Tourism in South Africa is Emerging as the Comeback Kid
Tourism in South Africa is back with a bang. According to online booking system provider, NightsBridge, they have clocked up a record two million bookings for the year to November. Additionally, total bookings in 2022 have surpassed pre-pandemic 2019 figures month-by-month. NightsBridge also reached a personal milestone of more than 80 million bookings since the company launched 18 years ago.
“With the summer holiday season now underway, these positive stats confirm without a doubt that our tourism and hospitality industries are recovering well and entering a growth stage,” says NightsBridge CEO Theresa Emerick. She continues with more encouraging figures: the monthly booking average from January to November is 11% higher than in 2019; bookings at their South African properties have increased by an average of 17% per month over the last six months, while the average value of a booking made at a South African property in November was 9.2% higher than in the same month in 2019. “We were also able to add close to 11 000 units and rooms to our booking pool,” she says.
Emerick goes on to highlight that South Africa has outperformed the rest of the continent where the average number of bookings at NightsBridge properties in Africa remains 20% below 2019 figures.
The global outlook
The global travel industry is also rebounding stronger and almost back to 2019 levels. Many hospitality companies are exceeding their annual profit forecasts and reporting an increase in revenue per available room (RevPAR). While room rates have increased off the back of higher occupancy levels, and guests seem happy to pay, there is a caveat. “Guests are, in fact, looking for added value to justify the higher rates and hotels need to address this expectation,” says Emerick.
PwC’s recent report on US hotels found that the increase in average daily hotel rates and revenue per available room will continue in 2023 but the rate will be slower, impacted by inflation and a decline in leisure travel, with travellers being cautious about the economy, the war in Europe and potential new Covid-19 variants.
In their hotels forecast for the UK, PwC highlights that the growth and demand of 2022 will not be seen again in 2023 and recovery is expected to stall due to rising operational costs, among others. “With 2022 a year that was clearly driven by pent-up demand, the global industry will now need to make adjustments and find new ways of keeping the momentum going,” Emerick says.
Tourism Trends in 2023
The eager rush back to “normal travel” was not without challenges and frustrations arising from the increase in demand, spiking fuel costs, cancelled flights and staff shortages. This has led to travellers seeking a more stress-free, simplified experience that gives them more control and convenience by combining the human element with technology.
NightsBridge already has check-in and remote payment options to assist small accommodation establishments that want to deliver the high quality, personal service travellers expect. A built-in chat facility for owners to communicate with guests via an online portal or WhatsApp will be ready early in the new year.
Sustainability remains high on the 2023 agenda. “It has long moved from a buzzword to a necessity and an expectation,” Emerick points out. “In 2023, accommodation establishments are increasingly expected to step up, especially as 81% of global travellers say that sustainable travel is important to them.”
2023 will also be a year in which travellers break out, and break the mould, according to the No-Normal; Unexpected Travel Trends by the Expedia Group, whose research was conducted in 17 countries – South Africa included. “Travellers will not be following the crowd and heading to the typical tourist destinations,” says Emerick. “Instead, they will be seeking their own unique, immersive experiences, whether cultural, in nature or at wellness retreats. Hidden gems, quirky accommodation, buzzing culture capitals like Edinburgh and Bangkok, and for South Africans, self-drive destinations, will be particularly popular.”
As far as NightsBridge is concerned, they are gearing up for even more growth in 2023 and will be investing in product development to enhance their offering. “We want to continue helping our clients to do more and better business online and capitalise on these trends. After the most difficult years our industry has ever experienced, it’s time to enjoy this upward trajectory and for our clients to flourish,” concludes Emerick.