South Africa’s World Cup visitation exceeds projections

SOUTH AFRICA The total number of overnight visitors to South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup is estimated at 400,000, higher than the 373,000 predicted in April by tourism advisory firm Grant Thornton.

Grant Thornton pegs the number of overseas visitors at approximately 270,000 with the remaining 130,000 coming from elsewhere in Africa.The estimates are based on arrival data from Statistics South Africa. The figure has been adjusted to consider displacement of regular tourists who opted not to visit South Africa during the event, as well as those tourists who were in the country but did not come for the tournament.

“With tangible data now available, it’s important to note that the arrivals data can be interpreted in a variety of ways, but that what it confirms is that the tourism industry benefitted from significant numbers of additional arrivals,” says Michael Tatalias, CEO of Southern Africa Tourism Services Association.

The April projection of 274,000 total overseas visitors seems to be on target, but Grant Thornton dramatically underestimated the number of African air arrivals by about 87%. However, there was only a 4% increase in African cross-border arrivals by land during the World Cup period, 3% lower than expected for the period given the trends year to date.

“With a higher mix of African air compared to African cross-border, we would expect greater spends by African tourists than we predicted,” says Gillian Saunders, head of advisory services for Grant Thornton. “Also with more African visitors than we estimated, the overall impact on national spend may turn out to be higher than our last forecasts.”

Overall, Grant Thornton calls the event “extremely successful” in that it delivered on a range of tangible and intangible benefits internally to South Africa and externally to the world. “The data now shows on whatever dimension you measure it that there were huge benefits for our tourism industry in an offseason period when the recession was still biting,” Tatalias says.