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Soccer World Cup Visitors to Stay Longer, Spend More

South Africa, which hosts the soccer World Cup in 50 days, will receive 23 percent fewer foreign fans for the tournament than originally forecast, though they’re likely to stay longer and spend more, Grant Thornton LLP said.

About 373,000 foreigners will attend the world’s most watched sporting event, compared with the 483,000 estimated in 2008, Gillian Saunders, head of specialist advisory services at the consultancy firm, told reporters and economists in Johannesburg today.

The cost of long-haul flights and accommodation has deterred some fans, leading the government to cut its estimate for the number of visitors to between 250,000 and 300,000 from 450,000. Overseas fans are planning to stay longer in the country though and are buying tickets for more games on average than they did at the 2006 tournament in Germany, Saunders said.

“The more you stay, the more you spend,” he said. “It’s going to be a benefit to the economy, but if we can leverage this, if we can improve our profile with the rest of the world, we will see benefits in tourism” beyond the tournament.

Visitors will probably spend on average 30,200 rand ($4,077) on their trip, up from the 22,000 rand estimated previously, said the South African unit of Chicago-based Grant Thornton. The company also forecasts that overseas fans will stay on average 18.7 days in the country, compared with an earlier estimate of 14 days.

Economic Boost

The World Cup will add 93 billion rand to the economy, with two-thirds of that coming from government spending, the consulting company said. That translates into a 0.54 percent boost to gross domestic product, it said.

“We continue to be upbeat about the impact of the World Cup,” Saunders said. “The profiling of South Africa and future spin-offs have always been the real benefit of hosting an event of this magnitude.”

Grant Thornton expects ticket sales to top 3.05 million, with 60 percent of those going to South Africans, 38 percent to foreigners and 2 percent to African visitors.

South Africans lined up in their thousands for tickets to matches that went on sale over-the-counter for the first time on April 15. Prior to yesterday, ticket applications had to be made through FIFA’s Web site or by filling in forms at branches of South Africa’s First National Bank.

MATCH Services

The selling of tickets and accommodation packages through MATCH Services AG, which is the official ticketing agent for world soccer’s governing body FIFA, “didn’t work well, especially in Africa,” Saunders said. Anecdotal evidence showed that visitors were bypassing MATCH and booking accommodation at guest houses, rather than hotels, Saunders said.

MATCH has relinquished rights for more than 450,000 nights of hotel room bookings due to a lack of demand.

South Africa’s government has spent 33 billion rand to build stadiums, improve roads and expand airports for the World Cup, which begins on June 11. Tourists will spend an estimated 4.9 billion rand while in the country, according to the National Treasury.

“This country has made all the preparations for the tournament and it is ready for it,” President Jacob Zuma said in a speech in Kimberley, in South Africa’s Northern Cape province today. “Our host stadiums have been completed and match-tested. We have made massive infrastructure upgrades.”

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