Howick – As the popular Sappi Karkloof MTB Festival heads into its 21st year the renowned Midlands Meander turns 30 years old and the symbiotic relationship that the two have struck up in the past two decades has been identified as an important component in keeping the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands the thriving tourist hub that it remains to this day.
Since it’s humble beginnings as just a single day marathon race, the Sappi Karkloof MTB Festival has ballooned into one of the country’s premier mountain biking festivals with riders now afforded numerous options throughout the weekend to take part in the festivities while the three-day MTB gathering’s appeal has stretched far beyond the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands as riders from Gauteng and beyond have become regular attendees.
Data from recent surveys on the economic impact of the three day festival on the local economy show that direct spend my visitors from outside of the province on travel, accommodation and local hospitality exceeds R3 million, excluding the spend by local riders on the day.
The survey also shows that many riders and their families spend at least two nights in the region, even if they only ride one of the festival events.
Marketing Co-Ordinator for the Midlands Meander Shea Karssing was quick to point out the importance of having events like the Karkloof MTB Festival in the region as means of getting people from outside of the region to come and enjoy the famous MTB trails.
“We (the Midlands Meander) are really proud to be home to some of the best MTB track in the country,” Karssing said. “We have the perfect landscape to create great single track, rock gardens, steep climbs as well as hair-raising descents which makes the Midlands the perfect playground for some of the country’s best mountain biking trails.
“For these reasons, it is clear that the Midlands Meander is prime MTB terrain, and event such as the Karkloof Classic help to enforce the public’s perception of the Midlands Meander as an excellent year-round MTB destination,” she added.
The mutually beneficial relationship between the Karkloof MTB Festival and the Midlands Meander has been cemented in recent years since the trails at the Karkloof Club have become popular with riders from all over the country year round and Karssing mentioned that keeping the riders happy means they will return to the Midlands regularly.
“Both Karkloof and the Midlands Meander have gone from strength to strength over the years, and enjoy a perception as well-established entities in the area and both will continue to work together to bring people to the region, showcasing locals, South Africans, and international tourists what the Midlands Meander area has to offer.
“MTB enthusiasts travel to the area year-round to spend time on these trails, supporting many of our local Midlands Meander establishments – including accommodation, cuisine, retail, and more,” she explained.
The Sappi Karkloof MTB Festival has expanded into a nationally recognised event and has become one of the headline events on the popular Midlands Meander calendar.
The event’s scenery, the atmosphere, the quality of the event as well as it being well organised has seen the Karkloof MTB Festival field soar well into the thousands in recent years and with this comes a great deal of additional spend in the region.
“The Karkloof MTB Festival is certainly one of the most well-established events that takes place in the Midlands Meander area and as the largest MTB festival in South Africa, the Karkloof MTB Festival brings organisers, sponsors, participants, their families, friends and supporters to the Midlands Meander area.
“On behalf of the Midlands Meander, we’d like to wish all riders and supporters a wonderful weekend (or longer) exploring the beauty and diversity of this terrain we are proud to call home,” Karssing concluded.
Riders and spectators can follow news and developments via the event’s Facebook page (Karkloof Mountain Bike Club) or on Twitter (@KarkloofMTB) while more information can also be found at www.karkloofmtb.co.za and entries can be submitted via www.roag.co.za.