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Various lobbying efforts are underway to reopen South Africa to international travel as soon as September this year. However, insights from biweekly consumer surveys held in multiple countries by global professional services firm Deloitte, show that health and safety concerns, although gradually lessening, still overshadow discretionary travel

Deloitte surveyed 1,000 consumers in each of 15 countries worldwide and published its latest results earlier in June.

Aparthotels better suited

While the Tourism and Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and the South African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) lobby for the reopening of international tourism, James Woolley, co-owner and director of Totalstay, a player in South Africa’s aparthotel and luxury villa industry, says, “The aparthotel industry is well positioned to mitigate the health and safety risks of travel because of its sheer nature. Apartments offer a more self-sufficient way of traveling, with fewer public spaces and greater means of maintaining social distancing.”  

Fully equipped kitchens allow guests to prepare their own food, limiting contact with others. “Aside from guests living more separate from each other, sanitation is better in serviced apartments – you’re able to wash your own clothes, linen or kitchenware, minimising contact with the outside world, and make use of complimentary hand sanitisers in each apartment.”

More wish to travel, but safely

The Deloitte survey showed that sentiment towards travel slightly improved worldwide, with three in ten (31%) of those surveyed feeling safe staying in a hotel, up from 25% a month earlier. Similarly, a greater number of people felt safe to fly: 26% in mid-May compared to 22% in mid-April. Yet Deloitte believes that the overriding concern is personal safety.

Strict protocols

Hygiene and cleanliness top the list of what Woolley believes accommodation providers should address to allay traveller fear. In April, Airbnb, for instance, engaged former US surgeon general Dr Vivek Murthy to help develop an enhanced cleaning protocol for its hosts, which includes an easy to follow cleaning handbook.  

“Without question, local accommodation providers will need to enforce highly visible, practical protocols, and find ways of reducing public area footfall which leads to greater risk.” Given that traditional accommodation providers, like hotels, cater for shorter stays, offer more amenities and need a greater number of staff, this collectively increases the number of people a guest would come into contact with. The opposite is true for an aparthotel.  

Serviced apartments more popular than hotels

Although not immune to the impact of Covid-19, global property group Savills says the serviced apartment sector has weathered the storm marginally better than hotels.  

Savills’ Marie Hickey, director of commercial research, and commercial research analyst Joshua Arnold, highlight research from STR, a global data and analytics company for the tourism industry.  

This reveals that the UK’s serviced apartment sector was trading marginally above that of hotels during April and May. And proportionally fewer serviced apartment properties have had to close compared to hotels.  

The Savills researchers believe that typically lower operating costs, coupled with longer average length of stay, sustain greater profitability of serviced apartments compared to full-service hotels.

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