Tourism industry is unfazed by Cup flop

THE tourism industry is fired up for the coming 2010 Fifa World Cup despite a drastic reduction in the expected number of foreign tourists.

Business admits, though, that the decrease in the number of tourists expected has had a negative effect on bookings, the industry and the country's economy in general.

But tourism players are still optimistic that bookings will increase as the tournament draws nearer.

This view was expressed by many among the 1200 tourism businesses exhibiting at this year's annual Tourism Indaba in Durban.

The indaba, held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC complex from Friday, ends tomorrow.

It was officially opened by President Jacob Zuma on Saturday night.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) assured tour operators that its promised free transfer for World Cup match ticket holders to stadiums was on track.

"We will issue people with a travel pass that will enable the commuter to get free access to our trains heading for the stadiums. The pass will differ in colour from each municipality participating in the games," Paul Zikhali, Prasa's 2010 programme manager, said.

Alistair Rankin of the Safari Adventure Company said the excitement was great.

"We suffered a knock with the recession but the bookings are starting to pick up as the tournament draws nearer," he said.

Safari Adventure Company has 18 lodges and camp sites in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

"When people visit South Africa for the World Cup they will decide to visit neighbouring countries to see what's happening there," Rankin said.

Siyanda Mbonambi of Syavaya Travel and Tours said they were geared up for the tournament.

"We had to cater for languages such as Slovak, ensure that at the airport visitors get water, newspapers and luggage handlers and are shown where they can do money exchanges immediately," Mbonambi said.

He said that they had formed relationships with hotels in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town to give visitors more comprehensive packages.

"It is a great opportunity for us to exhibit here. It allows us to meet international tourists and other people who are key role players in our industry," Mbonambi said.

Meanwhile, Durban has won the right to host the Tourism Indaba for the next five years, Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk announced on Saturday night.

The indaba has been running for 30 years and KwaZulu-Natal has hosted it for 21 years.