The FIFA World Cup attracted 309,000 visitors to South Africa during the tournament, with fans spending 3.6 billion rand ($520.8 million) on hotels, food and clothing, the Tourism Ministry said.
“The World Cup was a resounding success,” Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk told reporters in Johannesburg today. “It will reverberate for years to come.”
South Africa is betting that favorable coverage of the country by television stations around the world during the month-long tournament, which ended on July 11, will help boost tourism and jobs in a country where one in four are unemployed. The tourism industry makes up 7.9 percent of the economy and employs 920,000 people.
“The money we’ve spent has been worth every cent,” van Schalkwyk said. “The World Cup was never about the hosting of a tournament, but rather about building a legacy for our country and our continent.”
The number of visitors was in line with the government’s estimate, which was scaled back to as low as 250,000 from an original projection of 450,000 as the global recession and flight costs deterred some fans.
Fans from the rest of Africa accounted for 38 percent of visitors who came to the country to watch the games, mainly from Mozambique, Swaziland and Botswana, the ministry said.
Of the European tourist arrivals, 22,802 came from the U.K., 8,741 from the Netherlands and 8,596 from Germany, the ministry said. More than 30,000 fans from the U.S. visited the country for the World Cup, while 12,210 came from Australia. Brazil topped the list of South American visitors with 14,815.
South Africa spent 43 billion rand preparing for the World Cup, including building or renovating 10 stadiums, expanding roads and constructing a high-speed rail-link between the airport and Sandton, where the stock exchange is based.
World Cup fans stayed on average 10.3 nights in the country, with 79 percent paying for accommodation and the rest living with friends and family, the ministry said. Gauteng province, which hosted the opening and final matches in Johannesburg, attracted the most visitors at 223,039, it said.
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