covid-19 Recovery Plan was put in place with input from industry role players to reignite the tourism sector and contribute towards a full and steady recovery.

The plan sprung the city into action early in the lockdown with a virtual re-introduction to the domestic market. This showcased a fresher, cleaner Durban that is cautious about COVID-19 and the health and safety of our visitors.

At the height of the lockdown, Durban Tourism worked closely with the City to put in place measures to help the tourism industry weather the Covid-19 storm, including rebates and preferential municipal rates.

Working hard to create a new way of doing tourism despite the strict lockdown restrictions, the tourism entity strived to ensure Durban stayed top of mind throughout and to remind everyone that Durban is more than just a place, it’s a community.

Going Virtual

With the support of some of Durban’s celebrities, master chefs, well-loved personalities and partners, the message was shared regularly on digital platforms in Levels 5 and 4: #StayHome, #StaySafe, #FlattentheCurve and remember that #DurbanCares.

Technology and digital platforms helped to overcome physical boundaries. From whatsapp groups with industry, to webinars and virtual events, Durban Tourism kept up communication throughout the lockdown even while movement was restricted.

Digital campaigns were key to ensuring a greater reach across the miles for Durban. Some of the city’s biggest events went online in 2020, enabling our community to experience Durban from the comfort of their homes via social media platforms and national TV.

Activities included a Durban Cares TV commercial, plus various virtual events including the first ever virtual Vodacom Durban July, Durban July Township Experience, virtual Comrades Marathon, and the Amashova Virtual.


Durban Tourism’s 2020 #KnowYourDurban virtual campaign aimed to keep Durban top of mind for tourists and locals alike. It started at the beginning of June and included virtual events, virtual city tours, celeb endorsements and much more.

The #KnowYourDurban virtual tours gave potential visitors a chance to get to know some of our city’s hidden gems – from city centre to north, south and west, from cultural landmarks and historical monuments to quaint restaurants and outdoor destinations.

As part of the campaign, homegrown celebs like Dj Tira and DJ Sox came onboard to share why Durban is still the best place to be after the national lockdown.

The campaign also aimed to get Durbanites to be ambassadors for their city. It included a virtual experience on Coastal Cities in June, a physical tour to the North of Durban in September and a Township Experience in Clermont in December with celebrities, media and locals. 

#KnowYourDurban showcased a number of virtual experiences to enjoy during the  lockdown, like the Livestream Music Experience and the Durban July Township experience broadcast live on MTVBase.


Durban’s tourism sector began to re-emerge from lockdown when the airways and toll plazas opened in Level 3, along with major hotels, parks and hiking trails. As Level 3 kicked in, Durban Tourism picked up the pace with innovative marketing campaigns in anticipation of a bumper festive season.

Lockdown Level 1 kicked in just as the country was preparing to observe Heritage Day, and during Tourism Month in September.  Durban Tourism led yet another innovative campaign – this time to #ReigniteDurban with a series of activations aimed at attracting attention to our beautiful city.

The #ReigniteDurban campaign aimed to light up the tourism sector and what better way to symbolise this than to illuminate some of Durban’s most iconic attractions and buildings in the South African colours? Durban Tourism also broadcasted the event on BET Africa and MTV Base.

As an added measure to #ReigniteDurban, the City launched a new Tourism Information Office which features a state-of-the-art Multi-Media Centre. Here, tourists can experience the thrill of 3D Virtual Tours, or enjoy a Curio Shop with merchandise produced by local artists and designers

Media Campaigns

Aggressive media campaigns helped to get the message out that Durban is ready, willing and able to roll out the red carpet beyond the lockdown. With the support of media partners across the country, Durban Tourism extended its reach across South Africa, the SADC region, Africa and internationally, while also boosting its social media following and increasing community engagement.

As soon as intraprovincial travel was allowed in 2020, Durban Tourism hit the road to launch the Summer campaign and show the rest of SA what Durban is all about.

The iconic ricksha bus went on a national takeover, with exciting activations to promote Durban as the ultimate summer destination, from KZN North to the Midlands, from Gauteng to Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

These activations were featured on national radio stations like Ligwalagwala FM, Thobela FM and Jacaranda FM.

Festive Season Gets Underway

Durban Tourism launched the festive season programme on the Day of Reconciliation, 16 December, at Max’s Lifestyle in Umlazi.

The celebration brought the spirit of Christmas to the township with performances of well-loved carols by the full KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Thandeka Ndlovu and a host of other performers.

The successful and safe festive season summer holiday was underpinned by eThekwini Municipality’s Festive Season Management Plan. This focused on delivering a safe and memorable festive season for our holidaymakers by minimising the impact of overcrowding, traffic congestion, crime, by-law contraventions, excessive alcohol abuse in public and waste generation.

Durban Tourism had previously carried out physical site inspections at over 300 establishments to ensure their readiness with Covid-19 protocols. Durban is the only city to have done this on such a massive scale.

As part of the City’s festive season programme, around 50 children were also treated to a fun-filled day of tourism experiences at uShaka Marine World, with a special appearance by Nasty C. The aim was to inculcate a sense of pride in Durban as a tourism destination and an appreciation of tourism even among the youngest in age.

Getting Durbanites and visitors out to hidden gems, outdoor venues and a variety of entertainment nodes this holiday was important for minimising the gathering of people in crowded spaces.

Throughout the summer season, Durban Tourism encouraged safe and responsible holiday behaviour and adherence to the basic Covid-19 preventative measures.

A highlight was the ‘Durban Festive Special’ broadcast on BET Africa, allowing viewers to experience the sights and sounds of our city at its most festive, while observing all Covid-19 protocols.

What’s Next?

With the festive season Summer Holiday now wrapped up, what’s next for Durban Tourism? The tourism entity is shifting gears to focus on Easter campaigns from February onwards and working with all partners to ensure a bumper year for our tourism sector.

Follow along at www.visitdurban.travel or follow us on @DBNTourism on the socials.