FIFA World Cup 2003 – A missed tourism opportunity for South Africa

The FIFA World Cup in South Africa will soon be upon us and as with any worldwide event like this, there is immense public debate of how well the preparations are going. For South Africa, this is the first time they have hosted the FIFA World Cup and the eyes of the world will be upon them, perhaps with even more scrutiny than previous hosts. This is a magnificent opportunity to sell this wonderful country and all it has to offer international visitors. 
The latest reports are that ticket sales are not going as well as hoped and some qualifying nations are reporting public concerns over safety for their teams and supporters. South Africa has invested a huge sum of money in preparing the stadia and putting in place transport infrastructure to ensure the games are enjoyed by all the fans. Perhaps the most concerning areas for potential fans, looking to attend the World Cup, are the costs for accommodation and internal flights.
I am aware of prices for internal flights being offered at 4 to 5 times their normal price for the time of year. This doesn’t just impact fans but also those living in South Africa. In their wisdom, the government has decided that their will be a national school holiday throughout the World Cup period. For working parents this presents enough problems, but if you were to contemplate going away on holiday during this time then you will come up against the same problem that fans are having – extortionate prices! There is currently an investigation underway involving a number of the key airline carriers in South Africa around price fixing – this is further exacerbated by the complete lack of flights during this time. Hopefully the government will get on top of this and sort out this situation, as it will undoubtedly put many fans off.
The second area of concern is accommodation prices. At this point it is worth pointing out that after Sydney hosted the last Olympics, instead of seeing an upturn in visitors after the event, there was a dramatic decrease in tourists for the next three years! Much of this decrease in tourism was put down to the prices being charged during the Olympics. The same thing is happening in South Africa. Many accommodation owners are charging 5, 6 7+ times more than their normal rates. This short term profiteering, known as ‘gouging‘, is ridiculous. Fans are being “ripped off” and this is leaving many football supporters with the only decision not to come to South Africa. 
This is such a shame as the quality of the accommodation offered by guest houses, B&B’s and self catering owners is generally far higher than that in many other countries. Of course, there will always be corporate packages that will take up these high prices to entertain their clients but for the average football fan this will be a World Cup that is an expense too far. What a shame when the country has so much to offer fans during their breaks between games. 
I really feel this is going to be a “lost opportunity” for the South Africa tourism industry and that venue owners are going to regret the high prices they are charging. Hopefully they will come to their senses, along with the airlines, and lower their prices. Otherwise how else will the numbers coming to the World Cup reach anywhere near the expected 1 million.
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