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How tech helped SA travel industry during devastating pandemic

RoomRaccoon South Africa says the pandemic made technology a staple in how travel businesses operated. Picture: Pixabay.

RoomRaccoon South Africa says the pandemic made technology a staple in how travel businesses operated. Picture: Pixabay.

Published Nov 23, 2021


Technology played a huge part in assisting many businesses during the pandemic.

Niels Verspui, the country manager of RoomRaccoon South Africa, said the pandemic made technology a staple in people’s daily lives and how businesses operated.

“This was no different in the local hospitality industry, with many hoteliers and guesthouses pivoting their operations to keep business afloat amongst the various lockdown regulations implemented to mitigate the spread of the virus," he explained.

GM of Emily Moon boutique hotel in Plettenberg Bay Alex Olivier said no one could have foreseen the dire consequences lockdown would have on the hospitality industry.

“Between 85% to 95% of our bookings before the pandemic were overseas travellers and overnight, however, those tourists just dried up.

“We have done everything we can to remain profitable, including shutting the hotel on Mondays and Tuesdays to reduce expenses and using social media to market the hotel to honeymooning couples," he said.

Marius Vosloo, the owner of the Nicol Hotel in Johannesburg, said they looked at other ways to stay afloat and were innovative with their ideas.

Vosloo and others used technology to adjust their pricing. “With the help of RoomRaccoon, we were able to experiment with our pricing to boost demand as it can automatically optimise rates according to room-sell probability.

"We reduced his basic room rate by 20% per night. We realised there was a demand from those who wanted to work away from home without distractions. All they wanted was a comfortable room with a fast internet speed, which we were able to give them for a competitive rate," he added.


Olivier believes forging good relationships were vital.

“Many hotels used the pandemic as an excuse to cut down on quality, but we did not. We want to make our guests feel relaxed and at home so that they keep coming back. We developed a strategy to navigate the various lockdown restrictions, including website updates and various packages.

"Through our hotel management software, anyone in the hotel from the housekeeper to the hotel manager is able to see who’s booking in or out that day and what our current occupancy rate is,” said Olivier.

Olivier said technology has helped their hotel stay in business: “I could be hiking up in the mountains and field a call from a guest. In a matter of minutes, I’m able to tell them which rooms are available on which dates and make a booking. Having accessible data like this at our fingertips has really changed the way we work," he added.

The future

Both Vosloo and Olivier expect hotel occupancy numbers to pick up over Christmas and into 2022.

Being removed from the UK Red List was one of the biggest wins.

“As long as we remain on Level 1, the outlook should continue to improve and hopefully international tourists will feel confident enough to return in the next three months," said Vosloo.

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