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Cape Town now an international trail running Mecca for tourists

Now in its fifth year, Ultra-trail Cape Town (UTCT) has established itself as a bucket list race for ultra distance trail runners, not only locally but now internationally. The event has grown from one with 200 runners in 2014, to 1750 runners across all four of its races in 2018.

With its inclusion in the Ultra-trail World Tour since last year, the event is now attracting some of the top international elite runners and their supporters. Over 300 international entries are confirmed for December, and over 300 further entries are from other parts of South Africa – which is good news for tourism.

The UTCT routes combine a range of beautiful Mother City sights with the rugged technical terrain of Table Mountain. The four events are a 100km, 65km, 35km on Saturday 1 December, and for the first time in 2018 there is a 21km route on Sunday 2 December.

Nic Bornman, Founder and Race Director for UTCT, says that being part of the World Tour has been a game changer in terms of attracting the internationals: “The primary criteria for the Tour inclusion is that it needs to be a race set in an iconic destination, and Cape Town as a canvas really speaks to that. It’s created an opportunity for us as an event but for Cape Town, in particular, to really be noticed by the trail running world.”

“We are thrilled at the entries for this year. We are sold out in all but the 100km event already, and the 100km is 93% full. With over 40% of runners being visitors to the city, we are proud to be an event that is really making a difference to local tourism,” said Bornman.

Sports Tourism is certainly gaining momentum in Cape Town, whether it be from visitors attending big events like Two Oceans Marathon, Cape Town Cycle Tour or Ultra-trail Cape Town, or to pursue adventure sports such as surfing, kitesurfing, mountain biking and hiking.

Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, says: “Events such as the Ultra-Trail Cape Town are an essential element to boosting our local economy. They generate employment and contribute to job sustainability, and they also attract new visitors as well as providing added value for locals. Events are part of our reinvention strategy as a tourism organisation; we want to give more people more reasons to visit, so the Ultra-Trail Cape Town is proof that there’s hunger for more to do and see. Visitors attend sport, business and cultural events, and then spend more on tourism activities and in our restaurants, so we value the creation of more of these.”

Specialist tourism operators are emerging that focus on the sports traveller, and Lance Wynn, owner of Cape Town based Runcation, is one such operator who has witnessed the growth of UTCT and other trail running activities in Cape Town. The local trail running community has grown hugely in recent years, and with communication driven by social media channels, weekly runs are arranged by groups such as “Tuesday Trails”, and these groups are being noticed by runners planning their travels to Cape Town.

Runcation ensures that runners are able to see some of what the city has to offer while being confident of getting around and to their events on time: “It helps when athletes are focusing on such a big race to not worry about when to be where and how to get there. We are hosting the runners in at the President Hotel for December’s race, which is where all the elite runners will be staying; so an added bonus is they will get to mingle with the ‘stars’ of international ultra-distance trail running.”

Bornman says these sorts of tours are incredible opportunities to showcase the trail paradise that Cape Town is: “These elite athletes will be spreading the word to the international trail community. With the growth of UTCT and initiatives such as tours for runners, we can anticipate the sport of trail running continuing to support the Cape Town tourism industry in the coming years.”

UTCT in tourism numbers:

·  54      Nationalities

·  351    International athletes

·  326    National athletes

·  674    Flights

·  500    Need Accommodation

·  270    Doing onward travel in WC

·  4000  Runners’ supporters


I am a photojournalist, photographer and writer based in Cape Town, South Africa.

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