Cape Town - 150308 - Pictured is Volunteer Wildfire Services cheering cyclists on. Close to 34 000 people took part in the 2015 Cape Town Cycle Tour. The route had to be changed due to massive ongoing fires that swept the South Peninsula, making Chapman's Peak too dangerous and Ou Kaapse Weg a health hazard due to the loose ash. The new route took riders 47km down to the Blue Route and back to the usual finish opposite the Cape Town Stadium in Green Point. Picture: David Ritchie

According to the race organisers, 4 000 of the participants registered are international, and, when you consider that international visitors typically spend R1 198 per day (not on accommodation) and stay for average of three to four nights, a bit of basic maths indicates that their minimum contribution to the economy is more than R14 million. Take into account that they will probably stay for longer to prep for the race and enjoy some road-tripping to see attractions and enjoy experiences, March is going to be a bumper month for Cape Town and surrounds.

It is not just about racing for success, either: 2 000 participants have registered to ride for charities, generating millions for those in need. Many are riding for those who cannot, and some are taking others along for the ride, like the Warrior on Wheels Foundation, for example – this year four children with disabilities will get to enjoy the action first-hand in specially-designed buggies. We have partnered with them as we make it our business to drive the Universal Access in Tourism initiative locally, to ensure that everyone gets to participate in the activities we all enjoy.

Of course, there will be moans and groans about road closures and increased traffic, as well as the volumes of two-wheel enthusiasts preparing for their venture, but we should all dwell on the benefits an event such as this provides: how many locals will know the joy of being able to work as a result of this? The Expo attracts tens of thousands of visitors, there are 245 exhibitors and the event will attract international media coverage – with the tour taking place on some of the most scenic routes in the world, this is marketing on a massive scale.

Bike safety

Yes, it can be tricky to get around, but it is essential that we as road users get used to thinking in terms of bike safety. Cycling is not just for those who prefer an active lifestyle, it is a means of reducing the carbon footprint and getting around without the costs of fuel and vehicle maintenance. For many, it is the only form of transport that is in reach of small budgets.

If you have not ridden the CTCT, you may not have an understanding of the excitement it generates. I would recommend finding one of the many vantage points along the route to watch these people whizzing past, and you may get a better picture of why they are out there, day after day, getting their legs ready. The CTCT is just one of three cycling events that, collectively, contribute close to R1 billion to the Western Cape’s coffers. The Absa Cape Epic provided R300 million to the economy last year and the Cape Rouleur attracts 160 pro, former pro, celebrity, and amateur riders from 16 countries across Africa, America, Australasia and Europe.

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We are still in high season for tourism in March, and I would suggest that this time of year is a perfect time to enjoy a visit. If visitors do come for the CTCT, they should stick around for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, the biggest annual event on the city’s calendar. That said, our winter is as mild as can be – many northern hemisphere countries would attest that our climate in winter is not unlike theirs in summer.

The popularity of the CTCT shows that there is plenty of room to have more events, all year round. There could be enterprising individuals out there.

Waiting for ideas

We have 365 days, and an entire city to utilise – there are venues and neighbourhoods simply waiting for the ideas to get turned into realities, from Mitchell’s Plain to Durbanville. Local organisers can benefit from partnerships with big business. These can lead to job sustainability, skills development and uplift entire communities.

It is in the less developed communities that you will find a hotbed of ideas. Innovative entrepreneurs are finding that this is an effective space to start small, but then they are applying skills as they develop them to make sure that their businesses work. It takes vision, for example, to see an idea such as bicycle touring through a community such as Masiphumelele as having business potential, but that is what AWOL Tours and Travel has done.

This kind of initiative could be rolled out everywhere.

Every big event you hear about started out as an idea. A simple “what if?” idea. If the original cycle-mad people who founded the CTCT had just carried on enjoying their pastime on their own and never taken the initiative forward, our economy would be R500 million poorer. Sponsors, partners, friends, volunteers and participants all play a role, and they are heroes collaborating to achieve success.

Enver Duminy is the chief executive of Cape Town Tourism.

This article was first published by IOL on 7 March 2017.