warning to b&b owners

IF YOU you are planning to use your house as accommodation for tourists during the 2010 Fifa World Cup, please do so with caution.

IF YOU you are planning to use your house as accommodation for tourists during the 2010 Fifa World Cup, please do so with caution.

The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa has issued a warning to people joining agencies who promise big returns if people registed on their databases.

The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa was established as a grading organisation in the hospitality business.

It verifies whether accommodation meets all the regulations as stipulated by the counciland the South African Constitution.

The business then receives the grading in the form of a star certification, hence three-or five-star hotels.

The council's chief executive, Thembi Kunene, said they received more than 100 enquiries over the last two years about these "agencies".

"We do not support home stays because the risks for both the hosts and visitors are high. The homeowner does not have a 100percent guarantee that the tourists will come to the house and that the agency will deliver on its promised financial returns," Kunene said.

Businesses graded by the council include bed and breakfasts, conference venues, lodges and hotels.

The star grading lasts only 12 months and has to be renewed through regrading.

"We only grade businesses that are in the hospitality business for business purposes.

"We grade B&B's because they are businesses that have been reg istered as businesses under the rules and regulations of the tourism and hospitality industry.

"People should do their homework properly. They should verify whether the agency they are dealing with has a physical address," she said.

Kunene's warning comes after a number of agencies allegedly registered homeowners who want to go into the hospitality business and promised to put their properties on databases that will be accessed by tourists when they come for the soccer showpiece.

One agency operating in Florida promises homeowners returns ranging from R750 per person per night. It further promises R2250 to businesses hosting three visitors.

When Sowetan called the agency we were told that registration is a "lousy R800" but the rest of the money should be paid when the visitors arrive in 2010. The agency's invitation comes with a covering letter with the company's details and a registration form requiring personal details.

Attached to the form is a home audit programme that allows the homeowner to answer questions relating to the number of rooms, cleanliness of the house, the neighbourhood, security and entertainment. The long list of 81 questions includes availability of toothpicks, salt and pepper shakers and so on.

Kunene said some of the agencies were taking advantage of homeowners because of their ignorance and hunge r for money.

"There is no law that prohibits people from going into such business, but people should exercise caution in dealing with these agencies," Kunene advised.