The past sixteen months have represented the most challenging, strangest and quite simply the most absurd circumstances that I’ve ever encountered in my 20-year tenure as cycling race organiser. With the third Covid wave abating, it’s such a relief to finally have the realistic expectation of presenting events again in the coming spring and summer months.

By Wynand de Villiers

Imagine being told sixteen months ago that you are no longer allowed to make a living out of your trade in a business that has existed for 20 years! Imagine a builder not being able to lay a single brick for 16 months, an electrician not being able to lay cable, a miner not able to mine, an insurance salesman not being able to sell a policy…

The world dropped from beneath our feet in an instant and our worst fears were realised in the year that followed with the protracted presence of Covid 19. The event landscape and event companies will take many years to recover. In the aftermath of Covid 19 we will initially face a perfect storm.

Expendable income in the average household has suffered a devastating blow, and many companies have succumbed as a result of Covid 19. The support of events will initially rank low on their list of priorities as companies and households try and recover.

Attracting a large participant base and significant sponsorship against this backdrop will be challenging at first and it will be accentuated by a number of traditional sponsors not recommitting to events after losing money due to postponements and cancellations.

But, following the long absence of sporting events, there will also be a renewed appetite from corporates who weathered the Covid storm to gain traction through events to get the “touch-and-feel” element back to their brands with direct engagement and experiential marketing.

There has been a gaping hole in brand polishing with consumers just experiencing brands by looking at their mobile phones.

I am convinced that the events industry will rise again quickly and flex its muscles, so to speak. There is nothing quite like a great event in the great outdoors to get our juices pumping and to generate that feeling of self-worth and achievement. These two emotions were sorely missed over the past sixteen months.

South Africans love being competitive; with ourselves and against others. We have a burning urge to push our boundaries and redefine ourselves within an environment where we feel part of a pack – all suffering and achieving together.

The joy of presenting amazing experiences for our participants again in the coming months will drown the bad memories and hard yards of the past 16 months.

I have pioneered and managed a variety of cycling events over the past 20 years, including TransCape, the Cape Winelands Encounter, Waterberg Encounter, Sanlam Invitational, the Tour of Good Hope, Jock Tour, Tshwane Classic and the Emperors Palace Classic. I’m choosing to be optimistic and can’t wait to host the 2021 Val de Vie MTB Expedition on 24-26 September.