FIFA World Cup: Visitors to South Africa rise 25 percent

Johannesburg: More than 1 million foreigners have visited South Africa during the World Cup month of June, up 25 percent from the same month last year, according to government figures out Monday.

However, the increase - of around 200,000 in absolute terms - is still well short of World Cup organizers` expectations.

South Africa had initially forecast 450,000 World Cup tourists, but the global economic slowdown, combined with a fear of crime in South Africa, convinced many football fans to sit the tournament out.

World Cup organizing committee spokesman Rich Mkhondo said it could safely be assumed that the 25 per cent increase was the result of the country hosting football`s most important tournament.

And Mkhondo said the hosts were still hopeful of reaching their target by the final on Sunday.

`We are confident that we will surpass the number of 450,000 that we initially predicted.` he said.

With many commentators talking up a Germany-Netherlands final, these were the two countries where Mkhondo expected fans to hop on planes to South Africa this week.

The final takes place Sunday, July 11, in Johannesburg.