SA Tourism confirms site outages due to unpaid hosting bills, blames ‘red tape’

South Africa’s primary online tourism portal has repeatedly gone down over the last week because the organisation behind the site failed to pay its web-hosting bills.

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A source close to Memeburn said that SA Tourism, which owns the Twitter handle @SouthAfrica and is effectively the face of tourism in the country, had failed to pay hosting service provider Rackspace for several months before was taken down.

SA Tourism spokesperson William Price confirmed that Rackspace had taken the site down because of non-payment but blamed it on an “error with the financing”.

Tourism is an important part of the South African economy, with Statistics South Africa estimating that over 10-million foreigners visited South Africa in 2011. SA Tourism’s own research meanwhile suggests that the sector contributed to around R75-million (US$10-million) or 3.1% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2010. Given its importance, having the country’s main tourism site down doesn’t inspire confidence.

According to Price, the issue arose because SA Tourism had moved the website to a faster, more expensive server. Red tape, he says, meant that the organisation continued sending out purchase orders for the cheaper server, which didn’t match the invoices it was getting from Rackspace. An administrative hold up in fixing this is what caused the non-payment that led to the site being taken down.

Usually when a site is taken down by a hosting company, a notice is put up indicating that it will be put back up in the near future. When SA Tourism’s site was down late yesterday Memeburn tried to ping it and got a series of request timeouts. This is more typically associated with a technical error than a site takedown.

The source, who assured us that the information was 100% accurate, added that SA Tourism had a long history of not paying its suppliers.

The issue appears to have been resolved and the site is back up.

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