Hotel spreads wings

The company has operations in Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania, among other countries in Africa.

Protea Hotels managing director Arthur Gillis told journalists that his company’s expansion drive would see the company take advantage of an upswing in several regional economies.

Gillis said Protea was in the final stages of negotiations for a hotel in Luanda, Angola.

He said the company was also “actively” looking for opportunities in Botswana.

He said an emerging middle class had boosted the South African tourism market.

“South African Tourism’s Sho’t Left campaign has been a success. We see more people choosing to stay in hotels, whereas in the past they would stay with friends and relatives,” he said. In addition, more people are taking short and regular trips. “Low-cost airlines have made domestic travelling easier.”

Gillis said the shortage of seats for major tourist destinations had a negative impact on domestic tourism.

He said major external destinations included Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy while India and China were new markets waiting to explode.

Gillis said a strong rand affected the company’s customers at the lower end of the market ‘ “basically, the people who shop around for the cheapest hotels. The top end of the market is often prepared to pay more,” he said.

He did not expect the recent interest rate increase to have an impact on tourism trends. “South African tourism is poised for more growth,” he said.

Protea Hotels has made 80 percent of its hotels available to be used during the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

“Room rates were agreed way back in 2003 and were part of SA’s bidding document. Talk that hotels will charge exorbitant rates during the soccer tournament is unfounded,” he said.

Meanwhile, South Africa has proved to be one of the most diverse and enchanting countries in the world in as far as the hospitality industry is concerned.

As a holiday destination it has it all ‘ an exotic combination of landscapes, people, history, wildlife and culture ‘ making it increasingly popular. Even over recent years, which have been amongst the most difficult ever experienced in world tourism, South Africa’s international arrivals have continued to grow.

Over the past decade, tourism’s contribution to the country’s economy has almost doubled, eclipsing gold as an earner of foreign exchange, and with a predictable knock-on impact on hotel performance.

Growth has been good every year since the HotelBenchmark Survey began to track South Africa, and during 2005 its revenue per available room (revPAR) increased by 10 percent, which is ahead of both Europe and Asia. Having established its place on the destination wish list for travellers, South Africa is now focusing on the more profitable corporate market for future growth.

The Football World Cup in four years’ time will also provide exposure on the world’s stage, giving the country a showcase opportunity across the sporting, business and general tourism markets.

During 1994 ‘ the first year of the new democracy ‘ fewer than 3 million visitors travelled to the country.

A decade later, the figure more than doubled and South Africa recorded its highest number of international tourist arrivals ever ‘ reaching 6,4m.

The trend continued into 2005, according to World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), as latest figures to August show an 11 percent rise compared to the previous year.

There are several factors that have enabled South Africa to do so well, while the global tourist industry has experienced incredibly tough times.

First, South Africa is seen as being remote from the terrorism, SARS and avian flu that have affected many other countries. It has built up an image as a safe holiday destination, with government and industry leaders acting quickly to counterbalance reports of car-jackings and visitor muggings with initiatives to ensure travellers’ safety.

Second, despite the continuing strength of their currency ‘ rand ‘ South Africa still represents good value for money.

American Express, in fact, ranked it as the world’s second most affordable destination last year.

The strengthening of the Rand in 2004, however, did put pressure on five star hotels, as tourists sought better value in three and four star accommodation.

Third, South Africa has impressive tourism assets, including world-class beaches that enjoy year-round sunshine. Its vibrant and culturally diverse cities provide excellent shopping and dining, and visitors from the UK rate Cape Town as the best city in the world for eating out, and their second favourite destination overall.

Tourism is buoyant and the country hopes to encourage more people to visit outside of the traditional peak vacation times of December, Easter and July.

It also wants to tempt visitors to provinces other than the Western Cape and sample the unspoilt landscapes and abundant wildlife.

August 2006
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