The Department of Tourism updated the Committee on its preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The Committee was given a breakdown of figures of base camps for the various participating soccer teams. Gauteng was a firm favourite as far as choice of base camp was concerned. Figures for accommodation were also provided to the Committee. The Department was confident that there would be enough accommodation for visitors during the tournament. A more difficult issue was likely to be transportation of visitors to and from accommodation during matches. Resolving the transportation issue was a priority. The Committee was provided with an overview of ticket sales. To date approximately 2 million of the 2.9 million available tickets had been sold across 192 countries. There was increased demand for tickets by South African citizens during the third phase of ticket release. A possible explanation could be the reduction in the ticket price. The fourth ticketing sales phase started on 9 February and would end on 7 April 2010. Thereafter tickets would be sold over the counter.
The issue of apparent overcharging for accommodation during the tournament was being addressed by the Department but questions were asked about the overcharging that was taking place on airline tickets and what the Department intended to do about it. Members also raised concerns about the security of electricity supply during the tournament, given that demand was high during the winter months of June and July. The Committee was also concerned about the apparent slow progress in resolving transport issues. Members agreed to meet with the Department of Transport and the Portfolio Committee on Transport in order to engage on the issue.
2010 FIFA World Cup preparations: Update of Department of Tourism’s work
The Chairperson announced, at the outset of the meeting, that Members wished to hear what the Department of Tourism was doing about certain important issues. These included the question of electricity, given that the 2010 FIFA World Soccer Cup was being held during winter, when electricity usage was at its peak. Members wished to know whether there were contingency plans in place to prevent blackouts, and whether generators were installed at stadia for backup purposes. He also noted that the Committee was interested to hear what lessons had been learnt from the Confederations Cup in 2009, specifically relating to transport and how to improve on it. He asked whether the economy was expected to be more inclusive and whether there would there be temporary jobs created for ordinary SA during the tournament. He enquired whether the issue of safety during the tournament was being given enough attention. He asked that these questions be addressed by the presenters during the briefing.
Mr Victor Tharage, Chief Director in the Office of the Director General, Department of Tourism, and Mr Riaan Aucamp, Head of the Minister of Tourism’s Office, briefed the Committee on the Department of Tourism’s part in the preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
They gave Members a breakdown of team base camps per province. Of the 32 teams, 19 were to be based in Gauteng. The Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Free State had no team base camps. The presentation elaborated on the issue of accommodation. There were 18 882 verified establishments providing accommodation. A total of 202 712 rooms were available. The figures were further broken down per province for the benefit of members. Categories of accommodation ranged from hotels to university lodgings. Some categories of accommodations were preferred over others. Apartments seemed to be in demand. Accommodation was also provided in neighbouring countries like Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland, to mention a few.
Mr Tharage also spoke to the issue of unfair pricing of accommodation and airline tickets during the World Cup. The Minister was spearheading a survey to determine the prevalence of this practice in the accommodation sector. An accommodation booking portal (www.rooms4u.travel) was also in the pipeline, and could be used by those individuals who wished to make direct bookings. It was especially useful for last minute bookings. A total of 2000 Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) had already registered on it. It was expected to go live in March 2010, by which time a total of 75 000 rooms should be available. Many assumptions were made by the Department. One was that most visitors might stay close to their team base camps. A good transport system was therefore needed to transport people from base camp to areas where matches were played.
The Committee was provided with an overview of ticket sales. To date approximately 2 million of the 2.9 million available tickets had been sold across 192 countries. There was increased demand for tickets by South African citizens during the third phase of ticket release. A possible explanation could be the reduction in the ticket price. The fourth ticketing sales phase started on 9 February and would end on 7 April 2010. Thereafter tickets would be sold over the counter.
In relation to transport and energy, the Department conceded that there was slow progress. Some of the issues related to operator licensing delays and the skilling of operators on tourism. The Department of Energy was responsible for the purchase of generators at stadia. Eskom was also working on substations close to stadia.
