Dear Danny – make 2010 a love affair, not a one night stand

Open letter to Dr Danny Jordaan, CEO of 2010 LOC

The stadiums are almost all finished, and Cape Town and Durban’s must surely join the ranks of the great stadia of the world.  Johannesburg’s Soccer City, demonstrating local is lekker, is sure to appeal to many locals. It seems the cities (or their consultants) were up to the tasks.

You’ve given the world assurances that it will be a great World Cup and that people will be safe.  But what happens if the people don’t come, or they come and they are ripped off by greedy airlines and accommodation establishments?  Imagine the tourism catastrophe, the branding bungle, if tens of thousands of people go home and say they were ripped off in South Africa.

It’s time we realise that we have to make 2010 a love affair, not a one night stand.

Is government blind to this?  How the hell can they allow our national carrier, South African Airways, to be the flagbearer — extending the metaphor of one night stands — of whorish behaviour, raising air fares for the World Cup month by almost 400%?

With government and its subsidiary setting that kind of example, how can little guest houses and B&B’s take calls for them to offer value for money seriously?

Just for the record here, we should state some facts.

Although MATCH missed their targets, they have contracted 48,093 rooms and 1,725,190 room nights. So you have 48,000 rooms but you’re expecting 450,000 fans.

The fans who book through MATCH will be protected from racketeering, one hopes, because that’s why it was established.

(It’s worth noting that many hotel groups committed inventory many years ago so that South Africa could tender for the 2010 games and they did so at reasonable market related rates. In Cape Town, hotels like The Table Bay and Winchester Mansions are charging for World Cup almost exactly what they are charging in the current high season.)

So government is looking at cruise liners. “They are going to be quite important especially for 2010 both as people movers and even as accommodation,” Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele told Reuters on Wednesday during a visit to London. Now that’s priceless, before one even asks what sort of value for money these will offer. Has the ministry secretly been digging a canal to link the coast to Gauteng where most matches will be played?

No, the solution lies with the “small accommodation” sector, the non-accredited accommodation.

And there it’s a free for all largely through a lack of direction by tourism authorities. We looked at one random establishment — a lodge in Sea Point — to see its World Cup rates, and then compared that to its usual rates.

Its usual off-peak rate is R450; the usual peak rate (January 2010) is R750. The rate during World Cup is R1990! A 250% premium over their current peak season rate. This is scandalous.

Now that’s obviously not the norm but it’s evidently commonplace enough for many overseas newspapers to have started highlighting rip-offs and naming the offendors. The only host city tourism authority with any guts and gusto is Cape Town Tourism who have been workshopping pricing policies with their members for many months. By comparison, Johannesburg Tourism Company refused to respond to media complaints.

At the World Travel Market in London recently, Kwazulu-Natal MEC for economic development and tourism, Mike Mabuyakhulu, promised an urgent investigation into allegations that local hospitality businesses are planning to overcharge tourists. He had been briefed by Ndabo Khoza, the chief executive of Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, who said that service providers in certain circles had not only doubled and tripled their prices, but were believed to be quadrupling them. Is Tourism KZN toothless and has the MEC delivered on his promise?

So dear Dr Jordaan, please ask government to get serious about leadership and protecting brand South Africa. Get them to make South African Airways reduce fares and set an example to everybody else in the hospitality industry.

Maybe then we’ll make 2010 a love affair, not a one night stand. And the fans will go home as fans of South Africa too.

Note: The headline and phrase “make 2010 a love affair, not a one night stand” comes from Cape Town Tourism’s Lianne Burton. It is exactly what South Africa needs now and should be the rallying call through to the end of the World Cup. Click here to read Lianne Burton’s interview.

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