Nelson Mandela Bay's brand new stadium was the first newly-built 2010 FIFA World Cup™ stadium to be completed and the city is now another step closer to World Cup readiness with the launch of its visitor information centre.

Officially opened by the South African Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, this week's launch marks the first of the 2010 Visitor Information Centres (VIC's), a government-run initiative looking to boost tourism in a number of South Africa's FIFA World Cup Host Cities, namely Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth, Polokwane, Nelspruit and Mangaung/Bloemfontein.

The world-class centres, developed at a cost of 6.7 million rand, will form part of the legacy initiatives for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

"The centres provide tourists with a one stop service and will be able to assist with information on a wide range of tourism products including tourism information enquiries, reservations, accommodation, tours, vehicle hire, entertainment, dining, sports, adventure, shopping and travel tips," said Minister van Schalkwyk.

According to the Minister, the primary objective of the VIC project is to ensure that visitors to these Host Cities, both during and after 2010, are provided with relevant information and services. "The centres, funded by our department, create easy access and awareness of tourism related facilities and attractions within an area. VIC's are a key element of the visitor industry and play an integral part in the marketing chain and information distribution system," the Minister said.

He said the model for these centres was based on the best international practice and will assist tourism authorities in providing outstanding service to tourists as well as other stakeholders.
"With the launch of these facilities we are taking another step in the process to hosting a world class event next year which all South Africans can be proud of," said Minister van Schalkwyk.

With just 315 days until the start of the World Cup, the centres are aimed at improving the South African tourism offering with a view to enhancing service excellence, growing tourism and creating opportunities for local economic development.

The target markets for the VIC's include international tourists, local tourists, bed and breakfast establishments, homesteads, guesthouses, hotels, small and medium businesses, booking agencies and tourism agencies.

"The information and reservation system used in the centres was developed in South Africa and is designed to cater specifically for the South African market. It has the same functionality as much more expensive international systems. The local system will allow for more participation by the members of tourism authorities, smaller establishments and smaller to medium businesses," Minister van Schalkwyk said.

"These members will for the first time also have access to a centralised, standardised and affordable reservation system and advertising at a fraction of the price it would cost as a member an international organisation. The system provides businesses with the opportunity to become members of a tourism organisation and be integrated into the tourism value chain. It will also allow members to update and control their reservation system, in turn providing up to the minute information to tourists," the Minister said.