The best compliment that FIFA could pay South Africa is the declaration by Jerome Valcke, FIFA Secretary-General, two weeks ago that “South Africa will always be a Plan B for any World Cup”, reports AFP, and an amazing compliment to the Local Organising Committee (LOC), as well as to South Africans across the board, in organising the best “party” in the world and showing the “gees” of our nation to our visitors and to our fellow countrymen.
FIFA praised the country for what it believes will have been a “perfect” World Cup. “If on July 11, we are on the same level as we are today (3 weeks ago), I would say it’s a perfect World Cup”, he said. Initial transport problems led to empty seats at the Opening Match in Johannesburg on 11 June, but these problems were quickly ironed out.
The World Cup has made South Africa and the continent of Africa “sexy”. At the TIME and CNN Global Forum, which was held in Cape Town two weeks ago, and was attended by a large number of the world’s global business leaders, South Africa’s smooth hosting of the World Cup had changed perceptions about the country and the continent, speakers said, reports The Sunday Independent. TIME editor Michael Elliot said that the country is riding an “extraordinary wave of energy and optimism”, and stated that South Africa is “on the verge of tremendous opportunity”.
So how has South Africa benefited from the World Cup? The benefits have been financial and emotional:
1. A legacy of infrastructure – I disliked the word “legacy” initially, when I heard politicians justify the billions of Rands to be spent, but now that legacy is concrete, with ten new or upgraded stadiums around the country, fantastic roadworks leading into Host Cities, and around the stadiums, airports of an international standard (almost all, given the embarrassing fiasco at King Shaka airport in Durban), a Gautrain in Johannesburg and a modernised train station in Cape Town, new modern buses, upgraded city pavements, city greening and new city artwork to beautify the Fan Walks.
2. The “gees” Ke Nako that was the theme of the World Cup grew throughout the World Cup into an unheard of spirit of national pride, surpassing that of the Rugby World Cup in 1995. The nation-building power of sport, first through the rugby match between the Stormers and the Blue Bulls in the Orlando Stadium, and the powerful bonding of South Africans in supporting the Bafana Bafana team, as well as them demonstrating the pride in their country via mirror socks, flags on the cars, and flags on their homes and businesses, has been one of the most wonderful benefits of the World Cup, and is likely to last well beyond the end of the World Cup. For the first time the country became proud citizens of their continent too, in supporting “BaGhana BaGhana”, when they were the final African team to play in the tournament. Many South Africans doubted their nation’s ability to host an event of this magnitude across nine different locations around the large country, but she has done her country proud. Locals are already calling for a regular way of displaying unity, by putting up flags, wearing the Bafana Bafana colours, or those of our country’s flag.
3. The improvement in South Africa’s image world-wide is the best legacy of all, and perhaps we needed to hear bluntly at the start of the World Cup how dimly we were viewed by the world. Whilst we hated her broadcasts, Emma Hurd of SkyNews was the wet blanket that reminded us day in and day out about how dreadful life can be for many of our citizens, but even then the TV station changed its tune, its broadcasts became more and more positive, and Ms Hurd’s focus moved more to the soccer and less on the social imbalances. Maybe it was a blessing that England fell out of the tournament so early on, which led to less interest in the World Cup reporting by the station. Reporter after reporter has written about how they feared coming to the country, having heard about its reputation of crime, AIDS, poverty, and even apartheid, but all wrote about how pleasantly surprised they were about the spirited and united nation they saw, and about the first class facilities they encountered. Not only South Africa but Africa benefited in image, as written above already. Africa has been the step-child of the world, and it was the “social responsibility ” of the world, and FIFA in particular, that saw South Africa awarded the rights to hosting the 2010 World Cup – a tremendous leap in faith for the body at the time, but a dividend that has paid off richly for FIFA President Sepp Blatter and his team, not just in terms of their revenue earned, but also in their image for having the faith and in sticking behind South Africa, denying that they ever had a Plan B and a Plan C.
