In the past few months hotel association FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan has been on a PR-binge, setting himself up as the national spokesperson for the accommodation industry on all matters relating to Accommodation and the World Cup.

Three months ago Dungan started punting the www.rooms4u.travel portal, in conjunction with S A Tourism.  Very quickly Carl Momberg of www.capeinfo.com  discovered that Dungan was the private owner of the website, whose ownership is not declared publicly.  At that time, tourism bureaus were up in arms about the move by S A Tourism to set up an accommodation booking portal in competition with themselves, via Dungan’s website.  Dungan now states on his website that it is not the official website of the Department of Tourism.

In the Cape Times of 10 March, an article entitled Some SA hotels won’t be sustainable and may face closure” quotes Dungan extensively, having addressed Parliament’s portfolio committee on tourism.

He told the committee that issues that faced the tourism industry were “pricing, availability of accommodation, perceptions of South Africa as a destination, and the impact and concerns for the country after the tournament‘Hotels will be under enormous pressure.  There will be job losses as some won’t be sustainable.  These were issues that were identified some time ago” , he is quoted as saying, and pointed the finger at logistics planning on air travel and car hire that was lacking for the World Cup.  So far, so good.

However, the following quote about the small accommodation industry is what makes Dungan look like an opportunist: ” Small operators like B&B’s had failed to market their ventures through websites like www.rooms4u.travel, a specially created portal which would steer visitors to available rooms in each city, which featured price comparisons.   He said rooms4u was the definitive South African accommodation portal but said hotels and small establishments not registered on the site within 60 days would struggle to sell their available rooms.”

Even “better” is this quote, showing how two-faced Dungan is: “He said many hotels were at fault for failing in their marketing and relying too much on Match, Fifa’s exclusive hospitality partner.  They should never have given up all their channels of sales just because Match was coming here”.

Our response to Dungan, FEDHASA and S A Tourism is as follows:

1.  We do not understand how Brett Dungan gets to address the Parliament portfolio committee on tourism, in his capacity as CEO of FEDHASA, an association that predominantly represents hotel interests only, and not those of small accommodation.  In the Western Cape branch, for example, a hotel and restaurant owner, Susanne Faussner-Ringer, heads up the Small Accommodation segment, not understanding the needs of small accommodation owners!  Neither Dungan nor FEDHASA are the official spokespersons of the accommodation  industry, and have no mandate to speak on our behalf.
 
2.   The paragraph berating “small operators like B&B’s”, that “failed to market their venues through websites like rooms4u.travel” annoys us: 
      *  we may have small operations, but many of us do understand about marketing
      *  we all have our own websites, and advertise on powerful accommodation websites such as S A Venues, Cape Stay and SafariNow, which send us enquiries
      *  Brett Dungan does not disclose that he is the (private) owner of the rooms4u.travel portal, and that he will earn commission from every booking he takes on this portal – we see this as a conflict of interest!   However, the portal is only 3 months old, so how dare Dungan berate us for not advertising on it! 
     
3.   Even worse is his quoted claim that “Rooms4u was the definitive South African accommodation portal” – we absolutely disagree
      *  Threatening that hotels and establishments who have not registered with his portal within 60 days “would struggle to sell their available rooms” is scaremongering and unprofessional.  The portal has no track record, it operating for just more than 3 months
      *  The attack on the accommodation industry for supporting Match is so shocking and is an absolute turn-around.   FEDHASA made sure that its hotel members offered 80 % of their rooms at the time South Africa was bidding for the World Cup about 5 years ago, and 80 % of the room stock was the requirement.   One was berated for being disloyal for not signing with MATCH at the time.   To now say that they were relying too much on MATCH is preposterous!!!!  Dungan regularly publicly supported Match, and pointed fingers at hotels and especially small accommodation establishments for allegedly charging “rip-off” pricing for accommodation, when it is MATCH that has been ripping off soccer fans by adding 30 % commission to accommodation prices.  FEDHASA even has a Match director on its national board!  
POSTSCRIPT: The Cape Times incorporated the essence of this blog post in an article it published on Monday 22 March – read the article here.
 
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com