Here's why South African weekend getaways are taking off
Domestic weekend travel has started to show signs of revival since the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions eased last year.
Global tech start-up RoomRaccoon monitored occupancy of more than 3 200 rooms at boutique hotels, B&B’s and guest houses across South Africa. It found that weekday occupancy has steadily risen to an average of 30%.
However, it is weekend occupancy that has shown a surge at these establishments, with numbers edging towards 60% through November and December 2020. The recent Valentine’s weekend saw occupancy spike to 58%.
Establishments in the coastal areas, including Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Garden Route, and the Drakensberg have seen the highest occupancies.
Niels Verspui, Country Manager of RoomRaccoon South Africa, said the uptick in weekend tourism represents a feint silver-lining.
"The industry still needs to be agile with initiatives to maintain guest traffic over the coming winter months, and until international visitors can safely return.
“Our data indicates that people have maintained an appetite for travel despite the lockdown. With many places offering competitive prices to locals, weekend getaways are how they are choosing to indulge.
Hotels, guest houses, B&B’s and lodges will be relying heavily on local support to make it through the leaner months, which is why the spike in weekend occupancy is noteworthy, and we are confident more establishments will cater for this,” he said.
Verspui shares four reasons why weekend getaways are taking off in South Africa:
The Department of Tourism’s Quarterly Performance Report for the period April to June 2020 indicated that the arrival of foreign travellers was down 96.2% compared to the same period in 2019.
With barely 142,000 foreign arrivals versus the 3.7 million international visitors for the previous year, the knock-on effect was a 96.9% revenue decline for the South African accommodation industry.
To offset the losses, establishments subsequently introduced discounted rates to make themselves more accessible to the local market, who can now enjoy time at places they previously could not afford.
Uniquely packaged experiences
Verspui notes that properties that have been doing well are the ones that packaged and promoted unique experiences. They added value by offering welcome drinks, including a romantic meal or picnic, adding tours and tastings, cultural experiences, or guided nature walks.
Enhanced confidence in Covid-19 compliance
Minimising contact with property staff, establishing social distancing and hygiene protocols, and limiting the need to share facilities with other patrons provides guests with more control over their safety. He believes that the Contactless Stay initiative provides added confidence that guests will remain protected.
Contactless Stay allows guests to check-in and make payments online, choose a contactless key system for added safety, and allow guests to book essentials and extras like Corona kits in advance. On request, house-keeping services can also be excluded for the duration of a stay.
Like most industries, the accommodation sector has similarly turned to technology during the lockdown to create operational efficiencies. Using technology to enhance the guest experience by making the online booking process more streamlined and direct also means that establishments can reduce booking engine fees.
Hotel management systems designed for boutique and medium-sized properties are becoming popular, allowing them to benefit in ways that have previously only been available to the larger hotel groups.
Affordable, accessible technology provides visibility of what competitors are doing in terms of pricing. This allows them to quickly apply rate changes to cater for fluctuations in supply and demand using automated yield management software.