4. The control over crime was a surprise even for South Africans. The cancellation of the contract between the FIFA Local Organising Committee and Stallion Security at the Cape Town and Durban stadiums was no security loss at all, and the police did an outstanding job in handling the security of the stadiums, as well as of the Host Cities in general, with high police visibility, and a marked reduction in crime in general. Western Cape Premier Helen Zille told the Cape Town Press Club that a BBC interviewer had expressed his surprise to her about not seeing the “expected crime wave”, reports the Weekend Argus. Never before had such visible policing been seen, not only in and around the stadiums, but generally in city streets and in shopping malls. One wondered where they had been hidden all these years, and hopes they will remain. South Africa was not prepared to compromise safety, its biggest vulnerability, and I experienced what I first thought was a crazy safety procedure to have my car security-checked at the Green Point Traffic Department, with a car search, a sniffer dog search, a search underneath the car, and a personal security check, then a blue light escort into the stadium. Special World Cup law courts also acted immediately on World Cup-related crimes, and meted out harsh fines and penalties for theft and other crimes, and the incident of the British fan entering the England team changing room, and the subsequent admission of guilt payment by the Sunday Mirror reporter related to this matter, attracted varying reaction to the harshness of the fines.
5. Whilst South Africa was shunned as a “rip-off” country for its cost of flights, accommodation, transport and World Cup packages prior to the World Cup, due to the 30 % commission add-on by FIFA hospitality and ticketing agency MATCH to already high prices of flights, accommodation and transport, the prices of all of these aspects of the World Cup quickly dropped when MATCH cancelled the bulk of its booked rooms, and SAA cancelled the seats MATCH had booked. It was unheard of that accommodation rates dropped during a world event, but pricing is about supply and demand, and the lower than expected demand necessitated the decrease in rates, which did increase last-minute bookings to some extent. It was gratifying to see soccer fans book their own accommodation, preferring to book more reasonably priced guest houses. It is hoped that the world will forget its initial image of our country in this regard.
6. The biggest surprise for locals was the power and fun of the Fan Walk in Cape Town. It appeared that this may have been the only city in South Africa to have one. Despite one’s scepticism of the concept initially, given Cape Town’s winter weather, not even rain could deter ticket holders and even towards the end, on a sunny afternoon, Capetonians without tickets from walking the Walk. The flags put up everywhere became a trademark, and made Cape Town look festive, and one hopes they will stay, and give a nostalgic memory of the biggest party Cape Town has ever experienced.
7. South Africa has new tourism icons, the very beautifully designed stadiums becoming tourism assets in their own rights. The Soccer City, Durban, Cape Town and Nelspruit stadiums in particular are beautifully designed. Cape Town had a Big Six it marketed – now it has the Big Seven, the Cape Town Stadium added, which became the backdrop to most broadcasts from the city.
8. If it has not been said above, the interpersonal tolerance between South Africans seems to have improved, and small courtesies towards other pedestrians, motorists and shoppers are manifestations of the wonderful spirit of “South Africanism”.
9. “White” South Africans have caught the soccer spirit, and the majority never were interested in this sport. One never thought that locals would rush off in such large numbers to buy their match tickets online, and to queue for tickets at FIFA outlets in Host Cities, even camping outside the doors the night before. More than 3 million tickets were sold, and about two-thirds went to South Africans. We all became enraptured with the game, and all learnt new terminology about soccer (although most of us still do not know if it is ‘soccer’ or ‘football’ that we have been watching!). We got to know the names of new soccer heroes – Diego Forlan, Thomas Mueller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, and many more, for their performance on the pitches.
10. School children but also adults learnt about geography in terms of the participating nations, so that Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the South American countries of Uruguay and Paraguay could be placed. Nestle ran a “Children of the World” promotion, with information about different participating countries on their Smarties boxes. Hopefully South Africa featured on the atlas of children and residents of the world community whilst they watched the many matches in the past month, and saw their countries’ TV stations present documentaries about our country. We got to know the flags of participating nations.
11. Musically, life will never be the same, the vuvuzela being synonymous with the 2010 World Cup, and will no doubt be the “spirit maker” at future sporting events around the world. Loved and hated, the “toot toot” during broadcasts and live matches were part of this sporting event. FIFA President Blatter refused to have it banned, when called upon to do so by the world media and by players, who said that they could not hear their coaches and the referees. The world’s largest vuvuzela was erected on Cape Town’s unfinished highway for World Cup sponsor Hyundai. Two songs will go down in World Cup history – “Waka Waka” by Shakira, much scorned when it first received airplay on radio, but now synonymous with the event, South Africa, and even Africa – as well as K’Naan’s “Waving Flags”.
