Saturday 8th April, 2006

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Securing rooms for cricket supporters

In all of the arrangements being announced by the Cricket World Cup Committee, little is being said about the still outstanding negotiations to secure rooms for the supporters of the teams that are expected in droves in the Caribbean come 2007.

While the WICB has already secured rooms for the so-called “Toms”—teams, officials, media and sponsors—no agreement has yet been reached between the travel agents hired by the International Cricket Conference and Caribbean hoteliers on rates to be charged and paid for rooms for the supporters.

The core of the problem revolves around Cricket Logistics, the chosen travel agents wanting lower prices than the hotels are willing to offer. The travel agent is said to have based those projections on rates that fell dramatically after the 9/11 (2001) bombing of the World Trade Center.

In the wake of that event, travel was severely limited all over the world and so hoteliers, like all other business operators, had to follow the rules of the market and make downward adjustments as demand was low and many rooms remained empty.

However, over the last couple years, tourist arrivals have picked up significantly, surpassing even the pre-2001 period. Logically, therefore, rates went up with the increase in demand.

But the problem is compounded further when it is considered that the World Cup is happening during the peak winter season, the time when the hoteliers, like the entire travel and tourism industry, charge high rates.

The situation is further exacerbated when it is taken into account that for the hoteliers to rent their rooms to the cricket fans, they will have to turn down business from their regular travel agents who fill their rooms year after year.

Good business logic would obviously require an even further increase of rates to compensate for any long-term injury their business may suffer resulting from a hotelier saying no to a regular business partner: sorry, but we cannot accommodate you this year during the period of the World Cup, but come back next year same time and we are sure to provide you with rooms for your guests.

That business reality means greater risk for the hotel operator and therefore the need for greater compensation. Those are basic laws of business that will not be seduced into relaxation, even by the historic staging of the premier one-day international cricket tournament.

The figures are said to be miles apart: Cricket Logistics offering US$150 a day at the lowest level, the hoteliers saying nothing short of US$250 would suffice. At the higher levels of quality hotel rooms, where hoteliers charge US$600 and more for their rooms, the travel agent is said to be prepared to pay no more than US$300.

At one point, Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell had called on the hoteliers to compromise in the interest of the West Indies staging a successful World Cup. But he has subsequently changed that tune and said the two sides had to work out their differences.

Already, Caribbean governments have committed to tens of millions of dollars in the renovation and construction of stadiums and the several other ventures to be funded. But if they continue to be committed to the staging of the tournament, maybe they would be the ones to make up the difference between what is being offered and what is needed.

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