World Cup chief bids to woo fans
THE huge cost of hotel beds at next year's Rugby World Cup looks set to be an issue that will dominate the minds of any fans preparing to make the long trip to New Zealand in September.
So it was unsurprising to see Martin Snedden armed with a list of affordable hotel options under his arm as he sat down in Dublin yesterday. The tournament chief came armed with an A4 page filled with a range of accommodation prices for Ireland's pool matches in order to get on top of the thorny topic from the outset.
Some operators are ratcheting up their prices, particularly for the knockout stages, with one Christchurch outlet charging €4,110 for a compulsory minimum three-night stay for the two quarter-finals being staged there.
It's no wonder Snedden uses words like "gouging" to describe the practice.
As those planning to make the already expensive journey sit down to plan their trip, the stark reality of how much hotel rooms can cost will hit home.
Given that the hosts are already set to make a €20m loss at rugby's marquee event and have identified selling seats as their greatest challenge, greedy hoteliers giving their country a bad name is not something they welcome.
"Some of these guys don't realise the damage they do when they do something as dumb as that," Snedden said.
"That (the Christchurch example) is probably one of the most idiotic examples I have seen of price gouging during this whole event preparation. We have told them bluntly that that is our view. We have had an apology from them."
But for all of their indignation about the overpricing, those delivering the tournament have no way of instructing private operators to bow to their wishes.
There are alternatives like hostels, guesthouses and motels. Snedden is recommending an unorthodox approach for fans still on the fence about travelling -- "home hosting".
"If they are worried about accommodation, just get out to New Zealand," he encouraged. "What will happen is that if they struggle with the accommodation through the commercial route, then people will take them into their homes.
"People who don't think they can afford it, get out there and trust. They will find that New Zealanders are really keen to look after them. Home hosting will bubble to the surface an awful lot in 2011.
"What we're doing at the moment is allowing people who sell accommodation for a living to have first crack at it and they are doing well out of it. But, if they stuff it up through pricing then tough luck -- home hosting will come in behind and pick up the balance."
Organisers have sold half of the 1.6 million tickets available for the tournament. Shifting the remaining 800,000 remains their most difficult objective, but they have another tough task in opening the minds of their at times myopic locals.
"One of the things we have been talking about a lot," Snedden explains, "is trying to get New Zealanders to understand that there are 20 teams in the World Cup next year, not one.
"The reality is that hosting the tournament is more important than winning it. We get another chance to win the World Cup every four years; we get one chance to host it. We have to make sure that New Zealanders respond and look after the people who are there."
RWC by Numbers
800,000 tickets sold
€20m loss for organisers
8 revamped stadiums
1 new stadium at Dunedin
€4,110 for three nights in a Christchurch hotel for the quarter-finals