With the Covid-19 pandemic sending shockwaves through the South African tourism industry and bringing travel to a screeching halt, many accommodation owners are left wondering what will happen to this industry once this pandemic has subsided.
The tourism industry this week appealed to the government to allow the sector to open under lockdown level 3, saying that it needed to start preparing to welcome guests – both local and international – by September 2020 to salvage what little they could for the 2020/21 holiday period.
However, parliament said it was likely too soon to begin to open up the industry amid the growing spread of infection of Covid-19.
The longer the sector stays shut down, the worse things get for business owners in the industry. But many remain hopeful that activity will return before the end of the year.
In an effort to determine what business owners’ outlook are on the future of travel, accommodation booking portal LekkeSlaap.co.za launched a survey to accommodation owners asking them their opinion on the topic.
As many as 4,488 respondents answered the survey, representing 7,262 local establishments.
While accommodation bookings still remain low during the national lockdown, respondents were asked when they think tourism in their region will return to normal levels. A slight majority of business owners, 55.2%, expect business to get back to normal by or before Christmas season 2020, while the remainder are more pessimistic.
Should normal levels come to fruition by Christmas season, some salvaging of the remainder of the fiscal year might be a possibility, the group said.
At 68.9%, Limpopo recorded the highest number of respondents indicating an expectation of normal levels before the 2020 Christmas season, while the Free State, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and North West all reported over 60% expectation of normal levels within this time frame.
This data indicates that there remains a positive outlook for the 2020 calendar year despite extreme hardship.
This is also reflected in the bookings data provided by respondents, which showed that only 30% of bookings for the 2020 December holidays were cancelled. This stands in contrast to bookings over the September period, where 61% were cancelled, and the June/July period where 82% were cancelled.
Despite the optimism for later in the year, uncertainty persists among accommodation owners, LekkeSlaap said.
“This survey shows that the enormous impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to both travel accommodation owners and travellers being riddled with uncertainty about the future of travel,” it said.
“The lack of incoming bookings indicates a lack of booking confidence with travellers, leading to great financial uncertainty for these businesses.”
Stemming from this, business owners simply don’t know when things will get back to normal, even after the pandemic has passed – but they remain hopeful.
When asked about their outlook on the future of tourism in their region once the pandemic has long passed, most business owners responded with either a positive or uncertain outlook on the future of the industry, with only 9.4% indicating they are quite pessimistic and 3.7% reporting extreme pessimism.
“With these results showing a majority of optimism at 43.5%, paired with the majority of business owners predicting normal levels of booking by or before Christmas, it can be concluded that a large number of business owners believe that the Covid-19 pandemic will subside and that the travel accommodation industry will be salvaged,” LekkeSlaap said.
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