Cape Town - The arrival of eight star-studded Indian Premier League (IPL) teams will provide a major boost to South Africa in these gloomy economic times, according to Sugen Pillay of South African Tourism.
With the country staring a recession in the face, the IPL has brought yet another major international sporting event to these shores and lifted spirits. And it has fitted in perfectly with the strategies of South African Tourism, who have gone on a major marketing drive in India in recent years.
"From a leverage point of view, the IPL coming here is fantastic, especially since it's the Indian market we're dealing with, which is very important to us," Pillay told SuperCricket. "We will be able to showcase our country during the event and India is a very strong growth market for us. For the last five or six years we have concentrated on aggressively marketing ourselves in India. We focus a lot on that country - we have an office in Mumbai which is fully staffed and we have very good relationships with tour operators in India."
While Pillay said estimates on the nett value of the IPL were not yet available, there is little doubt it will be a timely shot in the arm for our wheezing economy.
"We think the tournament will be really good for the country in terms of direct investment. You have all the sponsors and staff and 50 to 60 people per team coming over, so that's more than a thousand people directly involved with the cricket. With spectators coming over too, we're looking at probably around 5000 people coming over for six weeks and obviously that sort of spending power will add value. You can see already in Durban alone all the hotels are totally booked out and we believe it will be similar in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
"It's an added bonus for the hotels at a time when they're not that busy, it helps with their seasonality. And you can be sure the hospitality industry will benefit too," Pillay said.
IPL organisers have had to put additional tickets on sale for the opening weekend of matches in Cape Town on April 18 and 19 as South Africans show similar delight for the twenty20 format as when the country made a marvellous success out of the ICC World Twenty20 in 2007.
"There will be fewer people coming out for the IPL than for the British Lions rugby tour, but it will still be a telling figure. In 2007, when we staged the T20 world cup, 5000 people came for two weeks," Pillay said.
And, having once again proven itself a top-class venue for international tournaments on that occasion, South Africa can expect another feather in their cap and a windfall for the economy after the IPL.