I have a confession to make. I don’t particularly follow football. I haven’t anything against the game. Like others, I take a pleasant interest from the side and I can certainly make light conversation about major games when needed but I can’t get all riled up about it.
Perhaps I should be whispering this, because I am in South Africa which is due to host a variety of top sporting events including the FIFA World Cup in 2010. It is the first time these tournaments have been held on African soil.
Here, sport is very much on the agenda.
I’ve been attending Africa’s largest tourism conference INDABA where the region’s governments and companies come together to exchange notes and sell tours and trips to each other. Next year South Africa hopes the number of visitors here will break 10 million tourists for the first time.
As to the question will South Africa be ready in time, I add another burning issue: will all this football help South Africa stave off the worst effects of the great recession and recover quicker than most? And to both questions the answer seems to be yes.
As Africa’s local economic superpower, what happens here is of crucial importance. Thankfully, South Africa’s economy is strong, although when official numbers come out later this month the country will technically be in recession.
Unlike the northern hemispheric countries playing deep in recession, South Africa has balls in the air that will help it through the next 12 months. From the Indian Cricket Premier League to the British and Irish Lions Tour and of course two major soccer tournaments, high-spending sports fans will be drawn to the country to support their teams and help stave off the worst effects of a recession.
In the meantime, the government continues to spend billions of dollars across the country on the infrastructure needed to support these tournaments. There are deadlines to be met and if officials are to be believed, the country is on target to ensure all will be in place for next June’s World Cup.
Throughout this year and into the next, the government will continue pump-priming the economy to ensure world-class sporting tournaments will bring in extra business. The spending will continue.
Then in about a year, when the economy is picking up, around 400,000 dedicated football fans arrive. These are tourists who would sell their great aunt to be here for the quadrennial footy bash. They will pay heavily for flights, hotels, meals and of course those vital match tickets. And whatever money is left over will no doubt be spent on buying cute wooden souvenirs of elephants, lions and giraffes to take home. This is World Cup economics. Maybe I am more interested in football than I thought.
This week’s “Profitable Moment goes to consumers worldwide. After Intel was fined ?1 Euro for anti-competitive behavior, regulators have sent a strong signal that corporations who diddle consumers won’t be tolerated.
Richard Quest is a CNN anchor and correspondent who reports on business travel issues. Tune in to CNN International each weekday at 9 pm to catch Richard’s show, “Quest Means Business.