World Cup countdown begins
Tourism ministers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met in Gaborone, Botswana, last week to discuss issues surrounding the industry ahead of the finals.
Two weeks ago a three-day investment promotion was held in Polokwana, South Africa, that drew the participation of virtually the entire SADC region.
A number of high-profile meetings among the political heavyweights of this region are also on the cards before the end of the year as focus turns sharply on the World Cup finals.
Fourteen SADC ministers met in Gaborone last week for two days and agreed to strengthen co-operation to ensure that the region gets the maximum possible rewards from the World Cup showcase.
Under the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (Retosa), the ministers agreed to join hands to market this part of the world as a perfect tourist destination ahead of the 2010 World Cup finals.
Retosa came into being almost 10 years ago and has the mandate to develop tourism through the effective marketing of this region as a dream tourist venue.
Now given the coming of the World Cup show to this part of the world and the increasing visibility of SADC countries in efforts to ensure that they get maximum benefits from the tournament, Retosa has suddenly become an effective arm.
Last week the SADC ministers agreed that they needed a master plan of how best all the countries could benefit from the World Cup roadshow rolling into South Africa.
“The plan will be implemented and marketed in all member states and all SADC countries will be allowed to participate in the World Cup tourism strategy,” said Zimbabwe’s Tourism Minister Francis Nhema.
“We would like to see the development, co-ordination and harmonisation of the region’s tourism policies.
“The guidelines of a hotel accommodation grading system is also of immense importance.
“Measures to promote tourism development in the region should be a major priority and we noted there were countries who have since relaxed their visa requirements ahead of the full implementation of the SADC Free Movement Protocol signed by the member states in August 2005.”
The immigration barriers that exist in Southern Africa today are not conducive for the free movement of people, especially at the World Cup, and this will have to be addressed ahead of the tournament in South Africa.
The majority of fans at the last World Cup finals in Germany had easy access through borders because there were European Union members.
It will be a different story in Southern Africa if the current immigration barriers were not removed by the time the first ball is kicked at South Africa 2010.
SADC leaders last year adopted a watershed decision meant to facilitate the easy movement of people in the region. The leaders agreed that the full participation of its people in building the region into a vibrant and profitable community could only be achieved where the citizens could enjoy freedom of movement across borders.
The Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons in SADC was aimed at facilitating the movement of people without them having to go through stringent visa regulations.
While visa requirements have been waived in a number of SADC countries, it is still a hassle to move from one country to the other.
Two weeks ago South African Premiership club Benoni Premier United complained bitterly about the clearance process at the borders during their three-nation tour of the region.
In two years’ time the SADC Free Trade Area is expected to come into force and could also be utilised to maximise benefits for the region from the 2010 World Cup finals.
Some member states have already entered into bilateral agreements to lift visa requirements as a way of promoting tourism and facilitating trade across their borders. The most recent was a no-visa agreement signed last year between Mozambique and South Africa.
The Botswana Department of Tourism threw its full weight behind the ministers’ indaba saying that tourism was a significant contributor to the GDP of the SADC states. The country’s Tourism Minister Kitso Makaila said his government had laid down plans to benefit immensely from the 2010 World Cup finals just across the border in South Africa.
He said South Africa had given the SADC community the opportunity to derive serious economic benefits from the World Cup showcase.
It was revealed at that meeting that South Africa and Morocco bank 50 percent of tourist receipts from visitors who come to Africa every year.
Zimbabwe used to be compete favourably with the best tourist destinations in Africa until an international media onslaught, in the aftermath of the land redistribution exercise, scared tourists from coming to Victoria Falls and other tourist destinations.
But there are signs that it is beginning to win its fair share of tourists and this is a positive development given that the nation will be crucial in the 2010 equation.
Zimbabwe has already submitted its 2010 World Cup tourism promotion strategy to the SADC secretariat and has even invited the president of the South African World Cup organising committee ‘ Irvin Khoza ‘ to come to Harare to speak about the tournament.
Khoza has repeatedly made it clear that he believes the benefits from the World Cup finals should be spread among all the SADC countries.
The Germans are still counting the benefits of hosting the 2006 World Cup finals which analysts say breathed life into Europe’s biggest economy which was in the doldrums for quite some time.
The Germans received a lot of praise for their efficient organisation of the tournament and their hospitality which gave millions of visitors a home far away from home.
Politicians and business leaders agree that the tournament, which was a huge success, will translate into higher consumer spending in a country not exactly known for its extravagant shopping habits.
However, Axel Weber, head of Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, told journalists that the party mood in the country in the aftermath of the World Cup would not give a lasting boost to its economy.
“A great World Cup by itself can’t keep the entire economy going,” Weber said.
“The current feel-good sentiment is a short-term phenomenon. It won’t be long before we’ll be talking about the same problems that we’ve been trying to solve for years,” Weber said.
The German retail sector appears to have benefited immensely from the World Cup showcase with preliminary figures suggesting that the shops cashed in additional revenues of two billion euros during the month-long tournament.
That is enough to give a country like Zimbabwe three years’ supply of fuel at current costs.
Sportswear manufacturing giant Adidas, which was on home soil, is reported to have sold about 2 million football shirts bearing the German national team’s colours.
There was a huge boost for both the hotels and the transport companies with German Railways carrying 15 million people during the tournament.
German national airline Lufthansa carried 200 000 more passengers this year ‘ during the World Cup period ‘ as compared to the same period last year.
But it was not a great time for brothels and prostitutes.
“The World Cup was a bust for brothel owners and prostitute dealers,” Munich’s Director of Police, Wilhelm Schmidbauer, told the ARD website.
“The fans were more interested in hanging out at the Fan Miles and drinking beer than going to prostitutes,” he said.
Surprisingly condom manufacturers enjoyed booming sales in Germany during the World Cup show.
Andr’ Schmincke, spokesman for Durex Condoms, said his company sold 30 percent more condoms during the World Cup than is usually the case.
More than 50 000 new jobs were created in Germany alone for the World Cup finals.
Long after the tournament, Germany also stands to gain immensely as a tourist destination after its charm impressed a lot of visitors who said they would return soon. According to a poll conducted by the German tourism association DZT of foreign visitors during the tournament, 90 percent of those surveyed said they would recommend the country as a holiday destination.
Around two million foreign tourists came to Germany during the month-long tournament.
Southern Africa is hoping to do better and attract more tourists when the World Cup show comes here. Mozambique has even offered to host a joint meeting for tourism, sports and information ministers with South Africa in two months’ time.