December is historically the high season for travel in South Africa, but the second wave of COVID-19 generally kept people close to home. So while winter may not usually be a favourite travel time for locals, industry experts are predicting a rise in 2021.
“South Africa is a beautiful country at any time of the year, but the mild daytime temperatures during winter offer a pleasant change to the scorching summer sun,” says William McIntyre, Regional Director, Africa, Radisson Hotel Group. “This makes winter a perfect time to explore the country.”
Here are eight hospitality and travel trends that McIntyre forecasts we’ll see come to the fore this winter.
Flexible booking policies
When travellers around the world had to postpone or cancel their bookings in early 2020, many hotels and airlines waived cancellation policies as the industry ground to a halt amidst COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns.
The uncertainty that the pandemic sparked has left many travellers still concerned about losing deposits on any future travel plans.
“They’re more likely to book with a hotel or airline that will allow them to change their travel dates without incurring penalties, giving them that extra level of confidence as they begin venturing out and about again,” says McIntyre.
Conferences make a comeback
Zoom enjoyed overnight success at the start of lockdowns, but Zoom fatigue quickly became widespread as people began missing the human connection of face-to-face interaction. Now that restrictions have eased, corporates are increasingly reinstituting business travel, and even hosting meetings and conferences.
In fact, traditional conferencing is making a strong comeback. Johannesburg, the country’s corporate hub, is leading with conferencing bookings. But Cape Town and Port Elizabeth are also showing early signs of increased events and meeting business. “Since there is so much uncertainty in the world currently, Radisson’s new policies allow bookings to be postponed for up to a year,” says McIntyre.
The coronavirus negatively impacted incomes across the globe in 2020. Many employees were retrenched, while many more experienced salary cuts as businesses battled to stay afloat. Even though the economy has made something of a recovery, budgets remain tight.
So, those in a position to travel are looking for the best value for their money. And this applies not only to accommodation but also to meals and activities.
“We are very conscious of budget restraints, which is why Radisson is keeping costs as low as possible with deals and added incentives,” says McIntyre. “Members of our loyalty club, Radisson Rewards, receive a discount on the best available rate when booking directly on our website or mobile app. And members can redeem their points against accommodation costs, which helps keep their expenses to a minimum.”
Budget constraints also mean that many travellers are choosing destinations closer to home; they can still get away while keeping down travel costs. Staycations cut the expense of fuel or flight tickets considerably, allowing travellers to spend money on activities and meals instead.
Remote working is no longer only for the lucky. When the country was forced to close office buildings, many companies discovered that staff members could perform their duties equally well at home.
This has freed many staff from the shackles of an office job, affording them the freedom to manage their time, and location, differently. With a laptop and internet connection, work can happen just about anywhere.
So employees are opting, more and more, to take their office to new and interesting destinations. And they’ll be grading accommodation on the quality of the WiFi and comfort of the working spaces.
After months of cooking at home or eating takeaways, more people are opting to dine out. Due to social distancing rules, restaurants may only serve about half the number of usual guests, but that doesn’t mean anyone needs to miss out on a fantastic meal.
“Radisson prides itself on a great dining experience, and all of our restaurants are open to the public,” says McIntyre. In fact, the hotel group is currently running myriad amazing dining experiences, including two-for-one and set menu specials.
With COVID-19 known to spread in confined, crowded spaces, travellers are seeking more remote, less populated destinations where they are less likely to encounter the usual holiday crowds.
They’re venturing away from travel hotspots and heading out of town to less well-known areas instead – making this a great time for out-of-the-way destinations to advertise what they have to offer.
Travellers have become much more spontaneous over the last year, and this trend is set to continue throughout the winter months. So many long-awaited holidays had to be rescheduled when lockdowns hit and people were bitterly disappointed when even their rescheduled plans had to be cancelled.
The uncertainties driven by COVID-19 have translated to much more impulsive travel planning, including family getaways. Getaway now, they think before we all get slapped with a new restriction.
People have probably never been more aware of the importance of maintaining their physical and mental wellness. Lockdown and self-isolation for large portions of 2020, the uncertainty around employment, and a host of other factors sent stress levels spiralling.
When travel wasn’t permitted, people found ways to manage their mental stress at home. Since restrictions have eased, visiting a spa – whether for a few hours or a few days – and indulging in massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, has become popular. “What better way to relax and destress than in a calm, tranquil environment designed to invoke peace?” concludes McIntyre.