For the first time ever accommodation rates for a major sporting event have decreased, in the face of the kick-off to the World Cup, say hotel booking engines, according to a report in Southern African Tourism Update.

HotelsCombined.com and Expedia.com have both observed how accommodation rates have declined since the over-supply of accommodation, resulting from the cancellation of rooms booked by MATCH, as well as the low accommodation demand, became known in April.   “We’ve never expected the hotel industry to drop prices during a peak sporting event.  It’s most unusual that prices have dropped this significantly.  We reject claims that hotel prices are rebalancing due to a stronger US dollar over the last weeks – which hasn’t moved the rand as strongly as other currencies.  Clearly, media reports of violence are affecting demand, which hotel chains and sole operators are reacting to in the form of competitive re-pricing” Michael Doubinski, General Manager of HotelsCombined.com is quoted as saying.

Expedia.com says the discounted rates have dropped back to 2009 low-season rates.   Accommodation establishments that had rooms returned to them by MATCH signed up with the two hotel booking engines, it is reported.

MATCH is reported to be blaming the global economic crisis for the reduced demand for World Cup accommodation, which led the FIFA accommodation and ticketing agency to cancel thousands of booked rooms, even in official FIFA hotels such as the Durban Hilton, reports Travelwires.com. Many soccer fans have chosen to stay in Johannesburg, being close to five stadiums, and will fly to Cape Town, Durban and other South African cities on match days.

Cape Town is trying to attract last minute bookings, and Cape Town Routes Unlimited has launched a campaign to create awareness for the Mother City.   Soccer fans booked in Gauteng, as well as South African residents wishing to travel over the 5-week school holiday are being targeted.  Accommodation establishments have already dropped their rates, and are hoping to attract these tourists.

Cape Town Routes Unlimited has launched a joint campaign with Thompsons Holidays, and has also partnered with travel agents such as e-Travel, Flight Centre, and Club Travel.  Information is being handed out at Cape Town and OR Thambo International airports, at the Tourism KwaZulu-Natal office and at uShaka Marine World in Durban, and at information kiosks in North Western Province.   A group of 200 Dutch fans travelling between Johannesburg and Cape Town will carry the branding of Cape Town and the Western Cape.   Footage of Cape Town and the Western Cape will be shown on SAA’s domestic and international flights.   A Google Adword campaign is targeting soccer fans in Gauteng, Rustenburg and Durban.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com