The mood and excitement amongst motorsport lovers was this week almost palpable as they got ready for the pilgrimage to the diamond town of Jwaneng which hosts the return of the Toyota Gazoo Racing 1000 Kalahari Botswana Desert Race, popularly known as Mantshwabisi.
The Desert Race returns after a three year hiatus from Botswana soil, owing to Covid-19, and last year the event was held in Upington, South Africa. In 2019, the event was held in Selebi- Phikwe, first time out side Jwaneng.
For those heading to Jwaneng for an adrenaline filled weekend where both local and international motor bike riders and drivers will take on the 1000 gruelling terrain, accommodation is mainly on tented campsite in farms around Jwaneng.
The first day of the TDR, which is today will be trials where drivers and riders will do the routes and set the format for the Saturday official start-ups. Tommorow is the start of the real deal, one not be missed and President Mokgweetsi Masisi will flag off the motor category just after the Mayor of Jwaneng had flagged off the Bikes. The drivers will do the first loop of 500 kilometres while Sunday will be the completion of the last 500 kilometre loop of the race, followed by the Awards Ceremony.
Leading up to the event, which officially starts today and finishes on Sunday June 25, the organisers, Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), Botswana Motorsport and service providers engaged in vigorous activations around the country to hype up the mood around the event.
This culminated with a media conference lead by tourism minister Philda Kereng who took the media through the whole process of hosting the desert race again after 2 years, and especially back to Jwaneng.
“The Toyota Desert Race is one of the best things to happen after Covid-19, demonstrating that the tourism Industry which suffered the effects of the pandemic was recovering. This recovery emphasises on (MICE) – Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events. We are developing a MICE Strategy which will guide different ministries on hosting events, while promoting tourism,” She told the media.
Kereng was quick to highlight that the Desert Race was being held, like other events in line with the revised tourism policy which emphasises the diversification of the tourism product offering. This, she said was to move away from the wildlife tourism. She said the event among others seeks to promotion domestic tourism.
According to Kereng, the Desert Race promotes sport tourism, while at the same time offers an opportunity for the tourism value chain beneficiation for various sectors like the transport sector, the hospitality sector, tour operators, small business owners, and farm owners among the whole list.
She also indicated that all the stakeholders in the Jwaneng and surrounding communities have been consulted, and engaged on the activities of the event, and also cautioned on safety measures as the motor bikes and vehicles racing in the event will be traversing their areas.