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09 Jun, 2012
Toyota Desert Race has a major economic impact
The inclusion of the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race from 22 to 24 June in the Dakar Challenge is a source of pride to the people of Botswana, with the event continuing to have a major economic and social impact on the country.
Speaking at a media conference in Gaborone to launch the 2012 race, the Botswana minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism, Onkokame Kitso Mokaila, said the event contributed "millions of Pula" to the economy and was a source of pride to the people of Botswana. The Botswana event is one of four world-wide races to be included in the Dakar Challenge, with the winning crew eligible for a free entry into the 2013 Dakar Rally in South America.
First run in 1975, the race, organised by the Four Wheel Drive Club of Southern Africa, moved to Botswana in 1991, and this year celebrates 31 years of Toyota sponsorship.
Mokaila said the Dakar Rally's status in off-road racing ranked alongside the Soccer World Cup and the Tour de France, and inclusion in the Dakar Challenge was a source of pride to the people of Botswana. It also meant the race would grow from strength to strength, and was a "clear demonstration" of the professionalism that characterised the planning and management of the TDR by the Four Wheel Drive Club and its local partners led by the Botswana Tourism Organisation.
The minister added that international spectators injected "millions of Pula" into the local economy before and after the event. The bulk of this money was spent on accommodation, food, transport, petrol and entertainment.
The race also continued to benefit the people of Botswana in a number of ways. Businesses in the vicinity of the race route reported increased sales during the weekend of the race, and taxes paid through these outlets contributed significantly to government revenue.
The minister said another important benefit for local communities was to be found in direct income that accrued to the Village Development Committee (VDC) coffers through the sale of vendor outlets, parking bay tickets and campsite entry fees. The Kumakwane VDC has benefited extensively from the event since 2009, and contributed to the refurbishment of houses which have been leased to local government employees.
The event also benefits local communities by creating temporary employment before and after the race. A thorough environmental assessment is also carried out to assess the effect of the race on the environment and the ecosystem.
"This is done to facilitate the development of tourism that is socially and environmentally sustainable," said Mokaila.
South African National Off-road Racing Association (SANORA) chief executive Richard Schilling paid tribute to the support the race has received over the years from the Botswana Government and the Botswana Tourism Organisation.
"Without the commitment and co-operation of the Botswana Government, the Tourism Organisation, and the various local authorities the race would not have attained the status it now enjoys on the African and International sporting calendar," said Schilling.
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