Tourism was an important sector and contributed to job creation, hence it was known as the lifeblood and growth engine of the country. File photo
Tourism was an important sector and contributed to job creation, hence it was known as the lifeblood and growth engine of the country. File photo

Digital nomads and workations ’key to reviving SA tourism industry’

By Alyssia Birjalal, Supplied Time of article published Aug 11, 2021

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The hard-hit tourism industry has suffered great losses amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. However plans and ideas to revive the industry are under way.

Niels Verspui, the country manager for RoomRaccoon South Africa, a hotel management software solutions company, said digital nomads and workations could be the key to turn the situation around.

"In 2019, the sector contributed 7% to GDP. Now, as a result of the pandemic, it contributes a mere 4%. It’s vital to find new ways to revive tourism, such as the recent rise of digital nomads and workations,“ said Verspui.

Niels Verspui, the country manager at RoomRaccoon South Africa. Picture: Supplied.

RoomRaccoon SA is in support of the Cape Town mayoral committee member, James Vos’s, call for the government to extend the length of the remote working visa beyond 90 days. This follows the findings of global housing rental platform Nestpick in July, which named Cape Town as one of the top destinations for digital nomads to live and work.

“Covid-19 has shown us that remote work is possible, as long as there is decent internet connection. Because of this, Airbnb reported an increase in long-term stays globally in the first half of 2021, and it’s something that local accommodation companies can take advantage of,” said Verspui.

He said holiday rental properties that had a kitchenette in their rooms were well positioned to accommodate long-term stays.

In order to attract digital nomads, businesses should include incentives such as special prices for long-term stays.

“Hotels could also take advantage of this trend, as travellers may wish to stay in rooms with housekeeping and breakfast included. Attracting these types of tourists will have a positive impact on GDP and job creation in South Africa,” he said.

Tourism was an important sector and contributed to job creation, hence it was known as the lifeblood and growth engine of the country.

“This is because the purchasing power parity (PPP) for travellers from other countries is generally favourable, so digital nomads will be able to go out for dinner, do shopping and explore local attractions which will benefit local businesses and the country’s GDP.”

According to the US Census Bureau, 73% of people who were allowed to work remotely were the highest-earning households with annual incomes of more than $200 000 (about R2.9 million).

“When it comes to the benefits SA has to offer to digital nomads, it is undeniable that the country is also one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Travellers will be able to take advantage of a great climate, world-class attractions and natural phenomena, with no time difference for travellers from Europe,” said Verspui.

Although the call to extend the remote working visa is being spearheaded by the City of Cape Town, it is something that Verspui believes tourism businesses across the country can take advantage of.

“Big cities will be the most popular destination for digital nomads. However, the remoter areas will be perfect for digital nomads to enjoy leisure travel and experience different parts of the country,” he said.

With that in mind, Verspui encouraged accommodation providers to start planning ahead for when the country has been removed from red lists across the globe and more South Africans had been vaccinated.

“Although tourism has taken a massive knock we need to adapt and seek out new opportunities to turn the industry around,” he said.

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