South Africa’s estimated £2.6 billion investment in infrastructure and media for the recent World Cup is paying off. While the games are over and the country’s stadiums significantly more empty (albeit less noisy) the country is experiencing a continued period of high tourism. More travellers arrived in South Africa during the first seven months of 2010 than any year before it, data shows.
It’s easy to point to the World Cub for the country’s success, but doing so ignored the huge amount of long-term planning that went into South Africa’s investments. As one of Africa’s most stable and developed nations, South Africa has immense potential as a major tourism destination. If the World Cup is the ultimate pre-show display, it’s the next decade that will be South Africa’s feature show.
And by all accounts, the nation is up and ready for the challenge. Blessed with an immense variety of cultural attractions and natural areas, South Africa is one of few African nations that combines a close look at nature with accessibility. While the country’s safari culture is bested by its rivals to the north, it’s difficult to fault the country’s combination of Western accessibility and African style.
It’s certainly a healthy transition from South Africa’s past. Although the country still has numerous social issues and a severe HIV problem, it’s turned its ‘crime-ridden’ reputation on its head in a way similar to that seen in Colombia. Once regarded as the world’s most dangerous city, Bogota is now one of the continent’s most popular destinations for North American adventure tourists.
Will the multi-billion pound investment pay off? It seems likely. As travel industry operators know, the greatest barrier to international travel tends to be reputation and perception. With South Africa taking steps to shed its previous ‘violent’ image, we may see a continued surge in travel for decades.