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It is set to be a year of massive sporting events, 2010 kicked off with the Winter Olympics in Whistler, and the whole world is anticipating the FIFA World Cup in South Africa this summer. There are many economic and social benefits to hosting international events. Whistler attracted 250,000 visitors to the area and $10 billion in revenues. Along with the financial injection, a host city will see development to infrastructure, increased jobs, and a continued development model of growth even after the event has been and gone.
The World Cup Finals in South Africa this June are on an even bigger scale and could contribute 50 billion rand to the economy, while tourism could generate a further 15 billion rand, with 3.5 million fans expected to attend the tournament. Not only will this be a great boost to the continued development of South Africa but surely for the continent as a whole.
Going to South Africa to watch your team play this summer is no cheap holiday. Once you have bought your flight, paid for a hotel and calculated spending money, the costs can run into the thousands. For those who want to see the Finals in Africa this summer there is another region that is equally amazing, but tourism there is less often on the media map. On the westernmost region of the African continent, West Africa is on the flight route from Europe and America to Cape Town and will be a great destination to visit during the World Cup.
The concept of sports tourism in West Africa is nowhere near the same level as South Africa, but that could be changing with the opening of new facilities such as the Right to Dream academy in Ghana.
Football is the biggest sport in West Africa. Watched and followed everywhere, kids and adults alike pretend to be in their role-models shoes by playing the ‘perfect game’ in every condition, sometimes only with a ball made from rags. Famous footballers such as Didier Drogba and Craig Bellamy are using football as a tool for community development and education through the setting up football and education centres for children in West Africa. It would be great to start channelling more money from sports tourism into communities in countries such as Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone where it is needed most.
In June, West Africa will be alive with passion as their football heroes battle it out on the global stage. Bars and hotels across West Africa will be showing the games, and the local people will be more than happy to welcome and share a drink with a football fan. As well as going for the African football vibe, a holiday here is sure to give an experience of Africa quite different from the roaring stadiums and hustle bustle of crowds in the South African capital. There are four West African teams in the World Cup finals this year; Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria. These are four very different West African countries with equally amazing possibilities for rich fulfilling natural and cultural holidays.
Cameroon, for example, is home of Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o. Also dubbed 'Africa in miniature' due to the diversity of its terrain, biodiversity and cultures, Cameroon is one of the most exciting and unexplored countries in West Africa. From lush rainforest hiding waterfalls to pristine beaches, this country has a wealth of resources which can provide tourists with the most unique and unforgettable experiences. Click here for some ideas about holidays in Cameroon.
Another football role-model, Chelsea star Michael Essien, hails from Ghana, the country whose name means ‘Warrior King’. Often considered as the friendliest country in West Africa, this country was the seat of the Royal Court of the once powerful Ashanti Empire, whose vestiges are still visible today in the Ghanaian culture. Festivals, ceremonies and social values are a testimony to the prosperous past of this amazing country. Click here to discover the opportunities for travellers seeking adventure and exploration.
For anyone looking for a different and unique experience of watching the World Cup this summer, West Africa is well worth checking out. It is a culturally rich and diverse region, full of surprises and life changing experiences. There are a wide selection of tour operators whose holidays respect the environment and support the economies of local communities. By choosing responsible tours travellers can discover the beauty of West Africa safe in the knowledge that their trip is making a difference and that money from tourism is going to communities that will really benefit from it.