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Thursday Feb 07, 2013

KZN tourism body clamps down on 'pay by the hour' B&Bs

The Msunduzi Pietermaritzburg Tourism Association is clamping down on illegal bed 'n' breakfast establishments in the city, especially those allegedly operating as brothels.

The acting director of the association, Dumisani Mhlongo, said many brothels were operating under the guise of B&Bs.

Although the problem was widespread, there was a concentration of such suspect establishments in Pietermaritz, Boom and Hoosen Hafajee streets.

When the association joined the police in recent raids on five establishments in the city it was found four were not registered and were suspected of being used as brothels.

Police spokeswoman Joey Jeevan said no arrests were made, but the owners were warned to register the establishments.

Mhlongo said the illegal B&Bs charged hourly rates instead of daily rates.

"The main purpose of conducting the raids was to determine the magnitude of illegal businesses. We have not managed to quantify how many illegal B&Bs there are. Some of them may have been registered at some stage but defaulted on the terms of their registration," he said.

The problem was that brothels were not being reported to the police or the tourism body.

"The only time we find out about them is when someone complains, and those who use them don't," he said.

The municipality was also losing revenue because registered B&Bs paid business rates.

"At the end of the day, the illegal operations are giving the city a bad name. This is also impacting badly on tourism," he added.

Illegal B&Bs began mushrooming before and during the 2010 Soccer World Cup when local people tried to cash in on extra visitors to the city.

He said there were 55 establishments registered with the association.

The only way forward was to sit down with the police and come up with a strategy for dealing with the illegal operations, he said.

"We would like raids to take place more often."

Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business chief executive Melanie Veness said legal B&Bs incurred costs to be compliant, while illegal operators were able to offer better rates as a result of their noncompliance, giving them an unfair competitive advantage.

"It is important that there be a levelling of the playing fields." Veness said stricter law enforcement was needed.

The Mercury

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