England football fans hoping to travel to the World Cup finals in South Africa have been warned about possible ticket scams. Foreign Office travel advice has also warned of the dangers of crime in South Africa, particularly in parts of Johannesburg.
The travel organisation Abta said some fans might book trips on which promised tickets to matches failed to materialise. After England qualified for next summer’s finals with last night’s 5-1 win at Wembley over Croatia, UK tour operators were quick to publicise special World Cup packages.
Trips with Thomas Cook Sport, for example, will start at £2,499, with flights departing from London and Manchester. The company is one of the official 2010 World Cup tour operators and Abta said today it was vital fans booked with this type of company.
“We’re saying that when you book, you should do so with a company authorised by Fifa,” Abta’s spokesman, Sean Tipton, said. “In the past we have had instances of people booking trips for major sporting events and then finding that their tickets did not materialise.
“Travellers should also heed the Foreign Office travel advice for South Africa. It’s not a good idea, for example, to tour Johannesburg at night.
“There is no doubt that this is going to be a tremendous boost for South Africa tourism and it’s a great destination for Britons. It’s one of the few places where the pound has actually strengthened against the local currency of late. The food is good and prices are low.
“There could be a good number of people who want to travel out just to soak up the atmosphere without necessarily attending any of the matches. We would advise people to book early to get the best deals.”
Foreign Office advice says South Africa has a very high level of crime, although the authorities give a high priority to protecting tourists. The Foreign Office said there had been instances in 2007 and 2008 of foreigners being followed from Johannesburg airport and then robbed, often at gunpoint.
The Foreign Office advice adds that the risk to visitors travelling to main tourist destinations is low. It also says passport theft is common and that the standard of driving in South Africa “can vary greatly”, with many fatal accidents every year.
Thomas Cook Sport’s packages include £3,100 deals to see matches, not necessarily featuring England, in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
It is not yet known where, or against whom, England will play. That will be known when the World Cup draw is made on 4 December. Thomas Cook Sport said it was basing its packages around Johannesburg, from where it would be possible to travel to a large number of matches.
“It’s fantastic that England have now qualified for the World Cup in South Africa and we’d add our congratulations to those of the fans,” the company’s managing director, Danny Talbot, said. “With many supporters looking to be with the team during the competition we’re anticipating that demand for our packages will be very high.
“With our trips to follow England at the World Cup we’re committed to using our extensive experience in South Africa to provide England fans with exclusive and competitively priced packages that include tickets to the games so that they can follow the team.”
Eleanor Conroy, a spokeswoman for the InterContinental Hotels Group, said: “We’re expecting our hotels in South Africa to get booked up very quickly now the World Cup qualifiers are coming to a close, so our advice would be to book now while there are still rooms available. Booking early also means you can get the best deals.”
Before the World Cup starts in June, South Africa is poised to welcome thousands of cricket fans who will be travelling to the South Africa v England Test and one-day series this winter.
Beverley Pridmore, Africa product manager for the tour operator Hayes & Jarvis, said: “The cricket and the football is bound to boost travel to South Africa. Sporting events raise a country’s profile. We found that the number of trips taken to China increased after the Olympics last year. These surges can last for quite a long time.”