To the World Cup … and back again?

An analysis of the latest foreign tourist arrival statistics shows that about 400 000 tourists visited South Africa during the Soccer World Cup held earlier this year.

In a statement on Wednesday, Grant Thornton said this had been higher than the 373 000 figure the consultancy had predicted.

“Total overseas visitors could easily be around the 270 000 mark, with a possible 130 000 African visitors to SA for the event.”

Grant Thornton had assessed the June and July 2010 foreign arrivals released by Statistics SA last week.

This generated a preliminary total Fifa World Cup visitor figure, by combining the June data with estimates for the first 11 days of July’s statistics.

“The figure has been adjusted to take into consideration the displacement factor of regular tourists who opted not to visit SA during the event as well as those tourists who were in the country but did not come for the football.”

Grant Thornton emphasised that analysis of other surveys was still outstanding with South African Tourism’s departure surveys for the June-July Cup period still to be released.

Michael Tatalias, CEO of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa), said that with tangible data presently available, it was important to note that the arrivals data could be interpreted “in a variety of ways”.

Benefits to tourism industry
However, the data confirmed that the tourism industry benefited “from significant numbers of additional arrivals”.

Gillian Saunders, head of Grant Thornton’s advisory services in Johannesburg, said the data had been adjusted to make it as “useful and as realistic” as possible given current information available.

“There is no doubt we saw pretty high levels of visitation possibly exceeding our latter projections.”

Grant Thornton’s prediction in April this year of 274 000 total overseas visitors seemed to be very well aligned to the current data of about 270 000.

“But we seem to have significantly under-estimated African air arrivals,” Saunders said.

“What’s concerning, though, is that ticket sales data did not support these arrival numbers.”

Saunders postulated that perhaps the miscalculation in terms of African air arrivals could be attributed to many thousands of these arrivals being VIPs, hospitality or Fifa Federation Fans.

“The alternative could be that these additional African visitors bought over-the-counter tickets during phase five, or even that they utilised pre-purchased SA-resident tickets.”

According to Saunders, it was far more likely to be tickets sold within South Africa.

Tatalias said it had been expected that Africans based in South Africa had bought tickets locally and then Africans had travelled to the country to utilise these tickets.

“We also believe that many Africans who visited SA for the event attended fan fests rather than games at stadia.”

In terms of cross border African arrivals — not by air — there was only a 4% increase during the World Cup period which was 18 percentage points (3%) lower than expected for the period, given the trends year-to-date.

However, African air arrivals were up a surprising 248% or 118 000, from 47 783 to 166 360.

“With a higher mix of African air compared to African cross-border, we would expect greater spends by African tourists than we predicted,” Saunders said.

“Also with more African visitors than we estimated, the overall impact on national spend may turn out to be higher than our last forecasts.”

Early departures
Declines noted for arrivals from July 1 to 11 compared to visitors for the equivalent 11-day period in July 2009 were from those countries whose teams were knocked out early from the football event — the UK ( -27,6%), Italy (-10,5%), and France (-14,7%).

“Compared to massive increases in arrivals from these countries during June 2010 (UK +15%; Italy +74%; and France +166%) to numbers in June 2009, it’s clear that as teams dropped out, visitors stopped coming which is directly visible in the July 2010 data,” Tatalias said.

Increases in arrivals were — as expected — from nations who went into the later rounds of the tournament such as Germany (+95,9%), The Netherlands (+33,1%) and Spain (+196,9%).

These escalations of visitors were over and above massive numbers recorded for June 2010 in comparison to the same month last year –Germany (+109%), The Netherlands (+164%) and Spain (+415%).

“The dramatic increases in air arrivals — from South America [Mexico in particular], admittedly off a low base; and now from Africa by air too makes us question, now — what do we have to do to get them back again far more regularly?” Tatalias said.

Tatalias said the significant growth combined with the positive visibility that South Africa received in Argentina during the 2007 Rugby World Cup, and the efforts by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to integrate and improve trade with Africa and South Africa, had also boosted South Africa’s reputation and visibility.

Saunders said the nation needed to realise that the event overall had been “extremely successful”, and that it had delivered on a range of tangible and intangible benefits internally to South Africa and externally to the world. – Sapa

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Janice Roberts
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