World Cup visitors to stay longer and spend more

Johannesburg – The number of World Cup visitors won’t match previous expectations, but those who are likely to visit the country will stay longer and spend more, advisory firm Grant Thornton said on Wednesday.

“Indications are that overseas tourists will stay an average of 18 days, compared to the 14 days used in the original projections,” said Gillian Saunders, principal of Grant Thornton Strategic Solutions. “Average overseas tourist spend per trip is also forecast to be up, at R30 200, compared to the R22 000 used before.”

The average spend forecast is based on an analysis of current tourist spend and past tourist expenditure at other sporting events, as well as a dipstick survey of 174 possible visitors. All ticket sale estimates exclude the current sales phase.

“It wasn’t a full statistical survey, but I don’t think the estimations are unreasonable,” said Imara SP Reid senior equities analyst Warwick Lucas. “But there are other variables to consider, like what teams advance or get knocked out.”

But Citi Bank chief economist Jean Francois Mercier believes the estimates are somewhat hopeful.

“I was surprised to see a jump in spend and length of stay and I would say it’s a bit on the optimistic side,” he said.

The World Cup’s total contribution to the South African economy is estimated to be R55.3bn, of which R8.8bn accounts for foreign tourism spend.

As a result, foreign tourism is expected to account for 16% of the gross economic impact, which is estimated to be R93bn, with 62% expected to be generated before the tournament and only 38% during the course of this year.

The total 2010 gross domestic product contribution is estimated to be 1.72%.

“This is in line with our expectations,” said Lucas. “At the end of the day it’s a net benefit, which is important to note.”

Grant Thornton has however revised its estimated World Cup visitors down from 483 000 to 373 000, which includes non-ticketholding visitors.

“Their initial estimate was done in 2006, so this adjustment is not unexpected,” said Lucas.

“It’s a realistic adjustment,” said Mercier, “especially if you consider that the recession has really hurt European nations.”

Some 105 000 of the 373 000 visitors to South Africa over this period are expected to be non-ticketholders, 85 000 of whom would come from Africa.

“This makes a lot of sense because ticketing in Africa didn’t go so well,” said Lucas. “But again, this could vary considerably and I think a lot of people will book on the fly.”

A total of 228 500 overseas ticketholders are projected to visit South Africa, accounting for 38% of ticket sales.

The biggest adjustment was the number of African ticketholders entering the country, which has dropped 77% from 48 145 to a mere 11 300.

“Given the fact that Africa is a football-loving continent, this indicates that there has been a failure in ticket distribution channels and unaffordable pricing,” said Saunders.

But fewer visitors weren’t necessarily a disadvantage, she said.

“There is a silver lining to fewer visitors,” Saunders said. “We can handle them better and give them a better experience.”


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