- The pandemic has changed the travel landscape, either halting plans or completely canceling them.
- While many remain reluctant to travel far and wide for leisure, some South Africans are taking advantage of local staycations at hotels or Airbnb’s in lieu of full holiday getaways.
- What this means is that the local tourism and hospitality scene has been hit on its pressure points and is now making efforts to revamp their experiences.
- Afika Jadezweni recently tried out a Johannesburg hotel - with improved offerings - and concluded that along with fashion, fine dining, and fangirling, local staycations are the perfect travel companion auditions.
The are solo travelers, family vacationers, squadcation-ers, romantic holidaymakers, and those who enjoy the perks of work trips every now and then.
What all these people have in common is that spanners were thrown in their travel plans, preventing all wheels from taking a sho't left until further notice. But as a few travel restrictions eased, some South Africans have since taken advantage of local destinations and neighbouring countries.
As a result, Airbnb's and hotels are gaining even more popularity. What this means is that the local tourism and hospitality scene has been hit on its pressure points and is now making efforts to revamp their experiences.
As someone who had very thin, inadequately financed solo travel (birthday) plans for 2020, I'm one of the people who consoled herself with a solo staycation as a birthday month treat this year.
Next on my bucket list would be a baecation, but we make plans and the universe laughs (yes, I'm still single). So when an opportunity for a romantic hotel staycation presented itself soon after my blissful solo stay at a local hotel, I considered it a chance to test drive the Protea Hotel Wanderers for couples. The best coaches don't actually play the game, after all. You're welcome.
Imagine being invited to "rethink what a staycation could look like when you spend the day/night not far beyond the boundary of your own back yard."
"Time for you to wander the lawns of an icon, reimagined and enjoy the peace & serenity of an oasis recently redefined set deep within the heart of Johannesburg's leafy suburbs," are the words that sealed the deal for me to spend a weekend at Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Wanderers.
Because I firmly believe there's romance in friendships too, I called up one of my oldest (and equally single) girl friends to join me. Despite being friends since 2007, we had never actually gone on a getaway together, let alone a sleepover. During the course of the weekend, we came to the agreement that we'd be good travel companions.
So guess what?
If you and your partner have not yet traveled together and are planning to do so in the near future, start with a hotel staycation to put your travel compatibility to the test.
You might be thinking; "what's the difference between dining and sleeping in at a hotel versus doing the same thing at mine or my partner's apartment?"
"We enjoy each other's company. What more do we need?"
For starters, you don't have an itinerary of activities when you're spending the weekend shacked up with your beau. There might be bouts of spontaneity to go the beach, go for massages, plant shopping, get inked or bar hopping, but that's about it.
Secondly, travelling or moving in together, has been said to be the Windolene that reveals the cracks in a friendship or relationship. And it's always small cracks. For example, you don't want to be in Bali - on day 2 of 7 - and be bothered by how your partner or bestie leaves their underwear strewn across the bathroom floor, never washes their cereal bowl, or their cavalier disregard for coasters.
You also get exposed to smaller details and quirks about someone. Although she's always punctual, my friend takes long to get her makeup done. I, on the other hand, can complete a full face of makeup in 10 minutes, but I tend to err on the side of lateness.
We're both overpackers - between the two of us, there were probably about 12 pairs of shoes in our suite for a 3-day stay.
We both like blasting music while we get ready.
Lastly, my friend is an 'early to bed, early to rise' kind of person, and I'm a night owl who takes sleeping in very seriously on weekends.
Much to learn. This is why travel auditions are important.
Image: writer's own
And especially at a time when we can't go far and wide, a hotel like the reimagined Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Wanderers is well worth your consideration.
After significant owner investment, the Protea Hotel Wanderers has re-opened its doors to reveal reimagined designs and remodelled spaces that reflect the modern priorities of today’s travellers and hotel guests. Set in the illustrious grounds of the famous Wanderers Club in Illovo, Sandton, the hotel provides a tranquil urban oasis in the heart of Johannesburg’s leafy northern suburbs that is ideal for family or couple’s getaways, workcations or social get-togethers with Jozi friends.
