The Vibe from Abroad – Travelling to South Africa is just too complex

If I’m an England fan, and I don’t already have a ticket, there’s slim chance I’ll travel to the World Cup now.

There are many reasons for this; not least of all the question of access. Planning a trip to Germany can be done over a pint in the pub. Planning a trip to South Africa requires an atlas, internet connection and healthy bank balance.

Germany is at the heart of one of the most populated continents on Earth, with easy access from many neighbouring countries and those within short-haul and even long-haul range. For the 2006 World Cup, the infrastructure was in place, with fully functional airports, ferry ports, high-speed rail, motorways and accommodation and a travel trade well-versed in the country and its people. There were some stereotypes around wearing leather shorts and taking long walks in the mountains, but nothing the travel industry couldn’t deal with.

With an average journey time of less than three hours, fans from England had no problems accessing the destination. Crucially, they understood what a trip would involve, as many fans would regularly travel when their own teams and national side played on the continent. 

The second problem with travelling to South Africa, which could not have been foreseen four years ago, is the recession and the fact that the UK is experiencing the economic hangover from hell. In 2006, the party was just hitting its stride. We were ordering more Champagne and travelling further and further afield; it didn’t matter where we went, or what we bought; we could put it all on the never-never card.

Now, with the increasingly likely change of government at the general election in April, the race is on to show the electorate just who can cut into the bloated public sector the deepest, to bring the eye-watering budget deficit under control. So if your job is on the line, or you’ve already been down-sized – chances are you’ll be staying home and watching the World Cup on television in your front room.

It is now time for the South African industry to firm up the travel offers with compelling reasons for all those home-bodies to opt to visit the country after the World Cup. These offers are sure to be helped along by the BBC broadcasting stories on South Africa’s beauty and diversity from its studio in Green Point.

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