2. PROMOTING SOUTH AFRICA
As a long-haul destination, South Africa would not be in a position to bid for a stage of the Tour de France. But it can learn valuable lessons about how to promote a country and the mediums it can use to do this just as other long-haul destinations such as Australia and China have done with their signature tours − The Santos Tour Down Under and the Tour of Beijing. The key to the success of these tours is the ability to attract professional international cyclists, which in turn guarantees media coverage and tourism inf low.
To do this, the race needs to be one that will allow these elite cyclists and their teams to earn much-needed UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) points, whether part of the UCI World Tour or UCI Continental Tour. African countries like the Ivory Coast whose seven-day stage race Tour de Côte d’Ivoire – Tour de la Réconciliation, joins Africa’s UCI Continental Circuit in 2014 and the now established Tour du Faso in neighbouring Burkina Faso are doing just that by investing in internationally accredited races.
Without a serious internationally accredited road stage race to f ly the rainbow nation’s f lag, attention has turned to the continent’s f irst Pro Continental African team, Team MTNQhubeka who, like the Barloworld Team did before them in the Tour de France in 2007, will have a role to play in promoting the country and the continent at the Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain) later this year.
Sadly, this year SA was without a participant in the Tour de France. The consequence of this was that the TV commentators had little reason to talk about SA, its races and tourist attractions in any shape or form as they had in previous years.
Robbie Hunter, directeur sportif (team manager) of the Garmin-Sharp team and former winner of a stage of the Tour de France, and former Barloworld chief mechanic and now Team Sky’s lead mechanic, Gary Blem, were the country’s only ambassadors in a race which is seeing an increasing number of cyclists from the Southern Hemisphere. But the country is Australia, and the broadcasting exposure Australia garners through its cyclists also helps