In the world of sports, moments of greatness often transcend the boundaries of the game itself, writes OG MOLEFE.
Such was the case when South African golfer Thriston Lawrence claimed victory at the prestigious BMW International Open, held from 21-25 June at the illustrious Eichenried Golf Club in Munich, Germany.
This remarkable triumph showcased Lawrence’s exceptional talent and underlined South Africa’s position as a formidable home of sporting excellence.
The BMW International Open, an integral part of the DP World Tour and one of Germany’s most prestigious golfing events drew 156 players from around the globe.
South Africa was proudly represented by 17 of its finest golfers who competed against the world’s best on this international stage, a representation that amounted to a commendable 11% of the field, with Lawrence emerging as the shining star.
Lawrence’s victory resonates far beyond the confines of the golf course; it symbolises South Africa’s unwavering commitment to excellence across various domains. As a nation, we have long been recognised for our achievements in science, medicine, culture and entertainment.
Our globally-revered scientific and medical research during the pandemic and the success of our actors and musicians in Hollywood are just a few examples. However, our prowess in sports, including golf, rugby and cricket, has also garnered international acclaim.
The names of legends like Gary Player, Siya Kolisi, Jomo Sono, Caster Semenya, Chad Le Clos, Lucas Radebe and many more instantly come to mind when discussing the exceptional talent that has emerged from our shores over the years.
Thus, Lawrence’s victory at the BMW International Open further cements our global position as a producer of remarkable sporting talent.
Yet, the significance of this golf tournament extends beyond the fairways and greens. It is a strategic boost for our country’s image in key international markets, particularly Germany.
It was a stroke of genius that South African Tourism had decided to partner with BMW for the BMW International Open as well as the BMW Golf Cup, set to be hosted in South Africa next year.
The partnership with BMW, a respected global brand, has elevated South Africa’s image and positioned us as a credible destination for international and local sporting events. This collaboration allows South African Tourism to leverage the iconic BMW brand, reaching high-value audiences through strategic alignment.
As part of this initiative, I was among the fortunate South African journalists hosted by South African Tourism, alongside representatives from various German media outlets.
Germany is a strategic market for our tourism sector. It is one market we cannot ignore as we take bold steps to recover the industry from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The numbers speak for themselves.
In July 2023, South Africa welcomed 9,505 visitors from Germany, a notable increase from the 7,894 German visitors in July 2022 – a growth of 20.4%.
This visitor surge is part of a more significant trend, as international tourist arrivals from January to July 2023 totalled 4.8 million,
Within this surge of 4.8 million arrivals, Europe contributed 682,828 visitors. This reflects an impressive 61.5% increase compared to the same period in the previous year.
Among the European nations, the United Kingdom had a remarkable 204,885 tourists who chose South Africa as their destination during this period, marking an extraordinary 45.7% growth compared to previous years.
The German market also demonstrated robust growth as we had 132,302 German tourists arriving, representing a substantial 73.3% increase in arrivals.
However, challenges persist, including unfortunate incidents involving German tourists.
Therefore, events like the BMW International Open offered South African Tourism an opportunity to reignite the German tourist’s imagination, repositioning South Africa as a top-tier destination.
The amount of exposure the country got has been massive, as seen in the media coverage and the social media reach.
Next year, the country has a chance to build on this when we host the BMW Golf Cup World Final. The spectacle promises to reach an astonishing aggregated audience of 685 million households worldwide, with tournaments in over 40 markets and an economic impact estimated at over 1.5 million euros (approximately R29-million).
Hosting sporting events is pivotal in promoting tourism and showcasing a country on a global stage. In this context, the Middle East, specifically Qatar, has demonstrated the significant impact such events can have on their tourism sector.
One remarkable achievement is the Middle East’s distinction as the first region to return to pre-pandemic tourism levels for an entire quarter, as the UN World Tourism Organisation reported. This achievement is attributed mainly to the 2022 World Cup hosted in Qatar. The tournament served as a catalyst, sparking a surge in international visitors to the country.
To put this into perspective, in January 2023, Qatar welcomed 340,000 international visitors, representing a remarkable 295% increase compared to the previous year. The momentum continued in February 2023, with an astonishing 406% increase in visitor numbers compared to the same period in the last year. Notably, February marked the highest number of international arrivals to Qatar in the past decade, excluding the months during the 2022 Fifa World Cup. It is evident that the World Cup had a profound and lasting effect on Qatar’s tourism industry.
Qatar’s commitment to leveraging sporting events for tourism growth remains strong. In 2023, the country is set to host 14 sporting events, including the prestigious Formula 1. This strategic move is part of Qatar’s plan to increase the tourism sector’s GDP contribution from 7% to 12% by 2030. Such initiatives underline the significance of sports as a driver of tourism and economic growth, making Qatar a compelling example for other nations aspiring to achieve similar successes in sports tourism.
South Africa should also capitalise on its reputation as a host of mega sporting events. This reputation was built over the years through our experience hosting events such as the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the 2010 Fifa World Cup and, more recently, the Netball World Cup.
In sports and tourism, partnerships like this are a winning formula.
A South African’s victory at the BMW International Open is not just a triumph on the golf course; it’s a testament to our commitment to excellence and an invitation for the world to discover the wonders of our beautiful nation. As we continue to drive tourism recovery, we do so with flair, purpose, and the spirit of excellence that defines us as a nation.