Cape Town - The water crisis in Cape Town and the Western Cape will undoubtedly be the largest and most significant challenge hoteliers will face over the coming months or years, according to Leon Meyer, new general manager at the Westin Cape Town - part of Marriott International.
Furthermore, as a long haul destination South Africa continues to experience strong competition from countries with more “airlift” and lower travel restrictions, he pointed out.
Despite this, South Africa’s popularity among travellers from all over the world continues to increase.
Other challenges faced by the local hospitality industry, in his view, include low consumer confidence due to the current economic climate and Cape Town experiencing an "influx" of new hotels, which could lead to an oversupply of room inventory in the city.
He told Fin24 that looking for growth in a depressed market presents its own challenges and in tough times it is key to stay true to your company’s culture and brand essence. It is important to understand what makes the business and brand stronger when compared to others.
As for business tourism, Meyer said business expenses and employee lifestyle changes are reducing the average conference stay period. Conferences are, therefore, becoming more streamlined and demand to have more over shorter periods of time.
"We are lucky that we are living in one of the most amazing cities in Africa - and possibly the world. We just need to make sure we do responsible business and create experiences that resonate with our guests and would want to make them return," said Meyer.
He said like business tourism, regional travel has been another valuable source of inbound tourism.
"SA has been identified as a popular location for conferencing and is probably the most sophisticated conference location in the sub-Saharan Africa region. It has so much more to offer," said Meyer.
Technology and brands
Furthermore, technology is changing the way people relate to brands, he added.
"Brands are critical in today’s competitive tourism industry. Brands based on a lifestyle positioning help create differentiation and help deliver rich memorable experiences," he said.
"It has changed so much, so fast, for so many and continues to do so at a pace that is faster than we can even imagine. It stands to reason that people will expect more from brands – especially personalised attention."
He pointed out that, in the hospitality industry, it is important to constantly innovate to maintain a lead in leveraging technology to transform the guest experience - including the use of apps.
"Modern travellers are passionate and adventurous, gravitating towards brands that make their trips more fulfilling. These are sophisticated consumers who have become jaded by generic points and perks," he said.
"Loyalty is key to the purchasing decision. Loyalty is no longer about earning and burning points – it’s about a deeper level of engagement with the guest, it’s about personalisation and it’s about having an ongoing conversation with guests before, during and after their stay."
Customers want the simple things done well, Meyer explained.
"Allowing travellers - business or leisure - to customise their experiences and personalise each guest’s stay by knowing their preferences, is the true gift any hotel or hotelier can give a guest," said Meyer.
"The more flexibility we offer our guests, the more understood and truly valued they will feel. The key to the success here is to be consistent and deliver a truly personalised and memorable guest experience that is differentiated and brings your brand to life at every touch point."
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