Keep­ing the Cup full

At­tract­ing re­cent soc­cer tourists to come back for more

Finweek English Edition - - People -

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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