Tuesday, July 6, 2010



New Vision
Monday, 5th July, 2010


South Africa was on Monday tallying up a tourism windfall forecast to reach $1b as the World Cup entered the last stretch. The Netherlands and Uruguay play their semi-final on Tuesday in Cape Town, followed the next day in Durban by Germany against Spain.

About 700 premier tickets are left for each match, running at $600 each, according to FIFA.

But many South Africans were turning their attention past the final on Sunday in Johannesburg’s Soccer City to try to measure the economic impact of the tourism boom during what is normally the country’s low season.
Arrivals were up about 25% compared to last June, meaning an extra 200,000 foreign visitors came to the country, according to organisers.

Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said the country’s 100 million-dollar marketing campaign in the months leading up to the World Cup had also driven up arrivals in the first quarter, South Africa’s most important tourism season.

More than 1.9 million tourists visited from January to March, up nearly 21% from the year before, he said, adding that the marketing benefits of the World Cup would be felt for years to come.

“The championship will be recorded in the history books as one of the best showcases ever for South Africa and Africa,” he said in a statement.

“The overwhelming positive international coverage has surpassed even our most optimistic expectations,” he added.
“The goodwill that has been unlocked cannot be measured in monetary terms.”

South Africa is priding itself on overcoming worries about its high crime rate and its lack of public transport, which critics had contended made the country unsuitable as World Cup host.

With just days until the final, the tournament has gone off without major incident while sparking an outpouring of national unity that Archbishop Desmond Tutu has compared to the euphoria experienced at the fall of apartheid in 1994.

The country looks on track to earn nearly nine billion rands ($1.1b) from World Cup fans, according to private consultancy Grant Thornton.

But initial forecasts of 450,000 fans were way over the top, at least partly a result of rosy expectations meeting economic reality after the global recession.
“Original estimates that 450,000 fans would be descending on South Africa for the World Cup were a little misleading,” said South African Football Association travel agent Nazeer Camaroodien.

“A figure somewhat in excess of 250,000 now looks nearer the mark,” he told the Sapa news agency.

Preparations for the closing show Sunday remain a closely guarded secret, but the main question is whether Nelson Mandela will be there.
South Africa’s first black president cancelled a planned appearance at the June 11 opening, after his great-granddaughter was killed in a car accident.

The Nobel laureate turns 92 one week after the final and appears in increasingly frail health. His foundation says no decision has been made yet on whether he will attend, and his schedule is prone to change at the last minute.

Meanwhile unions representing 1.3 million South African government workers have threatened to strike within two weeks but any stoppage was unlikely to disrupt the World Cup, which ends on Sunday.

A number of groups have threatened industrial action during the soccer tournament, which is being staged for the first time in Africa, and any disruption would embarrass President Jacob Zuma and his government.

But the unions representing workers including nurses, police officers, teachers, immigration staff and other government officials said on Monday they may take two weeks to mobilise members and still hoped for a resolution.

“We are left with no other option, but to consider the most severe option to us, which is strike action,” said John Malukele, chief negotiator for the union federation COSATU.

Labour unions have used the World Cup to bargain for higher wages, which analysts warn could in the long run harm the country's ability to attract investment and create jobs as it recovers from its first recession in 17 years.

“The long term negative will be on higher inflation; salary costs will have to absorbed and will be given to the consumer at some stage,” said Elize Kruger, an economist at KADD Capital.

Fourteen unions affiliated with the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and Independent Labour Caucus were seeking wage increases of 8.5 percent, about double the inflation rate, and a doubling of housing allowances to 1,000 rand ($135) a month.