FIFA’s MATCH kicks out accommodation

FIFA’s MATCH accommodation agency has cancelled 65 000 bed nights in the Western Cape, and 441 695 bed nights nationally, reports the Cape Times.


The release of rooms without cancellation penalty to MATCH is a further sign that the World Cup may not be as successful in terms of international bookings as may have been hoped internationally.  The article’s opening paragraph states: “FIFA has relinquished 65 022 rooms nights in the Western Cape because of lack of demand….”


Vivienne Bervoets, Senior Accommodation Manager of MATCH,  stated in the article that the reasons for the room cancellations include that the rooms booked by MATCH were not on match days, that the establishments were further than 70 km from a host city, and that the accommodation type (e.g. timeshare) proved to be unpopular with international visitors.   The bulk of the room nights cancelled in the Western Cape appear to be in Cape Town.   The dates already cancelled appear to be bookings MATCH made with establishments for dates before 11 June and after 11 July, signalling that pre- and post-World Cup tours are unlikely to happen.   The article intimates that further accommodation cancellations may be possible, depending on the demand for tickets.


Business Day also reported on the accommodation cancellations, stating that 31 % of the bed nights booked initially, and representing 7 843 rooms, had been cancelled by MATCH.  The timeshare cancellations amounted to close to 31 000 timeshare weeks.  Bervoets is quoted as saying “Match has substantially curtailed its procurement drive to concentrate on sales and operations”.  She stated that MATCH is still looking for “good quality hotel rooms, specifically in Gauteng, and also for contract properties if customers specifically requested this”.  


It is surprising that so much of the room stock has been cancelled, given the outcry about the poor support of MATCH, and that it had to bring in cruise liners and contract properties in neighbouring countries, including Mauritius, to build up sufficient accommodation stock for the World Cup accommodation requirements.  


The Cape Argus also reported on the MATCH cancellations, and quoted Dr Laurine Platsky, the Western Cape province 2010 co-ordinator, as saying that “rooms were released because of a lack of demand and fewer bookings than expected.”   Rooms cancelled in the Western Cape were on the West Coast and in outlying areas, she said.  


The room nights cancellations may imply that MATCH’s Matchville concept, in creating hubs or concentrations of accommodation outside host cities, in supplementing accommodation supply, may have raised the hopes of accommodation establishments which cannot be fulfilled.   In Plettenberg Bay, a Matchville centre, for example, it appears that 50 % of the room nights booked by MATCH have been cancelled already.


MATCH has until 10 April to cancel further room nights without being subject to its cancellation policy, and resultant payment to accommodation establishments for accommodation cancellations.   More cancellations are expected before this date.


Accommodation establishments who have had their MATCH room nights cancelled are unhappy, saying that FIFA “overhyped” its accommodation needs, reports a further article in the Cape Times.


FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan is quoted in reports about the MATCH cancellations, in which he opportunistically offers cancelled MATCH establishments the hope that his new (personally owned) website “portal”, which has been set up on behalf of S A Tourism, can fill all the room nights cancelled by MATCH.  This is contradictory sentiment, as Dungan has praised MATCH consistently, and protected their rip-off pricing, pointing a finger at non-MATCH contracted properties and blaming them for “rip-off” pricing!


Even Cape Town Tourism has insensitively “welcomed the release of the rooms and the opportunity now available for establishments to market their rooms during the 20 weeks leading up to the tournament.   Experience has taught us that last-minute bookings for events like the World Cup are not unusual and we are expecting an increase in booking confirmations during the next few months”, according to a quote in the Cape Times.


Non-MATCH contracted guest houses are complaining that bookings are not looking as rosy as they were led to expect, and many are only about 50 % booked, even if they are charging “reasonable” prices for their accommodation.


Guest Houses were sceptical about MATCH from the beginning, in 2007, when they first launched their campaign to sign up 55 000 rooms.  While one could commend FIFA/MATCH for including the small accommodation sector in a FIFA World Cup for the first time ever, the contract for the small accommodation sector was similar to that of hotels, and both were extremely stringent at that time:
1. one had to set the rate on the basis of a 2007 rate and add 16 % to get to the 2010 rate.  (This formula still stands in the contract today).    One then had to pay MATCH 30 % commission, which made the mathematics of it completely non-viable, especially given an inflation rate in 2007 of 13 % alone!
2.  one had to be graded by the Tourism Grading Council.
3.  80 % of one’s room stock had to be allocated to FIFA.
4.  the cancellation policy was written in a way to suit MATCH only, giving them huge cancellation leeway until 15 days before arrival.  The establishments’ cancellation policies were not taken into consideration.  From Germany 2006 the industry had received feedback that hotel rooms were cancelled dramatically in the last minute, as the supply exceeded demand.
5.  Payment was to be made on the day of arrival of the soccer guest, and he/she would hand over a bank cheque inside a booking voucher, which could be banked the following day. 
6.   The contract is a legally exacting document, off-putting in itself.
The figures soon showed that only about 20 % of the MATCH contracts had been signed with small accommodation establishments.   Early last year, in a presentation given by Vivienne Bervoets, she admitted that MATCH had realised that it had a problem, in that it did not have the bednights required, and therefore it had launched the Matchville concept – this would be a cluster of towns/villages which jointly had to deliver on a  minimum number of rooms to quality for this status.   MATCH would lay on transport between the Matchville and the closest stadium.   Hermanus and Plettenberg Bay are two such Matchville towns.   Surprisingly too, at the presentation Ms Bervoets stated that MATCH had amended its requirements as far as small accommodation establishments were concerned, in that:
1.  a “fair” price could be charged, subject to MATCH’s approval, no longer needing to be as per the contract formula – even though this is still in the current contract
2.  MATCH would add on the 30 % commission and no longer demand it from the establishment
3.  A 50 % deposit would be paid
4.  One could offer as many or few rooms as one wanted to.
This sounded more fair, but did not seem to move many more small accommodation establishments to sign up with MATCH. 


Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:

One reply

  1. Skye Grove says:

    Chris, kindly note that Cape Town Tourism welcomed the TIMEOUS release of rooms by MATCH during the last week of January. This left 20 weeks for accommodation establishments to market their rooms on the open market.
    Leaving the word TIMEOUS from your quoting the Cape Times article gives it a complete different meaning.

    Regarding your statement that Cape Town Tourism has, opportunistically, signing up private homes, giving them a cursory quality assessment:
    Cape Town Tourism announced on 9 December 2009 (MATCH released rooms only during the third week of January) that we would extend our usual membership programme to temporary accommodation providers specifically for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. These establishments are subjected to exactly the same quality criteria as all our other members. We introduced the temporary accommodation tier to our membership criteria based on a year-long membership and not ‘short-term’ as you stated.

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