Saturday, June 19, 2010

2011 World Cup Fans May Be Based In Sydney - "Kiwi Cup Rip-Off"

William Webb Ellis Cup
The Australian Daily Telegraph (see below) is reporting that many sporting tour groups from Britain and Australia are thinking about basing themselves in Sydney for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The decision to stay in Sydney has been brought about by reports of NZ accommodation providers' extortionate price gouging. See our article "Price Gouging and Cleaning Up, the Rugby World Cup" for background.

Rugby World Cup accommodation prices in NZ are so steep that the country's NZ Rugby World Cup Minister has actually been asked to tell hotels to tone it down, some of them have tariffs  700-1,000% more than the usual rates for the fortnight of the tournament.

A 10 night minimum booking at the Auckland Hilton will put the average punter back a whopping $17,000, for a room "the size of a prison cell." (well, NZ prisons are said to be like luxury hotels) $17 grand! that's enough to buy a VW combo (that can be sold off later) and still have change for business class air fares and a night out at the pub.

We don't blame the supporters for wanting to stay in Sydney - the climate is better, there's far wider range of good quality accommodation and entertainment options and they're less likely to get ripped off for it all. Even with flights over to NZ to pay for it will work out a whole lot cheaper, and probably more pleasant, than staying in NZ.

Our regular readers will remember last September's  Springbok Tour who opted to stay in Brisbane, Australia and enjoy the amenities of the Gold Coast, rather than stay over in "boring Hamilton". Coach Peter de Villiers was concerned  his players would suffer from apathy as “there is nothing in Hamilton”. The town's Mayor, obviously offended,  retorted with "To be honest, if the Springboks were in the streets of Hamilton they probably wouldn’t feel that welcome anyway.”

The following day the Hamilton PR effort bounced back and Waikato Rugby Union chief executive Graham Bowen tried to promote attractions such as the Waitomo caves (much loved by David Attenborough) Raglan’s surf breaks and Rotorua, about an hour and a half away.
Anyway, back to what the Australian Telegraph had to say
"Kiwi Cup Rip-Off
NEW Zealand's Rugby World Cup minister has asked hotels to tone down the price gouging after tournament organisers continue to be embarrassed by accommodation rorts and mark-ups.
Sporting tour groups from Britain and Australia are considering basing themselves in Sydney for the 2011 World Cup given the exorbitant prices being charged for rooms in New Zealand during the tournament, particularly the finals in Auckland.
With a shortage of hotels, many have upped their rates by 700-1000 per cent for the finals fortnight and set down a minimum stay of a week or longer.
A room in the Auckland Hilton - normally $344 a night - is going for $1700 per night at a minimum 10-night booking, totalling a whopping $17,000.
And that's for what a front-page report in the New Zealand Herald last week described as a room the "size of a prison cell". Numerous other examples of hotel price gouging abound, but it's emerged bed & breakfasts and private house owners are now also getting in on the act.
A B&B near Eden Park, where the finals will be played, was in the news for asking $1600 per night during the finals. Private homes in Auckland are being advertised for as much as $7000 a week.
NZ's World Cup minister, Murray McCully, last week wrote to New Zealand's Hotel Association, asking its members to find balance between charging a reasonable premium during the tournament but not trashing the country's tourism reputation.
"It is not acceptable for anyone to rort the system - and I'm simply asking people to understand the difference between charging a premium and doing something that is extortionist and harmful to New Zealand's reputation from a tourism point of view," McCully wrote.
The minister said he was confident most hotels would abide but "one or two need to be persuaded".
That sounds rather ominous, will he be sending the boys in black round?
"It's not just Auckland hotels marking up their prices. Rooms as far as away as Queenstown - normally $255 a night - are being offered for $940 a night.
A room in the modest Ibis hotel in Hamilton, a 90-minute drive from Auckland, can be booked for as little for $77 per night, but during the World Cup finals it will cost $770.
Some angry Auckland hoteliers are refusing to join in the gouging.
The owners of the Kiwi international hotel in Auckland will charge no more $200 a night for their rooms, up from a regular rate of $89 but well short of the drastic mark-ups elsewhere.
"It's just ridiculous," the hotel's owner told the New Zealand Herald. "I think it's criminal and not only that, how does it make New Zealanders look?"
Price gouging, or just capitalism in action?  Fortunately Rugby fans are canny consumers and will be looking for the best-value all-round deals they can find. If they find them across the Tasman from New Zealand, Kiwis will only have themselves to blame - it's a free world.

