The 'fans will come'

Tamlyn Stewart

Tamlyn Stewart

The global economic meltdown is likely to rain on fans' plans to attend the 2010 Fifa World Cup, most South Africans believe.

A survey by Johannesburg-based market research company African Response asked 400 South Africans whether they thought the financial crisis would mean fewer-than-expected visitors in 2010, and 63percent said "Yes".

Only 20percent said visitor numbers would be unaffected and 17percent said they were unsure.

Statistics South Africa reported yesterday that the total number of foreign travellers from Africa and overseas to South Africa rose 4,6percent year-on-year in October, to 839260.

But the number of overseas arrivals fell 6,4percent compared to October last year, a dip the Tourism Business Council of South Africa attributes to the global financial crisis.

However, the council said it was confident that the country would still attract the number of tourists it was hoping for.

"We don't believe that there will be fewer people coming," said Reynold Thakhuli, PR and communications manager for the council. "We have the Confederations Cup, the Lions Tour and Miss World again next year," he said.

"So we believe all these events will play a very significant role in boosting (tourism).

"But the African market has been quite consistent in terms of growth," he said.

Stats SA reported that of the foreign arrivals, more than 70percent were from other African countries, while just over 25percent were from overseas.

And visitors from other African countries rose 8,7percent in October, compared to a year ago.

Thakhuli said South Africa had enjoyed strong growth in tourism for the last several years until May this year, when tourism numbers had dipped - a trend Thakhuli attributed to the global economic downturn.

He added that the council was marketing South Africa to try and counteract the negative effects of the economic slowdown. "We are looking at the countries that have a history of football and are likely to be participating and trying to lure those countries. Particular provinces are deciding which countries they want to attract."

"I think it will pick up again in January because of the particular events in the country next year, said Thakhuli.