S.African tourism sets record after World Cup success

Tourism to South Africa last year hit a new record as foreign arrivals increased by 3.3 percent to 8.3 million, building on the boom from the 2010 World Cup, the tourism minister said Thursday.

"The 2010 FIFA World Cup was a once in a lifetime global showcase for our country which gave us unprecedented international media exposure worth billions of dollars and left us with enhanced, modern world-class tourist infrastructure," Marthinus van Schalkwyk said.

The global football spectacle boosted tourism by more than 15 percent in 2010, but foreign arrivals had been expected to slump afterwards because of the global economic uncertainty.

But the global environment "had no massive negative effect," Van Schalkwyk told reporters.

European tourists -- the country's core market -- declined slightly.

"Given that Europe's woes are not over yet, a drop in tourists from this market in 2011 was expected," he said.

Britons, Americans and Germans were important spenders, while more than six million travellers came from African countries.

Visitors from China and India rose dramatically, powering a 14.6 percent increase in Asian arrivals.

But Van Schalkwyk said hotels that had expanded for the World Cup still struggled to fill their rooms.

"If you have a 20 percent growth in accommodation you need a 20 percent growth in arrivals and that has not yet happened."

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