South Africa: Most accommodation prices reasonable

JOHANNESBURG - Most World Cup accommodation prices have increased by a reasonable amount, despite persistent concerns about profiteering, South African Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on Friday.

But 65 percent of establishments in the busiest area of Gauteng province, which will host the opening and final matches of the football showcase, have boosted their prices more than 50 percent, he said.

Authorities have previously expressed concern that high prices for flights and accommodation combined with alarmist reporting about violent crime are deterring foreign fans from travelling to the month-long World Cup, which starts on June 11.

But van Schalkwyk said the majority of 2,479 hotels, guest houses, lodges and self-catering facilities that responded to a survey commissioned by his department would be charging a premium less than 50 percent above their highest rate for 2010.

"The majority of accommodation establishments in South Africa are very responsible, we know that 74 percent will be charging prices during the World Cup that are very reasonable," he told a news conference.

The survey was carried out by Grant Thornton accountants. Van Schalkwyk said cost increases were normal during major global events, but stressed that tourism operators recognised the damaging effect exorbitant prices could have on the legacy of the World Cup, being held in Africa for the first time.

"We will continue to do everything to discourage excessive premiums when these do occur. I am satisfied that by far the majority of accommodation establishments are acting responsibly and are sensitive to our warnings about price hiking and its effects," van Schalkwyk said.

South Africa wants to encourage fans to return for holidays after the World Cup and is anxious to avoid allegations of profiteering. An official investigation has been launched into possible price fixing by local airlines.

During the last World Cup in Germany in 2006, average accommodation rates were 37 percent higher than the same period in the previous year, the study showed.

The figures for South Africa are estimates only and can change, the ministry said, and van Schalkwyk urged fans to shop around to get the best deal.

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