World cup email scare overrated

21/01/2010 at 17:15 13 comments

If one would believe travel agents, South Africans living abroad should ditch the idea of visiting their native country during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. South African at home should also refrain from seeing games. Overbooked hotels, unavailable car hire and impossible airports some of the reasons. Nonsense says tax and specialist advisory services firm Grant Thornton South Africa.

Over the past years, Grant Thornton South Africa has monitored on the various important impacts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup on South Africa and its economy. The firm estimates that 483,000 tourists (including 151,000 from Africa) will travel to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which will result in 8.5 billion in foreign spending.

Gillian Saunders, director of Strategic Solutions at Grant Thornton South Africa said in a press release that the e-mail communication is causing unnecessary panic. “It is interesting to note that in our highest tourism month of the year South Africa already hosts almost 870,000 foreign tourists, so there’s no doubt our nation and current tourism infrastructure can cope with the influx of additional visitors during the World Cup,” she said, adding that ” visitors won’t all be in South Africa in the same town all at once and, although there will be certain crunch peak periods, overall it shouldn’t impact South Africans’ daily schedules too dramatically.”

Like peak season in summer, which is around December and January, there certainly will be peak periods during the 2010 FIFA World Cup at host cities around South Africa. Is is expected that the large numbers of visitors will impact South Africa’s airports, car hire and hotel accommodation during scheduled games in these specific locations.

Grant Thornton underlines that concerned citizens should remember that “there are only matches on some of the 31 days (from 4 to 8 days, except Johannesburg with 15 days). Including Friday evenings, 25 matches are on weekends and a further 13 are in the evenings – so only 26 matches (40%) are during working hours – over 9 cities and 20 working days!”

Those peaks will however be severe. For example, at times when games are scheduled in the Gauteng region, there is expected to be a peak bed demand of anything from 110,000 to 185,000. “Although this will be just for a couple of days,” says Saunders “the Gauteng region has an estimated tourist bed supply of some 72,000 and visitors will either stay elsewhere or use alternatives such as home-stays and university accommodation. The peak will also put pressure on airports and transport termini, roads, restaurants and accommodation.”

But a high number of fans in our host cities is a good thing for tourism. When Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup football event, foreign overnight stays in host cities were 31% higher than during the same period the previous year.

Grant Thornton warns South Africans to pay attention to crunch times at airports. High international arrival congestion at airports can be expected to peak during pre-event arrivals with about 190,000 visitors predicted to be in the country by day three, i.e. by 13 June 2010. Fans will be starting to trickle into the country 14 days before this date, and the arrivals are expected to peak at 19,000 per day.

“Then, at the end of the Group Phase, around 28-30 June, when group events are concluded and quarter finals begin, we predict peak departures to reach about 17,000 people daily,” adds Saunders.

Inter-city travel demands during the group phase will be huge and we can expect congestion at airports, particularly after games finish and after evening games as many fans travel back to their base.

Road congestion is a given, but this too will depend on when host cities will feature key matches. The good news is that in most cases games have been planned out of peak traffic times, so that fans travelling to football matches shouldn’t impact regular South Africans on their way to work.

“The message is simple,” says Saunders. “South Africans will need to deal with accommodation demand spikes, increased road congestion at times and arrival and departure peaks at airports.

“But the World Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our nation. We all need to look beyond the challenges, and start to focus on making our visitors feel welcome to make sure the World Cup counts as one of the best holidays these fans have ever had. Enjoy the fantastic spectacle and atmosphere. It’s going to be phenomenal!”

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