Local tourism at risk as 2010 opportunists look to score profit

2010-01-09 00:00

PRETORIA — Huge profits are being made from soccer fans and, in the process, the local tourism industry is being harmed.

But who exactly is responsible, is unclear.

Chris Brothers, of the in-bound tour operator Brothers Sport, has ignited a debate about exorbitant pri­ces in an open letter to the editor of the website Tourism Update. He railed against hotels and other suppliers that are not only increasing their tariffs, but also seriously exploiting regular customers.

Brothers Sport has, for the past seven years, offered overseas clients travel packages to South African sports events.

Brothers mentions a hotel that would normally charge R600 a night during June and July, which is now quoting R3 200 a night.

In a conversation with Sake24 he said that a bus he would normally hire for R5 000 or R6 000 a day, will cost him R10 000 to R15 000 a day during the tournament.

Of course prices will rise, but there should be limits, he declares.

He believes the local tourism industry will suffer if the 2010 tourists are exploited in this way.

At the same time, relations between local service providers established over the years could be sacrificed on the altar of short-term pro­fit.

Brothers reckons service provi­ders should follow the examples of low-cost airlines kulula.com and 1time, which are still charging reasonable tariffs.

Carmen Sampayo, who is managing reservations for the African Sky hotel group during the tournament, agrees that prices are being pushed up excessively.

But she says hotels are frequently mistakenly blamed.

Of the R5 200 that a soccer enthusiast has to pay for a room in African Sky’s four-star St Georges Hotel in Cape Town during the tournament, the hotel will receive less than half.

According to Sampayo, it is increasingly common for tour operators to reserve rooms and sell them on at a profit.

There are up to 10 players in the middle, she claims, each adding their 10%.

Simon Blackburn, of Three Tree Hill Lodge in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, proposes a blacklist of service providers who are hiking prices excessively, or the publicising of the names of those keeping their prices unchanged.

Kagiso Mosie, spokesperson for the Tourism Business Council of SA, cautions operators against irresponsible price-fixing.

She said that enterprises that are experiencing difficulties during the recession are probably trying to make good their losses by raising prices.

She believes that businesses should realise that the country will still be able to draw tourists after the tournament, and the country’s reputation as a destination offering value for money needs to be preserved.

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