The biggest challenge for Last Word Intimate Hotels & Safari Camps was finding ways to generate income, keep properties running and pay salaries in a market that is in a massive slump due to the ever-changing Covid-19 lockdowns and travel bans.
For Nicky Coenen, the group general manager, and her small marketing team at Last Word, finding ways to attract business has been challenging. However, they kept reinventing their offerings to keep up with travel trends like exclusive-use property rentals.
“Exclusive-use is becoming an increasingly popular travel trend, due to there being a demand for accommodating family and friend bubbles at this time. The close-knit group normally looks for luxury and intimacy, not wanting to be mixed with guests who are outside their circle due to concerns about Covid-19 even though stringent health and hygiene protocols have been adopted by South Africa’s tourism sector," said Coenen.
She said guests sought warmth, kindness and serene sanctuaries as a reward for enduring what they saw as "pandemic hardship”.
On the safari front, exclusivity has always been a driver. However, what is new is the drive for domestic tourists to see luxury safari experiences.
“Locals are looking for safari experiences that are exclusive and remote where guest numbers are small enough to ensure easy social distancing both in and out of camp,” said Coenen.
Cindy Sheedy Walker, the chief executive of Extraordinary Marketing, agreed that exclusive-use was a rising hospitality trend in South Africa, something her organisation focussed on for the safari destinations they represented.
“We recognise the growing desire for exclusivity and seclusion in the Covid-19 era.
“One of the great things about the Exclusive-Use-Camp concept is the freedom of these families and friend-groups to create their own safari pace, leaving for safari when they choose and structuring meal times to suit their habits," she said.
Walker said the pandemic changed the way consumers travelled.
"It has also made everyone more mindful and cautious about whom they would like to travel and mix with on those travels.
“We found ways to evolve and find the best ways of catering to these changing demands. While, at our core, we have always prioritised privacy and exclusivity, we realise that these aspects of travel are no longer luxuries but have now become necessities for many of us," she said.