World Cup: thousands of hotel rooms back on market

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Categories : Travel news

It appears from media reports that fears that may have existed about the availability of hotel accommodation in South Africa for the World Cup in June and July have evaporated.

According to the Fedhasa official website, Fifa's accommodation agent, Match, has already relinquished more than 450 000 of the bednights it initially reserved in South African hotels and guest houses.

There appears not be to be much concern in the hotel industry as industry leaders believe it's better to have the news now as this will enable operators to refocus their sales teams and marketing efforts on their traditional mid-year business. But for smaller operators who were hoping for a World Cup feeding frenzy the news will be disappointing - and potentially crippling if they have invested heavily on the basis of expectations.

Vivienne Bervoets, Match's senior accommodation manager, was quoted in weekend media reports as saying that 314 000 bed nights (in 6 883 rooms) had been returned to the market on December 11. At that point Match had more than 1.7m bed nights reserved.

The release of bednights, according to Bervoets, came after the final draw at the end of last year, which gave greater clarity about each team's match venues and dates. She said that if Match had, for instance, foreseen that it would need little accommodation in Polokwane over the last three weeks of the tournament, it would never have required these rooms. There are only four matches at the controversial Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane and the last is scheduled for June 23.

Brett Dungan, chief executive of the Federated Hospitality Association (Fedhasa), says it is a pity that the rooms had to be freed up, but everyone knew they might be - as in the case of any international conference.

Match's communication with hotels has been excellent, he believes, and these rooms can now be marketed elsewhere.

On January 8 a further 140 000 bednights (in 3 642 rooms) were released to timeshare owners.

Bervoets is reported to have said timeshare is difficult to market because the concept is unfamiliar to foreigners.

In terms of the agreements with accommodation suppliers, Match has paid no cancellation fees. The contracts contain a schedule of dates on which rooms that Match fails to sublet can be returned to the market.

According to Bervoets, the next release date is April 10, after which cancellation fees become payable. The cancellation fees will rise as the tournament comes closer.

Dungan told Hotel & Restaurant today that hoteliers and other operators of accommodation establishments needed to have plans in place to deal with the changing marketplace that would be significantly different after July 12 - the day after the World Cup final takes at Soccer City in Johannesburg.

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