Umh­langa, play­ground of the rich

CityPress - - Business - PADDY HARPER paddy.harper@city­

As the fes­tive sea­son gets go­ing, an am­bi­tious plan is un­der way in KwaZulu-Natal to po­si­tion Dur­ban’s Umh­langa tourist precinct – where more than R5 bil­lion in new in­vest­ment is un­der con­struc­tion – as a play­ground for the rich. Lo­cal tourism au­thor­i­ties want to build on the suc­cess of the precinct man­age­ment sys­tem, put in place eight years ago to deal with crime and ur­ban de­cay in parts of the city’s premier tourism des­ti­na­tion, and mar­ket Umh­langa to the higher end of the mar­ket.

On Fri­day, the mar­ket­ing drive to pro­mote Umh­langa as Dur­ban’s premier tourism node was launched, with the back­ing of the eThek­wini Metropoli­tan Mu­nic­i­pal­ity. It aims to “place-brand” Umh­langa as a “must visit” for the up­per end of the mar­ket.

This comes af­ter 18 months of re­search, aimed at tak­ing quaint old Umh­langa “vil­lage” and repo­si­tion­ing it as a must visit for the well-heeled tourist.

Jodi Robert­son, di­rec­tor of ITI, the Dur­ban-based agency run­ning the Umh­langa Rocks brand de­vel­op­ment process, said the idea of place brand­ing was about be­ing able to “cap­ture the essence of what makes you you, and share it with the world”.

“Place mak­ing is what brings places to life be­yond bricks and mor­tar,” she said.

The bricks and mor­tar side is im­pres­sive enough, though.

Three new de­vel­op­ments in the area are set to boost this drive to draw the well-to-do.

The first phase of Beach Rock, val­ued at R500 mil­lion, is un­der way, while the ex­clu­sive Pearls and Oceans com­plexes, worth a col­lec­tive R4.5 bil­lion, are also un­der con­struc­tion.

A new in­ter­change at Umh­langa is near com­ple­tion and will im­prove the flow of traf­fic into the area, now home to a large num­ber of city busi­nesses that have moved north­ward from the CBD as the city, in its en­tirety, grows to the north.

Not only has crime de­clined since the cre­ation of the Ur­ban Im­prove­ment Precinct in 2008, when there were 17 at­tacks on tourists in three months, but rein­vest­ment since then in the area’s ho­tel strip alone has to­talled a con­ser­va­tive R6 bil­lion.

This has gen­er­ated about R105 mil­lion in rates for the city, which has made ma­jor con­tri­bu­tions to the Umh­langa up­grade in terms of in­fra­struc­ture, ser­vices and sup­port­ing the precinct. The precinct’s an­nual op­er­at­ing bud­get is R9 mil­lion. Ur­ban Im­prove­ment Precinct man­age­ment com­pany spokesper­son Cara Reilly said the plan was to de­velop a “new Umh­langa” from the iconic Umh­langa vil­lage, which had at­tracted gen­er­a­tions of the same fam­i­lies.

“The vi­sion is mind­ful of Umh­langa Rocks’ his­tory, while shap­ing a new vil­lage and a new ex­pe­ri­ence with bet­ter pedes­trian ac­ces­si­bil­ity and con­nec­tion to green spa­ces and beaches,” said Reilly.

“While we be­lieve that what we have here is spe­cial, we are aware of the need to con­tin­u­ally grow and im­prove the of­fer­ing.”

eThek­wini spokesper­son Tozi Mthethwa said the cash in­jec­tion though the up­grade of the neigh­bour­hood’s iconic ho­tels made the city more at­trac­tive to tourists and in­vestors.

She said the city, which had repaved the 2.5km Umh­langa prom­e­nade, wel­comed the move to sell Umh­langa as a des­ti­na­tion for the af­flu­ent and praised the suc­cess of the Ur­ban Im­prove­ment Precinct, which the city – along with 55 lo­cal busi­nesses and other play­ers – par­tic­i­pates in.

“The de­vel­op­ments and up­grades seen in Umh­langa have im­pacted pos­i­tively on job cre­ation,” she said. “The growth of the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try in the area, as well as of busi­nesses, in­creases the need for ser­vices and has re­sulted in the cre­ation of di­rect and in­di­rect jobs.”


BRING ON THE BIG BUCKS The iconic light­house on Umh­langa beach. Con­struc­tion is un­der way to turn the town, which at­tracts gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies, into a play­ground for the rich

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