More SWC fans than expected
Johannesburg - African football fans flew in unexpectedly large numbers to watch the Soccer World Cup in South Africa, driving up the number of foreign visitors to nearly 400 000, according to new data on Wednesday.
South Africa's last predictions had forecast that 300 000 visitors would come for the four-week tournament that wrapped up on July 11, but consulting company Grant Thornton said the actual numbers topped the expectation.
"I feel comfortable saying there were close to 400 000, which was more than we originally predicted," said Gillian Saunders of Grant Thornton, which has run independent analysis on the economic effects of the World Cup.
The surprise boost in the numbers came from wealthier African tourists who travelled to South Africa by plane from other parts of the continent, a data category Grant Thornton calls 'African air'.
Saunders said the number of African air arrivals was "significantly higher than predicted."
They also had a greater effect on the economy, because air travellers tend to have more disposable income than cross-border travellers, Saunders said.
South African authorities have yet to release final numbers of arrivals during the World Cup period, but Michael Tatalias of Southern Africa Tourism Services said the new data highlighted the economic benefits of the tournament.
"What it confirms is that the tourism industry benefitted from significant numbers of additional arrivals," he said in a statement.