Pretoria has the stadium and the beds, but to get between the two in 2010 might cause headaches for tourists if the Tshwane Metro Council fails to implement its urgent transport recovery plan.

After a successful tourism fair, the city looks set to attract the visitors and has more than 17 000 beds to accommodate them, but hiccups in the implementation of the much-vaunted, multi-billion rand bus project is discouraging.

The Loftus Versfeld refurbishment project is proceeding well, according to Executive Mayor Dr Gwen Ramokgopa who conducted a site visit last month. Among the upgrades are a new roof over the eastern pavilion, replacing the spectator seating in the stadium, new entrance gates and turnstiles and new video screens and score boards.

At the beginning of October the city held its first Tshwane Tourism Fair to showcase local attractions and attract more people to enjoy what the city has to offer.

Fair manager Mike Gcabo said: “With 2010 on South Africa’s doorstep, it is interesting to learn from the experience of people who have hosted the world’s biggest sporting events. There is mounting interest in the future of tourism in Tshwane. Many private sector tourism role players are eager to contribute meaningfully to develop tourism in the city.”

Munich Host City Co-ordinator, Henriette Wägerle, who spoke about the 2006 Fifa experience said the Munich tourist office offered 230 city guides in 25 different languages and 30 taxi guides, in 10 different languages.

“Football city sightseeing programmes were available since 2005 and we promoted the World Cup in 22 participating countries,” she said.

But that is something that needed to be jacked up, according to Tshwane Tourism Association chairman Franco Jordaan, who said the metro council needed to promote itself better and improve its communication with role players.

“We have got so much going for us as a host city and can market this city on so many platforms, but don’t currently make use of the opportunities. The private sector is making full use of opportunities, but it is sad that we can’t do it in conjunction with the Tshwane Metro,” he said.

Jordaan said the tourism industry was preparing for the influx of tourists by offering them more than just a soccer match ticket and overnight stay.

“Huge potential exists in offering pre- and post-tour programmes for tourists during this time. These programmes don’t necessarily mean that visitors need to travel long distances when in the country, but the potential is there for all host cities and their close neighbours to offer enough to keep them (tourists) for as long as possible,” he said.

But if the tourists come, they need to get around and transport remains a matter that needs urgent attention because of hiccups in the implementation of the much-vaunted Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

That project has been delayed due to loss of personnel, the lack of a dedicated project team and technical support.

A report from the city’s public works and infrastructure development portfolio committee states that a significant amount of work has been done in the planning of the BRT, but it was still behind schedule.

Although the initial implementation programme foresaw that the project would be completed in time for the World Cup, it will not be operational and an urgent plan is being developed to transport supporters from transport hubs to the match venue.

The report stated that an enhanced east-west bus route which will run between Mamelodi and Atteridgeville is planned.

A recovery plan is also being developed to get as much of the original schedule back on track.

A transport plan that is forging ahead successfully is the upgrade of Wonderboom Airport, north of the city. Property of the council, it is going to serve as a vital means of access for thousands of tourists flying in to watch games at Loftus.

In October, fire fighters hauled injured passengers away from a downed plane in a mock crash landing and later rescued trapped radio personalities from the control tower using their hydraulic platform.

The exercise tested the airport’s state of readiness and was given the thumbs-up by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) following the successful execution of two vital rescue drills. “Everything that should have happened, happened,” said CAA safety infrastructure general manager, Gawie Bestbier.

The member of the mayoral committee responsible for public works and infrastructure development, Subesh Pillay, said a drastic increase in air traffic was expected during 2010 and it was important that fire and rescue services be continuously ready and of a high standard.

“Projects are under way to upgrade the airport.

“For this event, air transport is regarded as one of the crucial modes available to transport spectators and tourists to and from event centres,” he said.

Pillay said a R160-million budget was approved to develop proper arrival and departure halls, expand apron facilities, purchase new emergency vehicles and ground handling equipment, improve security and upgrade physical infrastructure to ensure that spectators and aircraft movements were dealt with according to strict CAA compliance requirements.

On the legal front, the city is progressing well. Council spokesperson Console Tleane said the Host City agreement entered into with Fifa stipulates that the city shall formulate and implement by-laws that will enable the smooth running of the tournament.

He said a draft by-law had been formulated and will be presented to council for an in-principle approval.

The by-law addresses, among other issues, advertising activities; the controlling of access to certain areas, such as the stadium precinct; public roads and traffic guidance; and street trading.

“It is our hope that the by-laws will enable us to offer the best World Cup ever,” said Tleane.

“At the same time we will strive to ensure that our people benefit maximally from the tournament.

“Safety during the World Cup remains one of the City’s major priorities.”

AUTHOR: Barry Bateman
DATED: 10th November 2008