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

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

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

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

The spokesperson for the department of Economic Development‚ Tourism and Environmental Affairs in KwaZulu-Natal‚ Bheki Mbanjwa‚ said they are bracing for far-reaching effects on the entire tourism value chain.

“In 2019‚ the Comrades Marathon generated over R700 million and created over 1000 temporary jobs in the sector. Therefore‚ without a doubt‚ the cancellation of this massive event will definitely have a negative impact‚” said Bheki 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. As stated above‚ the Comrades Marathon of 2019 injected R700 million into the tourism sector (both directly and indirectly through the tourism value chain).”

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

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

"We will continue to do so even for upcoming events. At the moment they have not reported any financial challenges with the department‚” said departmental spokesperson Phathisa Mfuyo.

Mbanjwa said the 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 of economic development‚ tourism and environmental affairs in KZN is currently mobilising resources to augment 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 (SMME’s) 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 KZN businesses within the tourism and hospitality sector received assistance as part of the national relief fund.

"This meant that in total‚ KZN businesses received R30 350 000 of the R200 million set aside for the relief fund‚” added Mbanjwa.