There can be little doubt that the effects of a successful 2010 Soccer World Cup must be felt for many years after the final ball has been kicked. The country has a future beyond 2010.

And so it is with the tourism sector. While the World Cup may be the single-biggest marketing opportunity the industry ever gets, it needs to ensure benefits long after the last fan has left SA.

The industry and Match, the agency arranging accommodation for the World Cup on behalf of Fifa, have been working together for several years to ensure that Fifa has the 65000 rooms it needs for the event.

Now it now appears that process has not been without its problems. This week South African Tourism CEO Moeketsi Mosola quit the Match advisory board in protest after numerous complaints from the hospitality sector about the Fifa agency’s alleged attempts to strong-arm smaller establishments into signing up their 2010 inventory on less than favourable terms.

The announcement took Match by surprise. It acknowledged from the outset that unlike other countries where a World Cup has been held, SA’s room inventory was made up by a large non-hotel sector. This includes small hotels and B&Bs. It was clear that these establishments needed to be treated differently to the large hotel chains and Match modified its contracts to cater for the sector.

But the industry did not see it that way. At the core of dispute is price. What both sides want is fair value. The industry wants a commercially viable rate — a stance Match is more than likely to support. Cut-throat rates mean that standards drop and that is something Match and Fifa would like to avoid. Match, on the other hand, does not want inflated rates — 2010 must not be seen as an opportunity to fleece visitors. This is a view the tourism industry is likely to support. Ripping off your customers is bad for business.

Clearly both sides want the same thing. It is time to resolve their differences and work towards a solution where everyone benefits — in 2010 and beyond.

PUBLICATION: Business Day
DATED: 6th November 2008