Sappi Karkloof Classic Trails Festival | Building a Lasting Legacy

by | May 23, 2024 | Bike, Bike Events & Racing, Bike Racing News, Event Experience, Press Releases, Sappi Karkloof Classic Trails Festival, Sports

It’s time for the Sappi Karkloof Classic once again, and Sappi and the Karkloof Club are excited to welcome riders and runners to this great event from 24 to 26 May 2024.

Whilst the event is an annual highlight on the calendar for many serious participants, like those competing for the title in the 85km South African MTB Marathon Championships, it also has plenty of alternative options for runners and riders over the two-day festival. With many participants traveling to attend the event, it is also a prime example of how event-driven sport tourism can inject millions into the region’s economy.

‘’What started thirty-two years ago as a once-off MTB marathon using trails cut through the Sappi plantations has grown over the years to a successful and sustainable year-round business model that drives millions of Rands in revenue into the club, local businesses and the tourism sector”, said Alex Thiel, Sappi Southern Africa CEO. “What keeps people coming back to the Classic and Karkloof trails each year is primarily the 250km of world class trails in the beautiful Karkloof valley and forests. Sappi strives to create shared value through our Trails Programme which includes flagship events like the Sappi Karkloof Classic Trails Festival. These trails act like economic arteries which stimulate rural tourism, job creation and enterprise development.,” he said.

Karkloof Classic Festival

Sappi’s involvement with the Karkloof Classic Trails Festival

Aside from providing the land on which most of the legendary Karkloof Classic race routes are built, Sappi has invested more than R8.3 million into the event since 2013. This investment into the event allows the Karkloof Club to direct significant capital into ongoing trail development and into projects that have a positive social impact on local communities.

The resultant ongoing investment in building and developing trails has been a catalyst for the greater Karkloof Club as it enhances the trail offering which is now enjoyed by 1,400 members and attracts over 11,000 visitors throughout the year. Sappi has worked closely with the Club on steadily creating a network which has been ranked number one in South Africa by TREAD Magazine on two occasions.

A Business Impact Study conducted by the Sappi Trails Programme in partnership with uMngeni Tourism in 2022 showed that the Sappi Karkloof Trails support 503 jobs directly and 3,080 jobs indirectly in the uMngeni municipal area. This is further supported by an earlier study by KZN Tourism which estimated that the combined economic impact of visitors to the Karkloof Trails totaled an impressive R231 million per year.

Karkloof Classic Festival

To further improve the trails and help achieve Sappi’s support for the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are a cornerstone of Sappi’s business strategy and that of the Sappi Trails Programme, Sappi has also initiated and invested in programmes such as the Karkloof Adventure Tourism Incubator (ATI). The ATI is designed to offer trail construction training and apprenticeship opportunities to unemployed youth, as well as to the skilled Nguni Trails team, who are behind the meticulously crafted and well-kept trails that are beloved by users and participants of the Sappi Karkloof Classic

Another key part of Sappi’s innovative approach to sustainable forestry is providing access to unplanted landholdings preserved for biodiversity. Sappi has entered into an agreement with the Karkloof Club to manage the Karkloof Falls and to build this into their offering to members and visitors. This extension to the Sappi and Karkloof Club partnership is expected to provide further opportunities for economic growth and development in the Karkloof in the years to come.

For more news on the Karkloof Classic Trails Festival, head here.

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