A rare combination of severe restrictions on international travel and the domestic airline and hospitality sectors trying to recover from lockdown losses have created perfect conditions for South Africans wanting to explore their country.
With international tourism practically non-existent and corporate travel reduced to a trickle, for these sectors domestic tourism is currently the only game in town.
Anyone in travel and hospitality whose business survived 2020 knows that now local is lekker and from luxury private game reserves to attractions, such as Robben Island they’re doing everything possible to attract their share of this market.
For lockdown-weary South Africans that means exceptional prices on airfares, accommodation, car hire, restaurants, and entertainment and, according to Desmond O’Connor, Comair’s executive for revenue, it’s an incentive that’s working.
“There appear to be two things at play. The first is the pent-up demand for travel and improving sentiment that it’s now safe to travel domestically. Deloitte’s State of the Consumer tracker confirms that this is a global trend.
“This combined with the second, an ever-growing realisation that there are some incredible deals available, has seen an escalation in bookings. In fact, our leisure divisions are now reporting the highest demand since Comair began flying again in December.”
He says prospective travellers are spoilt for choice and variety across a range of product offerings and price points.
Just within Comair’s leisure portfolio a weekend escape to the beach could mean a family break at the Garden Court South Beach on Durban’s Golden Mile or an anniversary celebration at the iconic Oyster Box Hotel and Spa in Umhlanga.
Similarly, the scope of the offering in Cape Town ranges from the Lagoon Beach Hotel and Spa with the beach on the doorstep to the De Zalze Lodge in the heart of the winelands.
Perennial favourites such as the newly refurbished Sun City and Victoria Falls are also now available.
Prior to the March 2020 lockdown Comair, via kulula holidays and its other leisure platforms, was the country’s largest online travel retailer and O’Connor says that while it’s still early days it is encouraging to see the improvement in bookings.
“Although it’s likely to be some time before yields improve the fact that people are booking and travelling again will get some revenue flowing and importantly provide some hope to travel and hospitality businesses that made it through 2020. That’s important because if South Africa is to rebuild its tourism economy and remain competitive it will need a decent product offering.
“Taking a holiday, while being sensible and mindful of health protocols, will give you a much-needed break from the home office and Zoom calls and importantly will help to rebuild an industry that, it is conservatively estimated, would have contributed R220 billion to GDP in 2020, had it not been for the pandemic and related lockdowns.”