In the latest update on fears that fans aren't lining up to attend this summer's World Cup in South Africa, Mike Cohen reports that three months before the June 11 kickoff, about 100,000 international air tickets have been sold, the international visitor estimate has been cut to 350,000 from 450,000, and the expected contribution to economic growth has been halved.
South Africa has spent $4.6 billion to host the tournament, including building 10 world-class stadiums. “When the World Cup was awarded to us in 2004, the economic situation was completely different,” Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile said. “We have to revisit those projections and be realistic.”
Low attendance would be a blow to the government's efforts to expand the tourism industry and revive consumer spending following the country’s first recession in 17 years. The Ministry of Finance said on March 17 that the tournament would boost gross domestic product by about 0.5 percent this year, half of what was projected before the global recession.
Because of a lack of demand, MATCH Services AG, which FIFA contracted with to supply ticketing and accommodation services for the tournament, has relinquished rights for more than 450,000 nights of hotel room bookings. Sales of corporate hospitality packages were 50 percent short of the target.