South African Tourism fired a broadside at soccer governing body Fifa yesterday over comments by its president, Sepp Blatter, that South Africa might not have enough accommodation for the 2010 World Cup.

Blatter took the tournament’s local organising committee to task on Wednesday for not marketing the event hard enough.

Blatter also said that there might not be enough accommodation for the hundreds of thousands of fans who will flock to the country for the World Cup, saying hotels in host cities were ‘‘limited’’. Between 4 00000 and 5 00000 visitors are expected.

Moeketsi Mosola, SA Tourism chief executive, yesterday accused Fifa’s ticketing and accommodation arm, Match, of “bulldozing the South African industry into submission” over prices.

Mosola said: “Fifa requested 55000 rooms. Already 28000 have been contracted between Match and local hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfast establishments.

‘‘They need to make up the 27000, but Match wants to sign these at below commercial market value. We cannot allow Fifa to bulldoze the local industry.”

He said there were just over 110000 graded rooms available in South Africa at present, of which the bulk were in World Cup host cities.

“Last year 9.1 million tourists visited South Africa. That means we accommodated an average of 650 000 tourists over a four-week period. Why will we not be able to handle 450 000 over the six-week period during the World Cup? Fifa is being economical with the truth,” Mosola said.

He said SA Tourism had calculated that about 200 000 fewer regular leisure tourists would come to South Africa during the event because they wanted to avoid the crowds. This would make available more accommodation for soccer tourists.

Local organising committee chief executive Danny Jordaan and the committee’s newly appointed head of marketing, Derek Carstens, have downplayed Blatter’s criticism.

Jordaan said: “The World Cup is in 2010 in June, and if you create a buzz in September 2008 you will have to sustain it [until then]. Was there a buzz in Germany in 2004? Marketing is important; it is the lifeblood of the tournament, we agree with Fifa.”

Blatter said on Wednesday: “[By now] every city that will be hosting World Cup matches [should be] creating their own identity around the branding of the World Cup — like in South Korea and Germany.”

Blatter also raised concerns about Gauteng’s public transport capabilities and Bafana Bafana’s poor performances.

But Jordaan and Carstens described Blatter’s concerns as “observations”.

‘‘You cannot compete with the Beijing Olympics [while it is on],’’ said Carstens.

‘‘You have to take advantage of the world media spotlight and now it is on us. Let’s get a high impact and maintain it.

‘‘It is a question of getting the most efficient return for your budget.”

AUTHOR: Borrie la Grange
DATED: 19th September 2008