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Soccer Cup set to be ‘another ’94 for SA’

It would be hard to overestimate the boost that SA’s image stands to get from the Soccer World Cup next year, but it’s effects are likely to be similar to those experienced when the country ended apartheid in 1994 and reinforced when the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup in 1995.

So says Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group, who believes that with just a few months left until the kickoff, it’s time to start thinking beyond the actual soccer that will be played in the tournament and getting really excited about the enormous economic benefits all South Africans stand to receive from the event.

“This is the biggest show on earth and all we really need to do to make the most of it is be excellent hosts, so what everyone in SA should be doing now is looking for ways to improve service levels – no matter which sector of the economy they operate in.”

The most immediate benefit of the World Cup, of course, will be the injection of billions of rands of soccer tourist money into the economy next winter. “The organisers expect around 450 000 overseas visitors to arrive for the tournament and their direct spend is expected to easily top R7bn – and that’s in addition to the billions that have already been spent on stadiums and the upgrading of our transport and basic services infrastructure,” says Everitt.

“Longer term, the major effect is expected to be a permanent increase in tourism as a result of the global exposure SA will receive during the tournament. The Soccer World Cup is definitely the most-watched sporting event in the world, as evidenced by the fact that the 2006 event in Germany attracted a cumulative 5,9bn TV viewers in 54 countries, compared to the 4,7bn people who watched all or part of the Beijing Olympics last year.”

As a result of that exposure, he points out, Berlin’s tourism figures have since doubled – “and it definitely does not have the attractions in and surrounding our nine host cities, especially those on the coast, which are going to be on TV screens all over the world for a whole month next year”.

And an increase in tourism will of course mean job creation – at an estimated rate of one permanent job for every 12 tourists – which will come on top of the 400 000 new jobs already created in the run-up to the tournament and profoundly change the lives of many ordinary South Africans for the better.

“But even better than this,” Everitt says, “there is likely to be a global wave of positive sentiment and interest in SA even among those who do not intend to tour here, as there was in 94/95,” Everitt says. “The Soccer World Cup should once again put SA in people’s minds as one of the leading nations of the world, where there are truly great possibilities and opportunities.

“Which, of course, is where the real and growing benefits of the tournament will lie for the SA property market – for a long time after the soccer tourists have gone home.”