Grant Thornton predicts domestic tourism slump during 2010

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A drop-off in domestic tourism during the 2010 Fifa World Cup has been predicted by global audit and specialist advisory services firm Grant Thornton.

They do not believe tourism providers should worry, however, as this expected drop-off in domestic tourism demand is required to accommodate the influx of international visitors, estimated to be anywhere between 300 000 and 480 000 people (some 151 000 from Africa alone), with R8.5-billion to spend across the country.

Gillian Saunders, director of Grant Thornton Strategic Solutions, points out that there will be a displacement of domestic leisure and business travel.

"All school holidays have been scheduled to coincide with the World Cup, so many families are likely to stay home," says Saunders.

"This means that traditional holiday destinations, which won't necessarily benefit directly from accommodating World Cup visitors, may have a slower season than usual. They will need to do some strong marketing to ensure people know they are open for business as usual."

There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence that South Africans who aren't staying home, will be travelling farther afield to destinations such as Namibia, Mauritius and the Seychelles.

Host cities like Cape Town and Durban will "swop" domestic holiday business for the World Cup demand. But the regular domestic holiday business linked to school holidays will be permanently displaced, as families have no other time to travel.

Travelling inter-city for business purposes will also drop-off significantly due to congestion and inflated prices.

"Local business travel will almost cease, unless absolutely necessary. This will actually be a welcome development as we need the hotel room capacity and rental car pool for tourist use in the key centres," adds Saunders.

Saunders points out that in a top tourism month, South Africa already hosts 960 000 tourists, so while there will be a tourism spike the impact of congestion should not be overstated.

After the World Cup in Germany in 2006, the host country benefited from being a better known and understood destination, with 88% of visitors saying they would recommend a visit to the country.

An estimated 1.5-billion Euros was added to the German economy over three years from increased tourism after they hosted the World Cup in 2006.

"The message we'd like to get across to South Africans is to stay in SA and enjoy this exceptional event. We might have to adjust our routines slightly, but it'll be worth it. The legacy of the World Cup will continue way beyond the month of soccer games," Sauders says.

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