Tourism officials warn against price gouging at 2010 soccer World Cup


1 South Africa

Tourism officials are warning hotels, airlines and restaurants not to scare off tourists by hiking prices during next summer’s FIFA World Cup soccer tournament.

With about 500,000 sports fans expected to descend on South Africa and spend an estimated $850 million during the monthlong event, tourism officials said last month that they feared visitors would be put off by exorbitant costs as hotels and guest lodges raise their prices.

Cuban tourism: The Travel section’s Foreign Briefing reported Sunday that Cuba expected to log a record 2.4 million tourists this year, up 3.3% from last year. It expects to have logged that number for 2009, up 3.3% from 2008. —

Media reports have said some hotels plan to charge up to $250 for a basic room that usually costs $100 to $150. Other reports pointed to homes along Cape Town’s exclusive Atlantic seaboard renting for $1,000 to $35,000 a day -- with one house reportedly renting for $1 million total for the duration of the tournament.

But Calvyn Gilfellan, a tourism official based in Cape Town, said viewing the tournament as a cash cow could harm South Africa’s burgeoning tourism industry. Up to 290,000 extra visitors are expected to come during the five years after the tournament because of South Africa’s heightened visibility, and Gilfellan said price-gouging could scare them off.

“We are extremely concerned,” he said. “It would be like killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”

Gilfellan is head of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, which oversees tourism in the seaside city and the surrounding Western Cape province, known for its vineyards and beaches. Cape Town will host several soccer matches, including one semifinal.

-- Associated Press

2 Antarctica

Tourism to this scenic, frigid continent may face new restrictions. A Polar Code being developed by the nations that manage Antarctica would require that the hulls of ships there be strengthened to withstand sea ice. And in March, the International Maritime Organization is expected to ratify a ban starting in 2011 on heavy fuel oil in the region, which would effectively shut out big cruise ships, officials and ship operators said.

-- Associated Press

3 Cuba

This Communist-ruled island expects to log a record 2.4 million tourists this year, up 3.3% from last year, said Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz. But deep discounts and shorter stays mean that tourism revenue will be down overall. Visitor numbers have been boosted by the Obama administration’s decision to let Cuban Americans with family on the island visit more often.

-- Associated Press

4 Scotland

About 4,500 passengers were stranded last month after Flyglobespan, an Edinburgh-based airline, filed for bankruptcy, said PricewaterhouseCoopers, the administrators appointed to help salvage the company. The small carrier served about a dozen European cities, plus Orlando, Fla., and Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

-- Times wires

5 France

The Pompidou Centre in Paris, known for its modern art, reopened Dec. 17 after a three-week strike by museum staff who were protesting budget cuts. The labor action also caused sporadic shutdowns of the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and other popular tourist sites.

-- Reuters Caution spots

The U.S. State Department recently issued warnings or alerts for these areas:

* India, because of changes in visa regulations that may affect reentry.

* Mauritania, because of increased activity by the terrorist group Al Qaeda.