Commentary on local discontent has nearly overpowered talk about the games and what they signify. Like any major event, protests will occur with insignificant impacts on tourists and the games.
South African Tourism is using the start of the World Cup as an opportunity to remind travelers about its hosting success.
South Africa hosted the last World Cup in the summer of 2010 when more than 309,000 tourists visited the country to attend the games.
There were more Americans in attendance than any other nationality and the event jumpstarted momentum between the two destinations. Arrivals of American visitors in South Africa have increased 21 percent since 2010.
But it’s not just Americans whose numbers increased. The destination has seen total visitor numbers increased by double-digits for the past four years.
The destination emphatically thanks the World Cup for kickstarting the necessary infrastructure improvements and tourism growth.
“World Cup gives you exposure that no ad or campaign could ever give you,” observes South African Tourism’s North America president Sthu Zungu.
The country also had some help from mainstream media. Programs like The Bachelor and Celebrity Apprentice have filmed episodes in the destination since the games, broadening the country’s marketing reach.
“The games not only attracted tourists, but also brought TV shows,” explains Zungu.
Lessons for Brazil
Zungu is optimistic about the outcome of the Brazil’s hosting experience, shrugging off pre-game discontent as a natural occurrence.
“I have no doubt that Brazil will have a World Cup,” opines Zungu.
“These things leading up to the World Cup are normal, but when an event of that nature – unlike any in the world – occurs, unity is bound to happen.”
South Africa also experienced protests in the lead-up to the 2010 World Cup.
The tourism board writes that one of the best parts of the hosting experience was being able to debunk some of the common misconceptions about the country.
They don’t comment on the worst part, but we think it was the vuvuzuela.
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Photo credit: South Africa fans cheer during the fIrst match of the FIFA World Cup in Soccer City, Johannesburg. Ceslo Flores / Flickr