The thirtieth anniversary of the Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival this weekend will see a deepening of the partnership between the hugely popular trails through the Karkloof, major corporates, local businesses and the uMngeni municipality in a stand-out example of how event-driven sport tourism can inject millions into the region’s economy.

With a bumper field of athletes entered for the trail runs and mountain biking events on Saturday 28 May and Sunday 29 May, many will elect to spend the weekend at local self-catering or bed-and-breakfast establishments in the region and taking advantage of local restaurants and tourist attractions with their families over the weekend.

The event has always been underpinned by title sponsor Sappi’s commitment to nurturing sustainable community partnerships and using their investment in plantations to act as an economic gear for local businesses and workers to benefit from.

Sappi’s continued influence in the Karkloof region through their financial investment in the event, which continues throughout the year in terms of trails for recreational riding and trail running, positively impacts the region year round.

The Karkloof Falls and Woodhouse Picnic Site situated on Sappi land, will now come under the management of the Karkloof Country Club and through the support of Sappi they have extended this attraction as part of their offering along with 250km of prime trails through the Sappi forests.

In an extension of Sappi’s support for Early Childhood Development (ECD), they continue to add their support to that of the Karkloof Country Club with regards to the Hawkstone Primary’s ECD programme; and the school now has a dedicated ECD teacher whose salary is paid for by the club.

The Nguni Trails team is a group of three people who gained training through the Adventure Tourism Incubator (ATI) partnership (between the IDC, N3Gateway and Sappi) and are now contracted to the Karkloof Country Club to build and maintain the expansive trail network. The ATI included trail building training and mentorship and the purchase of equipment such as a tractor and slashers, some very nice mountain bikes and other gear. It’s vital for a professional trail builder to know what a trail feels like to ride. This weekend Jay Ngubane from Nguni Trails will be taking on the tough 60km course which he helped shape.

“Sappi understands that a thriving world depends on economic wellbeing, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. The inception of the Sappi Tails Programme in 2011 has opened up opportunities for local economic development and job creation. This partnership is one of the best examples of our business objective of ‘creating shared value’ and seeing adventure tourism bear fruit right on our doorstep is rewarding on so many levels,” said Alex Thiel, the CEO of Sappi Southern Africa.

Thiel, who is an avid mountain biker and trail runner himself, and will participate in both events again this year, went on to say that the Karkloof Classic also provides a wonderful opportunity for Sappi personnel to participate in healthy outdoor activities and enjoy some family time together.

Based on an economic impact survey conducted in the last five years by Tourism KZN, more than twenty percent of the field travelled to the event from outside of the province, with 50% of the field spending two nights in the area, and a further 25% of the field spending three nights in the region.

Significantly, many of the runners and riders who take part in the races return to the region to enjoy the trails at other times in the year, and often choose to spend several days in the region.

The survey estimated that the indirect value of MTB tourism in the Karkloof amounted to as much as R154.1 million annually, and the combined economic impact of the visits to the Karkloof trails totals an impressive R231 million per annum.

The value of these impacts is very important and has led to a new Business Impact study which is being spearheaded by uMngeni Tourism in partnership with Sappi. The results of this new study will complement those of the previous one and give more insight into the direct and indirect economic impacts on the tourism businesses in the uMngeni area.

“The support we enjoy from the uMngeni municipality is just superb,” said race committee chair Andrew Nicholson.

“They fully grasp the importance of the use of the Karkloof trails to the regional economy and as a municipality they have been eager to get involved in many different ways, from marketing support from uMngeni Tourism to traffic management plans and monitoring road crossings to making sure every rider is safe and even keeping the area clean and tidy around the event,” said Nicholson.

The Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival 2022 will take place on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 May. More info can be found here.

Sappi Karkloof Classic Trail Festival 2022
Schedule of events:
Saturday 28th May
07h30 21km Trail Run
08h00 9km Trail Run

Sunday 29th May
07h00 85km MTB
08h00 60km MTB
08h45 40km MTB
09h30 20km MTB
09h50 9km Trail Run
10h00 10km MTB