CEO of South African Tourism Thulani Nzima
For South Africa, hosting the ongoing African Cup of Nations is not an end in itself, but a means to an end, a means to showcasing the tourism offerings of the “Rainbow Nation” and by so doing encouraging repeat visits. CEO of South African Tourism Thulani Nzima confirmed this much during a chat with journalists including Demola Ojo in Durban on the sidelines of AFCON draw…
The 2013 edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is finally on and the three-week fiesta is sure to capture the attention of a football-loving continent and a watching world. For South Africa though, the continental showpiece - which features 16 teams aspiring to succeed Zambia as African champions - goes way beyond a leather ball-induced, testosterone-fuelled contest for supremacy.
“For us it’s about the exposure this tournament brings to us beyond football, beyond what other countries know Africa for, which is the safari experience,” said South African Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima a few minutes before the AFCON draw in Durban. “There’s another side to our country. “
There’s no bigger opportunity to showcase this other side according to him. “It is a big spectacle for all of us and following on from the success of the World Cup, it is just fitting that we follow up with another successful event.” Nzima’s vision of selling South Africa is heavily hinged on pan-Africanism as his utterances betrayed. “When we were hosting the World Cup, we called it Africa’s opportunity to host; it was never a South African World Cup, it was an African event and what you saw happening during the World Cup, the spirit that prevailed, the agony that we all shared when Ghana went out was testimony to the fact that we had as Africans, embraced each other and showcased ourselves.
“If we don’t do it ourselves no one else will,” he asserted.
Targeting Fellow Africans
Nzima revealed where SAT is expecting growth in visits from. “We as South Africa Tourism have been looking at expanding markets and the past year has given us a very good indication of where growth is coming from. The traditional markets where we have been getting tourism from did not do as well. It was emerging markets and African markets that came very strongly.
“Our government has shown confidence in this and has given us additional money to continue to invest in making sure that we dominate our own backyard, that is, the African market,” he said. This obviously informs the decision to open offices in strategic African markets including Nigeria.
“We are using the AFCON as a platform to invite Africa to come and dance with us, to come and celebrate with us, to come and enjoy football with us, to come and make and meet new friends… The coverage that the AFCON gives to any country is huge. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) puts the figure at 6.6 billion viewers (cumulative viewership) during the last edition hosted in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
“That’s a huge number for any country to get and for us, we are saying ‘we can’t invite you for the safari experience, all of us as Africans have gotten half of this, but we can showcase South Africa for something else that maybe you may not know,” Nzima said.
“The lifestyle, the adventures you’ve engaged in, like the bungee jumping is exactly what we want to showcase.”
Nzima stated the exact motivation behind hosting the Nations Cup: “We want people to come back; what we saw during the soccer World Cup must be replicated now. During the World Cup, we had quite a lot of people, especially coming from outside the African continent visiting the townships of Soweto and Umulazi to get their experiences. We had pre and post tournament visits. We expect to see the same thing.
“A lot of people who came from Europe during the World Cup found it difficult returning back to their countries. Many wanted to live in Soweto; there were those who got lost and were found in Soweto. So we have a lot to share; our culture, our heritage…this is something that is not talked enough of but something we would like you to see.’’
150,000 Potential Repeat Visitors
The SAT team has a number to work on. “Those who come here for the soccer tournament must come back as tourists in the not-so-distant future,” Nzima said, “and we would like you to experience the country and feel very much at home. We are expecting about 150,000 people to come through.
They (repeat visits) won’t happen unless as a country we open up and we are warm to people coming here for the AFCON.
I expect that we will also have another incident-free event that we can be proud of together. We did that with the soccer World Cup; 310,000 people were in South Africa during the World Cup incident free. I wish and hope that we can do the same thing,” he said.
Evoking the African Spirit
On more than one occasion, Nzima appealed for support from other African countries. “Remember, in the eyes of the Europeans, in the eyes of the Americans and the Asians, whatever happens in Ghana, whatever happens in Morocco is in Africa and all of us get affected anyway. So if there’s anything we can do for ourselves), we need to be optimistic about our own continent, about things we are doing for ourselves, and not go out there and beg for support as if we’re not capable of things.
“So here is an opportunity for all of us to demonstrate that; to be as positive as the British are about their own country, as positive as the Germans are about their country; if you don’t love your country and your continent, nobody else will and nobody else will save it.
“Don’t be surprised if the European continent, the Asian continent runs us down as an African continent. It is so that these benefits of tourism will then shift to their own countries,” he explained.
“I’m putting the challenge to all of you; be positive about your country. We’re not saying don’t criticize when things are going wrong but be measured in your criticism. Tourism is a collaborative business and it creates jobs. It contributes to GDPs of various economies, so we’re quite excited about the impending football competition,” he said.