As Toyota Gazoo Desert Race returned to Botswana to excite racers and patrons at the mining town of Jwaneng, President Eric Masisis of Botswana has disclosed that the Southern African nation is developing sports tourism, including the race, as a major destination offering.
Speaking at the recently concluded race, President Masisi noted that the event brought together thousands of local and international racing enthusiasts, and visitors and also contributed significantly to the local economy.
“In our 2019 BDP Manifesto, we promised to make Botswana a Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism hub.
“It is good to see Batswana taking this opportunity to show off their entrepreneurial prowess and taking advantage of this platform. Today, I saw incredible value-chain benefits, small enterprises selling food, drinks, firewood to campers, independent photographers at strategic points, hospitality, Masimo owners renting out campsite spaces,” President Masisi said.
The 2023 edition of the event, which made a return after a 4-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, had the entire value chain of Jwaneng township benefiting from the international racing competition.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing is a motorsport event for both automobiles and motorbikes and is accredited to the Dakar Rally.
The route traversed the villages of Samane, Lefoko, Mokhomma, Sese and Tsonyane.
Of course, the competitors were the major highlight of the race, which featured two categories of cars and bikes this year.
The competitors in the race, which is also a Dakar Rally Qualifier, included; 45-50 cars and 60 motorbikes, as well as 4 women riders and 10 youth males in the race.
It featured a 500km challenge for the cars and motorbikes on loops.
An exciting and enthusiastic President Masisis, who officially flagged off the event, was impressed with the organisation of the competition and touted the government’s immense commitment to diversification of the Botswana economy to drive development.
The president later inspected the vehicle assembly plant for the drivers.
He assured of his government’s interest in using platforms such as the race to impact the local communities.
On her part, Philda Kereng, Minister of Tourism and Environment, Botswana, reiterated the message of the president and added that her country is diversifying its tourism sector and events such as motorsports to showcase the warmth of the people and support the local economy.
The last event was held in Selebi Phikwe, Botswana in 2019. Due to Covid-19, travel restrictions and evolution, the 2021 and 2022 events took place in Upington, South Africa.
BTO further engaged with the organiser to host the event back in Botswana.
Among the key objectives of the event are; to stimulate local travel, stimulate inbound travel and destination positioning, and stimulate business activity.
The above-enumerated targets spurred the value chain benefits in line with the reset agenda.
As well, 25 Masimo owners sold packages to host guests in temporary campgrounds in collaboration with tour operators.
Earlier, suppliers sold packages during activations that took place in Kasane, Maun, Gaborone, Ghanzi, Palapye, Selebi-Phikwe, Tsabong, Francistown and Jwaneng.
Interestingly, all facilities in Jwaneng were fully booked during the weekend of the event.
Moreover, Mabutsane District and Jwaneng issued trade licenses for sales of amongst others; food and firewood, while a total of 300 licenses were issued to local communities and other businesses at the end of the day.
The event was coordinated by the Botswana Tourism Organisation in partnership with the South African Rally, Raid Championship Event Rights Owners, Botswana Motor Sport, Botswana National Sports Commission, and the Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture.
One of the gains of the event was the signing of an MoU for Jwaneng to host the event for five years.
The participants and riders were drawn from South Africa, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, among others.
However, Team Ford ended the long dominance of Toyota at the desert race as Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer of Team Castrol Ford delivered a remarkable performance to win the race with a time of 11:14:33 ahead of Lance Woolridge and Kenneth Gilbert, their fellow teammates, who finished second.