DURBAN: A lot has changed since South Africa was announced the winner of the rights to stage the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Many have sworn at the country, detractors questioned its readiness, while SADC and Africa argued that this was never meant to be an African event.
However, this week, South African tourism and aviation authorities parried fears that the giant African economy may be selfish and only use the continent to win the rights.
“There are visitors who will visit neighbouring countries like Botswana, Angola and Lesotho and from tourism perspective, I see other countries in that regard”, explained Thandiwe January-Maclean, the new Chief Executive Officer of South African Tourism.
“This is the first time Africa hosts the World Cup,” added Monhla Hlahla, CEO of Airports Company South Africa (Acsa).
“The benefits are there; when tourists come here, they can visit other countries,” she added.
However, Africans themselves are starting to point fingers at each other for lost opportunities.
Some African countries, especially in the frontline states in SADC, including Botswana, expected to host participating teams, but it was discovered that FIFA rules will make it impossible.
By its own admission, Botswana feels betrayed by South Africa and it seems the country has given up with a number of projects meant for the World Cup missing deadlines.
Frank Ramsden, Works and Transport minister, is on record saying expansion of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA) was never meant for the event.
However, reliable transport infrastructure might be needed in the next month.
January-Maclean explained to The Telegraph that from the onset, South Africa has always been open about the region benefiting.
“People who will come to South Africa for the World Cup, may watch a game for an hour and visit beautiful countries like Botswana,” she said.
“They will travel between South Africa and the region.”
Meanwhile, January-Maclean believes South African tour operators will benefit from last minute SADC travelers.
It is expected that most of the visitors will be from African countries including Botswana, Angola, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland, amongst others.
“We continue to engage Africans. Africans are excited and the stadiums will be filled by them,” she revealed.
The US, UK nationals lead the pack in the number of nationalities that are expected in the region next month. These two countries have always been Botswana’s traditional markets for inward tourists.