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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Accommodation Owners Can Fill More Beds Touts Alan Winde

Every year Cape Town self-catering accommodation providers tap into the lucrative peak season. Unfortunately, when winter comes they are not able to keep up the same momentum and many beds are left empty. Alan Winde, MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, said the Western Cape could counter seasonality only by ensuring that it was a year-round destination.
“We can do this by giving visitors a range of reasons to come to our province. For example we are increasing our focus on business tourism. Over the next year it’s estimated that conferences will bring in R74-million to the local economy. Business tourists have a higher spend than leisure tourists. In the run-up to Cape Town hosting the World Design Capital next year, the creative sector is a particularly exciting space. Cape Town needs a 365-day brand position to fill beds during the quieter months.”
We asked Johan Horak, from CapeHolidays.info a provider of more than 400 self catering rentals in and around Cape Town, what he believes accommodation owners can do to fill more beds and how to tap into the lucrative business tourism market.

Giving visitors a range of reasons to come to our province is only one of the issues. It’s like asking a dog to go and catch a bus. The dog doesn’t know what to do with the bus when he brings it home. The same is true for self catering owners. They know there’s a bus full of business travellers but they don’t always know how to attract them. Most self catering owners focus on the leisure market. This is the seasonal market. I want to explore how self catering owners can adapt to business traveller’s needs? What do business travellers want? Are we geared for them? Only then can we tap into this market.”
Some of the issues that need to be looked at, according to Johan, are:

* Most accommodation owners don’t use professionally taken photos on websites to sell their accommodation. Web surfers love photos. The more images the better your chances of getting booked.
* They describe their accommodation poorly and don’t use testimonials to buy-in trust.
* They don’t give free uncapped Wi-Fi access. In a survey by Hotels.com 56% of business guests said they chose a destination on free Wi-Fi. And only 11% said they would pay for Wi-Fi.
* Self-catering homeowners tend to be inflexible with regards to short stays. Hotels do one days. In winter self catering owners may do 4 days. But few are not setup to do this.

* Do they know what basic features business travellers need? In the Hotel.com survey one out of four guests said they want a high-end coffee maker. I have never seen any accommodation owner even mentioning this.
According to research released by Cape Town Tourism all accommodation types, with the exception of self-catering, registered positive growth in room night demand.

Johan continues, “That’s what I want to help address. I have had a case where a foreign business tourist only wanted to stay at a Cape Town self-catering home if there was free uncapped Wi-Fi. The owner said they only give 4 Gigs because guests abuse the Internet. Eventually the owner agreed to give uncapped with a fair usage clause. The room rate from one night paid for the one month’s data. And the owner will not have two empty beds for 60 days. If Cape Town self-catering homeowners don’t adapt, their beds will continue to be less occupied than what they should be.”

Johan said that Cape Town self-catering homeowners need to understand what the business travellers’ needs are and make the necessary changes. In other words, practice what Alan Winde and Mariette du Toit- Helmbold, chief executive of Cape Town Tourism, “preach”.
This may seem easy. We asked Johan how homeowners will do this?

“Accommodation providers need to break the barriers that exist between themselves to make sure they work together and share ideas. A few are doing a great job even in winter. And we need to learn and apply these success ideas. I decided to launched an accommodation newsletter where these ideas will be shared, on how to take up Minister Alan Wide on his challenge to fill beds and brand Cape Town 365 days.”.