12. It is the future tourism legacy that will hopefully benefit the country, in that it will attract tourists to our country in future. Due to the improvement in South Africa’s image and the wonderful documentaries about South Africa (for example German TV station ZDF dedicated hours of coverage of South Africa, using our ex-Miss South Africa Jo-Ann Strauss, speaking her best possible German – she is engaged to a German), one can hope for an influx of tourists for years to come, but one must be realistic about the depressed economy internationally, and even locally, said our Governor of the Reserve Bank Gill Marcus last week.
13. If there is one name we will never forget in the context of the World Cup, it is the by now well-known Paul the Octopus from Oberhausen in Germany, who correctly predicted 5 wins and 2 losses for Germany, as well as the win for Spain against the Netherlands in the Final. He even has a Twitter page @PPsychicOctopus, which surpassed 500 Followers in just four days.
14. The media coverage for South Africa has been phenominal, many countries sending media representatives not only reporting about the soccer but also doing documentaries about the cities in which they were based. The BBC had a special Studio built on top of the Somerset Hospital, giving it a fantastic view of a beautiful Table Mountain on the one side, and of the beautiful Cape Town Stadium on the other side. An hour after the Final last night, ZDF was still broadcasting about South Africa and the World Cup, recapping the highlights of the sport event and of the country. Even normally cynical Oliver Kahn, who was a co-presenter, praised the organisation, hospitality, friendliness and lack of hooliganism of our host country. ZDF probably was the TV station that gave our country the most, and most positive, TV coverage. The Final is expected to have been seen by 700 million TV viewers around the world last night.
15. The power of the endorsement in terms of VIP attendance at the matches is unmeasurable, and those celebrities that are on Twitter, Paris Hilton and Shakira for example, who expressed their delight, spread the word even further. Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel, Queen Sofia of Spain, her son Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia, Holland’s Crown Prince Willem Alexander and his wife Maxima, Prince Carl Philip of Sweden, Prince Albert of Monaco and Charlene Wittstock, German President Christian Wulff, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Luia da Silva, Charlize Theron, Morgan Freeman, Mick Jagger, Kimora Lee Simons, Leonardo DiCaprio, Andrea Bocelli, Franz Beckenbauer, injured ex-German captain Michael Ballack, Bill Clinton, David Beckham, will.i.am and the Black Eyed Peas, Naomi Campbell, Princes William and Harry, London Mayor Boris Johnson and many more attended the matches over the past month.
16. Despite the winter timing of the tournament, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth’s weather generally played ball. Cape Town had three rain days during matches, and challenged the perception of Johannesburgers that it rains all the time.
17. The smooth logistical running of the World Cup has opened up the country to bid for other events, and the 2020 Olympics is the next event the country has been invited to bid for. IOC President Jacques Rogge has been in the country for more than a week, and has been warmly recommended the country by his friend FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
18. Social media marketing received a tremendous boost during the World Cup, and peaked on 11 June, the start of the World Cup. Only one event challenged interest in the early part of the event, being the engagement of South African Charlene Wittstock to Prince Albert of Monaco. As soon as the USA and England teams were eliminated, web traffic fell dramatically, partly though due to the problems with the SEACOM cable for those websites that are hosted overseas by their servers. Yet action on Twitter never let off, and whenever a goal was scored, Twitter crashed. Twitter users followed soccer stars they had not previously heard of, and even Sepp Blatter opened a Twitter page (@SeppBlatter).
19. The initial high airline ticket prices encouraged many locals as well as tourists to drive between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, and also to other parts of the country, to save on costs, thus supporting tourism in smaller towns and cities that were not Host Cities. One hopes that this will lead to a rediscovery of the Garden Route, an area that has suffered badly as far as tourism goes in the past three years.
20. One can be grateful from a business perspective that the World Cup did take place in winter, a normally quiet period, therefore not influencing productivity, or lack of, badly on match days, and on Bafana Bafana match days specifically, which saw shops and businesses close early. This is compared to many companies that close for their Christmas/New Year break, when Cape Town is at its busiest.
21. The surprise benefits of coming to the country for the international soccer fans was the beauty of the country, and in Cape Town the fans were surprised about what special beauty the city offers – the mountains, the sea, the wildlife at Cape Point, and the winelands.