A plan on safety was in place. South African Police Service (SAPS) was exploring the designation of dedicated officials at host cities. Volunteers were being trained as reservists, based on language proficiency in languages used by visitors.
On the issue of skills and service levels, more than 20 000 volunteers were being recruited for the World Cup. Actual training of volunteers would take place from 5 March 2010 to 18 April 2010. A service excellence programme was in place to champion service transformation.
An audit of visitor information centres had been completed. There was a total of 351 visitor information centres in South Africa. However, there was a lack of gateway information centres (fan embassies) with national information. This issue was being addressed. A contact centre had been launched in December 2009. The number to dial was +27 87 803 INFO or (4636). Irrespective of the country in which the call was made, local call rates would apply to this number. It provided information on accommodation, attractions, activities, routes, experience, services and restaurants.
Greater detail can be found in the attached presentation.
Mr G Krumbock (DA) appreciated the presentation but asked that a more comprehensive document containing more specifics should be forwarded to the Committee. He said that the presentation on different pages seemed to give different figures for available rooms in Rustenburg, and enquired what the correct figure was.
Mr Krumbock referred to the scheduled game between the USA and England on 12 June 2010 and asked how the 3 489 rooms were to accommodate the 41 000 British fans. He also asked what was the plan of the Department to manage the people who would be going to Rustenburg for the match. He asked if people were expected to travel back to the same destinations after the match.
Mr Tharage said that there were two sets of figures. The first set listed rooms contracted by MATCH and the second set showed availability within Rustenburg. Rustenburg was seen as an extension of Gauteng and many people would simply travel back to Gauteng. Some individuals would wish to stay in Rustenburg and there were enough rooms to accommodate them.
Mr Aucamp added that there were individuals who preferred to book directly on the website www.rooms4u.travel. The website was a Fedhasa industry initiative. Some individuals did their hotel, airline ticket and travel arrangements separately. The website was expected to go live by the end of March 2010. The Department would then market it aggressively.
Mr Krumbock said that the Committee was aware of the overcharging by some hotels. However, he made the point that overcharging by hotels would not be an issue if tourists were not even able to afford to travel to South Africa in the first place. Airlines were apparently charging exorbitant prices for flights into South Africa, which were unaffordable for tourists. He wanted to know what the Department was doing about this specific issue.
Mr Tharage said that the issue of the pricing of airline tickets would be looked into once the relevant information was available.
Ms M Njobe (COPE) stated that it was good that the Minister was engaging with the industry regarding the pricing issues. She asked that the Committee be furnished with particulars on what the result of such engagement was.
Mr Tharage said that the results of the Minister’s engagement with the industry would be made available to members, and should be available near the end of March.
Mr Aucamp added that the survey would take three weeks to finalise. It had to be independent so as to check on allegations of overcharging, and whether the alleged overcharging was being done by the industry, or by private individuals. He pointed out that Cape Town had done a survey, which showed that 80% of the industry was not overcharging but 20% was. The onus was also on tourists to check and compare prices.
Ms Njobe felt that slow progress was being made on the issue of transport. If the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa was to be a success, the transport issues would have to be sorted out. She suggested that this Committee could perhaps meet with the Portfolio Committee on Transport in order to be informed about the progress made on transport.
Mr Tharage said that details on transport were only available on the areas mentioned in the briefing. He supported the suggestion that the Committee interact with the Portfolio Committee on Transport.
Ms Njobe noted that back up generators for stadia were yet to be purchased, and she asked who was responsible.
Mr Tharage said that the Department of Energy was responsible for generators. It would be able to elaborate further on the generators and their testing before the tournament. Generators had been tested prior to the Confederations Cup as well.
Ms Njobe suggested that volunteers be recruited from schools that offered tourism as a subject. Senior students would be perfect for the job and they could gain valuable experience.
Ms X Makasi (ANC) said that MATCH had promised individuals in her area that if they renovated their homes they stood the chance of being allowed to provide accommodation to tourists. The presentation had alluded to the fact that MATCH had filled its quota of rooms, so she enquired what would now happen to those individuals who were expecting to benefit from offering accommodation during the World Cup.
