THIS weekend’s eighth SpecSavers Ironman South Africa looks set to fill hotels, promote tourism and inject R50-million into Nelson Mandela Bay.
Athletes from around the country began streaming into Port Elizabeth yesterday, while several international competitors have been in the city for the past few weeks.
Event coordinator Michael Flanagan said there was a “really great, positive vibe”.
“Our numbers are up, in terms of athletes, and we’re expecting a much closer race than we’ve seen before,” he said.
Flanagan said the increase in competitors, their families and other visitors would boost spending in the Bay.
“In direct tourism spending, it’s safe to say we’re looking at about R50-million in income. It’s an exciting prospect for local tourism,” he said.
Flanagan said World Endurance South Africa – which organises Ironman – had based the projected income on national tourism index information.
Tourism analyst Peter Myles said the event, with its international media coverage, was excellent for the city.
“It doesn’t just mean people coming in and visiting the city, but also television, internet and radio feeds to the rest of the country, reminding them of how ingrained Ironman has become in Port Elizabeth. It’s very important,” Myles said.
Event coordinators are expecting:
ý1772 athletes to compete in the main event on Sunday;
ý1100 to run in the 10km Iron Girl fun run today;
ý1000 children to compete in the Pritt Iron Kids 1.2km and 2km fun runs.
Most hotels and bed-andbreakfast establishments are either heavily booked or sold out.
Radisson Blu revenue manager Michelle Muller said the hotel had been booked by more than 250 guests a night over the weekend, with some staying over into next week.
PE Hotels Group operations manager Stefan Lourens said the Beach Hotel and Hacklewood House B&B were ready for the influx.
Meanwhile, police have warned that criminals operating along the beachfront are targeting victims carefully and visitors should not leave any possessions unattended.
They say drivers with cars locked by remote should check to make sure the vehicles are secure before leaving them.
Captain Stanley Jarvis said criminals had developed a technique where they waited for drivers with common remote control units to lock their cars.
“They’ll press their button at the same time, from somewhere nearby,” he said.
“Because the frequencies of the units are so similar, the door often does not lock.
“The driver assumes the car is safe, and leaves without checking. The criminal now has access to an unlocked car.
“Visitors need to check before they leave.
“Make sure the car is locked, and make sure there are no valuables on the back seat.”
Jarvis also urged B&B owners and hotel managers to advise foreign guests against accepting help from strangers at ATMs.
“In some cases, criminals have drawn up to R24000 all in one go from these accounts before the person even realises what has happened.”