World Cup tourism dividend dissipates?
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, May 16 -- South Africa has recorded modest growth in tourism arrivals for 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. Off the back of a 15.1% increase in 2010 which can largely be attributed to arrivals for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the 3.3% in 2011 increase indicates that the tournament did not yield sustainable growth for the tourism industry.
There were nearly 46 000 fewer arrivals from Europe with the most significant losses coming out of the United Kingdom which saw a 7.2% decline. This compared to a 1.5% increase from 446 369 in 2009 to 453 030 in 2010.
“The World Cup cushioned us from the difficulties facing the European market in 2010. Given that Europe’s woes are not over yet, a drop in tourists from this market in 2011 was expected as the continent’s price conscious consumers chose instead to travel for shorter periods of time closer to home and adapt their spending patterns,” said Minister of Tourism Mr Marthinus van Schalkwyk, adding that excessive Air Passenger Duty taxes were also having a detrimental impact on outbound travel from the UK.
Losses in Latin America
Of the Latin American markets that saw massive arrivals in 2010, Brazil is the only country to have held on to the gains, growing by a further 0.8% in 2011 and attracting over 54 000 tourists in 2011. Overall arrivals from South and Central America were down by 27.3%.
CEO of the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA), Michael Tatalias believes that South Africa has not maximised the potential interest generated by the World Cup.
He contends that although the co-ordinated efforts of government departments before the World Cup helped the country to deliver an exceptionally good global event, the lack of a country brand communications strategy and the lack of follow up in terms of bilateral air service agreements with the governments in Latin America have contributed to the sharp decline in arrivals from those markets.
“Air access out of South America has been dismal. People travelled via different hubs and did two stops to get here for the World Cup. To grow the market we need direct access and the only airline flying direct is SAA, but through Sao Paulo, which means that travellers from Argentina and Chile still need to connect via Brazil,” he explained.
Out of North America, there were approximately 30 000 fans from the USA at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. This represented a 22.6 percent increase in US arrivals to South Africa in 2010. Arrivals from this market grew by a further 1.9% in 2011 bringing total arrivals from the USA to 287 614 for the year.
Strong growth in Asia
Despite limited air access out of India, tourist arrivals from the country grew by 26.2% to 90 367 visitors for the first time in 2011. Arrivals from India are expected to reach the 100 000 by the end of next year however Tatalias warns that this could be hindered by the restrictive visa process.
“Tour operators from India are willing to sell South Africa but they complain that the visa process is too cumbersome. It is paper-based and too lengthy,” Tatalias commented.
Other gains in Asia included a 24.3% increase in tourists from China to reach 84 883 arrivals from China in 2011, with growth from Asia overall up by 14.6%.
Martin Wiest, CEO of Tourvest destination management, does not attribute growth out of these markets to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“Growth in arrivals out of China and India is the result of the strong economic growth from these markets overall. This is a trend we saw in Germany as well.”
Wiest said that the World Cup had been hugely successful for his company and he believed that the country would see the benefit of hosting tournament but that this would become apparent in the long-term.
No short term benefit
However he noted that in the short term, the global economic crisis has had a significantly negative effect on the key European source markets for South Africa.
Arrivals from the France and the Netherlands were down 8.6% and 8.3% respectively, while Italy remained unchanged. Germany bucked the trend and recorded an additional 19 974 arrivals, an increase of 9.3% over 2010. However, overall arrivals from Europe were down 3.5%.
In a year in which World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reported an increase in arrivals to sub-Saharan Africa at 7%, South Africa is lagging behind its neighbours and will have to improve its efforts to remove barriers to travel in order to increase its share of the global tourism market.
South African Tourism
Statistics South Africa
Department of Tourism