tourism experts are convinced that South Africa’s historic hosting of the
Soccer World Cup in 2010 will provide a massive boost to the entire continent’s
travel industry. Foreign tourists continue to shy away from visiting Africa,
but it’s expected that at least 450,000 will visit South Africa for the
greatest sporting spectacle in the world. Africa, though, continues to struggle against its image of being wracked with
conflict, crime and disease. But the continent’s tourism sectors are hoping
the Soccer World Cup will improve this reputation.
deputy sports minister, Gert Oosthuizen, says Africa is set to reap the rewards
of his country’s “successful” hosting of the World Cup. According to him, work
on all the stadiums being constructed and upgraded for the globe’s largest
sporting event and other infrastructure development, such as transport network
improvements, will be completed ahead of schedule.
going very well so I think the major challenge is to just make sure that we
stay on track and we keep focus on the ball, and we will be there, well in
advance,” Oosthuizen maintains.
Lelei LeLaulu, a former United Nations official who now
directs a non-profit organization advocating sustainable tourism, says South
Africa’s Cup hosting represents the “single greatest opportunity” to boost
tourist numbers to Africa in “living memory.” He’s certain that the country
will not “miss the boat” in putting on an “excellent show” to prove to the
world that Africa is about far more than hunger, political conflicts and
disease, and will result in international travelers perceiving the continent as
one of the best places to vacation.
“The Cup in South Africa is a great thing. South Africa –
they’re carrying the flag not just for South Africa but for the continent as a
whole…. I applaud the amazing work that they have done to prepare for what will
probably be the best World Cup in memory,” LeLaulu enthuses.
the president of a U.S.-based company that develops sports infrastructure
internationally, agrees that the South Africans have so far done a “great job”
in making sure that the World Cup is an African event and not solely a South
Mandela took his historic oath as South Africa’s first democratic president, he
vowed to establish a South Africa for Africa,” says Gainey, who’s also a member
of South Africa’s World Cup Local Organizing Committee.
She adds that this
attitude is reflected today in the country’s World Cup organizers, who are
determined to involve the “whole of Africa” in the spectacle.
“When the president
of FIFA (the world governing body of soccer), Sepp Blatter, announced that S.A.
had won the right to host the 2010 event, it confirmed that S.A. had arrived in
the international community; it also signaled that ‘Africa is ready for prime
Gainey is sure that
whatever happens in South Africa in 2010 and the build-up to the event will
“leave the legacy for the rest of Africa.”
World Cup 2010
‘must invest in people’
professor of sports management at New York University, has been studying “some
of the travel and tourism legacies” of previous Soccer World Cups. He says he’s
found that none of the previous events left much behind that could be
Uruguay (former World Cup hosts) are (today) not key tourist destinations
because of infrastructure left behind by the World Cup,” he states.
South Africa’s Transport Minister, Jeff Radebe, says this time around, things
will be different. He says his country will invest almost $16 billion in
transport amenities ahead of the World Cup. Radebe says the amount includes
funds for improvements to airports and roads, and the creation of new rail and
maintains that the money will transform South Africa’s notoriously unreliable
transport system, and will leave a “legacy” after the tournament.
told a recent news conference, “We are driven by a desire to make sure that
South Africa becomes a destination of choice for tourists and business.”
But, according to
Boland, the only way to ensure that the 2010 World Cup in South Africa will be
a “lasting” and not a “one-off” success with minimal benefits for Africa is if
the organizers “invest in people” and not just infrastructure like huge
stadiums, fancy airports and speedy trains.
One of the most
important ways to invest in people, he says, is to emphasize the event’s
potential to boost tourism to Africa “for decades after the World Cup is over.”
“People must be
trained, providing them with skills so they can work in tourism and continue to
gain income once the Cup is over and the stadiums are empty shells,” Boland
He’s certain that
if the World Cup tourists have a good experience in South Africa, they’ll
return to their homelands to tell their friends and family “what an absolutely
fantastic time they had in Africa.”
marketing,” he says, will encourage many other international travelers to visit
the continent that’s up until now been largely ignored by foreign tourists.
“The ultimate goal
I think for the World Cup in South Africa is to highlight the beauty of Africa,
to highlight the opportunities there and to highlight the people there.”
opportunity to market Africa presented by the World Cup in S.A., says Boland,
will be “unsurpassed,” with the beauty of the continent flashing across
millions of television screens across the planet.
World Cup organizer
Nichelle Gainey says South Africa is on course to ensure that the event leaves
a lasting legacy in terms of tourism promotion.
“South Africa has a
program that they call the ‘Legacy Beyond 2010,’ which is an initiative that
provides programs and opportunities for people who are looking to continue to
do tourism in the country and to make sure that they have a stable base to do
this,” she says. “Another thing is a global awareness campaign called ‘Go For
Africa’. This’ll create also a long-lasting legacy that’s going to last way
beyond 2010. Funds will be set aside to develop tourism initiatives in Africa
way beyond 2010.”
‘Prophets of doom in for a surprise’
Lelei LeLaulu says the World Cup organizers must ensure
that the millions of travelers expected in South Africa in 2010 don’t confine
themselves to that country but are provided with “ample opportunity and
incentives” to experience other African nations.
“Most of the people going to South Africa, this’ll be the
first and probably only trip to Africa in their lifetime. Let’s give them the
opportunity to see the rest of Africa,” LeLaulu stresses. “Other countries in
Africa should take advantage of the Cup. Every other airline in Africa should be
offering two-day stopovers at a very good price to go to or from South Africa
for the Cup. It’s our greatest opportunity. Senegal, for example – only seven
hours away from the U.S. – should be offering two-day stopovers filled with
entertainment for American soccer fans who will be en route to the World Cup in
South Africa – to and from.”
Delpy Neirotti, professor of sports management and tourism at George Washington
University and author of about 30 publications about her field of expertise,
says World Cup organizers must “immediately” begin pitching visits to other
African countries to potential visitors to the event.
people are going to be heading over to South Africa for the Cup. Let’s make
sure that they have stopovers (in other African countries). Tourism people must
work with their airlines to provide that at no extra cost. And then also make
sure that these soccer tourists have a lot of entertainment at the stopover
destinations,” advises Neirotti, who herself has attended a number of previous
Oosthuizen, the South African deputy sports minister, says his homeland is “not
a selfish nation” and there’s nothing his compatriots would like better than to
see Africa becoming the world’s premiere tourist destination as a result of the
2010 World Cup.
But Oosthuizen also says he’s tired of skeptics who are
continually condemning “Africa’s World Cup” to failure. He has a message for
the people he brands “prophets of doom.”
“You’re in for a surprise.
The World Cup will be hosted in 2010 on a continent undergoing far-reaching
changes and development. The sooner perhaps you take note of what’s happening
on the continent of Africa, the better for yourself. You may find there are
wonderful opportunities (in Africa) you are not unearthing because of this
negative perception you have.”