Profile of 2010 World Cup Fans

Forecasting is either tempting fate and an act of utter foolishness, but then some crystal ball gazing (with the benefit of wisdom and experience) may shed some light on our forthcoming visitors.

Well, the first prediction is a relatively easy one. Two-thirds of all fans, or spectators at matches, will be South Africans. That’s who most tickets are being sold to. So forget about hordes of dollar-, sterling- and euro-flush foreigners banging your doors down. If you’re in the travel and hospitality industries, you better be catering for South Africans first!

Then, when you start looking at where the foreign fans are coming from, read Gillian Saunders’ predictions in an earlier post. Of the 483,000 foreign fans, 151,000 are expected from Africa and 332,000 from overseas.

But will those 332,000 fans actually get here? The maximum airlift of visitors into South Africa ever was in November 2007 when 225,000 overseas visitors arrived by air. There has been a recession since then, there are insufficient flights (until somebody proves me wrong) and airlines are behaving like greedy vultures.

And apparently it’s cheaper to book a holiday in Mauritius and fly there from Europe, with a flight across to South Africa for the game you want to watch, than it is to fly from Europe to South Africa during the World Cup period. Go figure! I predict Mauritius will have higher occupancy rates than South Africa.

And to dispel the dream that every nook and cranny with a bed will be occupied during the World Cup month, let’s borrow another of Gillian Saunder’s stats: total expected foreign visitors for World Cup is 483,000; but in December 2008 South Africa hosted 983,000 foreign tourists.

Doesn’t this all sound very familiar? Does anyone recall what happened around the 1995 Rugby World Cup? Well Bafana Bafana will be the surprise upset of eternity if they match the Springboks 1995 performance, and it seems that occupancy levels will only be slightly higher than that disappointing year.

Okay, so the Inn isn’t full and fans aren’t beating the doors down. (441,695 is a lot of room-nights to release — as MATCH have done — because the demand was poor.)

African countries aside, where will most fans come from? The top countries are the USA (leading by far), UK, Australia, Mexico, Germany and Brazil. I don’t have a clear profile of fans from Africa but I do know affluent tourists from Africa are great shoppers. Johannesburg has replaced Paris and Geneva as the shopping mecca of choice.

I think the American visitors will be great! I know of many who have been planning this trip for over a year. They were prepared to put deposits down way back then if they knew they would get a better deal. Most Americans only get two weeks holiday a year and they will plan that holiday the full year ahead. They usually research their trip thoroughly – cultures, destinations, architecture… you name it… and they are keen explorers when they have access to information. Yes they can be loud and do expect things the American way — except when they decide to step outside of their cultural comfort zone — but they are invariably very polite.

Now I don’t want to comment on the Brits, because they can either be the very best or the very worst of guests. And this was once their colony! The Germans are quite similar, just much more formal, Ja! Their common bond is a love for booze…

The surprisingly large number of Australians are probably mainly South African expats. The World Cup is a great opportunity to visit home and all the remaining relatives. The Mexicans and Brazilians will be a novelty and, hopefully, they’ll be sufficiently impressed to return. But we’ve already published a letter from a Brazilian fan to President Zuma complaining of rip-offs… see the older posts.

FIFA, in a rare dose of common sense, have already said that the usually large hospitality component — companies treating favoured clients to a World Cup junket — will be far less than previous years due to the recession and distances. Now that is a big loss.

Should we be worrying about soccer hooligans? Well if we should, the media should be picking up stories about now of overloaded, beat-up Volksie busses crossing the channel en route to Africa. There’s a lot of rough terrain above us so we’re probably safe. And since few soccer hooligans have a house to mortgage, they’re not going to be able to afford the cost of an air ticket.

And those who do are having second thoughts given the Rambo’s who now run the South African police. “Shoot to kill” is much more dicey than any water cannon. Oh for the days when we proudly proclaimed, “The purple shall govern!” (Before your time? The police used to put purple dye in their water cannons to identify miscreants.)

So… with two South African fans for each foreign fan and eTV hunting out the criminals before the police do, everything seems under control. The accommodation shortage is officially no longer an accommodation shortage and, with MATCH relinquishing their 30%+ commissions, prices are coming down. Now if only the SA government — as South Africa Airways’ only shareholder — would do something about airline prices, all those South Africans might be able to travel to the matches.

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