Brace yourselves – the tourists are on their way

The sunny days have finally arrived and holiday rental hosts are like bees in a hive readying themselves for action – sprucing up accommodations and amenities in the hope that they will capitalise on the wave of tourists expected in the coming months. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen so much action – and so many rubble skips on the sidewalks of Hermanus!

The biggest and most unexpected surprise is that whilst some of us were still dreaming of welcoming international tourists, our dreams have actually come true with President Ramaphosa’s announcement that all international travel restrictions have been lifted. As long as the countries from which tourists travel allow them out, and they arrive with a negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours from the time of departure, this season could well play out very differently than anticipated.

It remains to be seen what adjustments will be made to nightly rates in the next few weeks. Up until last week we saw many of the high and mid-end establishments left with no choice but to drop their rates in order to get a piece of the 2020 season’s holiday rentals pie. Some hosts had even chosen to delist for the season as their target market is way above the means of most travelling South Africans and enquiry levels had plummeted when compared to the same period in 2019. Now, with the prospect of many international travellers changing their plans, we could be in for a season of note.

South Africa, and in particular the Western Cape, is still one of the most sought-after destinations and with the current state of the pandemic globally, it will be a gem of a destination for those seeking plenty of outdoor spaces, of which the Overstrand has an abundance.

Many of the local market’s holiday rental properties had been moved to long-term rentals over the past few months and whilst there are many available, we will no doubt see a shift back to some of them being listed again for holiday rentals this season. It doesn’t alter the fact that either way, there will be an oversupply of both types of accommodation.

Only two weeks ago Grant Smee, property entrepreneur and managing director of Only Realty, said that even though lockdown is largely over and some international tourists are permitted, he did not see many of these units returning to the short-term market in the near future.

“This is owing to a number of factors, including uncertainty about the reintroduction of higher lockdown levels (which we now know is not happening in the foreseeable future), commitment to long-term lease agreements (generally six to 12 months) and the restrictive rules around international tourists that will probably limit their influx and keep demand low.”

Whilst the latter is about to change, the good news for those property owners who are in the short-term market, though, is that domestic travel levels will certainly increase and provide opportunity for short-term lets over the festive season.

According to Smee, “I do foresee demand increasing for the more affordable short-term properties. However, luxury short-term letting will see limited demand and be coupled with the need to discount their normal rates.”

As mentioned in previous articles, owners who are looking to take advantage of any demand that will return to the short-term letting market will need to make certain their property provides excellent value and a unique offering, with the location, price, quality and overall experience ensuring that it stands out from competing units.

“Without this additional input and effort, short-term letting may not meet the owners’ financial needs and this could mean that the certainty and security of a long-term let, although providing lower income, may be a better option,” said Smee.

Scanning the news articles across the country shows that quite a number of short-term holiday accommodation and Airbnb units along the KZN South Coast have been converted to longer-term rental over the past six months. It is unlikely that those who currently have long-term tenants in place will be able to convert them back to holiday units for the forthcoming season, as most will have at least a 12-month lease in place.

Now the only thing we need to focus on is getting our houses in order, preparing for a better season than anticipated and continuing to spread the word of what an incredible destination and holiday experiences we have to offer in the Overberg. It’s been a long, dark and unstable time for us all, but we have come through it and there is a spring in the step of many who never thought this year-end period would provide something to look forward to – which it now does.

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