Survey shows devastating impact of latest hotspot rules on Garden Route tourism

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Most small accommodation owners had pinned their hopes of survival on their bookings for the season.(iStock)
Most small accommodation owners had pinned their hopes of survival on their bookings for the season.(iStock)
  • A third of guesthouses on the Garden Route indicate they have lost at least 50% of their bookings.
  • Cancellations started two weeks ago due to news of Covid-19 resurgence and hotspots identified.
  • The Knysna and Sedgefield areas appear to have been the hardest hit in terms of revenue lost.


Following the recent amendment of Level 1 regulations, one third of guesthouses on the Garden Route indicate they have lost at least 50% of their bookings for the festive season, according to a survey run by online accommodation booking system provider NightsBridge.

Cancellations started trickling in two weeks ago, when news of a Covid-19 resurgence made headlines and hotspots were identified across the country.

About 20 000 bookings meant to arrive in December and January were cancelled in the two weeks prior to last Monday's notice. In the Western Cape, 12.7% of the arrivals on the NightsBridge system have been cancelled.

NightsBridge data indicates that the Knysna and Sedgefield areas appear to have been the hardest hit in terms of revenue lost, with over R1.16 million in online bookings cancelled. Mossel Bay and surrounds lost out on R643 795, Plettenberg Bay on R767 165 and Wilderness on R643 795.

Among the reasons cited for these Garden Route cancellations are the hotspot declaration which made travellers feel it was unsafe to travel; fears of contracting Covid-19; beach closures; the potential Matric exam paper rewrite; Covid-19 having been contracted in a family group; the Plett Rage being cancelled; flights cancelled or new curfews making flight times impossible; and new lockdowns in European countries. 

"Most small accommodation owners had pinned their hopes of survival on their bookings for the season. These hopes were dashed with the announcement Monday evening that all beaches in the Garden Route would be closed till January," says Theresa Emerick, NightsBridge managing director.

About 166 guesthouses participated in the NightsBridge survey, with 86% reporting 746 cancellations between them since the announcement on Monday evening. Devastatingly, 11 Garden Route accommodation owners reported an 80% to 100% loss of revenue for December and January. About 169 bookings were postponed to early next year, April 2021 or even as far out as December 2021. 

"While that means accommodation owners might be able to hang on to some of the deposits they already received, it immediately reduces their future income opportunities," says Emerick.

"The tourism and hospitality sector has been among the hardest-hit as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns. Despite this, we have worked hard to put in place stringent and internationally approved health and hygiene protocols to keep our staff and guests safe," says Emerick.

* Compiled by Carin Smith


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