One wonders where the tourism authorities get some of their information from! While a The Times journalist may have enjoyed the alliteration in his headline on 7 December (“All set for a tourist torrent”), he may in fact have vastly exaggerated the implications of the results from a World Cup survey as to tourism to South Africa over the “season”/”festive season”. This contradicts what most tourism players are experiencing, in what is set to possibly become one of the worst summer seasons ever, with poorer accommodation bookings than in previous years for coastal suburbs/towns such as Camps Bay, Hermanus and Plettenberg Bay, and even worse in inland towns.
The journalist was reporting on the presentation of the SA Tourism and Department of Tourism study on the effect of the World Cup, a survey which had been conducted in June and July amongst World Cup visitors, as well as guests flying out of Cape Town International, OR Thambo, and ten other airports in Namibia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho. As a market researcher in a previous career, I shudder at the thought of the research methodology (unspecified in the S A Tourism release) which may have been used – in Cape Town eight departing guests were interviewed at the close of the Cape Town semi-final at the airport, on which basis a local daily proclaimed the Cape’s success in hosting the tournament in our city! Both Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited used dubious questionnaire formulation in surveys conducted amongst local tourism players during the World Cup.
SA Tourism’s Chief Marketing Officer Roshene Singh is a respected marketer, and I had the pleasure of meeting her a few months ago. But the quote attributed to her in the article seems unbelievable: “We believe we’re going to have a bumper season (note her word, which the sub-headline in the article changed to ‘festive season’!) because people who are regular visitors in June and July deferred their holidays because of the influx of soccer fans then, so we expect them to now visit.” Given the seasonal nature of tourism in the Western Cape, with May, June and July being the worst three months for the tourism industry in the Western Cape, our region will definitely not be expecting a “tourist torrent” in the next three weeks/three months, if we are to rely on these ‘displaced’ holidaymakers!
The rest of The Times report reflects the findings of the World Cup survey, which showed that 310000 foreign soccer fans had visited South Africa for the World Cup, said Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, and that 90% would consider visiting again. Key findings are as follows:
* The economy benefited by R3,6 billion (the cost of generating this income was not mentioned!)
* 59 % of visitors travelled to South Africa for the first time due to the soccer event
* 220000 soccer visitors visited Gauteng, 108384 the Western Cape, and 83819 KwaZulu-Natal
* the largest number of World Cup visitors came from the USA (30175), followed by Mocambique (a surprise second place at 24483), Britain (22802), Swaziland (19593), Brazil (14815) and Australia (12210).
* 68% rated South Africa as an “extremely good” host, and 29 % rated it as a “good host”, an excellent scorecard.
* Just over half of the soccer fans who had been to other World Cup events, said South Africa was a better host country – a surprisingly low figure, given all the publicity one saw and the highest ever FIFA rating – 33% rated it on a par with previous host countries, and 16 % rated it worse.
The bizarre (and dangerous) projection by our tourism marketing authority, based on very indirect information obtained from a survey conducted six months ago, in a period since which South Africa’s post-World Cup image has taken some serious knocks, and in which period the Rand has remained too strong to make South Africa an affordable tourist destination from the United Kingdom, Europe and the USA, is irresponsible, in our opinion, and does not reflect the reality of bookings by the accommodation industry. The reference to the bumper season must have been made during the presentation of the survey results to journalists by Singh, as the official media release of SA Tourism does not refer to this projection at all!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage