A total of 32 countries are expected to take part in the month-long soccer extravaganza scheduled for June-July in South Africa.
South Africa’s neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) had been actively marketing to the qualifying teams as suitable venues for training camps, especially those venues that are less than a 90-minute flight from Johannesburg, as per the FIFA regulations.
But with the deadline having already lapsed none of the so-called big teams have said they would be based outside South Africa.
England and ther crowd pullers such as Brazil, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Portugal and the United States have also settled for South Africa.
This is despite notable efforts by a number of Sadc countries such as Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe that had put forward attractive packages to persuade some teams to camp in their countries.
But with little chance of southern Africa hosting some of the teams, the region’s remaining hope is to intensify if not employ new marketing strategies as well as focus more on the thousands of soccer fans and tourists expected to come to South Africa for the tournament.
More than 90 000 soccer fans and officials mainly from qualifying countries are set to come to South Africa for the finals, according to FIFA. This is in addition to as many as 400 000 tourists from all over the world that are expected to visit Africa during the tournament.
Unlike participating teams, fans and tourists are not required to notify FIFA about their stay during the finals.
Vibrant and sound infrastructure such as roads and hotels are some of the major factors that would attract tourists to countries other than South Africa.
Sadc member states should look beyond the finals and ensure that benefits of hosting such a major event continue to be realised even after the tournament.
This could be done through jointly marketing the region as a safe investment destination with an estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$471 billion.
Studies have shown that a number of investors usually use such major events to scout for new investment in sectors such as tourism, trade, energy and infrastructure development. Southern Africa may also use the World Cup as a focal point of a major drive to revive its tourism industry that has not always enjoyed a good perception internationally.
Southern African News