As famous for its captivating landscapes as it is notorious for its tumultuous past, South Africa is cementing itself as a leader in African tourism. On June 11, 2010, the nation will become the first on the continent to host the largest sporting event in the world.
As millions of soccer enthusiasts flock to the 8th Annual 2010 FIFA World Cup, tourism officials anticipate the expansion of South Africa’s R50 billion travel industry. “The championship will be a showcase of the destination and South Africa will open up to millions more visitors wanting to experience the magic that the industry and destination will deliver in 2010,” says Sugen Pillay, global manager of events at South African Tourism. “It provides an opportunity to demonstrate our capacity as a nation to successfully host the biggest event in the world.”
A diverse nation offering a variety of experiences from vibrant nightlife to untamed wildlife, South Africa is experienced in hosting a variety of international sporting events, including the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and the 2003 Cricket World Cup. This time, however, the nine host cities have upped the ante, offering spectacular themes in ten stadiums throughout the country from the steel arch hovering 105m above Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium, with a cable car ride offering spectators a view of the Indian Ocean, to the 18 giraffe-like roof supports sprouting out of the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
Pillay believes the recent infrastructural upgrades taking place will launch South Africa as a sport tourism destination, “Stadiums are currently being upgraded and the new stadiums being built will compare with the best in the world.” He also believes that the nature of South Africans as friendly and hospitable will contribute to South Africa becoming a serious contender in future bids to host major international sports events.
With an estimated seating capacity of just under 4 million, and lodging options ranging from luxurious city hotels to national parks accommodations and guest houses, South African Tourism hopes that visitors will not only enjoy the tournament, but the country as well.
The economic benefits are expected to be felt across the board as visitors indulge in the nation’s culture and discover some of its best kept secrets. “From the farmer who supplies the vegetables to the owner of the B&B in the township, and from the artisan selling knickknacks or curios to the zoo keeper of museum guide,” suggests Edward Bergman, executive director of the Africa Travel Association. He anticipates the World Cup will impact South Africans on all levels.