Local travel businesses expecting bumper Easter holiday bookings
The local travel sector has been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, but things are looking up. This is according to data and insights from local payments provider Peach Payments and its travel industry merchants.
Data from Peach Payments shows that its travel industry clients began to recover in December (traditionally the biggest season for travel) compared to 2020, showing 22% growth overall, says CEO Rahul Jain. “With steady reductions in restrictions since, local operators are looking forward to an even better Easter season.”
Ntando Bhengu, ResRequest's Business Development Manager agrees. “ResRequestis a partner of tourism.today, which provides the tourism industry with travel trends data,” he says. "tourism.today shows an immediate drop in bookings as the pandemic hit. For both 2020 and most of 2021 the industry relied strongly on domestic travel and - amazingly - domestic travel delivered an average of 40% occupation." “Once the major US and UK markets lifted their travel bans in September 2021, bookings immediately shot up, showing that there really is an appetite to travel," he adds.
And while bookings for this Easter on tourism.today are roughly the same as last year at this point, Bhengu says that the hospitality data hub is expecting to see a significant increase from last year. “We have been tracking weekly bednight stats in tourism.today for the last 12 weeks and there has been a steady increase from week to week.”
Niels Verspui, RoomRaccoon country manager South Africa, says the industry fared better in December 2021 versus December 2020 thanks to more relaxed COVID regulations. RoomRaccoon provides hotel management systems to local and global businesses.
“Average occupancy in December 2021 was significantly higher with an average around 60% versus 2020 where it was around 45% in the peak December season (16/17 Dec - 2/3 Jan). There was also a massive peak on 31 December 2021 when occupancy rose to 82% versus 2020 when it was 61%,” he comments.
Verspui is optimistic about the upcoming holidays: “South Africans are always big on their long weekends, with Easter being around the corner - and getting the Friday and Monday off - we expect to see a massive jump in bookings. When we look at last year's occupancy figures, Easter weekend had the highest occupancy in the first six months of the year. The other spike was over the long weekend in August celebrating Women’s Day.”
“So we are expecting great occupancy and revenue per available room performance over the Easter season. With most of Europe opening up, locals as well as international visitors will enjoy the last weeks of beautiful weather, fantastic hospitality and nature South Africa has to offer,” he comments.
justGo MD Theunis Potgieter says bookings have recovered to their 2019 levels, and December 2021 showed substantial growth over December 2020. “December definitely included some pent up demand, especially from travellers that have not been able to visit home since the pandemic started,” he says.
justGO is focused on the travel needs of the cost conscious intercity traveller within South Africa as well as to and from Zimbabwe. He says the company is expecting the Easter season to be a bumper period for travel. “Domestic leisure travel is the fastest recovering travel segment and with so many good value options available for customers it is helping to kick start the industry.”
Rupert Bryant, CEO at Afristay, comments that from December 2021 into January 2022 the accommodation portal saw sales return to roughly 80% of their pre-pandemic levels.
“For Easter we are hopeful that sales will return to normal completely, and exceed pre-pandemic levels (provided there are no more COVID waves),” he comments. His view is supported by a survey Afristay did in February amongst its 15 000 establishments in South Africa, which showed that 40% are somewhat optimistic about business this year, while a further 20% are very optimistic.
“While the effects of the pandemic are still being felt, we are optimistic that business is recovering in sectors like travel that suffered greatly during lockdowns, and are looking forward to a year of positive growth,” says Jain.
“Because we process payments from the whole spectrum of the travel and tourism market — small guesthouses to multi-country booking platforms — we can see the increases and continue to feel optimistic for the recovery of hard hit sectors like travel,” Jain concludes.