South Africa tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk has urged FIFA to reform its ticketing policy ahead of the 2016 Brazil World Cup.
Addressing an industry audience in London, Mr van Schalkwyk questioned why African visitors had been asked to purchase tickets in advance over the internet when in many cases this was not practical.
Asking international visitors to collect physical tickets on arrival in South Africa was also proving problematic, explained the minister.
“Internet purchasing may have had a negative impact on attendance at the World Cup,” said Mr Schalkwyk.
“While attendance will be strong among governments and multi-national organisations based in Africa, there is a fear poorer visitors from north Africa will be excluded.”
Mr Schalkwyk added South Africa now expecting between 250,000 and 300,000 international visitors during the course of the tournament, depending on which nations qualify for the knockout stages.
This is down from initial estimates of one million visitors, and below the figure of 400,000 guests quoted by FIFA just weeks ago.
However, the minister remained upbeat about the impact of the tournament.
South Africa had defied expectations in 2009, with tourism arrivals up four per cent, while figures were falling around the world, he said.
Guests “displaced” by the World Cup – those postponing trips until after the tournament – were also expected to boost arrivals in South Africa later in the year.
South Africa tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk discusses the 2010 FIFA World Cup
World Cup 2018
Looking ahead, Mr Schalkwyk warned nations bidding for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to maintain “realistic expectations”.
“Every t-shirt salesman or hotel owner expects to get rich during the World Cup in South Africa,” said this minister, “this is not the case”.
While stating England must “ensure there are realistic ambitions when hosting such events”, Mr Schalkwyk said South Africa would be on hand to offer advice to all bidders.