Many New Zealanders have already said that they will only attend a match if it's local to them - only 12% of Kiwis said they intend going to a game and of those only 5% are intending to travel to it. Most of them to the 4 major towns/cities of Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and Christchurch. They're canny consumers too and simply don't have the spare cash to get ripped off by their fellow countrymen.

Back in March Australia's We Love Rugby issued a press release slamming price gouging in New Zealand, saying that attendances could suffer as a result:
"Attendances at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand could be the lowest ever for international fans with Australia's largest rugby tour operator; We Love Rugby today refuting claims from the Hospitality Association of New Zealand's Bruce Robertson that fears surrounding hotel rates during the 2011 Rugby World Cup were an "Australian beat up... "We have all seen what has happened at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa where tourists are staying away in droves against a backlash of high hotel and transport prices. We saw it at the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the West Indies as well.
If this price gouging farce continues the 2011 Rugby World Cup is going to be nothing more than a damp squib, which will be a travesty - for the game, for the people who want to support it and for the many small businesses hoping to make a honest dollar from the event.
For all our 2011 Rugby World Cup related articles click HERE
Today's posts - click here

Friday, June 18, 2010

Alistair McWhannell Guilty Of Manslaughter In Swing Bridge Death

Alistair McWhannell 

In what must be a landmark decision in adventure tourism in New Zealand company director, Alistair McWhannell, has just been found guilty of the manslaughter of Catherine Peters.
“Adventure company director Alistair McWhannell has been found guilty of the manslaughter of student Catherine Peters, who fell to her death while bridge-swinging last year.
A jury of seven men and five women took just over three hours to reach their verdict in the High Court at Palmerston North today.
McWhannell, 47, was accused of failing to ensure his bridge swing operation was safe when Ms Peters, 18, fell about 20 metres on to rocks below the Ballance Bridge, near Woodville, on March 7 last year.
The Crown said the Crag Adventures director allowed Ms Peters to jump off the bridge with a rope that was too long and not attached to the rig correctly, which amounted to “gross negligence” on his part.
But the defence unsucessfully argued McWhannell’s error was not serious enough to be considered manslaughter.
McWhannell was convicted after a trial lasting six days, during which, the Crown called 33 witnesses.
Supporters of McWhannell wept in the public gallery as the verdict was read out.
He will be sentenced on July 29, remanded on bail for pre-sentence report.”
Are thoughts are with Catherine’s family and friends today.

Hopefully this decision will now result in the publication of a government review of NZ’s Adventure Tourism industry, instigated after a succession of deaths and serious injuries over the years. The report was supposed to have been finished at the end of last month but has yet to see the light of day.

The sector is seen by some to be poorly controlled and regulated, with novel sports having little or no official guidance. Father of  British tourist Emily Jordan wrote to John Key calling safety regulation in New Zealand “third world” after his daughter drowned whilst riverboarding. The company found guilty of her death escaped with a light fine and a manslaughter charge was dropped before the defence had a chance to present its case.

At the time of Miss Peters’ death there were no required safety standards for bridge swinging in New Zealand:
” Scott Woods, the previous owner of City Rock, the Palmerston North climbing gym managed by McWhannell, said though there were no required safety standards for bridge swinging, he had taken it upon himself to draft guidelines and had trained McWhannell in using them.
It was often easier to have one person – a “jump master” – in charge of everything. “If that person’s doing all the work they are fully responsible. It does create a check of sorts because you know each job has been done because you’ve done it yourself”
Amazingly no official safety guidance for something as established as Climbing Walls existed in New Zealand at the time of a serious ‘accident’ at Ferg’s Rock and Kayak, Wellington in 2008.

