THE number of viewers said to have watched the opening ceremony of the Cricket World Cup at Newlands is estimated at well over a billion. At a cost of R30-m, some would say the ceremony, which punted glorious local tourist attractions, was a particularly cost-effective way of marketing South Africa abroad.
While it was a â€œdouble whammyâ€ for the country, one cannot infer a causal relationship between the staging of a major sporting event and subsequent increased international numbers. There are many factors that influence people's decisions to travel to a specific holiday destination: value for money; motivation of trip, such as visiting friends and relatives; climate; attractions, etc, says Richard George, lecturer and convenor of the Postgraduate Diploma in Tourism Management in the School of Management Studies.
â€œThe situation needs monitoring and unfortunately there is very little academic research being done on tourism in this country,â€ he adds.
George's own PhD research is on the effects of crime on tourism. And while premier sporting events bring in foreign media and spectators, there may be other reasons for tourism peaking around these.
Deterrents include lack of South Africa's accessibility and even the threat of war that keeps people from travelling internationally.
â€œIn the case of the CWC, it could be the effects of a low rand or even the threat of war in Iraq and instability in other regions. Greater monitoring is needed to determine whether the event will have positive economic effects.â€
South Africa is currently 25th in the league of preferred tourist destinations, with France occupying the top spot. George points to important sporting events such as the Tour de France, and the French Open. â€œWe can certainly take a leaf out of France's book,â€ George contends.
But big events also increase criminal activities; prostitution, robberies, and can have environmental consequences (all that beer and sun block clogging the system).
Added to these are the political nuances that will not foster tourism to the region. â€œOverseas spectators associate Zimbabwe with southern Africa. Any talk of instability there is associated with the entire region with potential tourists refusing to visit the area because of their political stances.â€