Cyclists Prepare to Conquer the Namib Desert


Over one thousand desert dashers eager to conquer the world's oldest desert have registered for this years event, where they have to transgress 369 kilometers of the harsh Namib Desert before crossing the finish line in the coastal town of Swakopmund 24 hours later on the 8th of December.

The prestigious event draws thousands of spectators and supporters, providing a welcomed boost for local businesses.

"Each year most of the hotels and guesthouses are fully booked, including the bungalows managed by the municipality," said Aili Gebhardt from the Swakopmund municipality, adding that last year the event generated around N$1,5 million for the coastal town, and also provided a number of temporary employment opportunities.

Source: Gondwana Collection Namibia

The event not only highlights the tourism appeal of the coastal town of Swakopmund, but also promotes the whole country as an attractive destination for tourists.

The harsh conditions and rugged environment that cyclists have to endure to finish this tough course offers a boost to the tourism industry that has been striving long and hard to promote the country as an adventure tourism hotspot that has many offerings for adrenalin junkies.

According to Gitta Paetzold, executive officer of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN), the Nedbank Desert Dash has "truly become one of the most important sporting and adventure tourism events on the Namibian calendar," adding that for some time now the tourism industry has been aiming to identify key events that are likely to attract both local, regional and international foreign visitors.

"The Nedbank Desert Dash fits this model perfectly, as it is an outstanding race that no only attracts local cyclists, but has over the years attracted increasing numbers of international competitors as is proven by the 2018 entry numbers, with people from more than 14 countries taking part."

For this years event, over 60% of the entrants brave enough to tackle the world's toughest cycling route are local Namibians, while 311 come from neighbouring South Africa, with 69 entrants come from 12 other countries, including Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the USA.

"Crossing one of Namibia's most spectacular landscapes linking the capital to the coast, the Nedbank Desert Dash is the perfect opportunity to showcase one of the country's most rugged, soulful, inspiring and liberating terrains," Paetzold points out, adding that the event is internationally recognized as one of the most challenging day-races globally and is without doubt on the bucket list of any serious cyclist.  "And, coverage of this event helps to market the country's uniqueness."

The event is estimated to inject at least N$20 million of additional revenue into the country's economy from airfares, car rentals, accommodation and other tourism related activities.

Over and above the influx of visitors that descends on the coastal town of Swakopmund, Gebhardt says that the Desert Dash promotes the area as an "irresistible holiday destination", whetting the appetite to experience more that the country has to offer and to also promote the country to friends and family back home.

"This in turn, brings in foreign currency, creates more jobs, helps to develop our town and others and helps us to preserve a diverse culture and the environment," she concludes.

As the country warmly awaits the surge of visitors expected to gather for the start of the Desert Dash and the economic benefits associated therewith, the ultimate winners are in fact not only the competing cyclists, but the broader cycling community and the sport in general.