Following the incident the Dept of Labour issued a “hazard bulletin”, including a safety checklist, to 35 operators of climbing walls nationwide to help them ensure they take all practicable steps, as required by law, to protect their customers. Official safety guidance on climbing walls has been around since 2001 in the UK.
“The Department had been concerned at the growing number of wall climbing accidents and believes the industry’s development of guidelines is important to improve safety standards. The Department will work with the industry as required to facilitate this.
The need for such guidelines was endorsed by the Greymouth coroner last month in his findings on the death of a woman after a climbing wall accident in Greymouth in April 2009.
The Department’s key messages to climbing wall managers are to ensure beginners are properly instructed in belay procedures and demonstrate competence before climbing, and to ensure constant supervision of the climbing wall.  They also need to review safety procedures to ensure they meet minimum standards and ensure their lead instructors hold suitable New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association qualification.” source
Isn’t about time that similar guidance and support was issued to operators of bridge swings and shouldn’t all dangerous adventure activities be fully audited by the Safety Inspectorate before a business is allowed to put the public’s lives at risk?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Another Adventure Tourism Death In New Zealand

An Australian tourist, 38-year-old John Parisis, from New South Wales, has fallen and died whilst on a guided tour with Franz Josef Glacier Guides in South Island, New Zealand.
Mr Parisis's cousin, Tina Vasilakis, said yesterday Mr Parisis had been in "good health" and was "excited to start his new life overseas"  (Switzerland).
"He walked regularly and had a blood test before he left, with nothing concerning," Ms Vasilakis told The Australian. "We are all taking it pretty hard." source
According to one report only a nurse was flown out to the glacier to administer CPR.

The exact circumstance of his death are unclear and there are conflicting accounts - initial police accounts were that he had fallen into the crevasse whilst other reports say he slipped and became unconscious. Family say he was fit and healthy.

He is the third Australian visitor to die on the Franz Joseph glacier in the last 18 months.

Earlier in 2009, two brothers aged 22 and 24, also from Melbourne, were crushed to death by 1200 tonnes of ice when they jumped over safety barriers to take a closer look at the terminal face.

A 39-year-old Melbourne man was found dead on the glacier in May 2000, at least two weeks after it was believed he had fallen 40 metres into a crevasse.

Mr Parisis' death came in the week that saw the opening evidence in the manslaughter trial concerning the death of another tourist, Catherine Peters ,  who died when she fell from the Ballance Bridge Swing.  Alistair McWhannell of Crag Adventures,who threw her from the bridge is charged with manslaugher. It is alleged that he was distracted and neglected to check the rope before throwing her off the bridge in a Mafia style drop.

Weeks ago another Australian tourist, 39 year old Kirsty Moulder from the Blue Mountains, was seriously injured when she slipped out of a leg harness whilst bungy jumping. See Australian tourist injured in bungy accident, another has collapsed lung

A review of Adventure Tourism Safety in New Zealand was instigated following the death of British tourist Emily Jordan. Her father Chris wrote to John Key, stating that "safety regulation in New Zealand was third world". Although the report is supposed to be complete it has yet to be released to the public.

Mr Parisis' death is another blow to the adventure tourism industry's increasingly shaky reputation in New Zealand.

Ninemsn reported on the death of Mr Parisis, saying:
"Police have named the Australian tourist who died while on a guided walk of New Zealand's Franz Josef Glacier on Saturday.
He was 38-year-old John Parisis, from New South Wales. No other details about him were immediately available.
Police said he was walking along the bottom of a crevasse as part of a tour group when he slipped and lost consciousness about 1.30pm.
The tour operator, Franz Josef Glacier Guides, flew him to the nearby township of Franz Josef on the South Island's west coast but attempts to revive him failed.
Police are investigating the matter on behalf of the coroner.
John Thorburn, chief executive of Ngai Tahu Tourism, which owns the glacier guide company, said the company has launched a full investigation.
Tours were suspended on Sunday but he expected them to resume on Monday.
"We are still pretty unclear as to what actually caused the gentleman's death and I guess that will come out in the course of the investigation."
Thorburn said staff were shocked and upset.
"We've spent most of our time in the last day in a half, just supporting the customers and staff on the ground in Franz Josef," he said."


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