Firms offering S. Africa tourism that goes beyond soccer

With just over two months to go before the kickoff of the 2010 World Cup, Israeli tour companies are wasting no time in marketing packages for fans.

2010 world cup 311 (photo credit: AP)
2010 world cup 311
(photo credit: AP)
With just over two months to go before the kickoff of the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament, Israeli tour companies are wasting no time in marketing packages for the fans. However, the companies stress that football is not the only reason to visit South Africa and are offering tour packages that leave plenty of time to see the rest of the country.
Ido Veg, marketing director for Issta Sports, a subsidiary of Issta Travel and the exclusive FIFA-licensed ticket-seller in Israel, said on Tuesday that many people were using the tournament as “an excuse” to visit a place they otherwise might have missed, and in between games, they plan to experience the wealth of attractions the country has to offer.
Veg said Issta had sold hundreds of packages already and was anticipating a new wave of buyers to come forth now, after Pessah.
“So far the orders that have come in are split 60/40. Forty percent are hardcore fans who are going specifically to see the games, and the rest are tourists who might go and see a game, but are predominantly there for the atmosphere and to tour the country,” said Veg.
“For the diehard fans, we have ‘Follow Your Team’ packages, which enable them to see all the games of a given national squad, like Argentina, Brazil or Spain,” he continued. “For the rest, we offer more than 40 packages that combine football with a variety of other attractions like game safaris, hot air balloon rides or historic excursions.”
He added that “during the last few months, we’ve sent teams of agents to visit South Africa four or five times. We have personally checked out every element of the packages we are offering to guarantee they meet expectations.”
Issta’s packages range in price from $3,000 for one that includes flights, three nights at a three-star hotel in Johannesburg and a single group stage game, to $13,000 for an 11-day stay with four games, including the final. Veg said that nearly everyone who purchased a package also purchased an add-on attraction.
“What drives the prices up is accommodation costs,” said Veg. “Places that normally charge $60-$70 a night now charge $400 because of the demand. South Africa is determined that the World Cup will help boost their economy and has hiked up fees substantially.”
According to Veg, the decision of whether to go to South Africa this summer should not be left for the last minute.
“To use a football term, this is not something that you can wait for the 90th minute to do,” he said. “People who plan to go generally prepare months in advance. The sheer cost of travel, accommodation and tickets means that you don’t want to leave things to chance and encounter late surprises.”
Meanwhile, Aladdin Travel, which specializes in hotel bookings and organized tours, has offered up a series of tours for the non-fans, such as unenthusiastic spouses or people just looking for something to do in between the games. Its Web site offers a variety of attractions based on the schedule of the games.
While South Africa plays Mexico in Johannesburg on June 11, those who aren’t watching the game can take a day trip to Pretoria and the nearby Cullinan diamond mine, home to the world’s largest diamond.
For those who are willing to miss Brazil playing Portugal in Durban on June 25, there is a tour to the Shakaland Zulu cultural village, where visitors can take part in brewing local beer, carve spears, weave clothing and enjoy a traditional meal and performances by local artists. Alternatively, they can join an organized tour of the city, visiting the botanical gardens, the exclusive Durban yacht club, the Indian market and the Durban port.
In Cape Town, visitors can join a bicycle tour around Cape Point, wherethey will see a variety of wildlife, from whales playing in the oceanto zebras and antelopes grazing in the Cape’s Flower Kingdom, and enjoya picnic on the beach. Another option is a sunset cruise along theAtlantic coast, under the shadow of Table Mountain.
Veg said that apart from hotels, the prices in South Africa hadremained reasonable, and things like food and gifts were roughly halfthe price they were in Israel. He also noted that like Israel, SouthAfrica was presented as a dangerous place in the media, but inactuality was very safe and tourist-friendly. As long as visitors aresensible and take minimum precautions, he said, they should face noharm.
El Al has direct flights to Johannesburg three times a week.