South Africa’s power crisis could undermine the country’s successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and also harm tourism, industry authorities warned on Wednesday.
Rolling electricity outages in the past two weeks have highlighted state power utility Eskom’s struggles to keep up with increasing demand from a growing economy.

Eskom plans to spend 300 billion rands on new power stations over the next five years. The company has said energy-intensive new investments should be reviewed until power supply improves around 2013.

Officials said the tourism industry was worried it would lose business and that the country would be unable to cater for some 300,000 visitors expected for the 2010 soccer extravaganza.

“The stadiums may have all the most wonderful (electricity) generators in the world to broadcast the games,” said Michael Tatalias, chief executive of the SA Tourism Services Association.

“But, will people come (to South Africa)… if they know they will be going back to hotels and guest houses with no power?” he said in a statement.

In Cape Town, the country’s main tourist destination for foreigners, top-rated restaurants and smaller hotels were already straining to cope with the power cuts.

“It’s been very terrible on business. On Monday night I turned less than a third of the normal business when the lights went off out of the blue,” said Saye Winters, general manager at Cape Town’s only Vietnamese restaurant, the 110-seater Saigon Restaurant.

She said customers left behind half-finished meals in the darkened restaurant, while waiters and bartenders expressed frustation at losing out on much-needed tips.

Larger hotels such as the Mount Nelson Hotel and Table Bay Hotel, both members of the Leading Hotels of the World consortium, have generators as back-up and have been mostly insulated against the blackouts.

A city official said unannounced power cuts hampered security camera monitoring and compromised visitors’ safety at tourist hotspots.

“It wont take long for criminals to exploit the opportunities created,” said Simon Grindrod, an opposition party councillor responsible for tourism and economic development.

South Africa is saddled with one of the highest crime rates in the world.

Hundreds of tourists spent an uncertain night on Table Mountain on Monday when power supplies to the cable car was disrupted.

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
AUTHOR: Reuters
DATED: 23rd January 2008