World Cup pricing survey will provide incorrect information

Having been a market researcher for a large part of my career, I completed one of the 5 questionnaires received yesterday from Grant Thornton, a consultancy contracted by the Department of Tourism to conduct a survey amongst accommodation establishments, with shock as to its poor design.  The results of the survey will be used to prove that South African accommodation is not ripping off soccer fans for the World Cup.

Given that the consultancy will stand to make a good income out of the survey, it is surprising that Grant Thornton have got the survey design so wrong, meaning that much of its survey will be meaningless, being based on incorrect or missing information.  It is pretty clear that Grant Thornton does not know how the tourism industry operates, despite its work it conducts in the industry!

The survey problems are the following:

1.  The survey shows that it is hotels that have been used as a model for the survey.  Guest houses, self-catering establishments, and B&B’s outnumber hotels by far.

2.  The questionnaire becomes intimidating when one has to state one’s room types – again the design is for hotels, and the various room types do not match those of guest houses/B&B/self-catering establishments.  Surprisingly, single rooms are not listed as an accommodation type.

3.  It is made even more complicated in respect of the rates charged per room type – small accommodation establishments do not quote “STO” rates, and tend to charge the same for all room types – the table requesting this information could be intimidating for a small accommodation establishment.  “Not applicable” options are lost after the first question, and one is not told how to deal with pricing of room types one does not have.

4.  A bigger concern is the time period used for the study – the industry has been admonished for “price-gouging”, and FEDHASA CEO Brett Dungan has pointed a finger at the industry, telling it that the World Cup runs from 11 June – 11 July, and that it should therefore charge normal winter rates from 1 – 10 June and from 12 July onwards.   However, the survey asks for one World Cup rate only, from 1 June – 31 July, thereby condoning this pricing policy.

5.  The question that shows that Grant Thornton is not in touch with the industry is the one requesting information about current pricing – it obviously wants to compare the World Cup rates charged with those charged currently and the year prior – however, it defines these as “2010” and “2009”.  In the accommodation industry generally, and this would include hotels, one quotes 2008/2009, 2009/2010, etc, giving that the rates usually change from the start of the summer season of every year, i.e. October.   The information generated about current rates would therefore create confusion and potentially incorrect answers, importantly required as a benchmark for the World Cup pricing comparison.

It is inexcusable that a company of Grant Thornton’s stature could have got a survey, which could have been made so much more simple and more meaningful, so wrong.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:

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