Africa’s ‘Bike City’ gets a return on investment that’s world class

2013-07-17 00:00

WITH thousands of mountain bike enthusiasts expected to converge on the Cascades MTB Park in a month’s time, the province has completed detailed studies that show cycling events have brought more than a billion rands worth of value and economic spend to the region.

KwaZulu-Natal has invested R24 million in hosting major international cycling events over the past three years, and the latest research shows this has triggered an economic injection of R79 million into the regional economy, while at the same time providing international marketing exposure for the city valued conservatively at R1,68 billion, from the global TV coverage of the events.

This substantial return on investment has resulted in the province making a long-term commitment to sustaining its support for hosting international cycling events and reinforcing Pietermaritzburg’s positioning as Africa’s “Bike City”.

“We are passionate about our international destination marketing, and the positioning of Pietermaritzburg as the continent’s “Bike City” is now well established,” said Clive Coetzee, general manager: infrastructure management and economic services at the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Treasury.

“For the two weeks of the Masters and Elite World Champs, almost every hotel and B&B in the city is fully booked out, and the visitors to the event will spend significantly on local products and services. Huge sums of money are generated through the hosting of these events,” Coetzee said.

“We got involved almost by default,” he said.

“When the Msunduzi Municipality went into financial difficulty, it landed up on my desk. After evaluating it from a lot of different angles we realised we have something really good going on here.

“At that stage there was serious talk about Durban putting in a serious bid for the Olympics, which also became a factor in the early stages.

“It is clear that the UCI [International Cycling Federation] are very happy with us and the way we have hosted these events, because they are coming back to us asking us to host more.

“That’s very encouraging and it positions us in the top five cycling centres in the world.”

Pietermaritzburg’s status as a “Bike City” positions the city as one of three continental cycling hubs, along with Copenhagen for Europe and Melbourne for Australasia.

“It is important for us that these big international events have some sort of spill-over effect,” said ­Coetzee.

“We want kids to get involved in cycling and staying active, and for people of this region to use the fantastic facilities that are now available to them.”

Pietermaritzburg now has an international standard BMX track as well as a the multi-functional mountain bike facilities available at the Cascades MTB Park.

Coetzee confirmed that the success of positioning Pietermaritzburg as a “Bike City” has led to a sweeping plan to position other sporting codes with cities and towns in the province, to start developing facilities and trying to attract top-level events to those centres.

“Maritzburg and cycling has been a massive success so we now don’t need to try and sell the potential impact of this strategy,” said Coetzee.

“We have brilliant support from Cycling South Africa and the UCI, and we have an experienced pool of top class organisers.”

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