World Cup to leave lasting legacy for SA

Pretoria - In less than 24 days South Africa will host the first African World Cup which is not only expected to bring in tourists in their numbers but also create a lasting legacy.

Independent consulting and accounting firm Grant Thornton in April updated their projections about the number of people expected to visit the country over the course of the tournament to 373 000 which is down from 483 000. The firm adds that some of the 105 000 visitors to South Africa over the course of the month-long spectacle are expected not to hold tickets for the tournament.

However, Nedbank senior economist Nicky Weimar said the number was unlikely.

"Based on our estimates we are likely to have 150 000 to 250 000 people and this is likely to translate to between 0.2 and 0.5 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth dependent on how much people spend," said Weimer.

Weimar said the country should not be too concerned about the numbers of people coming into the country for the tournament.

"Even if we don't get the numbers or the numbers are lower, the World Cup will leave an important legacy for instance it brought infrastructure spending which is underway that is essential for the long term growth rate. Secondly it will grow tourism in structural bounds giving our country exposure. It will put our country on the map and will continue to boost tourism for years going into the future," she said.

Weimar said though data showed that consumer spending was constrained, it could change over the course of the World Cup. "The World Cup will lift the mood although people will remain cautious about their spending," she added.

Africa's first World Cup is going to kick-off on 11 June to much excitement among South Africans with the International Marketing Council (IMC) running several marketing campaigns that are aimed at building national pride and unity.

Among some of these campaigns is the Fly the Flag Campaign, Football Fridays and the People's Bus.

"These initiatives are being very well received and we are increasingly seeing cars, homes and offices draped in the national flag," the IMC's Communications Manager Kalay Maistry told BuaNews.

The People's Bus, which floor resembles a football pitch, has foosball tables, World Cup trivia and a mini cinema showing highlights of past matches, is taking the excitement of the upcoming tournament to people across the country.

Asked about the mood ahead of kick-off abroad Maistry said: "Internationally football fans are extremely excited and are really looking forward to the kick-off of the world's largest football spectacle."

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (SACCI) chief executive officer Neren Rau said indications of actual arrivals will be lower than originally projected with supporting evidence identified in the number of rooms booked.

"A number of infrastructure projects for example roads will not be completed in time for the World Cup. It is anticipated that the remaining days would be spent on "tidy up" operations as these projects are postponed until after the world cup.

The soccer spectacle is expected to inject about R55 billion into the economy as well as create approximately 415 400 jobs.

"The real benefits will emanate from profiling on a global scale which will generate long term spin-offs. The projections have helped boost confidence and expectations domestically.

"These improvements in infrastructure not only bode well for the World Cup but also in terms of long term benefits for South Africa. Infrastructure development will definitely provide a stronger platform for future economic growth than if South Africa was not hosting the event," said Rau.

Tourism minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk recently said during his Budget Vote that the local tourism industry outperformed world trends in 2009, with a growth of 3.6 percent in foreign arrivals with a total of more than 9.9 million foreign arrivals to the country compared to about 9.6 million in 2008. This increase represented a 7.4 percent contribution to GDP.

Government has actively worked towards the upgrade of the country's infrastructure that includes a R19 billion transport upgrade for among others refurbished airports and a new terminal at OR Tambo International Airport.