South Africa ads seek to capitalize on World Cup afterglow

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Now that the 2010 FIFA World Cup has come to a close and been widely hailed as a success, South Africa Tourism is preparing to launch a global marketing campaign that will attempt to leverage that success and the attention it brought to South Africa.

"Our strategy pre-World Cup was to prepare for post-World Cup," said Thandiwe January-McLean, CEO of South Africa Tourism, who was in New York late last month to discuss how the country's tourism sector is planning to capitalize on the international sporting event.

In September, South Africa Tourism is launching a global marketing campaign based on the premise of "20 experiences in 10 days." It will feature several couples from around the world, exploring different facets of South Africa's tourism offering: cities, safaris, arts and culture, etc.

A couple from the U.S. will be featured in commercials and print ads in the U.S. version of the campaign. The commercials will likely run for about a month on networks such as CNN and the National Geographic Channel and through the end of 2010 in print ads.

Leading into the World Cup, attendance estimates had varied widely, from as few as 150,000 to as many as 500,000. January-McLean said precise figures probably wouldn't be released until October, but added, "I can confidently say we exceeded our expectations."

Another unknown before the World Cup was whether tourism industry suppliers would achieve the much higher sales they were hoping the World Cup would bring in. That was due in part to problems with Match Services, the official ticketing and accommodation company for FIFA, the international soccer governing body. Match Services snatched up major blocks of hotel rooms and airline tickets to sell for the event and then released a large portion of unsold hotel rooms and flight tickets back to suppliers in April, giving them just a few months to sell off the remaining inventory.

But according to January-McLean, last-minute bookings did materialize.

"There was panic and some upset and some uncertainty" leading into the event, she said. But in the end, "what did happen is we did not have empty rooms."

She added that with the help of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, hesitant fans were able to gauge the experiences of friends and fellow fans in South Africa, which eased concerns and helped fuel last-minute decisions to attend.

Those concerns stemmed from media speculation in the lead-up to the World Cup about whether the first-ever African nation to host the event would be able to maintain security as well as meet the organizational and logistical challenges of hosting such a large sporting event.

One of the only major snafus during the month of soccer matches was runway congestion at the King Shaka Airport in Durban on July 7 that resulted in six aircraft not being able to land at the airport and hundreds of fans subsequently missing the semifinal match between Spain and Germany. Airports Company South Africa, which operates the country's airports, announced July 9 it was setting aside about $42,000 to reimburse those affected.

While January-McLean said the incident was unfortunate because South Africa "wanted perfection," it was also the only real hitch throughout the entire tournament, and in the bigger scheme of things, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a success, she said.

Olympic dreams?

Based on that success, she said she would like to see South Africa evolve into a stronger meetings and conventions destination as well as a host to future sporting events. As for rumors of a possible bid for South Africa to host the 2020 Olympics, January-McLean remained mum.

One major benefit the World Cup brought to the country's tourism industry was improved tourism product.

"When people are thinking of where to go, South Africa will feature in their choice now because of the diversity of product," January-McLean said.

This report appeared in the Aug. 9 issue of Travel Weekly.

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