22. Soccer fans that arrived without tickets and locals enjoyed the “gees” at the Host Cities’ Fan Parks, many offering top notch musical entertainment every day, and broadcasting all matches. In early days the Fan Park on the Grand Parade had to be closed, due to over-capacity. Other fans went pub-hopping, Long Street being popular for this, with numerous bars and restaurants with televisions. The V&A Waterfront was another popular destination, and every restaurant agreed to install TV sets for the duration of the World Cup. Paulaner Brauhaus and other hospitality marquees set up at the Clocktower side of the V&A did extremely well, and I personally queued at the Paulaner Brauhaus for as long as 2 hours for the semi-final between Germany and Spain. The law of supply and demand forced greedy hospitality marquee owners to radically reduce their entrance fees, where these were charged, from over R 100 per person, to about R 20.
23. FIFA must be congratulated on their determination in making this an excellent World Cup, and were based in Johannesburg for a number of years, to guide the management of the event. It gave us great confidence that the event would be a success, even though so many locals were sceptical. FIFA executives were also ruthless in their deadlines for the completion of the stadiums, and the infrastructure, which was excellent in making everything come together, even if it felt that some work was very much last minute. FIFA insisted on the police presence and the instant law courts, and they have dramatically reduced crime in the past four weeks.
The World Cup has not been super-perfect, and had some blemishes:
1. I have written copiously about MATCH, FIFA’s hospitality and ticketing agency, and its ruthless attempt at exploitation of the accommodation industry, which unfortunately backfired badly for the agency, for the accommodation industry and for the image of the country as far as affordability, or lack of, goes.
2. Many empty seats were visible, especially in the early matches, and were attributed to transport problems in Johannesburg at the first match, and to sponsors not allocating all their tickets.
3. The inability and thereafter late landing of four aircraft at King Shaka airport in Durban on the day that Germany played Spain was the biggest logistical blunder of the tournament, and left many German fans angry about the costs they had incurred to see the match. ACSA is offering a reported compensation of R400 per head!
4. Restaurant business dropped dramatically, and fine dining establishments that refused to succumb to TV sets lost business badly, especially on match days in their cities. Theatre and general entertainment also suffered, and the popular Jonny Cooper Orchestra closed down a show in Camps Bay two weeks ahead of schedule. Retail outlets did not gain from the World Cup, and the opposite probably is true. Sales of the Cape Times and Cape Argus have been said by its management to have been the worst ever in the past four weeks.
5. The negative media reporting focused on only one theme – the great divide that still remains in South Africa, between haves and have-nots, and the irony of the monies spent on the stadiums relative to the lack of proper housing for all of its population will have to be addressed. One hopes that the future impact on tourism, and resultant employment, will address this problem. But it will also mean a new attitude by employees to value their jobs and terms of employment.
6. The early exit of England in particular was damaging to tourism, as multitudes of fans were standing by to fly to South Africa to support their team. The England fans were the best for accommodation business, but their bookings were linked to their team’s playing schedule.
7. The biggest loser of the World Cup probably is FIFA itself, in terms of its image, Sepp Blatter having been booed at the Final and also on another occasion. FIFA also came under fire about its card-happy referees, the British referee Howard Webb setting the record for the highest number of cards, with 14 yellow cards and one red card during the wild Final match. The lack of technology to check on the admissibility of goals was also severely criticised.
8. FIFA’s technology also failed when demand for tickets became so great, that its system crashed on numerous occasions, a dent to its image of perfection and organisation.
9. The more than 25 000 volunteers that were appointed by FIFA and its LOC, were poorly utilised in terms of their skills and day-job capabilities and were extremely poorly managed. They were “employed” outside of the South African labour legislation, and had to sign for this in their contracts. They had tax deducted from their meal allowances when these were paid into their bank accounts. In Cape Town they were served disgustingly bad food for three days, and were not compensated for it in terms of their meal allowances. They did not all receive the designated volunteer clothing, even though it was ordered about 6 months ago when the volunteers were appointed. Volunteers attended three days of training in April plus a morning in May, and were not compensated. Huge dissatisfaction existed about the forced McDonald’s diet of R 60 per day, which the LOC would not alter at all, the most unhealthy food they could have been fed. The Green Point branch next to the stadium made a fortune out of this arrangement, yet their service and food quality was shocking – the Volunteer Co-ordinator had to call the branch regularly with complaints. Volunteers were forced to drink Coke, when many preferred water, Bonaqua being a Coca Cola brand too. Quotas were set for the amount of water and Coke that each volunteer had to receive. The Volunteer Farewell Function last week started two hours late, was badly organised, and lunch was served at 15h30, 1600 volunteers having to queue – many left at this stage. More than a month after starting to work as volunteers, they have not yet been paid, despite a promise that they would be (now they are due to be paid at the end of July!). Sadly, international volunteers left the country with an image of the poorest organisation of a World Cup relative to their experience of the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, a shame given that one third of the volunteers were from other countries around the world, and they will take this message back home with them. I kept hearing them say that this must be “an African way” of doing things, a perception I tried to correct whenever I heard it.
