SA sees tourism gold after World Cup

South African tourism operators are seeing marketing gold in the Soccer World Cup, a chance to sell the country as a destination to foreign travellers long after the games are over.

“We have no doubt that stadiums and hotels will be full. There is a lot of interest in the World Cup. We are confident,” said Didi Moyle, head of the South African Tourism Board.

She was speaking in Durban at a conference this month where hundreds of tourism operators gathered to pitch special World Cup packages that include housing, transport and of course, the matches.

But the real benefits of the World Cup—which runs from June 11 to July 11 2010—may only be felt later, after South Africa enjoys the international spotlight from the games.

“We don’t really target football fans but everybody will speak about South Africa.
It is important for the future,” said Christopher Steenber of Just Done It Expeditions in Cape Town, which rents 4x4s stocked with camping gear.

Gateway Tours and Safaris, which saw 70% of its reservations cancelled for 2009, said the tournament represented a marketing opportunity that could help the industry recover from a dismal year with bookings hit by the global economic crisis.

“I don’t think that so much people will come to South Africa for the World Cup. It is too expensive for the Europeans,” said Johan Brits, the company’s director. “But it is a good advertising for the country.”

South Africa expects 450 000 foreign visitors to visit the country for the World Cup.

That’s far less than the 1,3-million foreigners who went to Germany for the last tournament, but tourism officials note that for most fans from Europe and the Americas, travelling to South Africa means an expensive, long-haul flight.

The tourism board expects a total of 10-million visitors during the year for 2010—about the same number as visited last year and likely more than this year.

The bounce in arrivals should help tourism in SA grow by 5,5% in 2010, after sluggish growth of 1% to 3% this year, according to the board’s data.

After criticism about a slow start to the country’s marketing campaign, advertisements and promotions are now swinging into gear.

TV commercials are promoting the “diski”, a dance inspired by the movements of football players, which tourism authorities hope will become a symbol of the games and a macarena-type global phenomenon.

The adverts are being broadcast locally and internationally with the aim of reaching more than 600-million viewers before the World Cup.

GRS Tours, which rents luxury cars in Cape Town, said they have already been having a positive response to World Cup excitement.

“We had good contacts with international representatives, especially with the French. We hope to go into their market,” said Alister Oberem, head of the company.

“People speak about the crisis but we don’t really feel it. The World Cup will bring us a lot of business.”

Moyle said the Tourism Board hopes the advertising and the World Cup spotlight will convince fans who do come to stay longer and explore more of the country.

“When they come to South Africa, we want that people realise that there are more things that they have not seen,” Moyle said.

“It could make them come back.”

“So we will give information when people are there. We are a welcoming nation. We also want to show how welcoming people are. You can’t imagine when you haven’t seen it,” she added. - AFP

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