KZN faces staggering R700m in lost tourism revenue after Comrades Marathon cancellation

Gerda Steyn crosses the Comrades Marathon finish line in 2019. The marathon has been postponed for the second year in a row due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Image: Jackie Clausen

KwaZulu-Natal is facing a whopping R700m in lost tourism revenue after the cancellation of the 2021 Comrades Marathon.

This is yet another blow for the province as the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has already said the cancellation of this year’s event due to Covid-19 would lead to losses amounting to more than R20m for them. The world-famous event was scheduled for June 13.

The spokesperson for the provincial department of economic development‚ tourism and environmental affairs‚ Bheki Mbanjwa‚ said they are bracing for far-reaching effects on the entire tourism value chain.

“In 2019‚ the Comrades Marathon generated more than R700m and created more than 1,000 temporary jobs in the sector. Without a doubt‚ the cancellation of this massive event will definitely have a negative impact‚” said Mbanjwa.

“The Comrades Marathon is one of the province’s biggest sports tourism events. Over the years this event has had a massive and positive impact on the province’s economy.”

Comrades Marathon organisers will again host a virtual race this year and the provincial department of sport‚ arts‚ culture and recreation said it would support them.

“We have not received a request from CMA yet. As a department we have always had a good working relationship with them‚ which is why we supported them when they hosted the virtual Comrades Marathon last year.

“We will continue to do so for upcoming events. They have not reported any financial challenges with the department‚” said departmental spokesperson Phathisa Mfuyo.

Mbanjwa said small businesses who are suppliers to the world’s premier ultra-marathon are the hardest hit and they are exploring ways to offer them relief.

“The department is mobilising resources to augment the national relief fund. The details of this fund will be communicated in due course.

“Last year‚ a once-off capped grant assistance to tourism small‚ medium and micro enterprises was disbursed by the national department of tourism. This grant was capped at R50,000 per entity and its aim was to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the tourism sector.

“A total of 607 KwaZulu-Natal businesses within the tourism and hospitality sector received assistance as part of the national relief fund.

“This meant KwaZulu-Natal businesses received R30,35m of the R200m set aside for the relief fund‚” said Mbanjwa.

by Mahlatse Mphahlele

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