Runners at the Comrades Marathon. Picture: Gcina Ndwalane/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - While the formal sector stood in line to benefit from this year’s Comrades Marathon with an estimated economic impact of over R500m, some businesses in the hospitality sector have lost out.

Marketing manager for Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, Thulisile Galelekile, said most of the runners travel with family, minders and coaching teams.

“Therefore, based on the economic impact of the past few years, this year we estimate an economic impact of over half a billion rands,” she said.

The Department of Economic Development and Tourism spokesperson Bongani Tembe said they were not expecting a decrease in the number of participants in the Comrades this year.

“We are very confident in terms of the money that will be generated in the hospitality sector that it will grow. There are different systems people use for accommodation, some stay with friends and family. And while they would not spend money on accommodation, it is expected they will spend money in other ways in the province.”

Michele de Souza who is the chairperson of the PMB B&B network and owner of guest house, Greenlands, said for last year’s Comrades her establishment had already been fully booked in November 2017.

“However this year, for the first time in 20 years, there was accommodation still available in Pietermaritzburg, this is because of Airbnb. They are undercutting us by 50% when it comes to prices,” she said

De Souza said this year alone three establishments had been sold as a result of bad business and there were another four, including one of hers, on the market.

As of April 15 the public had 60 days to submit comments on the Tourism Amendment Bill, which will regulate short-term accommodation such as Airbnb. The bill was published in the Government Gazette on April 12 and republished on April 15. The bill will enable the minister of tourism to determine certain so-called “thresholds” for short-term home rentals.

National Department of Tourism spokesperson Blessing Manale said there had already been public consultations held in some parts of the country around the Tourism Amendment Bill.

“The logic behind these is for people to make submissions other than Airbnb and its regulation, yes it is at the centre of it but people must also make suggestions around locations of these as this helps with tourist destination planning,” he said.

Manale said the department wanted to take a proactive approach to the issue of Airbnb. “It is only a disruption if you don’t know how to handle it. Consultations next week continue in KZN,” said Manale.

Chairperson of the Umhlanga Community Tourism Organisation (CTO), Peter Rose, who also represents all nine CTOs in the eThekwini region, said it was expected accommodation in the Midlands would be affected negatively as the Comrades was an up run this year.

“People are staying in Durban in preparation for the race. They stay for a night or two days and then they are booked in for accommodation the day after the race in Pietermaritzburg. My guest house at the centre of Umhlanga is fully booked for today (Friday) up until Sunday,” he said.

He said as CTOs were concerned about Airbnb they have had extensive discussions around the issue with the Department of Economic Development and Tourism.

“People who own B&Bs and guest houses have to comply with regulations in the province and it costs money to comply. You have to have special consent to rent out a house from the municipality and if you are running a business out of it you have to have a licence. Now Airbnb it would seem, is not complying,” he said.

Daily News