Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk says there is no doubt that South Africa is reaping the benefits of hosting the World Cup. Photo: Leon Nicholas

Johannesburg - The South African tourist market has continued to grow after the 2010 Fifa World Cup, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on Monday.

“The tournament has positioned South Africa as a viable investment market and a spin-off of improved perceptions abroad could have a long-lasting impact, not only on South Africa and its development, but on the continent as a whole,” he told reporters in Sandton, Johannesburg.

The minister said tourist arrivals between January and September increased 16.8 percent when compared to the same period in 2009.

“I have no doubt that South Africa is reaping the rewards of hosting the World Cup.”

He said 309 000 tourists visited the country for the World Cup and spent over R3.6-billion on the economy.

A study on the tourism impact of the World Cup revealed that tourists were extremely satisfied with their experience in the country and would highly recommend the destination to friends and family.

He said all sectors from government departments to the private sector and citizens, worked hard to make sure the country hosted the best World Cup ever.

“Our tourism industry and our citizens did us proud. And based on the results of our survey of the tourism impact of the World Cup, I can today say without a doubt that the success of the event will reverberate for many years to come.”

Van Schalkwyk explained that the World Cup was never about the hosting of a tournament, but rather about building a legacy for the country and the continent.

He said 309 555 foreign tourists arrived in the country for the primary purpose of attending the World Cup - 38 percent were from Africa, 24 percent from Europe, 13 percent from Central and South America and 11 percent from North America.

The World Cup also attracted a large number of first-time visitors to South Africa. A total of 59 percent of arrivals for the World Cup were first time visitors to the country.

The visitors spend more than R3.6-billion on shopping, accommodation, food and drink and leisure as well as on transport.

The average length they stayed was 10.3 nights, with tourists from Australia staying the longest, followed by those from North America and Europe.

“A total of 79 percent of tourists stayed in paid accommodation, with 21 percent staying with friends and family.”

Van Schalkwyk said the World Cup was a major milestone in South Africa's tourism growth and it cemented a foundation for sustained investment and growth in the tourism industry.

“We are very pleased to note from the report that South Africa is indeed enjoying increased international positive exposure directly because of the World Cup. From our latest tourist arrivals figures, released this week, we also see that beyond the World Cup our arrivals are continuing to grow strongly.”

Tourist arrivals from January to September 2010 increased by 16.8 percent compared to the same period in 2009. - Sapa