By Bayo Bernard
Strong and reliable Deposit Money bank, Access Bank Plc. has made immense contributions to the nation’s economy over the years, but one major area of priority to the bank currently is Nigeria’s burgeoning tourism sector.
Therefore, when Governor Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos state announced the commencement of preparations for the fourth edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, the joy of many athletes within and outside the country knew no bounds, because for them time has come to smile to the banks again.
The annual marathon is sponsored by Access Bank and is billed to take place in February 2019.
“I want to assure the Chairman of the Organizing Committee, the staff and everybody charged with the responsibility of organizing the 2017 Access Bank/Lagos City Marathon that we will provide all the support they need.
World-class facilities will be available, there will be improved security and we shall deploy personnel of all Lagos agencies needed to ensure that the Chairman and his team succeed,” Ambode said
The managing director of Access Bank, Hebert Wigwe, on his part has assured that Access Bank would continue to give full support to the event, the 2019 edition will take the event a notch higher so as to receive an IAAF Silver Label for the marathon, he said.
At least, no fewer than 150,000 athletes are expected to take part in the yearly event, the organizers said.
Access Bank has committed huge funds to the tournament in the last four years.
Various sums will be won in different categories for the 2019 tournament, including the $190,000 for the general category and close to N10m fom Nigerian men and women who will participate, aside the grand prize of a Kia Rio car.
But the magazine learned that the economic benefits of the marathon to indirect beneficiaries could even be more. In fact the marathon dependants are already in full anticipation, it also learnt.
The Lagos state helmsman has promised that the 2019 edition will be top notch of all marathons in Africa, as plans are afoot to elevate the tournament to silver from the current bronze label.
But the level of preparations among non-runners has somehow brought the event even closer, notwithstanding the fact that the tournament is still four months away.
For instance, hotel owners who provide accommodation for foreign athletes have notched up preparations in anticipation of the event.
According to investigations by the magazine, many hotels on Lagos Island and Ikeja axis of the state have started embarking on necessary renovations ahead of the event.
Those mostly concerned are the middle line hotels which attract more patronage from athletes before, during and after the tournament.
The Five star hotels are not also left out, because of tourists who will prefer a list service, the magazine has also learned.
Investigations indicate that most athletes that arrive early for the event are first timers who may want to have a feel of the state before the event proper. Past participants mostly arrive few days to the event, the magazine was told.
The two categories of marathoners will need hotel accommodation for the duration of the competition, and may be after analysts in the hospitality business informed the magazine this week.
Some hotel managers told the magazine that the yearly event is a plus for their business, due to the patronage they enjoy from tourists.
The number of foreign athletes is still very small compared to local participants for the long distance race, but close watchers of the Access Bank Lagos Marathon told the magazine that the number is improving year on.
One manager who simply identified himself as Maxwell told the magazine that more than 10 foreign athletes had in the past lodged in his hotel. The hotel is in Ikeja. “They are mostly athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia, may be one white athlete from South Africa have used my hotel before” he said.
He said some of them stayed four to five days in the hotel after the tournament.
Some tourist guides told the magazine that they can’t wait for the marathon to commence. They said they enjoy cash flow during the period of the event. Apart from their usual charges, some of them said the fun is more when you are lucky to have an encounter with a generous ‘tourist’.
According to Taye who claimed to be a guide, he normally abandons his Okada for two to three days during the marathon” so as to make cool cash.” He said” there was a man from Brazil who once dashed me $100 after paying me for my service. He told me he enjoyed the trip and that he was adding the extra because I was very funny,” Taye told the magazine.
Apart from the hoteliers and guides, sellers of artifacts and local fabrics will also not be left out, according to checks made by the magazine.
In all, Access is the greatest beneficiary as a major promoter of the nation’s tourism business, analysts said.