COP17 brings trade to city

2011-11-19 00:00

BED-AND-BREAKFAST owners in Pietermaritzburg are looking to do better business during the global climate change conference than they did during the 2010 Fifa World Cup tournament.

Hotels and B&Bs have begun to confirm bookings for delegates to the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which kicks off in Durban on Monday, November 28.

The manager of a local hotel told Weekend Witness, “We wish the World Cup had given us this many bookings.”

Delegates are looking around for accommodation as Durban hospitality establishments approach peak occupancy.

As the build-up to the conference intensifies, it is likely that some delegates will make use of the Pietermaritzburg Airport.

StayEasy Pietermaritzburg is fully booked from late November to early December, largely as a result of the conference. General manager Anetta Maharaj told the Weekend Witness that more than 80% of its 127 rooms was booked by COP17 delegates, mainly from other provinces in South Africa.

The general manager of Redlands Hotel, Paul Laing, said he had just one World Cup-related booking during the international football tournament.

He said the hotel has secured bookings as a result of COP17, having received many inquiries.

“November has been a good month in any case,”Laing said.

The healthy occupancy rate for the period between November 26 and December 8 has been mainly due to COP17 delegates from South Africa, Laing said.

He said he is mindful of the need also to keep his regular guests by not block-booking the hotel during the conference.

Cheryl Kuscus of the 70-room Protea Imperial Hotel said they have confirmed a sizeable number of bookings from delegates, mainly from government departments.

She added that the 70 to 80% occupancy rate is likely to rise in the coming weeks.

Bunny Bhoola, chairperson of Pietermaritzburg Msunduzi Tourism, said that although “it is early days, there are some positive spin-offs for Pietermaritzburg”.

Bhoola, who is also the managing director of African Link Tours & Travel, expects a number of extra visitors to the city as a result of excursions and tours.

Jane Candow, the vice chairperson of Valley of a Thousand Hills B&B Association, said that although their members have not had many confirmed bookings, indirect benefits will materialise.

Michele de Souza of the Pietermaritzburg B&B Network said that members have reported many inquiries, but few confirmed bookings.

“Non-conference, corporate guests may come through during this period,” De Souza said.

The CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, Melanie Veness, said both direct and indirect benefits — such as media exposure — will materialise, but added that much of this value will depend on what South Africa communicates to the world.

• kavith@witness.co.za

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