- In the past guests of the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town were mainly international tourists.
- Currently, most of its international source markets are, however, still on the travel ban list of the SA government.
- This is opening up opportunities for domestic tourism to become part of the hotel's market mix.
Cape Town's iconic Table Bay Hotel in the V&A Waterfront will be opening its doors to the public again at the end of October after having been "mothballed" during the coronavirus lockdown period.
In the past its guests were mainly international tourists. Currently, however, most of its main source market countries are still on the banned list for travel to SA.
The hotel has been closed since lockdown started but security and maintenance teams remained on site. During the lockdown a lot of strategic planning was done.
"We are confident that what we have in place is safe. We have representatives in all our source markets, and they keep the communication channels open. We did a virtual trade show to touch base with our international clients to create a gateway for them coming back," says Sarah Prins, public relations manager of the Table Bay Hotel.
"We cannot change how the SA government decides to open up the country, but we are sending out a message that Cape Town as a destination has safe hotels. It is about showing confidence in what we have in place."
It is also about talking to the domestic market and for that the hotel has campaigns and offers in place.
"We are at an incredible location and can offer unique experiences from our consierge's choice options to create memorable experiences," says Prins.
"We are also in constant engagement with the international market as it is a big part of the industry which keeps Cape Town going. International tour operators' indications are that tourists will travel when they are allowed to come to SA. They want to do game drives and then visit Cape town."
According to Joanne Selby, general manager of the hotel, it is all about introducing the new "theatre of cleaning" instead of the usual approach of "invisible fairies doing the cleaning behind the scenes".
"The hospitality industry is resilient. It remains about how one engages with people. Yes, the health and safety protocols mean extra cost, but then we are also saving on using more contactless processes, reducing printing costs," she explains.
"During the lockdown we kept planning. It is about thinking about how not to impact the customer experience. People are looking for value."
Whereas the international tourists used to make up the majority of guests in the past, Selby says the hotel's market mix would have to change for the foreseeable future.
Therefore, they are looking at its bed and breakfast offering, for instance maybe having a room only rate and then offering a value breakfast as an option as well.
"We are low touch, but still high in care and engagement with our guests," she says.
All items on the breakfast serving station are wrapped individually and the temperature maintained. It is all about individual servings, says executive sous chef Wesli Jacobs. Glass domes are used to cover plates when food is served, and cutlery is placed in a sealed packet.
Rooms are sanitised and sealed after which only the guest is allowed to enter. Linens and towels are moved to and from the rooms in sealed plastic covers and even a separate mask laundering service is offered. Items like throws and scatter cushions have been removed from rooms but are still available on request.
Furthermore, guests can opt for self-cleaning utensils for their rooms if they don't want the room service to clean it during their stay.
Medical grade electrostatic sanitisers are used on surfaces and curtains in the rooms and a lot of training was done for staff understand why the protocols are in place.
According to Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, businesses are struggling without international guests - especially heading into the summer season.
"We have worked tirelessly behind the scenes with the City of Cape Town to ensure that as a destination, we are able to carefully manage the spread of Covid-19. We have been educating our members and other stakeholders on best practices when it comes to safety compliance and we have been lobbying for government to safely open the industry again," says Duminy.
"We have continued to promote Cape Town in various ways to keep the destination top of mind and we have started rolling out our bounce back plan that will ensure that we get going again in a responsive and responsible manner. We are concerned, however, that by further restricting travel to South Africa, we are slowly killing an industry that has become an economic lifeline to so many."