South Africa’s tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Tuesday 8th May, talked to business partners in London about the impacts and opportunities that big events like the soccer World Cup can bring to tourism. The meeting was organised by Visa, the payments technology company, which is also sponsoring a new Portal of Tourism specialising on mega events, at the DeHaan Institute, University of Nottingham.
As Professor Leo Jago, acting director at the DeHaan Institute, explains ‘major events offer huge potential for both developed and developing countries, but most of the time we don’t share enough knowledge about them, so that the same mistakes are often repeated over and over’. The new Portal, instead, will allow the sharing of knowledge developed on big events through research, summits, evaluations and a think tank.
The gathering at the Hotel Meridien, was indeed a very good opportunity for the minister to share SA’s hopes and future plans, and for Prof Geoffrey Lipman, assistant secretary-general, of the IN’s world tourism organisation (UNWTO)to explain the relevance of the research institute.
Van Schalkwyk said big events have an equally huge business potential that SA is ready to exploit. Tourism in SA has grown and now represents 8% of the country’s GDP, and only takes account of amusement tourism. Van Schalkwyk said a successful hosting of the World Cup will ensure further and stable growth in the industry.
‘It is in the view of a future development in this sector that the country has invested US$3.5 billion in developing SA infrastructure’, the minister explains. This long term investment will guarantee good infrastructure for many years to come, a general improved condition of football pitches all over the country and the support of a united people. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to visit SA during the World Cup, but an even bigger wave will follow after the tournament and the country will be ready for that moment. ‘We are building our country’s profile, we are investing in the future’ says van Schalkwyk.
It is a very exciting moment for SA, but also a test for the country. As the minister puts it, ‘if South Africa does a good job of hosting the World Cup it will be a very important sign for all developing countries.’
However, the country is no stranger to organising big events; a proof is the ‘95 Rugby World Cup and the many other international sports events it has hosted.
Talking just before the beginning of the event, the tourism minister was comfortable and satisfied with the job done, saying ‘SA is now ready to host the world, hoping that foreigners will enjoy a really African World Cup and experiencing a continent that not everybody had the chance to visit before’.
His only regrets, which also comes out as a note for future events, is that the ticketing distribution, mainly organised through online services, has probably made it impossible for a lot of people across Africa to attend the games. ‘The problem in many African countries, where a middle class is developing, is not the price of the tickets, as many Europeans think. But the difficulty of buying tickets online’. One of the reasons for this is the lack of the widespread use of credit and debit cards and other set details required and designed for the purpose of online purchasing.