Football fans have been frantically on their phones to travel agents over the weekend booking flights and accommodation to South Africa next June following the World Cup draw and the largest batch yet of almost 1m tickets going on sale at the weekend.
Some 55,000 were sold in the first two hours.
Jérôme Valcke, the Fifa general secretary, said: “It is amazing the demand for tickets and people who want to come to South Africa. We are now confident this will be a great World Cup for all the fans.”
But Fifa officials said yesterday that they did not expect the full allocation of 308,000 seats reserved for corporate hospitality guests to be used up, as the global downturn has cut the expenditure budgets of thousands of businesses that would usually splash out during the World Cup.
This means their unused tickets will come back on to the open market early next year.
However Tui Travel’s sports division said it expected all of its 10,000 available packages to be sold within days, half of them to corporate hospitality. It has also Tui Travel Sport and Thomas Cook Sport has also sold out its packages that cover all England matches and World Cup final on July 11, as has Thomas Cook.
All 32 participating nations each play their three first-round matches in different cities, presenting both organisers and tour operating massive logistical challenges.
The World Cup also offers the big two tour operators opportunities to tap into the markets of other competing nations. Thomson Sport is selling 3,000 packages in Australia and 500 each in Denmark and the Netherlands.
Worries about accommodation shortages have prompted Tui to hire a cricket pitch in Durban to create a campsite for 1,500 Australians.
British Airways is already planning to increase its summer flights to South Africa from 14 to 10 weekly to cater for an expected spike in passenger numbers. But Virgin Atlantic, which operates a daily service between Johannesburg and Heathrow, said it is not planning to put on additional flights.