This Global Hotel Network® Report takes a look at “The State of the South African Hospitality Industry” from the perspective of Willem Fick, Executive Director, Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA). He reports:
Following the slowdown of travel and tourism in the northern hemisphere after the terrorist attack in America on 11 September 2001, the hospitality industry in South Africa has shown a remarkable recovery and is experiencing a welcome upsurge.
According to statistics released by South African Tourism, total tourist arrivals for the period January to April 2002 reflected an increase of 7.6 percent over the corresponding period last year, while overseas arrivals increased by 13.4 percent. Arrivals from Europe increased by 18.4 percent.
The Anderson Hotel Industry Benchmark Survey (SA) for the period January to March 2002 indicated an increase in occupancy of 8.4 percent compared to the corresponding period last year. According to the survey, the occupancy rate for February and March increased by 11.7 percent.
While there can be no doubt that September 11 played a part in the upturn, with South Africa being seen as a safe destination relative to a number of hot spots around the globe, this was not the only factor driving the upsurge.
A decline in the South African Rand, a significant growth in the international conference market, the national carrier upgrading its international fleet and additional frequencies having been awarded to British Airlines, Air France, KLM, Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic, all contributed favourably to the inflow of tourists.
The country is also very fortunate in that it has a dedicated national ministry fully committed to the promotion and development of the tourism industry. A private, public sector partnership has seen the formulation of a joint marketing initiative and a revised marketing plan to be implemented by South African Tourism in the second half of the year. In addition, the establishment of a public, private sector grading council launched in November 2001 has provided an international benchmark for the industry.
The strength of the South African hospitality industry lies not only in the high standard of accommodation, cuisine and service, but also in the diversity of product available to the tourist. Besides the traditional and well-established holiday and business infrastructure, new sectors have opened up with adventure, conference, cultural and ecotourism leading the way.
At the time of writing, accommodation reservations made for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to be held in Johannesburg in August have resulted in close on R40 million being prepaid to the formal accommodation sector and a million Rand to bed and breakfast establishments. It is estimated that close on 65,000 delegates will attend the summit.
The hosting of the WSSD offers the South African hospitality industry an opportunity to confirm its commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism development and FEDHASA, the Johannesburg World Summit Company and members of the hospitality sector have combined forces to develop guidelines for the local industry.
These guidelines are in accordance with the World Tourism Organisation`s code of ethics, broad ISO practice and the International Hoteliers Environmental Initiative. They are also voluntary and conform to the Responsible Tourism Development Guidelines developed by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.
On the eve of the WSSD, I would like to describe the state of the hospitality industry as one of cautious optimism. The significant improvement in investor confidence as a direct result of the leading role played by president Thabo Mbeki in the New Partnership for Africa`s Development (NEPAD) initiative and his recent contribution to the G8 summit held in Canada will undoubtedly open up further opportunities for tourism.
For the first time in many years the tourism industry has reflected positive growth. This coupled with the increased occupancy in certain sectors of the hospitality industry has fueled the hope that in the very near future South African figures will be in line with those of comparable long-haul destinations elsewhere in the world.