Creativity has become a necessity for travel and hospitality industry stakeholders that have been forced to reinvent the way they do business so they can continue to operate during the challenging pandemic business environment.
The biggest challenge for Last Word Hotel & Safari Camps, as for many in the travel industry, has been to find ways to generate income, keep properties running and pay salaries in a market that is in a massive slump due to the ever-changing COVID-19 lockdowns and travel bans, said Nicky Coenen, Group General Manager.
For Coenen and her small marketing team at Last Word, finding ways to still attract business has been a challenge, however an emerging trend during this turbulent time appears to be exclusive-use property rentals.
“Exclusive-use is becoming an increasingly popular travel trend, simply due to there being a demand for accommodating family and friend bubbles at this time. The close-knit group normally looks for luxury and intimacy, not wanting to be mixed with guests who are outside their circle due to concerns about COVID, even though stringent health and hygiene protocols have been adopted by South Africa’s tourism sector.”
She added: “Interestingly, there’s a level of human connection that wasn’t there before. Our guests are really looking for warmth, kindness and serene sanctuaries as a reward for enduring what they see as pandemic hardship.”
The trend in rising demand for exclusive use bodes well for groups like Last Word, which specialises in small, intimate and boutique properties. “We have only 31 rooms across our four properties. Last Word Long Beach and Last Word Kitara in Hoedspruit would be the ultimate in exclusive use, as they each have six suites. Last Word Long Beach is actually right on the beach in Kommetjie, so it’s perfect for a family or small group of friends.”
Exclusive-use safari camps
Cindy Sheedy Walker, CEO of Extraordinary Marketing, agreed that exclusive-use was a rising hospitality trend in South Africa, something her organisation has been focusing on for the safari destinations they represent.
“We recognise the growing desire for exclusivity and seclusion in the COVID era. Our exclusive-camp-use offers aim to go beyond exclusivity and privacy: we strive to be the idyllic sanctuary for clients to reinvigorate themselves, reinforce their bonds with their trusted circle, and reconnect with the healing powers of nature at some of South Africa’s most-loved safari destinations – Kwafubesi Tented Safari Camp and Clifftop Exclusive Safari Hideaway in the Waterberg, Limpopo, and Hamiltons Tented Camp and Hoyo Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga.
“One of the great things about the exclusive-use-camp concept is the freedom of these families and friend-groups to create their own safari pace – leaving for safari when they choose and structuring meal times to suit their habits.”
COVID-19 has irrevocably changed the way that consumers want to travel. It has also made everyone more mindful and cautious about whom they would like to travel and mix with on those travels.
“With this in mind, we too have had to evolve and find the best ways of catering for these changing demands,” says Sheedy-Walker. “While, at our core, we have always prioritised privacy and exclusivity, we realise that these aspects of travel are no longer luxuries but have now become necessities for many of us.”