South Africa, as host of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set the ideal stage for the UNWTO/South Africa inaugural Summit on Tourism, Sport, and Mega Events (Johannesburg, February 24-26). The summit, attended by some 450 delegates from 35 countries, provided a first-of-its-kind platform for best practice and knowledge sharing towards mega-events excellence.
UNWTO has been actively advocating to position sport and mega-events in national tourism development strategies and maximize their potential as a driver of growth and development. The growing numbers and effects of mega-events at both the global and regional levels, the economic and social benefits for host nations, and the massive multimedia opportunities for nation branding and promotion, are among the key aspects to be considered.
Recognizing the value of tourism to the economy, the President of South Africa, HE Jacob Zuma, highlighted in his opening address that: “Tourism is, as a key sector, to boost the country’s growing economy. It has a huge potential for job creation; it is a driver of infrastructure investment and beneficiary of large public infrastructure investment. Tourism is a key generator of foreign exchanges and a social and environmental champion in our economy.”
“Sport and tourism bring people together in many unimaginable ways and can play a major part as instruments of change,” said UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai, in his opening address. He praised HE Jacob Zuma “for the model way in which South Africa has approached 2010, including your outreach to make this the first African World Cup and a beacon for an inclusionary global engagement.”
The summit took place at a critical time as 2010 is set to be a year of exceptional sport and cultural events around the world such as the Winter Olympic Games in Canada; the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa; the World Exhibition in Shanghai, China; and the Commonwealth Games in India.
“Sports, mega-events, and business tourism are the sleeping giants of our tourism market, which hold huge potential and which we will exploit further to grow our industry,” stressed the minister of tourism of South Africa, Marthinus van Schalkwyk.
One of the main outcomes of the summit was the recognition of the need to continue working to understand better the impacts of mega-events in tourism.
Proposals include issues such as greening guidelines for mega events, a knowledge repository on the management of mega-sporting events, and a rethinking of the way the costs and benefits of these events are evaluated.
“There is a clear need to continue working to understand better the impacts of mega-events in tourism and share such knowledge in order to help destinations bidding and managing mega events in a more competitive manner,” said Mr. Rifai, at the closing of the summit. “UNWTO can play a pivotal role in this respect,” he concluded.