SA will meet 2010 accommodation needs, says Tourism Minister

By Chris Bathembu

Johannesburg - Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk says South Africa will meet FIFA's accommodation requirements during the 2010 World Cup.

"We have enough accommodation in this country and that has always been our argument," the minister told BuaNews on Wednesday.

The minister explained that a distinction should be made between the accommodation that was needed for fans and that needed for the FIFA family, which included players, match officials and FIFA delegates.

He said 155 000 rooms were reserved within the host cities, and an additional 100 000 rooms outside of host cities, which was what FIFA required for the FIFA family.

"What FIFA says is that they want 255 000 contracted rooms," said the minister.

Satellite accommodation was introduced, where people are transported to the matches and back again, however, the minister said it was up to FIFA to find transport to get these people to and from the stadiums.

"We need to sort out the challenges in transport because we have enough accommodation here," said the minister.

He said he was having a meeting with Local Organising Committee Chief Executive Officer Danny Jordaan later on Wednesday to discuss, among other things, the issue of accommodation.

Meanwhile, domestic tourism figures for the country for 2008 have shown that despite the current economic downturn, the South African tourism industry remains buoyant.

Statistics for domestic travel indicate that more South Africans traveled domestically in 2008 than in 2007.

About 46 percent of the adult South African population travelled in 2008, which represents a figure of about 14 million domestic tourists, compared to about 13 million domestic tourists in 2007.

The total annual spend on domestic tourism increased from R20 billion in 2007 to R25.8 billion in 2008, which represents an increase in nominal terms of 29 percent.

"Even when this figure is adjusted for inflation, the real growth in revenue generated from domestic tourism was 17 percent over 2007, which represents healthy growth, especially given that it was achieved under difficult market conditions," the minister said.

However, despite the good news in terms of an increase in domestic tourists and spend, the industry saw a decrease in the number of trips undertaken in 2008.

Domestic trips decreased by 8 percent compared to 2007, with 32.9 million trips being undertaken in comparison to 35.9 million in 2007.

"We have to face these realities, but now that we can quantify the effects of the financial downturn on our tourism industry, we can plan and market better," the minister said.

Minister van Schalkwyk said.the newly formed Tourism Department has been on a countrywide stakeholder tour to consult with role players in the tourism industry about their needs.

"During times it is vital for South African tourism industry to strengthen its marketing campaigns and show South Africans that traveling in the country was still affordable." - BuaNews