Keeping the Cup full
Attracting recent soccer tourists to come back for more
FOUR WEEKS AFTER the final Soccer World Cup whistle blew at Soccer City, Tourism Enterprise Partnership CE Siva Pillay is still flushed with the euphoria of South Africa successfully pulling off the greatest sporting event in the world. And understandably so.
The event turned out to be the biggest “brand explosion” – as Pillay refers to it – SA has ever experienced. “Not only were we able to seamlessly handle the logistical side of hosting the tournament but we also stunned soccer fans worldwide with our warmth and hospitality. We managed within a mere four weeks to blow some major myths about our country and our people. Perceptions that SA was unsafe and unfriendly, our infrastructure Third World and our products and services second rate have all been shattered.’’
Ultimately, says Pillay, we as South Africans again proved to the world and ourselves we have a collective talent to produce miracles. Although official Statistics SA figures aren’t yet available, Pillay is confident the most recent Grant Thornton estimate of around 370 000 soccer fans flocking to SA for the event was comfortably exceeded. “Early indications are that at least 500 000 foreigners came to SA for the World Cup.’’
Pillay predicts the exposure SA received through the multiplier effect of those fans from overseas visiting SA – coupled to live match feeds to at least 3bn television viewers worldwide – will be felt for “years to come”.
But while Pillay is an avid Brand SA supporter he has no illusions about the challenges facing SA’s tourism industry. “Word of mouth alone won’t keep the tourism wave going for ever.’’ Pillay, who last year served on a panel of 32 private and public sector tourism experts to help SA’s Tourism Ministry develop a new national strategy, says SA’s hospitality and tourism industry is sadly still not doing a good job in selling this country and its assets overseas.
Positioning SA as a world-class tourism destination has always been top of mind for Pillay. So much so he wrote the thesis for his MBA in 2001 on unlocking SA’s tourism potential. Nine years on, Pillay believes SA has still only scratched the surface in discovering, packaging and promoting SA’s wealth of tourism offerings. “It’s high time we start blowing our own vuvuzelas and telling the world about our unique and unmistakably South African products and experiences. Winking in the dark will no longer suffice if we want to capitalise on the momentum created by the World Cup.’’
Pillay says the event has opened SA up to markets in Asia and South America worth billions in potential tourism spend. Little headway has been made in those regions over the past 20 years to sell SA as a travel destination of choice. Pillay says a massive marketing spend is now required in those countries, from both Government and the private sector, to capitalise on the World Cup’s momentum. “Even if we get only 1% more tourists from Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand on the back of World Cup exposure over the next five years, foreign tourist arrivals to SA would be boosted by millions.’’
South America is another region where SA now has the opportunity to make huge inroads in attracting more tourists. Pillay notes the fact five South American soccer teams went through to the quarter finals created massive awareness of SA as a potential travel destination. “And South America is only a nine-hour flight away from SA – a key driver of future tourism growth.”
Pillay says every country that’s hosted a Soccer World Cup to date reported growth in foreign tourist numbers of at least 10%/ year over the three to five years following the event. He believes SA has the potential to far exceed that level of growth, with 20% to 30%/year more than likely over the next five years. “That’s because growth will
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