After a three-year hiatus, the highly anticipated Toyota GAZOO 1000 Racing Desert event has made a successful comeback to Botswana. The event, which had been previously held in various locations due to logistical challenges and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has now returned to Jwaneng, a mining town known for its world-class mining operations.
For Botswana’s Tourism Minister Philda Nani Kereng, the return of the Toyota GAZOO 1000 Racing Desert event is a cause for celebration. The event not only signifies a joyous occasion for locals but also plays a crucial role in the recovery of the tourism industry.
Following the hardships of the pandemic and the resulting lockdown measures, the minister reiterated the importance of the event as people are seeking healing and engaging in activities that help them forget their past troubles.
“So, it is a joy for all of us. And for us in terms of the tourism recovery, where we are emphasizing the importance of MICE with events and activities like this that gather people after COVID; people want to heal, they want activities that can make them forget the pains of hard lockdown,” she emphasised.
In addition, Nani Kereng maintained that the event’s significance extends beyond its sporting aspect. It aligns with Botswana’s strategy of diversifying its tourism offerings beyond its renowned natural attractions, such as elephants and the Okavango Delta. The focus she disclosed has shifted to showcasing the country’s people, their unity and their ability to host dynamic and inclusive events.
In terms of sports tourism, the event holds great promise. As Botswana aims to position itself as a destination for tourists, investors, and business activities, sporting events like the Toyota GAZOO 1000 Racing Desert play a pivotal role. These events foster longer stays, facilitate connections between people, and stimulate trade through various business opportunities along the value chain. The event has a positive impact on the local economy, creating employment and income-generating opportunities for small and medium enterprises.
According to the tourism minister, the government’s involvement in supporting the event demonstrates its commitment to driving economic growth and providing motivation to its citizens. The presence of the country’s president at the event signifies his support for initiatives that contribute to the transformation and development of Botswana.
“It’s the first time that the head of State has come to support this event. But we have a lot of other events that he supports. And for him to be here just shows that as Botswana, we are united from the head down and we have leadership that cares,” Nani Kereng added.
Archie Rutherford, CEO of the South African Rally Race and organizer of the event, highlights the challenging nature of the desert race, which spans a grueling 1,000 kilometers in desert-like conditions. The event, he said attracts enthusiastic participants from all over Southern Africa, driving tourism and creating awareness of Botswana’s natural beauty and potential as a destination.
Rutherford emphasized the importance of continued government and tourism sector support to ensure the event’s growth and success, while also acknowledging the significance of President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s presence at the event.
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“It shows you how enthusiastic and how excited the country is when the president comes and visit us. I mean I think he had a good time. He’s encouraged by what he sees. He’s happy to have the event here. And I think the future holds well for the desert event. If we get the support from government and from tourism. I think the event can go from strength and strength,” he opined.
Completing the desert race is considered a major achievement, making it an iconic event for both participants and spectators. While the event’s future locations have yet to be finalized, the organizers, according to Rutherford are open to exploring other venues in collaboration with Botswana’s tourism authorities, ensuring the event’s continued evolution and success. This year’s Toyota GAZOO 1000 Racing Desert was held from June 23rd to 25th.