Sports is a big boost to South Africa’s tourism, people and economy, says Thandiwe Mahbilela


With the many and sustained positive impacts of sports on South Africa, the Rainbow Country is set to further build on the gains for more development, especially sports tourism.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with VoyagesAfriq, Global PR manager of South African Tourism, Thandiwe Mahbilela, noted that sports is a big boost to South Africa’s tourism, people and economy, hence the focus on Sports Tourism.

According to Mahbilela, South Africa, which is still basking in the glory of the Springbok and other sports event and feats, has many sports offerings that are already booting tourism, and riding on the success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

“What sports tourism really does for a destination is that it brings us all together. It makes us proudly South African. We all really behind our nation, we all really behind what our country has got to offer and that is the benefit of sport,” Mahbilela said.

He noted further that sports events, especially Netball, positively impact businesses, the economy and it is good for people to get together. “With sports, we South Africans are physically getting together to celebrate under one course,” he said further.

He is excited with the role of the captain of the bookie, Isia colitis, as an ambassador of South African Tourism
“He is an advocate for the country, a true South African, who exhibits admirable human qualities and characteristics.

“We cannot really think of anybody else who would have been suitable for that role at this time. You know, when we needed to have South Africa being spoken about out in the world, he is very passionate about the country and genuinely and authentically and credibly. So, he is just a natural fit for marketing our destination,” he explained.

Sports is emerging as a big part of South Africa’s tourism

The Global PR manager of South African Tourism explained that there is no successful sports events without partners, hence South Africa Tourism (SAT) is clear and unambiguous about partnering with other entities that would help alleviate the country as a first choice destination for visitors, taking cognisance of the very competitive environment out there.

“We are a long haul destination and we are targeting markets that other people are also looking to go to. We really, really need to be highly competitive and for us to do so we would ordinarily need big budget, but in partnering with other entities and other organizations, we are able to use things such as sports tourism to market our country and that is what we have been doing and what we will be doing going forward.”

As well, South Africa has interest in the 2027 season Rugby World Cup, and Mahbilela said the interest is because, “Sporting events have got a great impact on the country, especially the event right at the beginning so that we can maximize this marketing value for the destination. Then certainly sporting events become really beneficial for our country. “Our country generally will be vying for so big for hosting big events, sporting events, and others that will go a long way for our tourism.”

Sharing his views on the outlook for tourism next year, he said, “We are optimistic. Our numbers are looking great. We are standing at 6.1 million arrivals about 4.6 million of those are from the rest of the African continent. We are seeing great growth from markets such as the US, which even exceeded the UK in terms of arrival numbers and we see that obviously China is now back and is really performing well.

“So, we are very optimistic in the outlook going into the new fiscal year. We are positive about doing better and growing bigger as a country. Of course, next year, we also celebrate 30 years of democracy as a country.
“So, we are looking to invite the world to come celebrate with us in this very big milestone.”

On the outlook for Meetings Africa, the official strategic event that will be taking place from February 27-March 1, 2024, he said,

“We will be inviting the world to come and see African exhibitors in the business event space, showcasing a diverse products and experiences. We do have other great plans to surround the business events industry that are kind of diverse at the moment, but if you hold your breath for another week or so, you may be able to find out,” he concluded.


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