10. The FIFA sponsors Budweiser, McDonald’s and Coca Cola were not all positively received. Budweiser was only served inside the stadiums, and comments via Twitter were only negative about the beer. McDonald’s became a swearword amongst the volunteers, and even the police and media working close to the Stadium must have disliked receiving the poor quality and service for more than a month. Coca Cola became the butt of jokes about Paris Hilton getting the brand wrong when she was wrongfully arrested for smoking marijuana. The food sold by concessionaires inside the Stadium was poor.
10. FIFA also lost face when it fanatically reacted to ambush marketing, and the Kulula.com airline provoked FIFA in its newspaper ads. Bavaria beer is the best known brand in South Africa, due to FIFA’s reaction to the Dutch brewery’s ambush marketing inside the stadium in Durban.
11. Corruption in terms of Government departments and municipalities buying huge allocations of tickets has been hinted at, and no doubt further such claims will be written about in the media.
11. Whilst the occupancy of accommodation establishments in Host Cities close to Stadiums was reasonable in the past 30 days (Whale Cottage Camps Bay at 71 %), the areas in smaller towns barely picked up any benefit in this period. Sadly, business in May was at its worst ever, and what income was made in June, was offset by the “vacuum-effect” of the World Cup in May.
12. Last, but not least, is the anti-climax of the month-long party having come to an end. The lives of many changed in the past month, with different habits, glued to television sets, children on holiday for 5 weeks, daily beer drinking habits having been developed, and the mundane side of life was set aside for the period. Reality strikes today!
POSTSCRIPT 18/7: FIFA gave South Africa a score of 9/10 for the hosting of the 2010 World Cup, reports The Times, up from the 7,5 rating for the hosting of the Confederations Cup last year. FIFA President Blatter likened the score to a cum laude at university level. “The greatest memory is the willingness and commitment of South Africans to show the world their ability to host this World Cup with discipline and honour” Blatter said.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com
Cape Town Tourism issued a media release “A Mid-Way 2010 FIFA World Cup Report from Cape Town Tourism” on Friday, which has (frighteningly) been picked up by news agencies and reported upon immediately.
My problem with surveys conducted by companies that do not have the faintest idea of market research is that the answers received will only be as good or as bad as the questions asked. I knew immediately that the results would be used for publicity purposes when I received a survey participation request as an accommodation establishment from Cape Town Tourism two weeks ago.
The first questionnaire was embarrassingly bad, with poor grammar, poor time scales provided as answer options, leading questions asked, and a 5-day timeline referred to when they meant 7 days! I wrote to Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold immediately, telling her that it would be irresponsible if the results were to be used for PR purposes. I offered my help, having been a market researcher for 20 years, and was sent the second accommodation survey for input a week later. I had to correct almost every question, and hoped that it would be used as it had been corrected. But no, many questions were altered, new ones introduced relative to the draft questionnaire, making comparison between week 1 and week 2 impossible, more grammatical errors were made in that my corrections were “corrected” nonsensically, so much so that I wrote to Du Toit-Helmbold again, withdrawing my offer to assist in future, in not wanting to be associated with such unprofessional work and by implication condone its irresponsible use for publicity purposes.
And so two days after the last “survey” went out, the results of the two weeks’ “surveys” were neatly packaged and presented as a valid “survey” and findings presented as the gospel in a press release for all the world to read!
The first problem is that the sample size is not specified – i.e. the number of respondents relative to the universe of accommodation establishments. Second, the “survey” only would reflect Cape Town Tourism members, and not all accommodation establishments in Cape Town (in Camps Bay, for example, most guest houses do not belong to Cape Town Tourism) – this is not mentioned in the press release, which is irresponsible in itself. Third, the geographic definition that was used in the press release was the “Cape Town Metropole” – in my definition that would be the inner city of Cape Town, but in the definition of the City of Cape Town, it would be the municipal area of the whole area of Cape Town (e.g. Southern Suburbs, Atlantic Seaboard, Northern Suburbs, and even Somerset West and Strand). Incorporating all of these areas of greater Cape Town would certainly skew the findings – whilst the press release referred to such areas as Green Point and City Bowl, the suburb of the respondents was not asked in the questionnaires, which makes one wonder how they got to this information!
