World Cup tourism totals

How many people traveled to South Africa to attend the world cup? Not as many as they'd hoped.

Frank Augstein / AP / File
This July 6, 2010 file photo shows Netherlands' star Wesley Sneijder, above, competing for the ball with Uruguay's Diego Perez, below, during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between Uruguay and the Netherlands at the Green Point stadium in Cape Town, South Africa. More than a quarter-million people came to South Africa just for the world cup - but they'd hoped for even more.

The South African Tourism and Migration Report for June 2010 was published today, and facinating reading it makes. Table 3 shows that 721,311 tourists entered South Africa in June 2010, up by 215,880 on the figure for June 2009. since the FIFA World Cup started on June 11 and and all but the last 8 games had been played by June 29, then these figures are almost entirely due to the World Cup, and encompass most of the event’s impact (although we will still have to wait another month to see the July figures). Given that the Grant Thornton, the forecasting consultants to the South African government, had predicted 373,000 tourists earlier this year (itself a downgrade of previous forecasts), the final numbers might be disappointing, but not catastrophic.

There is a breakdown by country which contains some nuggets. 23 of the 32 nations are identified individually, with the biggest uplift coming from the USA (+22,321) and the smallest from Cote d’Ivoire (+747). After the USA came Australia, Argentina, Netherlands and Portugal. After this came England, with an increase of only 5,627. However, the Brits were the largest group of tourist visitors in both 2009 and 2010 (about 40,000), and England supporters were seen to be out in force (at least while England was still in the competition). This would seem to be a good of example of the discouragement effect (England fans displacing other English tourists who would have come but didn’t want to go during the World Cup). Visitors from the Republic of Ireland fell by 2000 on the previous year- no doubt a boycott following the controversy of their exit from qualification. But there were also some notable increases from countries that did not qualify- China, India, Canada, Israel and Belgium to mention just a few.

[Editor's note: The story above has been combined with a companion piece published the next day, below.]

The South African statistical service fooled me into thinking the July figures would appear in another month, when in fact they published them today, having published the June figures yesterday (see yesterday’s post).

So now we can compare tourist arrivals for June and July combined, covering the entire world Cup period. Combined tourist arrivals for June and July 2009 were 1,128,845, and for the same period in 2010 were 1,401,725, yielding an increase of 272,880, presumably all of which can be attributed to the World Cup. This compares with the Grant Thornton forecast that I mentioned yesterday of 373,000. Of these arrivals there was an increase of 176,954 from outside Africa (about two thirds of the increase). To put this in context, these increases are equal to about 4% of total tourist visits in 2009, or 10% of total tourist visits by non-Africans in 2009. The South Africans, of course, are also hoping for long term effects.

The July figures are interesting for a number of reasons. The sharp end of the tournament – quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final all fell in July, but tourist arrivals for July were less than 10% up on 2009, an increase of 57,000 (less than the capacity of the stadium for the final). Teams that featured in these stages showed only small increases- Spain (winners), +5407, Netherlands (runners up), + 8125, Germany (semi-final and playoff) + 3620, Brazil (quarter final) +2446, Argentina (quarter final) +432, Ghana (quarter final) + 256 (figures for Uruguay and Paraguay are not given). However, visitor numbers from eliminated countries fell relative to July 2009 – UK, -3214, France -482, Italy -162, Denmark -282, Nigeria -191 and South Korea -29. These figures suggest support the idea of “time-shifting”, whereby major events cause tourists who would have gone anyway to reschedule their visit to coincide with the event. But visitors from the USA were up 2,440 in July – which to me demonstrates their growing interest in the beautiful game.

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