In London yesterday, just a few days before the first match was the South African Minister for Tourism, Marthinus Van Schalkwyk. You would have thought he would be at home and welcoming visitors heading to the most high profile sporting piece of tourism that South Africa has held. But no, he was here addressing about 70 journalists and members of the travel community.
One reason was to emphasize that tourism was so important to the developing world and that after the World Cup was over, a marketing campaign would begin over here to encourage us to visit South Africa. They want to make it clear that South Africa wants visitors at any time of the year and the World Cup lasts for just a month. Money from tourism contributes about 8% of South Africa’s GDP. South Africa would naturally like to increase this figure so that when people travel there for the World Cup, they can not only watch the matches but, as he suggested, visit a safari park in the morning and then after the match goes into the rural areas. Almost as if choreographed with the minister’s statement in mind, the English footballers yesterday visited a game park.
Hosting the World Cup meant that money had to be spent on infrastructure so the visitor will find better roads, better airports, and upgraded trains. The equivalent of about $3.6 billion has been spent by the government and maybe half as much again by the private sector to make it easier and faster for the visitor to get around.
The minister saw the World Cup as part of a long-term plan to build tourism but tourism with responsibility. As befits a former environment minister, he emphasized that tourism growth must work in harmony with the environment.
Over 250,000 visitors are expected in South Africa over the next month. Some 25,000 might be from here. Ke Nako is the slogan for the World Cup and means something like “it’s time.” It’s time for Africa, the minister suggested, to show that it can deliver a successful major event. And you can’t get any more high profile events than this one. Having successfully held the rugby and cricket world cups, South Africa wants the football equivalent to being an eye-opener for visitors and the world.
They want to show they can hold big events but above all, they want to introduce you to all the other sights of their country and they see the World Cup as a way to do this.