Time for tourism off the pitch

By Kim Garner in Johannesburg

Posted on Monday, 5 July 2010 17:16

Tourists have flocked to South Africa to see the World Cup games, but

stadiums are not the only sites they’re seeing. The South African

tourism industry got a much-needed boost from the tournament as fans

ventured down well-trodden and lesser-known paths.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists swung through the revolving doors of South Africa’s airports – vuvuzelas, survival guides and sunscreen in hand – to watch the World Cup games. But, even if those tourists went to two matches per day, that would still leave about 20 hours of football-free time per day. What did they do with those hours? Were the tourists only here to see their boys score goals or did they also visit a few truly African tourist attractions as well?

It would have been slightly depressing to think that South Africa’s new foreign friends were leaving the country having only seen the inside the stadiums, even if they are incredible. Luckily, it seems that the visitors were flocking to every attraction their guide books told them to, like all good tourists should.

Unsurprisingly, most tourists expressed an interest in seeing wildlife. Areas like Magaliesburg, Pilanesberg Game Reserve and Kruger National Park have gotten the most attention. The manager of the Lion and Rhino Park in the Cradle of Humankind said, “There has been a massive influx of tourists to the park. They love it here. Being able to get so close to these animals really excites them. The World Cup has been good to us.”

One US tourist said, “I didn’t expect South Africa to be so beautiful and I’m definitely going to go on a safari”. His South African friends did not have the heart to tell him that no one really calls it a safari, but they appreciated his sentiment. Even tourists who had not managed to get tickets to any of the games were staying on to live it up in the bush.

That does not mean that tourists ignored the rest of the hot spots. The Apartheid Museum, which holds one of Johannesburg’s most impressive exhibitions, has been working overtime to deal with the extra business. An Apartheid Museum employee explained that they “were expecting 2,000 people through our doors daily during this time, but we’ve been dealing with around 6,000 people a day. The tourists, especially the Mexicans and Argentineans, are very interested in South Africa’s history.”

Similar stories can be heard at other cultural attractions across South Africa. At Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill, the home of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, the receptionist was giddy when asked about the extra bodies through the doors. “There have been so many tourists here, it’s been amazing. We’ve hosted many Brazilians and Argentineans. Even though they’ve all complained about the cold, they enjoyed this tour.”

Cape Town has been home to the largest number of tourists during the tournament. Between the beaches, Table Mountain and the buzzing nightlife, Cape Town is well worth visiting and has been entertaining thousands of foreigners at its most famous attractions.

South Africans are very happy to know that the world’s new-found love for South Africa extends well beyond its stadiums. So, well done for showing such an interest in South Africa’s history, growth and landscape. Now, South Africans hope that the tourists will go home and explain to their friends that Africans are not all wild hut-dwellers. Fingers crossed.

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