The Canal Walk Shopping and Entertainment Complex in Cape Town

With the most advanced economy in sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa is currently sprucing up its airports, stadiums and tourist attractions for the nearly half-million visitors it expects to host for the FIFA World Cup football tournament in the summer of 2010.

World Cup 2010

Traveler interest in South Africa is increasing in the countdown to the 2010 FIFA World Cup and preparations for the international soccer championship—the first to be played on African soil—are credited with helping to cushion South Africa from the worst of the fallout from the global economic recession. Visitor growth is expected to come in at just under 1 percent this year, a figure that looks positively bullish by current Western standards.

More than 1.6 million ticket applications from 205 countries were made for the 2010 World Cup in the first round of sales, with most overseas interest coming from the U.S., followed by the UK, Germany, Italy and Australia.

FIFA has sanctioned three U.S. tour operators to be official World Cup package brokers, with access to game tickets, transfers and accommodations. Agents looking for the best World Cup deals for their clients can contact

Michelle Yeager of Great Atlantic Travel, Virginia Beach, VA, at [email protected], or 757-422-9001; Christy Lam of Cartan Tours, Manhattan Beach, CA, at [email protected], or 800-584-2010; and Terry von Guilleaume of Destination Southern Africa , Tucson, AZ, at [email protected], or 520-882-3600.

But despite the global economic meltdown, the country hasn’t yet given up on 2009—especially with the U.S. dollar buying about nine South African rand in April, up from as little as seven last year. Compared to other tourist destinations in Asia and Europe, that extra value for the dollar has kept South Africa relatively sheltered from the worldwide recession.

Ian Swain, president of Philadelphia-based Swain Tours, which specializes in Africa travel, told us that some of his team just returned from the INDABA travel conference in Durban, and “they found the mood to be cautiously optimistic going forward.”

“Due to ever-rising operating costs, most of the properties are still being forced to increase their rates for travel in 2010, but they are doing everything possible to include value-adds,” he says.

As Swain notes, “The World Cup is going to give fantastic exposure to South Africa, and the stadiums that have been built are in their final stages and are looking absolutely fabulous.

“My team of Africa specialists is finding that the World Cup is certainly increasing the awareness of South Africa as a destination, and people that would probably never have in the past considered a vacation to South Africa are now actually exploring different options.”

South Africa is anticipating a record 9.6 million tourist arrivals in 2009,and aiming for 10 million arrivals in 2010, including 400,000 soccer fans. But travelers don’t have to wait till next year to find deals to South Africa.

South African Airways Vacations, for example, is offering a great deal to Cape Town, with accommodations at the five-star luxury Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa for four nights, including breakfasts and private airport transfers, for just $99 per person, double occupancy—that’s $99 for all four nights. This package is available to travelers who book roundtrip, economy-class airfare on South African Airways from New York (JFK) or Washington, D.C. (Dulles) for $1,240 (plus taxes) for travel between August 16-31. South African Airways Vacations also offers special reduced-rate add-on airfares from many cities to get to and from New York or Washington, D.C.

The Twelve Apostles features deluxe guest rooms and spacious suites, two gardens perched above the ocean and the Azure Restaurant offering gourmet cuisine with sea views. The resort is just 10 minutes from the bustling heart of Cape Town and has several attractions nearby, including prime diving spots, nature trails, seals, dolphins, whales and penguins.

While in Cape Town, visitors can enjoy the coastal city known for its scenic, mountainous surroundings, white-sand beaches, first-class restaurants and nightlife. Other attractions include its famous wine region, the Garden Route and Panoramic Route, or hiking in the Fish River Canyon or Drakensberg Mountains. Visitors can also explore the home of the Zulu Nation and go bird and animal watching in the St. Lucia Wetlands, dive the coral reefs off the Elephant Coast or get a fix of surf and sun in the city of Durban.

Another excellent Cape Town value is being offered by Destination Southern Africa, with four nights at the beachfront Winchester Mansions Hotel, including breakfast, starting at $850 per person, double. The land-only rate is available from September 2009 through May 2010. The package includes two full tour days with highlights such as the Cape Point nature reserve, Cape of Good Hope, Kirstenbosch National Botanical gardens and Robben Island (including a visit to Nelson Mandela’s former prison cell).


The pool area at Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa

Winchester Mansions has 76 luxurious colonial and modern rooms and suites, offering sea and mountain views. All rooms include fully stocked mini bars with complimentary tea- and coffee-making facilities, bathrooms with walk-in shower and bathtub, Internet connection and international plug points.

When planning a trip to Africa, advise your clients to look into optional add-ons such as safaris or trips to Victoria Falls. For most travelers, Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime trip and the prices available now may not be around again.