In the words of a local hotelier, “Great event. Great execution. Great result. Great prospects.” Our successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and the generally excellent weather, even though it was winter, showcased Cape Town and South Africa as a must visit destination. Now Cape Town City, CT Tourism and business are looking at promoting Cape Town, internationally, as a major event venue.
What lessons can we in the Scenic South learn from the World Cup and how can local business position itself to benefit from future big events? The results of a mini-survey, undertaken by the Scenic South team, to find out what the impacts of the World Cup were on local business in the South Peninsula, south of Lakeside may give some pointers and stimulate discussion.
Official stats from CT Tourism indicate that the direct financial benefit of the World Cup was “felt in concentrated areas near to the stadium, the major attractions and Fan Walk/Fan Fest areas”. The nature of the WC was such that visitors tended to stay for a few days and when not watching soccer focused on the well known key attractions.
Cape Point was one of the major attractions and had to close its gates because of vehicular congestion on six independent days. This is unprecedented. Cape Point has never had to close its gates because of high visitor numbers before. While tourists were clearly moving through the Far South to Boulders and Cape Point our survey indicates that far fewer than anticipated were stopping on route to shop, to visit local restaurants or to stay in local accommodation.
CT Tourism stats also indicate that accommodation establishments outside the centre had disappointing bookings, with 39% reporting occupancy levels of below 20%. Our small survey of accommodation in the Scenic South revealed that the accommodation establishments had mixed experiences. A number of B&B’s complained that their “regulars had been scared away” by the perception of inflated prices across the entertainment and accommodation sectors or were watching the WC from their home towns or were using the extended holiday differently. In some cases, the gap left by regulars was compensated for by WC tourists, but this seems to have been far less than anticipated. The establishments that did benefit appear to be those with longstanding overseas contacts, those in local tourism activity hubs or those who had managed to attract visitors through extensive internet marketing.
Local restaurants, coffee shops and pubs as a group also experienced mixed results. A number of local pubs and restaurants that advertised watching sport on big screens increased their business over previous winters. One of the local grocery suppliers commented that sales to busy restaurants meant that their sales were higher than usual for winter.
Some of the smaller coffee shops and restaurants complained of less business than usual and put it down to locals rather spending money on the WC at the stadiums or at the fan centers. An interesting comment from Simon’s Town was that over 1000 naval personnel who are usually based there were temporarily relocated to security posts around the country which had a negative impact on a range of businesses in Simon’s Town. Two respondents whose business is linked to conferences and training had an especially poor June and July. Apparently training and conferencing was put on hold because of pre World Cup perceptions about high prices and shortage of flights or accommodation.
Alternatively, the local tour operators surveyed had significantly improved business results over previous winters, although some commented that bookings had been slow at first. One specialist eco-tourism company was so busy with World Cup visitors that they contacted their regular clients to reschedule their bookings after the World Cup. For them, this translates into a prolonged season.
Of the businesses with no direct links to the World Cup, the responses ranged from absolutely no impact to very quiet during the World Cup. Businesses surveyed in the health and beauty sectors commented that they were not impacted either positively or negatively. A local bookshop however complained that people were too busy watching sport to buy books and a local hardware expressed a similar diversion from DIY sales to watching sport. (It would be interesting to know how much was spent on building materials by local B&Bs and businesses who invested in upgrading in anticipation of the World Cup.) A local estate agent who experienced a drop in interest in property during the World Cup is none-the-less positive about future business possibilities resulting from the good publicity around the World Cup. More on the positive side, and possibly quite significant, a number of businesses commented that the World Cup resulted in them and the services they offer being discovered eg a small printing company that printed soccer logos and national flags onto memorabilia.
A number of respondents indicated that they had not anticipated significant positive spin-offs from the World Cup because the Far South is removed from the center of activity and because of onerous conditions set by “FIFA and the Cartels”. This might expalin why most of the businesses surveyed indicated that they had not invested in increased or different advertising strategies. Notwithstanding this, the positive publicity for Cape Town resulting from the World Cup exposure has a wide range of local businesses feeling optimistic about increased tourism and spin-off benefits for the entire Cape Town region in the future. Cape Town Tourism has projected that if only a half of a percent of the three billion people who watched broadcasts of the FIFA World Cup™ visit Cape Town over the next five years, we could grow our tourism arrivals of 1,8 million visitors per annum by a further three million visitors per annum. And more good news is that the World Cup has shown that a winter event in Cape Town can be a big success.
If the City management does in fact sell Cape Town as an international event destination, a wider range of businesses are likely to benefit than the traditional tourism related ones. The trick for the Far South will be for businesses to link in to the buzz around Cape Town. Potential visitors need to be sold the concept that places like Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, Simon’s Town, Noordhoek, to name just a few, are part of Cape Town and not obscure locations somewhere in South Africa. The communities in the Scenic South need to market themselves as attractive alternative destinations and not just part of a scenic route to Cape Point.
Note that comment and quotations from CT Tourism were copied from a media release by Skye Grove PR & Communications Manager of Cape Town Tourism