Mr Tharage said that MATCH had approached SMMEs in tourism, not home-stay accommodation providers. Workshops were held across provinces to inform SMMEs about the opportunity. In the end it was a business transaction.
Ms M Maluleke (ANC) asked what criteria had been used for the marketing of team base camps, and asked why most of the base camps were in Gauteng.
Mr Aucamp admitted that 19 of the base camps were in Gauteng. He said that provinces did their own marketing. The choice of base camp lay with the coach of the team. Gauteng was a favourite, as many teams wished to be based at high altitude.
Mr B Zulu (ANC) said that if accommodation for host cities was to be within a 50 km radius, then how would it be possible for people who were based in Gauteng to be accommodated when they travelled to Cape Town to watch their team play.
Ms C Zikalala (IFP) asked what the difference was between a tour guide and a volunteer. Much had been said about volunteers in the presentation.
Mr Tharage said that Gauteng hosted the most teams. Each host city and stadium had volunteers from that particular area. Some of the volunteers did have a background in tourism. Volunteers were 18 years old and above.
Mr Aucamp added that tour guides were registered and were contracted from companies. Volunteers would be placed outside stadia, for instance, at ports of entry. Volunteers were essentially information providers. He said that volunteer training was to be held as near as possible to the event, as research had shown that training too long before the event led to some volunteers forgetting what they had learned.
The Chairperson suggested that feedback from countries like Germany and Korea would be useful, as they had successfully hosted a world cup. This applied particularly to getting feedback on transport.
Mr Tharage stated that there were studies on how other countries had handled a soccer world cup. Delegations from South Africa had gone to Germany to enquire as to how things had been done. The transport issue in Europe was much easier, as infrastructure was in place and European countries were in closer proximity to each other. There was sufficient accommodation in South Africa, but the major snag was that people had to be transported around.
Mr Krumbock said that the match on 26 June 2010 was most likely going to be between England and Serbia. If there were 3 489 rooms available, then he enquired if this would be sufficient to house 45 000 fans attending the match. He felt that there were clearly not enough rooms. He also noted that the match was to start at 8:30pm and end close to 11:00pm, and enquired how the fans would be travelling back to their accommodation, and whether this was up to the fans themselves or the tour operators. He pointed out that about 30 000 people would have to be transported.
Mr Tharage said, in relation to the match on the 26 June 2010, that accommodation was provided within a 50 km radius. There was also accommodation beyond the 50 km radius mark. Accommodation was not the problem, but transport was the main issue. The Department of Transport had operational plans that would shed light on the questions asked.
Mr Zulu said that the transport issue was an important one and discussions with the Department of Transport were encouraged.
Mr Aucamp added that there was an operational plan for each match. There was no other match scheduled for 26 June 2010. Most of the spectators for this match would be accommodated in Gauteng. Land transport would be mostly used.
Mr Krumbock did not think that the Department had sufficiently addressed the issue of high ticket prices being charged by South African Airways (SAA). The issue needed to be addressed as soon as possible if the World Cup was to be a success.
Mr Aucamp said that the airline ticket prices were a matter of supply and demand. Exorbitant ticket prices were of concern. He encouraged tourists to shop around for the best prices. It had to be kept in mind that airlines also had their own capacity issues. This issue should perhaps be discussed with the Department of Public Enterprises. He said that discussions with the airlines would take place and the Committee would be kept abreast on the issue. South Africa was a long haul destination, and not many airlines were flying into the country. The worldwide recession had affected everyone.
Mr Krumbock further asked what the Department was doing to spruce up the country for the 2010 World Cup. Monuments were in disrepair and cities were becoming dirtier whilst the tournament was getting closer.
Mr Tharage said that the greening programme was taking place across the country.
Mr Aucamp added that the Department was working with the Department of Arts and Culture, provinces and local government to maintain monuments and heritage sites.
Tabling of Committee minutes
The Chairperson tabled the Committee meeting Minutes dated 16 February 2010, and asked that Members read through them, in preparation for adoption of the Minutes at the next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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