And so if one were to waste one’s time in evaluating the results of the accommodation “survey”, the finding of a 40 % average occupancy would reflect the geographic bias in the “survey” design, as low occupancy of guest houses in Somerset West or Durbanville would reduce the higher occupancies in the city and Atlantic Seaboard areas on average. The press release reports an average occupancy of 71 % for the City Bowl, Waterfront and Green Point areas. Once again, this finding is questioned as the geographic question was not asked, and the respondents were anonymous! Where the press release states that the “survey” found that business had improved in the second week of the World Cup, our experience in Camps Bay is the opposite, it having become very quiet since the departure of the England fans last Monday. The majority of the 25000 Dutch fans (unfortunately for Cape Town) camped at the Berg River Resort in Paarl.
Even worse is the predictions that are made by the writer of the release, sent out by the Cape Town Tourism’s PR company Rabbit in a Hat Communications, the authors of the “survey” questionnaire. It finds that the average length of stay is only 3 – 4 days (we would disagree), and predicts that the “length of stay in Cape Town will increase as the tournament progresses. Cape Town hosts a Quarter Final on Saturday, 3 July and the Semi Final on Tuesday, 6 July 2010 and expects visitor numbers will peak during these times”. Anyone observing the movement of soccer fans will know that this is a dangerous prediction to make, and that soccer fans follow their teams, not cities! The teams playing the Round of 16 in Cape Town tomorrow are Portugal and Spain, and Germany faces Argentina in the Quarter Final on Saturday, but no additional bookings have been received from their fans. The teams for the Semi Final are not yet known, and therefore bookings are not being made for these dates yet. However, it may be impossible to still buy tickets for these last three Cape Town matches, as they were the first to be ‘sold out’, according to media reports.
More reliable information is contained in the press release as far as other tourism World Cup indicators are concerned:
* Cape Town International airport reports that its number of international arrivals is up by 44 %, the busiest day to date being 20 June, when 25 000 passengers were “processed”. Bookings for flights to South Africa were being made while England was playing Slovenia last Wednesday, the release says.
* Luxury coach company Springbok Atlas reports fully booked coaches, with two trips per day per coach on average
* Car rental companies “are reporting mixed results, many saying that figures have been disappointing but that business increases around match days”, say the press release.
* The 18 branch offices of Cape Town Tourism report a 16 % increase in “international visitors” and a 3 % decline in “domestic visitors”, compared to the same period as last year. One wonders how this is recorded, as the country of origin has never been seen to be recorded when visiting such a branch.
* The V&A Waterfront reports that its tenants are enjoying trading as in the summer season, with 150 000 – 160 000 persons per day (not all tenants would agree).
* The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company reports increased business of 50 % higher than in 2009
* The Cape Quarter reports good results for its restaurants, and less so for the retail tenants
* Tour operator business has increased by 20 % (this comes from another Cape Town Tourism “survey”, so the result should be treated with caution, as the sample size was not revealed)
* Restaurants must be trading very poorly, as their business levels compared to 2009 are not reported
* Probably the most valuable measurement of success of the World Cup to date is the media coverage for Cape Town. Cape Town Tourism reports that it has hosted 205 international journalists since January until 10 June, mainly focusing on the readiness of the city to host the World Cup. Since 11 June 85 international journalists were hosted on sightseeing tours of the city, and information was provided to 93 media channels. The Media Centre at the Cape Town Stadium, as well as at the Fan Park at the Grand Parade, is staffed by Cape Town Tourism, and the brochures and information packs provided to the media are commendable.
(An irony is that FIFA President Sepp Blatter wanted a new stadium in Cape Town for media purposes, because Table Mountain could not be seen from the old Green Point Stadium. The few meters that the Stadium had to be moved meant a spectacularly beautiful new building for the city, which in fact is the backdrop for much international media reporting, taking away from the beautiful landmarks Cape Town has. The new Stadium therefore is an important landmark in its own right, a surprise outcome).
* VIP visitors to Cape Town have been an accolade for the city (not reported upon by Cape Town Tourism), and the stay in Cape Town last week by Princes William and Harry, London Mayor Boris Johnson and David Beckham have already been documented on this blog. Now Bill Clinton is visiting the city, staying at one of the Penthouses of the One&Only Hotel in the Waterfront. Prince Harry has also returned to Cape Town after last week’s match, and was seen having lunch at the Grand on the Beach on Thursday.
