Jan 23, 2010 9:33 PM By Karen Van Rooyen and Bienne Huisman
Local organisers are getting jittery amid international criticism of the cost of travelling to the tournament
South Africans banking on a flood of international soccer fans to boost the local hospitality industry during this year's World Cup may be in for a rude awakening.
Travel packages of up to R100 000 for European and South American fans have triggered warnings that Africa's first World Cup may not draw the numbers initially expected.
With 3-million tickets available for the tournament - which will see 32 nations compete for the ultimate soccer glory - local organisers are getting increasingly jittery amid international criticism of the cost of travelling to the tournament.
Ticket sales abroad have been fairly poor so far.
All-inclusive packages on offer by foreign travel agencies accredited by Fifa's ticketing agency, Match, are proving to be very costly.
An England fan wishing to travel to South Africa to watch his team's three first-round games - in Rustenburg in North West, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth - would have to fork out R60 000.
And that's for the cheapest category of match ticket and economy-class travel. The £4900 package includes accommodation for 14 nights at a three-star bed and breakfast in Sandton and travel between the venues - either by plane or by bus.
This is simply too much for English fan Mu Ali, who told the Sunday Times he would need a "small fortune" to come. The London-based marketing manager said: "I'm not even considering it; it's far too expensive. It's a choice between keeping my flat and going on holiday."
Kevin Miles, an England fan and director of international affairs at the Football Supporters' Federation, said there was a "general perception" that the World Cup in South Africa was expensive. He predicted that South Africa would see fewer English fans than those who travelled to previous World Cups.
"I've applied for every single game that England plays in - up to the finals. Those are category 1 tickets and it's $2600 for seven games. That's before I've paid for flights, before I've paid for travelling between venues, before I've eaten anything."
South African fans have been slow to respond to ticket sales for the World Cup, but when compared to how much foreign fans will have to pay, they may be missing out on the bargain of a lifetime.
The Sunday Times has established that:
- A Brazil fan would have to pay R90000 for a package that includes return flights, transfers, 12 nights' accommodation and tickets for Brazil's three first-round games;
- A Mexico fan would have to pay R105000 for a 15-day trip, including return flights, domestic flights and three first-round tickets; and
- Mexican company Super Travel's all-inclusive week-long package (at R59 000) has sold out. It includes only one ticket for Mexico's opening match against Bafana Bafana.
Gustavo Signorio, director of the official Fifa tour operator in Argentina, Mundoreps SRL, said at R22 000 for an economy-class return ticket, airfare from Buenos Aires was expensive during the World Cup. "A room in a three-star hotel is$300 per night and almost all hotels request a three-night minimum stay."
Mundoreps SRL also offers a 14- day package at R63000, including return flights from Buenos Aires, accommodation and tickets to Argentina's first three games plus a few local excursions.
Earlier this week, German football legend Franz Beckenbauer slammed ticket and travel prices, saying that few Germans - already put off by high crime levels in South Africa - could afford the tickets.
Marc Young, editor of the Berlin-based English newspaper The Local, said that while Germans had a "soft spot for South Africa", they would not take kindly to being "ripped off".
"I have a feeling you're going to end up having half-full stadiums, which is going to be a shame."
Salmar Burger, a lecturer at the University of Pretoria's Biokinetics, Sport and Leisure Sciences department specialising in sport tourism, said it was important to have full stadiums for economic, social and psychological reasons.
He said full stadiums also provided the atmosphere at such events.
Burger said that South Africa was at a disadvantage because the "majority of spectators are from halfway around the world" and would not be able to afford travelling, given the global recession.
Some Dutch fans have opted for a cheaper trip.
Oranjereisbureau , a subsidiary of Fifa-endorsed OAD Reizen, is offering a 17-day chauffeured caravan experience that includes return flights from Amsterdam and tickets to two of Holland's three first-round matches at R23 000 per person.
Oranjecamping spokesman Mieke de Vries said: "We give Dutch fans the chance to follow their team for better value for money."
Sadly, her father, Jacques, 62, cannot afford the trip. "Travelling to South Africa for the World Cup is only possible for rich European businessmen, not for simple people like me," the retired teacher said in a telephonic interview.
But Rich Mkhondo, spokesman for the Local Organising Committee, said that the tickets to this World Cup were the cheapest in the history of the event.
"Tickets for this World Cup are still 40% cheaper than the previous three, whether you're coming from South Africa or Germany," he said.
"The problem is that it is a long-haul destination - but we are not responsible for those packages."