Gearing up for an uptick in visitors

Within days of writing last month’s column on the shifting of the holiday rental market, the country went to Level 2 of lockdown, and Airbnb and holiday rental hosts were delighted to hear that it was all systems go and they could all reopen for “business as usual”.

Many hosts reported increased enquiries for weekend bookings and many have been made for the upcoming Heritage Day long weekend later this month. Some of the better-known and established guesthouses/Airbnbs/hotels are also reporting a distinct uptick in December bookings. The energy and excitement is palpable and there is a huge sense of relief amongst the majority of tourist-oriented hosts.

This follows two years of steady decline in the demand for rentals, not only due to the Covid-19 pandemic but also other key factors such as the Cape Town drought and the 2018 riots in Hermanus. With an oversupply of accommodation and lower tourist numbers, many Airbnb property owners were forced to enter the long-term rental market, and this trend is not only gaining momentum but also driving down the nightly and monthly rental rates.

Clearly this season is going to be a highly competitive one when it comes to available accommodation options. Tourists are going to be so spoilt for choice and many hosts have asked me how they can capitalise on this dynamic. With the strong possibility that international borders may even open before next year, quality accommodation at the right price point is going to be key.

My advice to all hosts is to spend some time on the relevant portals (Airbnb, Booking.Com, Afristay, Lekkeslaap etc.) and see what is offered and at what rates. Look at the quality of décor, amenities, location, home comforts and special offers and check against your own to see if you are realistic about the rate you are offering. Some owners are showing increased reluctance to take anything less than what they did in December 2019, yet they wonder why there are no enquiries like before.

Tourists are aware that there are good deals to be had and from personal experience I can see they are applying more due diligence, spending more time researching quality/price options and being cautious in ensuring that they take advantage of the great deals available. Overzealous hosts who do not adjust their rates accordingly may well find that they lose out on a good flow of bookings and the downward pressure on all rental rates, be they long term or short term, mustn’t be ignored.

If international borders do open before the end of 2020, there will undoubtedly be an influx of overseas visitors and they will get the pick of the pile, with the exchange rate being in their favour. Whilst this bodes well for many establishments, hosts have to remain smart and flexible with their rates in order to ensure that they don’t lose out.

Another visible trend emerging is that of homeowners whose properties are not appropriately appointed for holiday rentals, yet this year they are listing them in the hope that they can make a quick buck in the process. Whilst one cannot criticise the intent in tough times like these, guests need to be very diligent when making their bookings to ensure that what they see is what they get.

Another tip for those searching for holiday accommodation is to look at the reviews and history of bookings that the desired property has. If you are considering a new listing with no reviews and want to be sure that you aren’t going to end up with a horror house, try and get someone to view the accommodation for you or ask for video clips. Photographs are very deceiving and you can end up with a holiday experience that you’d rather forget you ever had.

Whichever way we look at it, there are going to be disappointed and disillusioned hosts who are not adequately geared up for holiday rentals and whose expectations of rental income are unrealistic. The oversupply is increasing and those who have got it “right” in terms of the overall accommodation offering and comforts offered are going to win hands down.

Exciting times in reigniting the spirit of our town are ahead and with great anticipation for a renewed awakening in the Overberg, we have so much to look forward to and to be grateful for.