South Africa 2010 set to beat Germany’s brand score

Dr Nikolaus Eberl

Following the Fifa Confederations Cup, a visitor satisfaction survey commissioned by Cape Town Tourism revealed that out of 323 international visitors canvassed only one said he would not recommend South Africa as a holiday destination. The answer “maybe” came from 3.68% of respondents, resulting into an aggregate brand advocacy score of 96% for destination South Africa.

In terms of destination branding, this is the highest brand advocacy score achieved by a Fifa World Cup host yet, beating the benchmark set by Germany in 2006 by almost 8 percentage points.

Termed the Net Promoter Score (NPS) by Harvard Business School, this measurement of brand advocacy is based on a singular question, this being whether or not a visitor would recommend their destination back home to colleagues and friends.

As evidenced many times over, the word-of-mouth effect generated by a positive NPS is a key driver of international tourism growth, as Germany’s 2006 NPS of 88% translated into year-on-year growth in inbound leisure tourism of 33% and international business tourism of 47% (the latter for the hosting city of Berlin).

Yappies key to South Africa’s tourism growth

Remarkably, the survey revealed that 74% of foreign tourists consider themselves to be adventurous individuals, while 54% consider themselves to be risk-taking individuals.

This confirms previous indications that destination South Africa has become a major attraction for the emerging class of so-called Yappies, “young adventurous passion-driven professionals”, members of the Y-Generation from developed countries such as Europe and the US who are in search of challenge and adventure rather than beaches and sunshine.

As evidenced by the growing appeal of adventure-based TV series such as The Amazing Race and Survivor, the growing class of Yappies are set to become the new trendsetters in adventure tourism.

Word of mouse drives 2010 bookings

Most respondents (53.3%) used the internet to plan their trip to South Africa. This was confirmed by Cape Town Tourism, which has experienced an unprecedented number of hits since the launch of its 2010 site, www.capetown.travel/2010.

In particular, consumer-driven blogs are becoming vital for prospective visitors to inform their decision about where to invest their travel dollars, euros or yens.

Value for money a concern

On the other hand, only 15% of respondents believed value for money to be an attractive aspect of South Africa. This brings home the recently much discussed issue of local accommodation providers being tempted to overcharge 2010 visitors and potentially kill the golden goose that has been laying so many international tourism eggs in the past.

The most recent victim of hotel greed has been Zimbabwe’s tourism industry who lost a lucrative deal with Match for offering accommodation to 2010 visitors, after a number of hoteliers decided to charge exorbitant rates as high as US$600 (R4 650) per person per night.

The rise of US interest

Surprisingly, the most common nationality of foreign tourists attending the Confederations Cup was found to be American (33%), ahead of the Brazilians, who made up 20% of respondents. This correlates with the latest ticket sales for 2010, with the greatest demand coming from the US and already 93 000 sold to American citizens.

Following the US semi-final victory over Spain, “the response since last night’s victory has been incredible,” said 2010 Local Organising Committee media officer Jermaine Craig. “There’s phenomenal excitement from the United States.”

Add to that the recent indication from President Barack Obama’s office that the first family might attend the opening match in 2010, and a US media frenzy is almost guaranteed for the months running up to the event.

South African fans world class

John Duerden from Europe’s leading football site, www.goal.com, travelled across South Africa during the 14 days of the Confederations Cup and had this to say about experiencing the local fans in the stadiums: “Most English Premier League teams would kill for such a frenzy of noise and passion – and it is not just down to the vuvuzela.

“The local fans, famous through South Africa, sang and danced for much of the match in such a fashion that it was impossible not to want to join in.

“If it is a choice between 30 000 colourful, crazy, chanting supporters and 40 000 souls with backsides firmly planted on plastic seats, then it is no choice at all.”

After his trip to Bloemfontein Duerden wrote: “It was a memorable moment and begs the question, if people celebrate like this after beating the All Whites, what will happen if they actually do well at the World Cup?”

All things being equal, the 2010 experience promises to be truly memorable, and to generate many brand lovers for destination South Africa.

That is why – with just over 300 days remaining to kickoff – we should ask ourselves not so much what 2010 can do for us but rather what we can do to win brand advocates beyond 2010.

The author of the bestselling book BrandOvation™: How Germany won the World Cup of Nation Branding, and the sequel The Hero’s Journey: Building a Nation of World Champions, Dr Nikolaus Eberl holds a PhD from the Free University of Berlin and a postgraduate diploma from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. Dr Eberl’s research study of Germany’s nation-branding success story during the 2006 Fifa World Cup was featured extensively by Carte Blanche, and he is currently engaged in 2010 commentary for Business Day and CNBC Africa. Dr Eberl recently introduced the 2010 Scorecard: Converting Visitors to Brand Advocates, which measures the 10determinants of delivering the country 2010 promise to “host the most successful Fifa World Cup ever”.