* One should not forget how good Cape Town is looking, and the World Cup has done the city proud in its upgraded and largely smooth-flowing N1 and N2 highways, its beautiful new airport building and recently renovated train station, its modern buses, upgrade of Green Point, upgrade of the Grand Parade, the great walkability of the Fan Mile, the greening of Green Point, and upgrade of the Metropolitan Golf Club, new modern street lighting around Green Point, the lit-up Table Mountain – all combining to make Cape Town feel like a world-class city, even to its residents!
* If media reports are to be believed, Cape Town has been approached to host the Olympic Games in 2020 – what an amazing compliment for the city.
To fill the tourism gaps in Cape Town (having been left out of much of the action in only having eight matches played at the Cape Town Stadium, and no teams based in the city), Cape Town Tourism has embarked on a “Come to Cape Town” marketing campaign, to attract Johannesburg-based soccer fans to come to Cape Town in-between matches. Airline partners are offering flights at R 700 one-way, while accommodation establishments are offering their rooms at R 500 per person.
* Cape Town Tourism’s funder, the City of Cape Town, simultaneously reported on the status of Cape Town, but this was not incorporated in the Cape Town Tourism press release. Mansoor Mohamed, the Executive Director of Economic and Social Development and Tourism of the City, indicated that informal traders were doing well, more expensive hotels were experiencing low occupancy (20 – 40 %), and that restaurants “are also doing better than expected trade, with some even beating their actual Christmas figures”, reports South Africa.info. We disagree with the restaurant finding, having experienced empty restaurants, and observing soccer fans mainly ordering beer and very little food when they sit in pubs and restaurants. Mohamed has admitted that his observations are based on “initial surveys”, and stated that the economic impact of the World Cup will be established by means of comprehensive research at the end of the tournament. “The World Cup is the single most important event for South Africa and the African continent in recent time. It is positively changing the world’s perceptions about Africa” Mohamed said.
* A very low-key but most high profile event taking place in Cape Town until today (not reported upon by Cape Town Tourism in their media release) is the Fortune, TIME and CNN Global Forum. About 140 heads of global and local companies such a Royal Dutch Shell, China Mobile, Deutsche Bank, The Coca Cola Company, DuPont, Rio Tinto Group, McKinsey & Company, Trilogy, Merck Vaccines, Kissinger Associates, Inc, De Beers Group, Richemont SA, One&Only, Naspers Limited, De Beers Group, SEACOM Limited, ABSA Group Limited, Standard Bank Group, Symantec, First Rand Limited, Sanlam Limited, Pioneer Foods, Investec Asset Management, and Daimler, paying $5000 each to attend, will meet influential persons from TIME magazine’s top 100 list, reports the Weekend Argus. Bill Clinton, Ex-President FW de Klerk, Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, Minister of Trade & Industry Rob Davies, Francois Pienaar, and World Cup Local Organising Committee Danny Jordaan and others will be addressing the Forum, while President Zuma will be addressing the delegates via satellite from the G20 summit in Canada. High level journalists and news anchors from Time, Fortune, CNN, and CBS News will also attend the Forum at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Delegates are staying at the Mount Nelson Hotel and the Cullinan Hotel.
There can be no doubt that Cape Town is busier than it would have been in any other June. The reality is that May was the worst month ever experienced, the World Cup having created a vacuum of bookings. One hopes the same is not true for the rest of July. It is disturbing to see the low number of bookings made for Christmas and New Year, traditionally the most popular period in Cape Town, and a period that would have been booked up by now already. If Whale Cottage Camps Bay is anything to go by, it is going to be a lean summer, despite the World Cup hype – the British travellers are the largest source of bookings for Cape Town, and they are under severe financial pressure with the new Conservative/Lib-Dem government having imposed stringent financial measures in their budget earlier this week, including an increase in VAT of 2,5 percentage points to 20%. Many countries in Europe are also facing tight economic measures imposed by their governments (e.g. Greece, Italy, Spain) and even Germany is affected by Europe’s economic woes.
An interesting issue is the effect of the World Cup on travel aspirations to South Africa of Americans. The American soccer fans were the largest ticket-buying nation of all, beating England and Germany, and were the first to book, more than a year ago.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com