Bumper season expected

2012-11-10 00:00

ALTHOUGH it has been a tough year, South Africans are unlikely to forgo their beloved annual holiday this festive season: they see it as a necessity rather than a luxury.

According to tourism industry experts, KZN establishments are in for a profitable festive season, with many visitors having booked their holidays earlier than in previous years.

Nicholas Barenblatt, group marketing and advertising manager with Protea Hotels, told Weekend Witness: “It will be a good season this year. Last year consumers wanted to wait and see what their finances would be like before booking. This year they’re booking slightly early.”

He said occupancy levels for the industry in KZN are four percent higher year on year for the year to September 2012 — and this is ahead of the festive season rush.

Umhlanga has experienced nine percent growth in occupancy levels so far this year.

“In late 2011, KZN had some big conferences, like COP17, which skews this year’s numbers.”

However, Barenblatt added that spending patterns have only increased in line with inflation.

“Average room rates are still under pressure … and we see spending coming in at a similar level to last year.”

Mike Jackson, Tsogo Sun’s director of operations for KZN, told Weekend Witness that people have sacrificed some luxuries throughout the year to afford a holiday.

“We are confident that this December and January will still show high occupancies for the coastal hotels and resorts of KZN.

“All the past school holidays since 2008 have shown this. Family holidays are just not something which people are giving up on,” said Jackson.

Tsogo Sun’s festive season booking levels are higher than last year. “Most of our seven hotels are ahead of the booking pace compared to last year,” said Jackson, who is also the deputy president of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a board member of Tourism KZN.

Michael Bertram, CEO of Ugu South Coast Tourism, told Weekend Witness that early signs were extremely positive.

“Several members are already reporting 100% booking for the festive period.

“I believe that occupancies will be robust, but … many [people] rely on their bonuses, and once they are confirmed, then we see a flood of last minute bookings,” said Bertram.

Ndabo Khoza, the CEO of Tourism KZN, said Africa was a potentially lucrative market for KZN’s tourism industry.

In 2011 alone, African arrivals to KZN grew by 4,6% year on year to 585 636.

Khoza said arrivals from Kenya, Malawi and Zambia were promising.

Bertram confirmed this view, noting: “Many of our visitors are from SADC and especially those landlocked regions.”

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