World Cup tourism scores big

The South African Tourism
department is confident that foreign football fans in the country for the World
Cup are making a positive contribution to the economy – and that the benefits
will last long after the final whistle is blown.

“From a touristic point of view
this has been a fabulous opportunity, given the exposure that South Africa has
received all over the world,” said Thandiwe January-McLean, head of South
African Tourism.

Gillian Saunders, of accounting and
consulting firm Grant Thornton, said predictions are that South Africa will
make about R8.8-billion (US$1.1-billion) from tourism during the World Cup.
“That’s just a slice of the $12bn that the games are expected to generate for
the economy.”

Evidence of tourist interest in the
country can be seen in local bars and restaurants, which are packed daily with
foreign fans here to support their teams.

Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront has
become a major attraction for those attending matches at the city’s Green Point
stadium.

“On a daily basis it’s more or less
in the region of 100,000 people] coming through, with spikes on match days.
These loyal supporters travel with their teams. It’s absolutely fantastic,”
said V&A Waterfront spokesperson Annemie Liebenberg.

Cape Town hotels have reported that
accommodation close to the stadium has been almost booked out over the past
three weeks. Tour operators have also seen a 20 per cent increase in business
compared to June 2009.

According to South African Tourism,
hotels in Johannesburg, the country’s economic hub, are 85 per cent full. This
is despite local experts having to lower initial expectations, from 450,000
foreign visitors to 300,000 over the four-week period, due to a drop in ticket
sales and accommodation bookings.

Although the tournament is being
played during the country’s June and July winter season, traditionally
unpopular among foreign holiday-makers, tourist numbers have so far been on a
par with South Africa’s busy summer period – this has given us a second peak
season.

World Cup visitors in Durban say
they are so impressed with South African hospitality that they are willing to
become tourism ambassadors for the country when they return home. They have
also become used to the incessant noise of the blaring plastic horns, aka
vuvuzelas.

Durban mayor Obed Mlaba said he has
spoken to many tourists who have been impressed by South Africans’ warm,
welcoming spirit. “They will go back with a different view of our country. Many
came here thinking that they were visiting a very harsh and hostile country,
but they have been treated well and they are happy,” he said.

Mlaba has congratulated Durban’s
locals for helping make tourists feel safe and welcome around the stadium and
the city. “Although the authorities have done all the planning and
implementation, it is the local residents who have extended their hospitality
to local and foreign visitors.”

Even representatives in the smaller
host cities, such as Bloemfontein, Rustenburg and Port Elizabeth, say they have
been inundated with tourists who are clearly enjoying the local sites, bars,
restaurants and hotels.

“We sold the most beer we’ve ever
sold in the nine years we’ve been in existence,” said Sandy Nel, owner of News
Cafe in Port Elizabeth. Nel said the restaurant has sold over 3,000 units of
beer during the tournament so far, and has seen a 200 per cent rise in
turnover.

Port St Johns holiday resort owners
say they have also noticed an increase in the number of tourists since the
beginning of the World Cup. Although this small town along the Eastern Cape
coast was not chosen as a specific host centre, it has drawn in many tourists
attending matches in the province.

Fans say they like the area because
of its uniqueness and warm conditions. “We came here because we heard that
there’s a jungle all the way to the beach, and the weather is warmer here than
in Cape Town,” said Englishman Martin Bouwer.

“It has been great hosting people
from other countries. Tourists like this area because it is a stop-over between
Durban and Port Elizabeth,” local business owner Andy Jacobs added.

With all this positive feedback, it
seems the $12.9m South Africa spent on its World Cup marketing campaign was
well worth it. “The marketing benefits from hosting one of the world’s
most-watched sporting events have been invaluable,” January-McLean said.

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