The dangers of New Zealand acquiring a global reputation as a rip-off destination were underlined by Rugby NZ 2011 CEO Martin Snedden yesterday.
Reacting to the New Zealand Herald's story outlining examples of overcharging throughout this country, Mr Snedden added his voice to the warning signals expressed in our article.
Relating the issue to next year's rugby World Cup, Mr Snedden said: "People don't have to come here and that is what I am telling industry. Getting to New Zealand is not that simple unless you live in Australia.
"So ultimately, if people who are sitting on the other side of the world start to look at pricing in areas such as accommodation and travel ... and don't like what they see ... they don't have to come.
"People [in NZ] assume that people are coming and that decision has already been made. What I am saying is, no, it hasn't. People will only come if it all stacks up ... so we have to be right. If they don't like it, as happened [in some cases] in South Africa for the soccer World Cup, they won't come."
Mr Snedden admitted he had spent much time trying to defuse a widely held view that the rugby World Cup was a golden bonanza just sitting there waiting to be exploited.
"The argument I am using, but I have to say which meets a fair bit of resistance, is that the 45 days of rugby World Cup is the best marketing opportunity New Zealand has ever had, for the following 10 years.
"You can't build a business on the basis of what you might get during a World Cup. And anyway, it's not even 45 days because it shifts around the country and your slice of any region is only perhaps a few days. You can't build a business on that but you build a reputation on it. Or lose a reputation."
Mr Snedden conceded that one of the biggest hurdles to transmitting this argument was that the vast majority of businesses in New Zealand, close to 90 per cent of the business community, were small. That, he admitted, presented problems in terms of trying to get New Zealand business to look at the World Cup in a longer-term sense, rather than an instant pay day.
"Those businesses turn over quite quickly, particularly in the accommodation sector, so the owners are not necessarily going to take a long-term view. What is best for New Zealand over a 5- to 10-year period is not as important to them as what they can do in the time they are in business.
"That is a bit of a barrier. How do you get over it? You have to keep talking about it, trying to build some public momentum about it and that is a task we keep going at."
Reining in the obvious and more ludicrous expectations of New Zealand businesses, a philosophy that leads directly to the kind of overcharging the Herald highlighted this week, was an essential task, Mr Snedden said.
"I am trying to condition the accommodation market. Yes, it is a peak demand time [the rugby World Cup] but apart from three weekends it is nothing more than that and should not be treated any differently."
He believed a major crossroads would be reached in September/October this year when hotels and airlines would publish their prices for the following 12 months, including the six weeks of the rugby World Cup from September 9 to October 23.