Me & Twenty10: Milking tourists
Last evening I was interviewed by Kieno Kammies of Cape Talk / Radio 702 about my thoughts on the exorbitant rates charged by some South African B&Bs, hotels, guesthouses and other establishments for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
My thoughts on the matter are very simple: of course as a South African you should grab the opportunity and try to make a buck out of the event, especially after the recession. But one should remain reasonable as well, and ensure that greed and ignorance are not taking over. It might come as a shock, but folks who happen to earn euros, pounds and dollars instead of rands are not automatically cash cows with uncapped credit cards and a money tree or two in the backyard.
To give you an idea: in 2009 the average monthly gross income in the Netherlands, a soccer crazy country where I happen to be from originally, was 2666 euro or ± 27.000 rand. After tax (±33%), a person earning this takes home ± 1800 euro or 18.000 rand. Of course these stats do not make the Dutch poor as paupers, not in the least, but it does not make them owners of bottomless money pits either. And I can tell you for a fact that most Kaaskoppen will struggle paying the rates I came across.
While doing a bit of research on accommodation rates, I found out that many establishments in Cape Town charge between 1200 and 1800 rand ( between 117 and 160 euros) per person per night for a bed, and sometimes breakfast. I am not talking about fancy places with jacuzzi’s and a view to die for. I am talking about relatively basic but comfortable guesthouses without too many frills.
To add to my shock, most FIFA World Cup rates are double of the usual low season rates (the world cup takes place in South Africa’s low season) and some B&Bs and guest houses even charge more than that.
To add to that: prices for local flights are not for peanuts either. We are talking about thousands of rands or hundreds of euros for a return Cape Town-Joburg.
Speaking from a journalist who has a good idea about South Africa and is communicating with Europe on a daily basis: 1800 euro per person per night for a bed is unaffordable to many Europeans, and maybe not such a great option when you can book yourself a ten-day summer holiday under the Turkish sun, including accommodation (3 star hotel), breakfast, flights and sometimes a few excursions for 180 euro (1850 rand) per person.
On top a bed and sometimes breakfast come international flights that are far from cheap, local flights (in Europe you can fly from Amsterdam to Barcelona for 30 euros or ±300 rand)), and of course football tickets, dinners, excursions, etc.
One should perhaps also take in consideration that Europe and the US have been hit extremely hard by the crisis: thousands of people got retrenched, or had to take a severe pay cuts. So many people do not have a lot of money these days.
By overcharging, and thus ripping off visitors, the tourism industry is shooting itself in the foot. Instead of offering people value for money and using them as ambassadors to boost the South African tourism industry, actually robs itself from potential future clientele. Someone who feels he / she has been ripped off will rarely recommend South Africa to their friends and family. Up until now one of the reasons why South Africa is such a popular tourist destination is the fact that it a holiday in South Africa is affordable. The world cup will change this perception, I am afraid.
But lets set the Europeans aside for a bit. What about locals and citizens from other African countries? If Europeans and Americans are struggling with the high rates charged, how can we expect that African supporters to cough up thousands of rands? Wasn’t the world cup supposed to be an African affairs, by and for Africans?
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