Unlike many countries where major projects have been unceremoniously ‘credit crunched’, South Africa is steaming ahead with massive construction developments aimed at getting the country’s infrastructure up to scratch for the 2010 World Cup.
But it is not the new roads, stadiums, airports and transport systems that will make the biggest impact on visitors, believes Sugen Pillay, South African Tourism’s global manager for events.
“South Africans are passionate people and we are known worldwide for our friendliness and readiness to welcome visitors. It is this hospitality that will set 2010 apart from other World Cups,” he says.
Being hosted in Africa for the first time in June and July of 2010, there have been questions raised about the country’s ability to finish its ambitious construction projects on schedule, but Pillay is adamant that South Africa will be ready in less than 12 months time.
“All the major infrastructure will be ready six months before the event kicks off. The stadium roofs are going up and the Gautrain [new transport link in Johannesburg and Pretoria] will be running by April 2009,” he says.
“If anything, there is a lot of frustration for locals at the moment because there is simply so much construction going on. It will all be completed on time though,” he stresses.
For a country with 48.7 million people and an official unemployment rate of 21.9%, the event is crucial in creating and sustaining new jobs across all sectors, but particularly in construction, travel and tourism.
According to international consulting firm, Grant Thornton, 2010 will bring $2.2 billion into the country’s economy, generating an estimated $1.3 billion in direct spending and creating about 159,000 new jobs.
Solomon Makgale, communication manager for Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), says that the 2020 Local Organising Committee has forecast that there will be about 400,000 people travelling to South Africa during the event and ACSA is forecasting a 9.9% increase in passenger traffic to 36 million for the 2010/11 financial year.
“ACSA has been key in providing a detailed demand analysis for the entire industry, working in association with the Department of Transport through the Aviation Sub-Sector Task Team. This is an industry collective forum that will provide the detailed logistics and operational plan for the aviation industry’s 2010 requirements,” points out Makgale.
To cater for the expected increase in visitors, plus South Africa’s own rapid growth in passenger numbers in recent years, ACSA has fast-tracked a number of major infrastructure projects.
These includes the new $244 million central terminal building (CTB) at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, which will link the domestic and international terminals. The airport is also undergoing a major upgrade of the international departures terminal and is getting a new international pier.
The CTB should be open before the end of 2009 and will also be connected to the new Gautrain Rapid Rail link. Meanwhile, in Cape Town, the airport is getting a new $167 million central terminal (called Terminal 2010) and a second multi-storey parkade.
The biggest component of ACSA’s infrastructure programme is the new $756.5 million King Shaka International Airport outside Durban in KwaZulu-Natal. Occupying 35 hectares and with a capacity to handle six million passengers a year, the airport will also have a cargo terminal with a perishable facility aimed at boosting trade in the province. In addition, the airport will be linked with the seaports at Durban and Richards Bay.
ACSA has stated that the new airport is on schedule to open in the first quarter of 2010, with the 55 metre air tower already in place and all the concrete work having been completed.
The existing Durban International Airport does not receive any regular international scheduled flights, but that is set to change with Emirates’ plans for a direct service from Dubai into Durban from late 2009.
“Emirates is now flying direct to Cape Town, in addition to its Johannesburg flights, and is launching direct service to Durban at the end of 2009. That is a lot of confidence being demonstrated by a major global airline. The hope is that this confidence in the South African market will encourage other airlines to start increasing frequencies,” says Pillay.
As the World Cup’s official airline partner, Emirates also has a huge role to play in the event’s ultimate success. South African Tourism is working closely with the airline to ensure that the tourism authority’s new global marketing campaign (which rolls out in May) will be on all Emirates’ flights to South Africa.
“A similar plan is in place with South African Airways (SAA) and this is focused on ensuring that passengers get the maximum destination information before they arrive,” says Pillay.
On the topic of the new global marketing campaign, Pillay describes it as “groundbreaking and unlike any destination campaign people have seen before”. It will be run across various platforms, including international television outlets and print campaigns in key source markets and soccer-loving countries, and will showcase South Africa’s amazing diversity, natural beauty and vibrant urban centres. In a country with 11 official languages, a multitude of cultures and some of the most varied landscapes in the world, there is plenty from which to choose.
Pillay believes that this campaign, coupled with the investment and impetus created by 2010, will shoot South Africa on a path to global tourism success.
“Each city has such a unique offering and visitors will be amazed by the variety. Durban, for instance, has amazing weather during that time of the year and with its beautiful beaches and world-class infrastructure, the city is really positioning itself well for the event,” he says.
“Cape Town is already an established tourist destination with its famous Robben Island and Table Mountain and the wine routes. And of course all of South Africa’s big urban cities have a vibrant nightlife where visitors will be able to chill after the matches; and in South Africa, the partying can go on all night!” points out Pillay.
For visitors seeking some respite from the crowds in the bush or wanting to explore South Africa’s rich history, there is also plenty on offer.
The famous Kruger National Park and the private Sabi Sands Game Reserve, home to the Big Five, are always favourites with tourists. There are many outstanding examples of ancient rock art in the parks, and further afield in KwaZulu-Natal’s Drakensberg. Meanwhile, in Johannesburg visitors can trace the start of civilisation in Africa at the Cradle of Humankind or learn more about South Africa’s modern history at the Apartheid Museum and the Constitutional Court.
But even this variety of attractions is no guarantee that South Africa’s tourism ambitions won’t be seriously dented by the global recession.
Pillay is candid on the topic: “Arrival numbers during 2010 will be down unless there is an easing in the economic slowdown by the end of 2009.” ACSA’s Makgale adds that in light of the slowdown, the airport operator has postponed, where feasible, uncommitted projects but will complete all essential 2010 related projects on time.
The global slowdown may be the first thing on people’s minds now, but Pillay believes that South Africa is facing another major task in the years ahead.
“The next biggest challenge is the perceptions about South Africa, which are so often centred on crime and HIV/Aids. We also have first-world facilities and outstanding tourism offerings and that is what we need to get across to the rest of the world.”
“We have been marketing the country for decades but during the one month of the World Cup we have this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to convince the world that South Africa is an amazing destination with huge possibility beyond 2010,” he stresses.
For a country and people that have had plenty of practice overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges, 2010 will be no different. As its tourism slogan says: South Africa: It’s possible.
This article is featured in Routes News 2009 Issue 3