More than 95 percent of the people who came to South Africa for this year's FIFA World Cup said they will visit the country again, according to survey results released by the Tourism Department on Monday.
The statistics, presented by Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, followed an extensive study conducted by the department on the impact of Africa's first FIFA World Cup on South Africa's tourism industry.
It revealed a radical change in attitudes displayed by foreigners towards South Africa, with those attending matches at stadia being happy with the country's security personnel and hospitality. The visitors were so impressed that they would "highly" recommend South Africa as a destination to family and friends.
More than 309 000 tourists arrived in South Africa between June and July for the primary purposes of attending the World Cup and contributed about R3.6 billion to the domestic economy through spending. Before the World Cup, both the South African Football Association and analysts put the expected number of visitors for Africa's first soccer world cup to 450 000.
But on Monday, van Schalkwyk said even this final visitors figure was good news for the country, describing them as "very conservative" and excluding the FIFA family.
"There were many numbers that were thrown around before and after the tournament, but what we are announcing today is the figure of people who came to South Africa only for the purposes of the World Cup and its good news in terms of our tourism ... it was worth all the time, the investment and the money," he said.
The total expenditure in South Africa by tourists who came specifically for the tournament was R3.64 billion, with Europeans leading the pack followed by the United States. The overall average spend per tourist was R11 800, a figure officials said was higher than the annual overall spent in South Africa in 2008, which was R8 400.
As expected, Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal were the most visited provinces during the event each, attracting more than 80 000 tourists.
Interesting were the tourism figures for September, which showed that South Africa continued to be the favorite destination, a month after the tournament. According to the survey, total awareness of South Africa as a leisure destination increased by 9% following the spectacle.
This is not surprising considering that about 59 percent of the people interviewed said they were visiting the country for the first time.
Shortly after South Africa was named as winning bidders in 2004 to host the tournament, stories of how the country was the crime capital started to emerge, with some reports describing townships as blood bath for tourists.
Van Schalkwyk said South Africa had worked tirelessly throughout the years to make sure it hosted the best world cup. "We planned, invested and implemented our vision in the face of many challenges or fierce scepticism, even of outright disbelief that we could deliver on our commitments," he said.
The world cup was never about the hosting of the tournament, but rather about building a legacy for South Africa and the continent.
He called on the tourism industry to be encouraged by the statistics and take advantage of the positive spinoffs created by the 30-day tournament.
"The survey results show that more than two thirds of the tourists who visited South Africa during the World Cup rated the country as an extremely good host ... and others felt we were better hosts than other countries they had experienced," added van Schalkwyk. [src.: BuaNews]