From Friday to Sunday, our weekend schedule and stomachs were tightly packed. From sushi lunches to stir fry evenings to private fine dining, this is a stay for people who generally travel for food actually.
It’s the perfect spot for both quick on-the-go breakfasts as well as long breakfasts in bed, light healthy lunches-on-the-go or afternoon coffee and cake. With a fresh makeover, the hotel restaurant and bar with an expansive open-air deck serves sumptuous buffet-style breakfasts (Air France crew members added to our breakfast ambience); à la carte lunches and dinners.
During our stay - in addition to the above-listed meals - we were treated to a private 3-course, wine pairing dinner by an in-house chef, who we were affectionately calling Chef Mike by the end of the evening.
Images: Writer's own
As reasonably avid Instagrammers, each meal had its own outfit. So if you don't travel for food, but rather for lookbooks, this is still your playground.
For those test-driving an upcoming baecation, see how coordinating outfits works for you, perhaps. In addition to looks, does your partner actually enjoy taking pictures of you? Can they do it properly... without tiring?
"She who finds a boyfriend, finds a photographer," right?
My friend and I tried the outfit coordination routine, but our respective style DNAs are slightly different. However, our collaborative Instagram efforts - she more proficient than I am - pass the test.
Yes, for the content creators; although you may both have good social media acumen, the bells and whistles ring even sweeter when one of you is better at it than the other. But no trip should ever just be about social media.
Take in the scenery with fresh eyes too.
And for that "Spaces" caption, Protea Hotel Wanderers is an ideal spot... complete with a softly lit live music performance.
Image supplied on behalf of Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Wanderers
Reimagining and modernising the the hotel’s look and feel has included clean timber elements, natural wood colours and textures that bring the outdoors inside and provides the backdrop for the modern art.
Add to this, striking brass sculpturing that celebrates its unique position as the only hotel in the historic sports precinct of the Wanderers Club.
Image supplied on behalf of Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Wanderers
Note the sports photography as a backdrop behind me in the image above.
Speaking of which; does your SO love sports?
Well, not only did we share dining space (and a lift once or twice) with the official Orlando Pirates team during our stay, but you'll also be charmed to know that guests staying at the Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Wanderers enjoy complimentary temporary membership of the Wanderers Club.
This gives you access to member’s sports facilities and popular social destinations such as the Centre Court Restaurant, the big-screen Chariots Bar, Spinners Bar, and the Players Lounge Cigar Bar.
For those that relish an active lifestyle, there’s the hotel gym; as well access to world-class sports facilities such as 18-hole golf, tennis, squash and running on exclusive membership terms.
But what's a weekend without Netflix and reality TV fluff?
Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Wanderers offers elegant, revamped accommodation from standard guest rooms to Junior Suites and a Presidential Suite for executive travellers.
All rooms have full en-suite bathrooms, complimentary Wi-Fi, comfortable workstations, smart TV with satellite channels, tea and coffee-making facilities, room safes, air-conditioning and in-room dining service.
Images supplied Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Wanderers
So of course, during Saturday morning's breakfast in bed, I squeezed in some Netflix time in the bedroom, while my friend caught up with the stock market in the lounge. All travel companions have different tastes, after all, so this is where you might want to consider the kind of suites you require if your downtime away from activities includes some screen time too.
If your partner can't do without their daily news updates and you can't go without an episode or five of the Real Housewives franchise, you'll have to pick accordingly. Just remember to log out of your Netflix account before you leave.
And it's at this point that I have to echo Derik Jacobsz, General Manager of the hotel, who says;
“Whatever brings you to Johannesburg, Africa’s power-house city, Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Wanderers offers you a calm centre, an urban oasis, where locals and travellers come together to enjoy the best of relaxed healthy living, working and playing.”
In addition to this staycation being well-curated, I believe service is what really makes an experience complete, and the staff at Protea Hotel did not falter on this aspect, remaining friendly and flexible throughout the weekend.
Additional information and images provided on behalf of Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Wanderers
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